Inspired Design: How to craft new interiors that evoke a sense of place

By PrimeResi Journal

The Bowler James Brindley team shares the inside track on four projects that react to architecture and local heritage to create a sense of place through interior design

The past couple of decades have seen some step-changes in the quality of interior finishes in the world’s finest residences – but often at a cost of idiosyncrasy and individuality.

There’s a fine line between international luxury standards – where a penthouse in Singapore or Dubai has the same impeccable specification as in London or New York – and homogeneity, where that penthouse could be in any of those cities, losing its sense of place. Such high-standard standardisation is perhaps felt most acutely in London, where a dense patchwork of history has created pockets of distinct character, where shiny glass towers are mere punctuation points in a far greater story.

Luckily, that trend towards homogeneity seems to be being replaced with a more pronounced appreciation of local heritage and artisan craftsmanship.

Taking their lead from British heritage luxury brands, best-in-class new property developments are making big deals of provenance. Galliard’s “The Stage” on the site of an Elizabethan theatre in Shoreditch, for example, infuses its marketing materials with references to Shakespeare, while Oliver Burns’s “Brummel” penthouse on Jermyn Street uses men’s tailoring as a motif throughout its interior-fitout – right down to herringbone-pattern wooden floors and pinstriped walls.

The idea of a “house style” for an interior design practice is similarly fading, to be replaced with a more sensitive approach, which reacts more directly and evidently to a project’s particular architecture and specific location.

One firm which is making an art – and a business – of such adaptability is the Devonshire Street-based Bowler James Brindley.

Founded by Lucy Southall, Stephen Crawley and Ian Bayliss in 2014, the practice melds specialisms to deliver what it calls “a fresh paradigm based on collaboration and flexibility.” That involves embracing eccentricity and quirk to create individual interiors that engage their buildings and neighbourhoods in conversations, rather than treating spaces as blank canvases.

It’s an approach that has appealed to a realm of the capital’s most influential and successful residential developers – including Lodha, The Canary Wharf Group, Land Securities, Elysian and Mount Anvil – as well as to international hospitality clients including the W Hotel in Barcelona and Asia de Cuba at the Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi.

Here the BJB team walks us through four resi projects in London that illustrate the trend and approach, from a City tower aiming for some industrial character, to a 1960’s-inspired penthouse in Victoria where, in Crawley’s words, “Barbara Hulanicki meets Exile on Main Street/Mick Jagger combined with Wind Cries Mary era/Jimi Hendrix meets Twiggy”.

Bowler James Brindley’s founders: Stephen Crawley, Lucy Southall & Ian Bayliss (Photo by Nico Wills)

Designing for Place: Four case studies

Case Study One

One Crown Place: City slick X Hackney charm

  • Developer: Alloy MTD
  • Location: London, EC2
  • Bowler James Brindley scope: 235 Residences, 1 Penthouse, residential entrance lobby & the adjacent “Sun Street hotel”

The vision of the architect KPF was to design a building which “combines imagination and efficiency.” To maximise the views of the residents, the resultant building produced a “prism-like silhouette and ensure the maximum amount of natural light reaches the streets below”.

Stephen Crawley: “The buildings of the City and East London have provided rich inspiration for our design – we wanted to celebrate the eclectic aesthetic of both ‘City’ sleek combined with ‘Hackney’ industrial charm. Throughout One Crown Place, we have included an interesting mix of carefully curated textures and materials to complement the striking KPF architecture. The triangular angles on the building make for unusual, interesting and dynamic spaces with generous light, which works beautifully with the interiors. Oak herringbone floors are a nod to the elegant Georgian terraces which form part of the original site. Brickwork tiles are reminiscent of the area’s industrial heritage, yet when combined with marble take on an understated, opulent feel. Glass room dividers and cabinets paired with graphite metalwork are a subtle homage to the handsome warehouses of Shoreditch. Warm metallic hues are integral to the interiors, providing a harmonious link between inside and out.”

