Precision planning and infinite attention to detail were the key ingredients in the task of turning a cramped mews into a small but perfectly formed home
TAlate 20th-century mews property in central London was always going to be a tough challenge for any designer to tackle. The interior proportions, quasi-period styling and tricky aspects made it a difficult proposition but, for Glasgow-based interior design and architecture practice Designworks, the question was more about what could be done, rather than what couldn’t.
Designworks has been a fixture of the city’s style scene for more than 30 years, ever since the showroom opened its doors in the west end’s Gibson Street in 1982. And when one pair of long-standing clients were looking to modernise a property they’d just bought in London, it was to Henrietta and Jim Simpson that they turned for assistance.
With a strong and trusting relationship already established, all the clients had to do was give a basic outline of their desires – something contemporary and cool that would contrast with their more traditional Scottish home – and the team at Designworks had carte blanche to turn the Maida Vale mews into an impressive modern home.
Designworks has its own architecture department, so the whole project was administered by the firm. To help the process even more, says Henrietta, “The house was empty and we had a clear space to work in.”
It was a typical mews, converted from stables, with the living quarters on the upper two floors, so a reconfiguration of the space was essential. Henrietta began by stripping back the cornices, skirting, facings and panelled doors throughout the property and replacing them with modern alternatives. This was no act of cultural vandalism: the originals were dated and added no decorative or historic merit to the house. The designer had no qualms about getting rid of them: “The place was tired and the interior decoration required some serious modernisation.”
The narrow entrance hallway made a poor first impression. To improve it, the staircase was widened, the existing balustrade was removed, and a new glass one was installed across all three floors. Doing so gave the house the wow factor it had been sorely lacking. It also meant there was a sense of continuity as you progressed through the property, with the glass uniting all three levels.
Despite its height, this is a compact home and Designworks had to use every inch of space to its maximum potential. This can be seen in the main sitting room: its doorway, in the centre of one wall, cut the space in two and restricted the floor space. This issue was solved by replacing that door with a glass sliding pocket door which immediately made the layout of the room appear bigger, as well as drawing light in from the central hallway.
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 198-208, issue 97.
Words Catherine Coyle
Photography Neale Smith