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RULE BRITANNIA

Echlin

19th Nov 2016

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Echlin is a collective of architects, interior designers and strategists united to deliver exceptionally crafted residences and ground-breaking projects. Established on principles of wellbeing and craftsmanship, Echlin was founded to provide a visionary and multi-disciplinary approach to design and development by offering a complete suite of in-house skills. A creative team of architects and designers go to extraordinary lengths to maximise the potential of every site. Exploring the relationships between the project and its surroundings, they are dedicated to creating spaces that innovate and inspire. Each project is treated individually and presented with a distinctive identity telling a unique story through cohesive design.

One of their latest projects, Kenure House, is now for sale through Domus Nova so we couldn’t resist the opportunity to find out more about them as designers and their striking creation.

What are core principles Echlin approaches architecture and design with?

As Echlin is a collective, we approach our projects and design from this holistic view. We pool together our various skillsets and experience, and combine these with a focus on craftsmanship, wellbeing, natural light, greenery and attention to detail. Furthermore, we ensure we continually think about the location, hoping every project we work on sits harmoniously within its immediate context and leaves the surrounding area a little better.

Who or what are you influenced by?
We’d rather describe it as being 'inspired by' great things and people. Many things inspire us, from cultural experiences, striking landscapes, plants, trees, light and beauty, interesting architecture, streetscapes, intriguing and unusual materials through to new technologies and sustainable building methods. But, above all, we take inspiration from what we learn from our clients’ lifestyles and what’s important to them. It’s really key for us to think about how they live, navigate a space and what’s important to them, not just today but in 10 or 20 years’ time, and what will enhance their experience within the home.

You recently finished an award-winning townhouse in Chelsea following a challenging planning process, which Lord Richard Rogers helped support. What has the Echlin architecture team come away with from the experience?

Planning in the UK is one of the most important elements affecting the future of our built environment, yet remains a challenge. Lord Rogers has great vision and understanding and we felt privileged that he wrote to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to support our plans for our Old Church Street scheme. He understood that the design was respectful whilst adding something new and exciting to the streetscape. Moving forward, we will continue to push the boundaries of architecture; while it would be easy to build more simple mundane properties, our priority is to create legacy buildings that enhance our city.

Kenure House is a large family home that was originally three separate properties. How did this process differ from a single unit development and what was your initial approach to the space?

We were drawn to the site as it had huge potential. Even though at the time it was three separate properties, it was used as one dwelling, just poorly interlinked. This meant we had to look at the site and think about how we could make it hang together more cohesively and flow as one large family home. Splitting it back into separate dwellings wouldn’t have created particularly successful spaces, so we took the opportunity to breathe life into the overall project as one. Behind the façade retention it is a new build, and our initial approach focused on creating a central core with a light well which allows natural light to flood the property and creates a central and very green focal point from as many of the levels of the home as possible.

The internal courtyard, the living wall and light well are very clearly a focal point of the property. What prompted you to structure the house around a core feature in this way?
We love the feeling of light, greenery and space and this is a key driver for the design and layout of all of our homes. The introduction of the central courtyard was a chance to create something that was better than what was there before. It wouldn’t suit us to have just designed a 'mega-home' that offered 'luxury' but for no good reason. Previously in that location on the site, was a dark and unloved kitchen space with no access to the outdoors. Now you can cook, eat, sleep, live and work all with immediate access and views to greenery.

The house has a variety of spectacular outdoor spaces; the courtyard and the two roof terraces. How much would you say the outdoors – the natural world – plays a part in the concept of wellbeing?
Many studies show that access to or views of greenery, along with natural light can help your mental state, combat stress and increase productivity. We want our homes to make residents feel good about themselves and to enrich their lifestyles. Contributing to their wellbeing through light and greenery is a key part of this. We ensure every project we work on truly benefits its surroundings and its occupants, while adding something special that was not there before.

We love the fluidity that the living space offers within the house, particularly on the lower ground floor. When is it important to design with a sense of ambiguity, both for flow and flexibility?
The design of rooms and houses has for so long been rooted in what was possible structurally, affordable, and what suited the lifestyles of the day. Despite the modernists ripping up the rulebook almost 100 years ago, many homes are still designed as a series of dull and unconnected boxes.