Master bathroom. The dark grey frames of glass panelled windows separating the bathroom and bedroom is intended to represent Hackneys industrial past whilst always visually connecting the residents with the stunning external views. Bevelled edge marble tiles further enhance this style whilst elegant wall lights by Drummonds and bespoke curved metalwork details to the vanity and mirror bring a softening layer of sophistication.
The living room and kitchen space celebrates the unique architectural form of the projects angular architecture. Again the dark grey panelled glass screens provide a modern industrial layer that be manoeuvred to separate the winter garden dining space and living room should the resident so desire. A herringbone floor is a nod to the sites Georgian terraces whilst buster and punch heavy metal pendant lights are hung over the breakfast bar as a more intimate solution to standard spots. The space has been dressed with a casual and eclectic approach to both furniture and artwork which represent the sites unique position between hackney and the city.
Master bedroom. The wardrobes here were designed to feel free standing yet utilise the space to full capacity. Elongated knurled metal handles bring the industrial edge to this design yet satin brass feet and trims add an element of luxury. An internal shelf is lit to throw lighting onto the resident’s garments. The rooms dressing is deliberately casual and relaxed with linen bedding and asymmetric bedside lighting by Workstead. A Spencer bed by Minotti is upholstered in heavily textured fabric for a comfortable aesthetic. A bell side table by Classicon combines metallic and glass adding to the eclectic feel.
This image demonstrates how our approach to the space planning of the building is intended to celebrate its unique architecture. By referencing the geometric angles that are integral to KPF’s architecture the resident gets a sense of the building in which they invested both internally and externally. Track lighting was chosen here to enhance the lofty and industrial atmosphere.
This kitchen vignette shows an attention to detail that focuses on a sense of place. Knurled handles by Buster and Punch are an intentional movement away from the more obvious handle-less joinery. They add texture and industrial charm again references hackney industrious past. Fluted glass cabinets further adds to this atmosphere.

Case Study Two

Nova Penthouse: ‘Barbara Hulanicki meets Exile on Main Street/Mick Jagger combined with Wind Cries Mary era/Jimi Hendrix meets Twiggy’

  • Developer: Land Securities
  • Location: London, SW1W
  • Bowler James Brindley scope: Duplex Penthouse Apartment
  • Lead Interior Designer and Interior Architect for the Nova Building: FLINT

The Nova Building is a residential block of apartments in the heart of Land Securities’ 22 acre Victoria development with a rectilinear façade framed in bright primary coloured fins. The building was designed by Benson + Forsyth Architects, with FLINT providing interior design and interior architecture since 2011.

Stephen Crawley: “When Land Securities invited BJB to design the duplex Penthouse unit at their Nova development in Victoria we were given a brief ‘to create an interior which is memorable, spectacular and befitting of the quality of the Nova development.’ As a result we decided that the design would be personality driven, eclectic, with a clear point of view. We took inspiration from the architectural design of the building which was reminiscent of the work of European modernist architects working in the 1960s and 70s. We were also inspired by London artists, writers and musicians working at the same time and arrived on a character for the Penthouse – Barbara Hulanicki meets Exile on Main Street/ Mick Jagger combined with Wind Cries Mary era/ Jimi Hendrix meets Twiggy. These personalities challenged conventions, had new attitudes and were at the forefront of a new London based cultural revolution. The resultant design showcases polished rosewood, blue velvet, veneered walls, daring portraits, a cocktail bar, wraparound drapes and eclecticism in the true sense of the world. BJB also designed the roof terrace, a huge space with lounging, cooking and dining areas.”

