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Dining room with contemporary furniture and restored authentic features

Reinterpreting classical interiors

11. 03. 16   :   The Epistle

The principles of ancient Greek and Roman classical architecture have been the foundation of architecture through the ages, from Byzantine to Baroque, Renaissance to Regency and right up to the present day. At 1508 London, one of our guiding principles is the importance of context – history, geography and the vernacular of the architecture tell us where to begin.

We are often commissioned to work with the beautiful listed buildings of Georgian and Regency London. Known for their elegance, simplicity, balance and symmetry, they are examples of neoclassical architecture at its best. We believe in respecting and celebrating their heritage, without veering into pastiche. Our aim is to innovate in a way that is sympathetic to the old but that also adds something new to the narrative of the building and reflects our modern way of living.

When planning our projects, we seek out ways to harmoniously blend modern and classical elements to create timeless interiors. We embrace cutting-edge technical innovations, as they are part of contemporary life and reflect our clients’ high expectations and practical needs. We install home cinemas and spa bathrooms; air conditioning and underfloor heating; and state-of-the-art lighting solutions and sound systems. When it comes to these things, nobody wants to be stuck in the 18th and 19th centuries.

We can still, however, learn a lot from the lessons of tradition. We love working with skilled craftspeople, many of whom use techniques that have been passed down over hundreds of years, to restore and reinstate features that reflect the era of the building. In Project Pearl, a duplex apartment in a Regency villa in Belgravia, we worked with British company Stevensons of Norwich to restore the intricate cornicing and ceiling rose in the formal sitting room:

Detail of beautiful glass chandelier

Detail of intricate ceiling rose

Beautiful, decorative details such as these merit being preserved and protected, and for this reason we kept the classical skin of the building. But by introducing a fresh, light colour palette and a mix of antique and modern furniture, we created an interior with a contemporary feel that meets the demands of 21st-century living while respecting the classical rules of scale and proportion.

Formal sitting room with classical details and contemporary furniture

Another of our projects, Darcy, creates a playful contrast between traditional and contemporary, with unusual details such as the bronze-trimmed antique mirror framing a marble Regency fireplace:

Regency fireplace with antiqued-mirror wall

Project Adam, on Grosvenor Square, was nicknamed ‘The Modern Classicist’ because of the way it combines unobtrusive modernity with an understated, timeless elegance. Hand-painted panelling with gold-leaf detailing sits comfortably alongside mirror-clad walls that capture and reflect light.

Entrance of Project Adam with neutral colours and mirror-clad walls

Kitchen with clean lines and mirror-clad walls

Wall panelling with gold leaf detailing

Our recently completed Project Sinatra again epitomises the way in which classicism can be reinterpreted without detracting from its key principles. This beautiful Grade II listed Georgian property, originally two townhouses, had been converted into offices. 1508 London’s brief was to develop the space into seven contemporary family apartments that respect the building’s classical heritage.

Dining room with contemporary furniture and restored authentic features

All the original period features had, sadly, been stripped out of the property, so we reintroduced them – but with a subtle twist. The bespoke white lacquer wall panelling, for example, is embossed rather than made in the traditional raised and fielded style. It also has a practical function – it opens to reveal useful storage. Small changes such as these make a contemporary design statement that is nonetheless inspired by the classical lines of the space.

Two detail shots of white gloss panelling, one opening to see shelving behind

The centrepiece of the project is an impressive marble and walnut staircase with a monolithic block of stone rising up through the floors. This sculptural piece is a wonderful example of how modern features can be sympathetically added into a classical building. We see this kind of innovation as creating new value, leaving the essence of a property intact but injecting it with renewed life and energy.

Modern staircase with huge piece of marble rising up through the floor

Only by understanding a building’s heritage can it be renovated sensitively and with integrity. The classical values of balance, proportion, symmetry and scale inform our designs, and our aim is to protect such values – while also moving forward. This exploration of the relationship between tradition and modernity allows for great creativity; we think of it as a form of invention that has its roots firmly planted in the principles of the past.