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Bookshelf wallpaper, low lighting and lounge chairs give that clubby feel Brass Artek pendants hang over a richly grained timber reception desk Morgan's Hampton chairs mix with SCP's Galvo side table, for cosy comfort The furniture in this multifunctional area can be moved to one side for events SHH's brief was in part to recreate the look and feel of an upscale hotel lobby Design features, like the delicate lighting, are deliberately non-corporate Orange leather upholstery hugs the walls in double-height space Koleksiyon's Partita desks add a warm touch Working areas have more domestic-looking desks - and no task chairs Tom Dixon's Beat pendants hang in a cluster
18 Mar 2013

SHH designs the Clubhouse in London

Words by  Photo by Alastair Lever
  • Architect: SHH
  • Client: The Clubhouse
  • Location: London, UK
  • Cost: Undisclosed
  • Duration: May 2012 - September 2012
  • Floor Space: 740sq m

SHH has designed an exclusive work/meet hub in London’s swanky Mayfair neighborhood with interiors inspired by hotel lobbies 

The swipe is perhaps the most prevalent action in a commuter’s ritual – from the touch of an Oyster card to the tap of a credit card paying for that much-needed Americano – and is even more so for members of The Clubhouse, Mayfair’s new serviced office with a difference. By swiping their membership card at the door, members have instant access to a sophisticated, stylish work/meet hub with all the necessities of an office, but the feel of a swish hotel lobby.

Inspired by the exponential increase in freelance and mobile workers and the soaring popularity of private members’ clubs like Soho House, The Clubhouse’s founder Adam Blaskey hopes to attract a growing number of professionals who need a more substantial but flexible base in central London, but don’t want to work in a traditional environment. The company website asks “Are cafes, coffee shops and hotel lobbies really the right place to be meeting your important clients?”, and aims to offer an alternative, although interestingly it was the aesthetic of just these places that was a key part of the founder’s brief to architects SHH.

The studio was given just five months to fit out the space on Grafton Street, a 1960s building designed by Centre Point architect Richard Seifert. “The client wanted something more like a hotel reception than an office facility – something more comfortable and relaxed,” explains Brendan Heath, associate at SHH.

“All the necessities of an office, but with the feel of a swish hotel lobby”

The building was already geared up as a fully working office, so much of the structure, fittings and services were in place when SHH came on board. This helped ease time and budget pressures, but also meant that the architects had to transform the interiors using mostly cosmetic details, without straying too far from the existing floorplate. “It was a fairly bland, generic office before,” says Heath, “so we had to bring more detail and richness to it, and reflect what the business is about.” Having merged a few rooms to create a more open-plan layout, SHH translated Blaskey’s brand vision through a careful selection of materials and finishes, mixing brass, walnut and upholstery in soft greys and blues, with furniture that sits in the middle ground between commercial and residential.

The Clubhouse experience begins with a concierge taking your coat and offering you coffee while you perch atop wool-upholstered armchairs. Here, an existing reception desk was spruced up with brass and leather, topped off by a row of brass Artek pendant lights, with the Clubhouse’s slick logo gleaming on the wall behind. Beyond reception, there are four formal meeting rooms (also part of the previous office layout), some dark and more masculine, others lighter and fresher, to cater for the as-yet-unknown demographic range of its patronage.

Past the meeting rooms is the main lobby space, done out with buttoned sofas and armchairs by Morgan furniture and James UK, with smart little SCP side tables, brass pendant lights from Tom Dixon, and Ex Libris trompe l’oeil bookshelf wallpaper from Cole and Son – an almost obligatory feature to achieve that exclusive, cosy clubhouse atmosphere. A similar room upstairs, named the Clublounge, takes this theme even further with plush dark velvets, charcoal-grey walls and soft lighting to create intimacy.

SHH did all they could to get away from a staid office environment, removing some of the design details that usually come as standard in the majority of workplaces. Ceiling tiles were removed and replaced with plastered ceilings. Veneered acoustic wall panelling was stripped out and replaced with bespoke joinery. Mirrored walls were tinted bronze to add warmth. And, most noticeably, there isn’t a standard workstation in sight. Beyond the lounge, the space opens out to a large, multi-functional area with more armchairs, a collection of eight small tables and chairs (which can be stored away when functions are held here), high tables with bar stools, and bright orange leather booths, so members can choose from a range of different work settings. This is garnished with a rolling exhibition of artwork supplied by Broadbent Gallery in South Kensington, curated to fit the scheme of each zone.

“We wanted to avoid task chairs and desks because they really scream ‘office’ at you”

Upstairs, via a striking double-height space with a skylight, there are desks, but they are mostly large, communal tables (from Koleksiyon) with a couple of individual ones that are intended for homes rather than offices. “We deliberately wanted to avoid task chairs and desks because they really scream ‘office’ at you,” says Heath. Instead, SHH sourced office furniture with a residential feel, and though Heath recalls that it wasn’t an easy search, what they’ve found really does the trick.

The architects have also included little details tailored to The Clubhouse’s mobile members. As most members will be using laptops, SHH has installed a series of charging stations within lockers, accessed with a membership card. There’s also a small room of phone booths – individual glazed cubicles furnished with a solitary bar stool, which are slightly reminiscent of the Gunge Tanks on Noel’s House Party – for making private calls.

Blaskey is now looking to expand the business to other sites and SHH has accordingly thought ahead, creating a fairly pared-down, adaptable scheme that can be rolled out to other locations of varying shapes and sizes. Though it hasn’t quite the glamour (nor, thankfully, the attached pretentiousness) of the Soho House chain, the interior is clever in its subtle details, and the concept latches on to an upward trend for workers who are constantly on the move. For them, this could be the future of the workplace.

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