The bar is a glamorous, glistening piece of jewellery within the space.
Overall the finishes are overtly luxurious: plated brass detailing to edges, brass grilles to the front of the back bar, (hiding the fridge), a deep mahogany gloss to all the timber elements. To enhance the reflectivity, properly illuminating the back bar was important, it was designed with a bronze mirror and both integrated LED lighting as well as 60s inspired decorative and spherical wall lights. Polished black galaxy granite was applied to the front bar top, but softened with an upholstered armrest detail in tan leather, which makes it a bit more inviting and comfortable especially for a personal, residential bar.
On the bar front a perforated brass sheet wraps around the curved bar unit and is complemented by the curved backs of the Se collection bar stools.
The hallway features an antique chandelier from Alfies Antiques and walls painted in Farrow & Ball Hague Blue
There are two feature bold red swing chairs by Lee Broom hanging in main sitting room.
A shot of the full reception / sitting area, with several bespoke pieces including a Vladimir Kagan inspired curved sofa.
Snug with a view featuring a ginormous opulent grey / blue bespoke British made sofa and nested tables from Dare Studios.
Steps down to the lower ground level, decorated in Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball
The bar area with Se Collection stools, and dining table featuring cerise chairs.
Twiggy, printed on a chain curtain.

Case Study Three

One Park Drive: Authentic lofts X Contemporary building

  • Developer: Canary Wharf Group
  • Location: London, E14
  • Bowler James Brindley Scope: “Loft” apartments on levels 2-10 & level 32 “Sky Lofts”

One Park Drive is one of five new buildings on Wood Wharf forming a new district of the Canary Wharf estate. The building designed by Herzog De Meuron acts as an anchor of the west side of the district and can be viewed from all sides. The circular form of the building distinguishes it from its neighbours.

The unit mix is split into three residential typologies according to scale and height. The larger “loft” type units occupy the lower levels close to the water, smaller apartments make up most of the central section, and larger units on the upper floors.

Ian Bayliss: “It was our aim to bring to life the ‘Loft’ design introduced by the architect in their original concept for the building. We removed solid walls, added glass and sliding doors to capture the essence of an authentic loft found in traditionally industrial buildings and the flexibility of loft living. There are huge white walls and seamless grey resin floors. Services and air conditioning are hidden by a curving stained oak installation, inspired the circular plan of the building, as is the free standing circular shower.”

Living room/kitchen. This image again demonstrates how our planning of the apartment both acknowledges and responds to Herzog and de Meuron’s unique architecture. The cylindrical nature of the tower is referenced within the sweeping walnut veneer bulkhead that draws you through the apartment living spaces and into the master suite, bringing the external architecture into the interior. Back painted glass wall cabinets and a mirrored backsplash are intended to reflect the stunning exterior views. A charcoal grey suede Viktor sofa by Baxter with a burnished brass frame is freestanding within the space, reminiscent of the eclectic and artistic atmosphere of a New York loft apartment. Concrete affect flooring further adds to this dynamic.
Guest bathroom. A monolithic application of circular mother of pearl tiles references the circular motif of the buildings plan whilst adding an unexpected layer of glamour to the apartments palette. This is offset with an understated grey marble vanity and simple black framed vanity mirror that also houses elegant spaces and integrated lighting for the residents bathroom accessories.
The dressing room. This unique dressing space sits neatly between the master suites wardrobe and a symbolically cylindrical feature shower. The wardrobes stand free of the unusually high lofty ceilings as intentionally simple yet sculptural timber objects within the space. A simple dressing table is placed against a full length mirror that reflects the dynamic curves create within the space beyond.
The master bathrooms free standing shower was designed as an exclusive sculptural reference to Herzog and de Meuron’s impressively unique cylindrical architecture. It’s fretted pattern again references the buildings architecture whilst also creating a layer of privacy. It sits proudly between the bathroom and wardrobe again evoking the artist and unconventional atmosphere of much coveted loft apartments in original factory buildings yet with the level of details and comfort expected from a product at this level of luxury.
Master bedroom. Each item of the apartment dressing was hand selected with the thought that the owner of such a residence would be well traveling with a keen and educated eye for the arts. The credenza by Riva 1920 is a natural iron oiled frame encasing a Briccola Oak. The circular rose mirror by AYTM is intentionally simple yet bold in scale. A hand printed cushion by Cameron short was chosen from the New Craftsmen and sits on the future classic Beetle armchair by Gubbi.
This walnut slab top of this dining table by Hudson furniture was hand selected and is 100 years old. With it’s hand made bronze base it really is a piece of art in it’s own right. Paired with the simple yet unique form of Matthew Hiltons tapas chair and a solid iron spin chandelier by Tom Dixon this space represents a mix of contemporary and heritage design and materialisation.

