Working on any building is a privilege because every property is much more than bricks and mortar – it’s an environment where people will live, work or spend their leisure time. And when the project involves a heritage property, constructed with the craftmanship and tradition of a bygone era, there is even more of a responsibility to do justice to the original building.
But respecting the quality and history of a heritage property doesn’t necessarily mean turning back the clock to bygone tastes or rolling back standards of comfort and technology a hundred years or more. For many buildings, particularly in the residential sector, sympathetic refurbishment means keeping the character and structural integrity of the existing building, while updating it for a new generation of use with the most applicable construction materials, techniques and technologies.
What people want and expect in a home – especially at the luxury end of the market – has changed dramatically over the past century. Lifestyles have changed too, so the facilities, ease of use and ease of maintenance that occupiers expect is a far cry from the way our ancestors lived.
At Chisholm & Winch, our goal is to balance respect for the past with a clear understanding of what’s needed to protect a heritage property for the future and make it appealing for today’s occupiers. And no project articulates how we achieve those goals quite as successfully as 1-2 New Burlington Street.
A Fresh Twist on Regency Tradition
Located just off Regent Street, between Mayfair and St James’s, 1-2 New Burlington Street is a five-storey Regency house that has undergone a major conservation and refurbishment project to provide luxurious private rental accommodation. Our remit was a varied package of works, which involved both updating the accommodation to provide chic interiors and contemporary facilities, and restoring original features.
The project drew upon Chisholm & Winch’s strengths in bespoke joinery and sourcing materials in keeping with the existing building. Some of the rooms within the building have original Georgian timber panelling and our remit included refurbishing these walls, matching new timber panelling to the original where replacement was required, and restoring those areas that could be preserved.
One of the showpiece elements of the project was a new staircase that curls through the centre of the property. Here, our joinery expertise was deployed to create new balustrades and bannisters that are sympathetic to the period of the building in terms of style, materials and workmanship. The result is a feature that does not pretend to be original but instantly references the period of the original build and appears at home in its surroundings.
Our joinery expertise was also put to good use with the installation of oak floors throughout the building, along with a wide variety of bespoke joinery requirements; from the luxury kitchen fit -out to the custom-fitted wardrobes and spacious wine cellar, and the heritage doors.
In the bathrooms, however, our joinery capabilities took on a contemporary twist with the installation of veneered bathroom pods within the existing structure. The concept here was to retain the integrity of the original building fabric while creating the luxury feel of a contemporary five-star hotel bathroom. To achieve this, we built freestanding vanity units, bringing bespoke joinery, mirrors and sanitary ware together to create a solution that is both modern and practical. The unit acts as a room divider and, while its contemporary design juxtaposes with the heritage surroundings, its materiality connects it to the existing building.
Meanwhile, a free-standing bath avoids any plumbing in the walls and continues the contemporary theme while also evoking a sense of the bathing experiences of times gone by.
Balancing Old and New
Throughout our 1-2 New Burlington Street project, there is a delicate balance of conservation, sympathetic refurbishment and contemporary luxury. Georgian architraves, dado rails and skirtings have been restored and replaced by our skilled team, and these features sit comfortably in the same environment as the luxury kitchen and utility room, which offer guests every modern convenience and a sleek contemporary aesthetic.
It’s just one example of what can be achieved when a contractor has the expertise and sensitivity to consider where refurbishment needs to be in-keeping with the original and where there is an opportunity to upgrade to more contemporary facilities and design. Fashion, technology and construction best practice will continue to evolve over time, so we have a responsibility to modernise with a light touch, maintaining the fabric of the building where possible and finding solutions so future upgrades take the same sensitive approach. Equally, we must avoid allowing heritage properties to become parodies of themselves, letting them instead be reinvented for a new era so that they continue to be part of our living built environment.