Behind the Schemes: Illuminating a £125m super-home on Belgrave Square

In one of the most spectacular unveilings seen in London this – or any – year, a Grade I listed building on the capital’s grandest garden square has emerged from an extraordinary refurbishment programme as a 24,500 square foot super-home. Project team member Xavio Design of Mayfair talks us through the key rooms and features, explaining how some of the amazing effects were achieved…

Five years in the making, a 24,500 square foot mansion on Belgrave Square has emerged from a top-to-toe refurbishment programme as one of London’s very grandest – and most valuable – residences.

The Grade I listed six-storey behemoth, originally built by George Bavesi in 1825, has been combined with a mews building to create a 21st century super-home with 88 rooms, including ten bedroom suites.

It’s now available to buy – if you or your clients have £125m to spend…

Led by SHH Architecture & Interior Design, the project team has delivered something genuinely world-class, with everything on the modern UHNWI’s wishlist and more.

From vast formal entertaining spaces with original features and soaring ceilings, to a cinema, juice bar, multiple kitchens, a sprawling leisure complex with swimming pool-come-ballroom, a Mediterranean-style courtyard, and a double stacking supercar garage – it’s all here.

Indeed there’s enough noteworthy features to fill a large coffee table book or two, but one of the most important, and often hardest, aspects to get right in a super- or ultra-prime scheme of scale, is lighting.

We asked project team member Xavio Design of Mayfair to talk us through some of the key rooms and features, and explain how the amazing effects were achieved…

Simon Balthazor, Project Director of Xavio Design: “Working on the Belgrave Square project has been a privilege and an exciting challenge. In several parts of the project, we had to come up with some very creative solutions to achieve the excellence in design we were looking for.”

The Swimming Pool

It’s hard to imagine that the swimming pool sits two floors underground. We came up with a lighting design that would give the effect of an orangery rooftop view to the sky. When you step into the pool area, the rooftop lighting gives you the feeling that the sky is just above you.

The amazing illuminated ceiling over the pool was created in conjunction with Dernier & Hamlyn and a great deal of research was required, plus highly specialised manufacturing skills – especially considering the humid pool environment.

The R & D involved working with ceiling mock ups and test rigs to make sure we were heading in theright direction and achieving the desired affects.

There are literally hundreds of specialised LEDs and modules that all work together from a central computer system that simulates whatever programme your want to run. As such there are several modes to choose from including, Daylight, Evening, “Northern Lights”, Party and more.

This was such a rewarding aspect of the project to create and implement. The biggest challenges faced were trying to mount the LED modules at a constant
distance from the shaped ceiling to ensure an even spread of light. The space above was restrictive which gave us lots of challenges in fitting the support structure, running cables and space for other components.

We also needed to ensure that the lighting would work in a ballroom type setting. This is because the floor of the pool raises up and allows the water to drain away, creating a hard floor for entertaining.

This also changes the climate of the room, there are two settings – one for the swimming pool which is humid and warm, and one for the ballroom scene which is cooler and more refreshing.

With an excellent team of consultants, designers and contractors onboard, the quality of workmanship and professionalism helped to produce a stunning project.

Every last detail was considered to ensure there was a sense of daylight in the basement. The swimming pool itself certainly achieves the desired effect and it was important that the daylight theme ran right through to the pool itself.

There is a corridor which takes you down towards the pool. With it being a long corridor in a basement, it was always going to be a darker and tighter space.

There were three striking ceiling domes which gave us the opportunity to create a feeling of daylight by softly illuminating them with indirect uplighting. This also gave a sense of space back to the corridor. These three feature ceiling domes have a hidden perimiter source for the lighting which provides an uninterrupted experience when walking through.

When one looks at the finished effect, it’s incredibly striking. On the one hand you have very straight and sharp looking symmetry, and on the other, softly illuminated curved domes.

They work well together giving a sense of balance and calmness in an area that is completely underground with no natural daylight.

The ‘Moroccan lantern’ lift

Another incredible piece of craftsmanship is the bronze meshed “Moroccan lantern” lift, which rides up the centre of six floors in the Mews House.

This has a circular lift car with a glass ceiling which gives a view to the London sky as it moves up to the top.

Our objective with the lighting around the lift was to simulate sunlight shining through the bronze mesh. With a glass ceiling roof which looks up to the sky, the theme of light casting shadows as the lift moves up and down was in keeping with our brief.

By positioning high grade specification spotlights on top of the lift car, angled at very specific degrees, we were able to achieve a stunning sunbeam shadow effect when still, and in motion.

It completes the ambience of the space and is an immersive experience when in the lift, and also for anyone outside of it.

Bespoke Fixtures

Superb FF&E lighting (chosen by SHH Interiors) was seamlessly integrated into the overall lighting layouts.

This helped create various layers of lighting that assist with the soft ambience that can be experienced in a selection of these grand rooms. In some of these spaces, central pendants and chandeliers were a key solution in meeting the difficult criteria of the Grade I heritage listing of this historic building.

This is because many original ceilings could not be penetrated by recessed lights. As a result, alternative light sources had to be considered.

Lighting Art

James Turrell, the American artist whose life focus was on light and space, once said: “Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation”.

Light is the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible. It can help enhance and bring to life beautiful pieces of art. With many unique paintings in the property, we wanted to ensure they would all be seen at their very best.

Picture lighting is a precise science, a balance of light colour and intensity combined with the precision of angles and positioning. When you look at some of the paintings when they are not lit, they still look impressive.

When you light these works of art with focused andexpertly configured picture lighting, we see another level of drama. By specifiying a high CRI LED light the picture is shown at its best and truest form.

The pictures take on another meaning because you can see all the detail the artist wanted you to. Light brings to life these pieces of art so that they can trulybe appreciated, affording them feature presence inrooms of vast size.

The pictures show the contrast when not lit, and lit, the effect is dramatic.

The Mediterranean Courtyard

Lighting the Mediterranean Courtyard was another area to focus our expertise on. With biophilic influences, so close to theadjoining orangerie, we ensured our lighting design would enable the space to be enjoyed into those late summer evenings.

Working in association with five-time RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medal-winning designer Kate Gould, this courtyard truly brings the Mediterranean to London.

This inspired courtyard is classical in planting, with olive trees, terracotta jardinieres and water features. The olive trees give a real sense of the Mediterranean along with well-considered and balanced planting.

The water features add sound and movement which contribute to the overall atmosphere: a calm, tranquil Mediterranean escape in the heart of Belgravia.

Bringing the courtyard to life in late evenings, we ensured the jardinieres lighting had tight beam angles at 12 degrees. This achieved the best results for the 4m tall trees without casuing any light pollution.

The water features are subtly illuminated capturing movement and refractions as they gently cascade. When sat in the orangery which adjoins the courtyard, you really do feel like you are in the Mediterranean. A biophilic space to relax in.

Project Teamsheet
  • Architect: SHH
  • Interior Designer: SHH Interiors
  • Project Management: Bond Davidson
  • Quantity Surveyor: Corrigan Street
  • M&E Consultant: ME7
  • Controls/AV Consultant: Tillman Domotics
  • Landscape Designer: Kate Gould
  • Main Contractor: Sizebreed
  • Electrical Contractor: Darke & Taylor
  • Lighting Consultant: Xavio Design of Mayfair
In Pictures
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The project has been shortlisted for two awards at the Inernational Design & Architecture Awards 2018. See the full shortlist and cast your vote here