Albany, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London
Complete refurbishment of this historic, Grade I listed property on Piccadilly in Mayfair, London
This was a full redesign and refurbishment of a set at Albany on Piccadilly in Mayfair, London. Working on an historic Grade I-listed building such as this, and refitting it to such a high standard, is a demanding and detailed process. We handled all aspects of this project, from layouts and permissions through to fittings, finishes and bespoke joinery.
Albany was converted in 1802 from what was Melbourne House, one of the original mansion houses on Piccadilly. With the addition of two new buildings running from the house up to Burlington Gardens and taking up the whole space of the original garden, a total of 69 bachelor apartments known as ‘sets’ were created. Over the years Albany has been home to many famous names, able to step off the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly and into the oasis of calm that is their Mayfair home.
This London address is in fact the oldest co-owned apartment building in the world, and with such a rich and important history working within Albany is tightly controlled. We worked closely with the Steward of Albany on our proposals for the works and the alterations we wished to make. Once the Trustees of Albany were happy, we handled the Listed Building Consent with both Westminster City Council and English Heritage – the works to a Grade I-listed building quite rightly attracting the very closest levels of conservation scrutiny.
We proposed minor alterations to the layout of the set, to improve the flow and practical use of the spaces, and in fact to return it to closer to its original layout. A variety of alterations had been made over the years, and by carrying out investigative opening up inside we were able to determine more of the history of the set, and to return elements to their original positions.
Our clients were interested in a richly-decorated scheme, incorporating fine finishes and with features and cabinetry inspired by the Biedermeier and Empire styles.
The extraordinary detail and decoration is evident from the moment you step through the main door. The hallway is decorated with an Italianate mural created by a Hollywood scene painter for the project. Faux panelling is added below, and a custom-made marble floor we designed is fitted to the floor. We designed a Biedermeier-style cloak cabinet especially for the space, and in the corridor is an antique wall console we sourced especially. In order to preserve the paint history of the doors, the walnut timber paint effects were applied by specialist decorators over a period of several weeks, and the stunning result is worth their painstaking efforts.
The main reception room is both a drawing room as well as the client’s study. Following our research on Biedermeier and other related Neoclassical styles, we were particularly inspired by the cabinetry of the reference library in Duke Ernst I’s apartment at Ehrenburg Palace in Germany. Taking inspiration from that design, we created a range of cabinetry which is used here and also in the bedroom. It appears in a variety of configurations and for different purposes, although all with a continuity of style, details and accents. Crafted from a combination of Mahogany, Ash, Maple and Masur Birch, with gilt collars and ironmongery, the cabinetry is as beautiful to look at as it is to use. It is a sophisticated and detailed design, produced to the very highest possible standard. A bleached Mahogany campaign-style desk was also made for the room and sits alongside the window.
We sought to remove some of the items that would never have been seen in the Albany’s original interiors. A television on show was out of the question, and instead we hid a slim screen behind specially-treated mirror glass. This appears as a normal mirror until the television is switched on, and then the picture shows through. To ensure that this was still sympathetic to the rest of the interior, it is a French antique mirror frame that was restored and re-glazed to house the television.
Similarly, the original interiors were heated by the open fires of course, and the later addition of radiators and electric heaters look rather incongruous in a fine period property like this. Instead we devised an underfloor heating installation throughout the property, providing effective heating and enabling us to remove the later radiators. In conjunction with English Heritage, the original floor boards were lifted and numbered so that they could be re-fixed in their original positions after the heating was installed. We sourced an original Regency fireplace for the drawing room, in keeping with its splendour. This was fitted with a custom-made gas burner so it could be used easily and cleanly.
We were determined that the flooring for this Albany set wouldn’t be a standard design or pattern – it should be as unique as the property. We visited the archives of London’s V&A Museum to study their collection of pattern books and original catalogues of flooring suppliers from the Regency period. These designs were quite different to the parquet styles we see today, and many would be considered quite garish in their combinations of timbers, but their general style was very informative. Inspired by those original designs we adapted some of the patterns, their proportions and the timbers used in order to create a unique parquet panel design. All manufactured in quarter-sawn oak timber, a Greek key border was added in walnut, linking with the decorative motif on the fireplace.
The original windows were restored as well as their shutters and panelling. We also concealed some of the modern power and networking behind the panels so that the services required by the client could be provided, while at the same time preserving the classical interior.
Lavish silk window treatments completed the decoration of the room, with matching braids and tie backs made just for these rooms by one of London’s most historic curtain makers.
The property was also networked and a Crestron control system added for audio and video – accessed by control panels or smartphones. We also used this system to control the electrically operated curtains, and even the fireplace, as the easier something is to use, the more it will actually be used.
In the main bedroom the cabinetry style continues, here as wardrobes with panelled doors. The panels are of silk, pleated using an antique machine by the only workroom in the country still able to pleat silk to this size. Other items are made and upholstered in an Empire-style midnight blue silk fabric that was woven just for this project.
The bathroom finishes and cabinetry are a combination of rich Rosso Verona and Crema Valencia marbles, with Birch timber and sixty year-old Brazilian walnut. In slab form the marble finishes are rich and opulent, with the walnut continuing the effect on the cabinetry we designed for the room. The classical taps and fittings are from one of London’s oldest bathroom fittings manufacturers and are quite befitting of the style of Albany, as is the complementary marble floor we designed.
Downstairs in the set, the dining room is fitted with library shelving, cabinetry and panelling in Birch timber with walnut edging, as well as antique glass mirror to increase the feeling of space. There is service access from this room, carefully concealed behind a bookcase door so that the presence of this access route is not apparent and the room feels complete. A new stone top for one of the clients’ existing tables was made from specially chosen Marron Imperial marble, with a custom edge detail we designed.
The kitchen is designed and crafted in the same style, with the cabinetry topped with a worktop in Labrador Antique granite. A pair of pocket doors can close off the kitchen is needed, otherwise they fully recess into their pockets to create one large room.