Luxury Interiors: Lawson Robb Tackles The Lancasters

by Stacey Sheppard in Interior designed homes

Working within the limitations of a listed building is never an easy task. Creating a design scheme that is sympathetic to the architectural heritage whilst embracing contemporary design – and doing so in just three months – doesn’t make it any easier, as Alix Lawson and her team at Lawson Robb discovered.

The Lancasters was originally an elegant parade of 15 magnificent stucco-fronted Grade II listed houses dating from the mid-nineteenth century. The developers of the project, Minerva and Northacre, retained the façade – making it the longest retained Grade II listed façade in Europe – but completely rebuilt the property. In doing so, they created a unique fusion of traditional architecture with brand new design and construction.

When Lawson Robb was commissioned to design a show apartment at the prestigious and eagerly awaited development, it was their experience of both the market and the target clientele that made them the obvious choice.

“The design oozes luxury with decadent finishes, fabrics and furnishings sourced from artisans and courtiers from around the world.”

“The developers were looking for a variety of design styles for the show apartments, in order to attract a broad market range of buyers,” says Alix Lawson, co-founder and Director of Lawson Robb. “The client asked us to use our knowledge of the market to create an apartment for the international Ultra and High Net Worth market with a classic/modern approach.”

After thorough appraisal of the site, the market and all factors involved, Lawson Robb created the brief for the client. Lawson says:  “We needed to ensure the final design was sympathetic to the history and Georgian architecture of the Lancasters, embracing the period features whilst still appealing a modern thinking client who appreciates contemporary design.  Alongside our knowledge of the market expectations, we felt it was integral for any buyer to feel like they could ‘own a piece of London history’.”

Given that the apartments are aimed at high net worth individuals who have often been exposed to modern and international design from cultures other than their own, Lawson and her team drew inspiration from a variety of different cultural styles. Referencing her sources of inspiration, Lawson says: “The rich intricate inlays of the Middle East, the vibrancy of Southern Asia, American understated classical detailing paired with the simple lines and impeccable quality of European design. Influences were also taken from the calm proportions and structured patterns of the Far East and the opulent detailing seen in traditional Russian style.”

To ensure that this range of cultural influences remained stylishly balanced and sophisticated, Lawson chose a unique and diverse selection of finishes and fittings. Materials used include silver leaf, pyrite gold, liquid metal, velvet and bamboo fabrics, silk wallpaper, marble, antique mirror, parchment covered in piano glaze and specialist metallic paint finishes.

“The design oozes luxury with decadent finishes, fabrics and furnishings sourced from artisans and courtiers from around the world,” says Lawson. “Overall, it was vital that a sense of drama and intrigue was created and the use of these unknown and unusual finishes was key.” A great example of this can be found in the entrance hall where Lawson commissioned an artist to apply a layered silver metallic paint to the cove lighting detail to create a sense of drama and ‘arrival’ immediately upon entry.

Much of the furniture used in the project is also bespoke. Sara Coles, Trade Sales Associate at The Sofa and Chair Company says: “For the Lancasters project we were tasked with developing original bespoke furniture and with supplying quality luxury products to fit with the new development.” The two companies have been working closely for over five years now on a number of large-scale projects. On this particular project, Coles says that Lawson Robb specified and designed each of their bespoke and collection pieces.

When asked what her favourite element of the project is, Lawson chooses the living and dining room, where the contemporary use of panelling links the buildings history to the lifestyle of the modern client. The panel insets are covered with Taupe De Gournay Silk wallpaper and create a modern yet elegant backdrop for the furniture. The panelling is continued through the dining area, insetting antique finished mirror within the panels, which not only increases the feeling of space but reflects light within the room.

However, the use of panelling also presented one of the main design challenges not only as it was a technique that Lawson had not implemented before, but also as it needed to appear fresh and modern rather than outdated.  On the other hand the panelling proved to be an effective tool for overcoming other design challenges presented by the different ceiling heights and mezzanine floors. Lawson says: “We embraced the scale of the ceiling and made it a feature by adding panelling that runs the height of the room.”

Despite these challenges – and the extremely tight deadline of three months from appointment to completion – Lawson and her team created a successful design scheme using understated colour palettes, clean lines and natural finishes to come up with an environment of ultimate sophistication that is opulent but without being too ostentatious.

Testament to the success of the project is the fact that Lawson Robb recently won Best Residential Interior at the Bloomberg International Property Awards for the design scheme at the Lancasters Hyde Park. Lawson says: “We were up against some amazing design studios so we are very proud to be recognised as a leading design practice in the UK. To win an award for our design vision for that scheme was very gratifying; our team have demonstrated the dedication, imagination and originality that it takes to win this award.”


Tom Sullam spent 10 years working in the City before jacking it in to become a photographer. Today he travels all over the world shooting interiors, architecture and landscapes. His clients include Candy & Candy, Harrods, Helen Green and Taylor Howes. To find out more about his work – and buy prints – visit his website.

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