Case Study Four

3 Lincoln Square: Historic culture X Minimalism

  • Developer: Lodha Group
  • Location: London, WC2
  • Bowler James Brindley Scope: All 225 residences – Studios, 1, 2, & 3 bedroom & 2 Penthouses

Lincoln Square is a development in Lincoln’s Inn Fields district of London and falling within the Strand Conversation Area. The building designed by PLP Architecture is neighbours with grand institutions such as the Royal Courts of Justice, the Royal College of Surgeons, the London School of Economics and of course the Inns of Court. PLP took inspiration from this compelling historical context and the design of this grand stone building “is reminiscent of neighbouring townhouses and each façade responds in scale and texture to its historical neighbour.”

Lucy Southall: “We were inspired by the approach of the architect. We created an understated, elegant scheme to provide a luxurious backdrop aimed at a resident likely to have lead a distinguished, cultured life. We studied the Library in Lincoln’s Inn, the Soane Museum and local well established local craft industries. Our aim was to produce a grounded, strong and intuitively safe residence with the ability to accommodate significant art or book collections but at the same time produce a space suitable for a minimal lifestyle. There are English stone floors, re-invented period details and eucalyptus veneered kitchens.” 

Master Bathroom bespoke recessed shelf detail. The monolithic beauty of Opulent Grey Stone is celebrated with the clean edge lit lines. Monochromatic shower products such as Dyptique and Tom Ford / Acqua Di Parma enhance the tonal effects whilst timber brushes add warmth and texture.
Hallway/kitchen. Eucalyptus veneered portal separates the hallway and kitchen and is further layered with a bespoke bronze screen creating an open yet intimate division. A hand blown glass pendant light by Lindsey Adelman brings focus to the timber dining table which is an extension of the Celiza Elemento marble kitchen island. Abstract Artwork adds an injection of colour and animation.
Living Room. A 1953 reproduction of an armchair Gio Ponti originally designed for his private house in Milan is coupled with hand made ceramic glazed table lights by Porta Romana. Both these pieces and a textural bronze wall sculpture are off set against a rich teal velvet sofa.
Master bathroom. Opulent Grey Stone is offset with a clean white panelled door whilst a warm bronze sliding door handle is set flush with subtle yet sophisticated detailing.
Kitchen. A bronze aluminium niche is softly back lit and set perfectly within the warm eucalyptus veneered joinery. The Celiza Elemental marble worktop adds further to this subtle yet elegant palette.
The front door. An exercise in true attention to detail from the intentionally understated changes in veneer grain to door panels/a bespoke oversized bronze door knob and a specially selected tiny bronze wall light positioned perfectly to shine onto the resident’s individual door number which is layered onto a bronze aluminium panel.
The lobby. A directional Sonorous stone is dramatically laid in a unique vertical and horizontal checkerboard pattern. The door panels also reflect this design which uses this unusual detailing for impact rather than lavish materials. Bronze accents add a layer of warmth and sophistication whilst a hand chosen vintage pendant light from Alfie’s Antiques Market London adds to the sense of well-travelled and eclectic taste.
The master bedroom. A bespoke padded fabric headboard is layered against warm eucalyptus panelling. Solid glass Celestial Pebble pendant lights by Ochre are an eye catching alternative to standard table lights. Rich Blue velvet curtains bring an added layer of glamour to the space. / +44 (0) 203 0115880















Main image: Twiggy, printed on a chain curtain