Xanadu comes to Clerkenwell . PHOTOGRAPHS BY HENRIETTE SOPHIE TONDERING
This apartment has a touch of Xanadu about it, reflecting the taste and interest of its much-travelled owner. It is in the Ziggurat, a former printworks in Clerkenwell, East London, originally converted to shell and core by orms. When the client bought the apartment it was already partly fitted out as open-plan with an over-large entrance hall, bathroom and kitchen. It has been reworked by architect Timson Garah Nielsen to provide a separate bedroom and storage space, and to incorporate radical stylistic changes.
A theme of curves, suggested by the client, generates the new spatial divisions and has been used to create invisible - and plentiful - storage space. In the newly configured hall, a sinuous bronze wall conceals a hanging cupboard, and the door to the bathroom has been brought forward to make space for a cupboard inside the bathroom doorway. This bronze wall appears to break through into the living room, overlapping with the existing wall and terminating in a fat-sectioned angle. The blue curve on the opposite side of the hall similarly appears to slice through into the bedroom and serves to conceal a walk-in wardrobe. A slight rise along the tops of the curves adds to the sense of movement between one space and another. A yellow curved wall in the living room is pierced by a display case (built to contain the client's collection of Chinese warrior figures) which gradually cantilevers outwards until it reaches the far end of the wall, beside a second entrance to the bedroom.
The curved walls are raised from the floor by a shadow gap and stop short of the ceiling. The use of strong theatrical colours emphasises the curves - painted white they would have tended to merge with the existing walls. They are made of a double layer of 9mm plasterboard, mounted on metal- and-timber stud frames and elaborately finished with a skim of plaster, fibreglass lining and paint finishes applied by specialist decorator Timothy Powel. Glass panels mounted above the yellow living-room wall create acoustic separation between the living space and bedroom; on the bedroom side this wall becomes the back of a large semi-circular cupboard. Existing structural beams are fully expressed and all doors are glazed to give visual contact between rooms.
'The client had a budget and a vision and let us do things most clients would not have,' says Frank Nielsen. The result is an interior that reflects a flamboyant taste and at the same time illustrates an imaginative plan adaptation which makes the best use of the space available.