New Urban Space / Coal Drops Yard

Fellow Londoners will be aware that the area around Kings Cross has undergone a huge regeneration in recent years.  I had been to Coal Drops Yard for the occasional concert, exhibition, or meal.  Always surprised by a development that could change my feeling towards this area of London, I naturally had in mind to explore it further.  I’d lived not too far away in Islington at one stage of my life, but found the area too urban, too dirty and claustrophobic for my tastes.  This new public gathering point is modern, interesting, open, clean, and – always a winner for me – there is even a waterway to linger beside.  Learning that a hub for interior design was to form part of Coal Drops Yard was the final impetus to set aside an afternoon to explore.  

Design wizard, Thomas Heatherwick, has woven spaces for an expanding network of creatives and technologists through and around the preserved structures of the area’s industrial past.  There are the gas holders, the canal and railway structures, the Victorian coal storage sheds, all still in place.  

The Coal Office is Tom Dixon’s new home:  a live studio if you like, combining a shop, workshop, office, restaurant and roof terrace in one space.  The futuristic lighting, haberdashery, furniture and accessories collection is displayed in a shop under the industrial arches, while the Trade Counter provides a draw to architects and interior designers wishing to hold longer conversations on design and browse surface finish options showcased by a number of design friends who have joined.  I learned of the work of Made a Mano, producers of tactile modern ceramics made from lava stone, and I caught up with colleagues at The Rug Company, taking the opportunity to learn about their latest handwoven textural designs.

This urban, industrial setting makes a revitalising change from the chic, established design hubs of West London. 

Comeback Queen: The Drinks Trolley

In the world of interiors, there is a comeback queen in our midst: the very pleasing little drinks trolley.

Popular in the Seventies, the drinks trolley can be as fun to style and look at as it is to use.  When entertaining, the mobile home bar – replete with glassware, cocktail tools, and serving trays, not just spirits – is a memorable way to serve welcome drinks or a night cap to guests.  

The drinks trolley certainly makes a statement; fortunately, they can be found in every style imaginable too.  And a retro piece can add another level of interest again.  This one – sourced for a client’s period property – was crafted in Italy the 1950s.  With fine brass detailing and glass tops with mirrored borders to each of the two tiers, one wonders at what gatherings this elegant trolley has been put to use in its lifetime.

How to Integrate Home Entertainment with Sensitivity

Home entertainment systems – whether sound, video, or cinema – are taken for granted in the modern home.  But large screens and speaker systems can detract from a beautiful space unless careful thought is given.

Let’s take televisions screens.  Often, homeowners wish to be able to watch shows in several rooms in the home:  Kitchen, Snug, Drawing Room, Bedrooms, Gym.  One of the tasks of the interior designer is to ensure that screens are integrated to be as unobtrusive as possible. 

Working closely with audio visual specialists and bespoke furniture designers, there are many smart ways to have a screen in the room while keeping it hidden when not in use.  These photographs show three methods recently employed:

  1. A bespoke freestanding unit with false front was designed to coordinate with the Master Bedroom.  Concealed inside is a lift-and-swivel mechanism that allows the screen to be raised and used when required;
  2. In the Snug, a traditional mirror incorporating state-of-the-art glass hides a television screen within it; 
  3. Rather than placing a television directly onto the wall in the Kitchen, the builders created a niche so that the television and bracket were set back, allowing the screen itself to be completely flush with the wall.  

The Traditional Fireplace: Real Fire or Eco-Alternative?

In a period or contemporary home, there is perhaps no better focal point in a room than a fireplace. In a traditional setting (such as is seen in the first photograph), there is something wonderfully calming, too, about watching the flames of a real fire, hearing the pop and crackle.

Sadly, though, there are heavy downsides to a real fire. First, there are stringent building regulations to be met. Chimneys must be lined to regulation standard, ventilation must be adequate and the hearth must be of certain proportions, for a start. Of greater concern is the environmental impact of burning solid fuel. Producing harmful emissions that pollute the local atmosphere, it contributes to the build-up of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Enter bioethanol fires. Nowadays, these are regularly seen in a contemporary setting. Perhaps more surprisingly, though, a bioethanol burner can equally be used in a traditional fireplace. The second and third photographs show fireplaces in which such a burner was specified.

Biofuel, which comes from renewable sources such as corn and potato, produces no harmful emissions. It burns clean and is carbon neutral. There is no need for a flue or vent, they are easy to install and very little maintenance is involved. What is more, 100% of the heat produced is retained in the room.