When we design homes, we think about flexibility and flow, and how a resident will use, move around the space and over time, grow with their inhabitants. For example Kenure House works for a couple, young family or older family. Kenure House offers a balance as it feels spacious and light, but as it’s arranged over different levels, there are areas which can be closed off to ensure privacy. Good storage is important to provide a clutter-free space, as are rooms which can be used in flexible ways e.g. as a bedroom or a gym.

How do you strike a balance between what is luxury and what is practical?
What is luxury to one person might not be to the next so it’s very subjective. On the whole though, it is about enhanced experiences, intelligent design, comfort, enjoyment and pleasure, and spaces which make people feel good about themselves. Within the home this includes not overly complicating the technology and considering materials and fabrics which are durable and stand the test of time, and flexible spaces which work for all manner of things.

We aim to transfer the passion of craftsmanship into an experience and an atmosphere that is more than just a material offering, and one which has a story to tell. For example, stone surfaces have been present in kitchens for millennia, with more elaborate and crafted choices denoting wealth and class. However, today they cannot compare with composite stone tops like the ones we have used in Kenure House. These luxurious looking marble effect counters are actually made of quartz mixed with resin. They do not need to be sealed, are completely scratch and heat resistant, and do not let bacteria build up.

A lot of the furniture in the house is Echlin bespoke. How do you decide to create rather than source? What is the design process in regards to this?
We design most of the furniture in our homes ourselves, because we are truly passionate about even the smallest details of our projects. By creating key pieces, it means we can be sure that things like the finish on the castors of a sofa are true to the design concept. It also means we can be more in control of the supply chain, ultimately understanding the environmental impact of our choices. Most of our furniture is handmade in Oxfordshire, so we’re scoring fairly well on our carbon footprint. The design process is staged, starting with the function of the room, the proportions we’re looking for, followed by any historic influences we want to incorporate and lastly, the fabrics and finishes.

It’s great to see you have chosen predominantly British names, such as Jo Malone, Smythson, Mulberry, Ettinger and Richard Brendon, to provide the finishing accents of the house. Who are some of the others in the design community you have collaborated with? How much is your ethos geared towards a celebration of British design?
The interior design inspiration blends the classic with the contemporary, using traditional and modern design elements, also incorporating some of the innovation and fun of the Victorian era.

About 90% of the interior fit out is sourced from the UK. As members of Walpole British Luxury and proud supporters of British craft, Echlin has sourced a beautiful collection of hand-made leather goods and accessories from fellow Walpole member, Ettinger, and stunning English bone china and barware from emerging designer, Richard Brendon, a Walpole Brand of Tomorrow 2016. Richard Brendon’s work complements Kenure House beautifully as it too takes elements from the past and transforms them into striking modern designs. For Kenure House, Echlin went to The New Craftsmen to curate a special collection of pieces from their master craftspeople. This includes beautiful ceramics by Iva Polacheva, scorched bowls by Robin Wood and interesting glassware from Michael Ruh.

Echlin has also partnered with home fragrance experts, True Grace, a carbon-neutral brand handmade in the UK, to produce a truly memorable scent experience especially for the house. The Burlington Arcade store worked with Echlin to accent the home with complementary fragrance blends such as English Garden and Amber (inspired by Holland Park), and Portobello Oud (inspired by Portobello Market).

The interior scheme includes a selection of Echlin bespoke pieces, alongside contemporary items, design classics, antiques and vintage accessories. Every item has either been uniquely designed for this home, by the in-house team, or specially curated and sourced to complement the contemporary architecture and historical context.

The artwork is mostly British, many London-based, canvassed through Cadogan Contemporary and an emerging art curation brand.

What would you say to those interested in buying the property?
We design homes to be lived in and enjoyed, not observed from a distance. This is a home which can suit any stage of life, and one which can be flexible to resident’s needs. It could house a couple or family with children of any age. It has the benefit of a contemporary feel but the charm of Holland Park on its doorstep. Having a car garage is a rarity in this part of London but provides privacy and security.

As both a designer and developer, your in-house talent and skills can take you in many different directions. Where do you want to take Echlin? What kind of projects do you want to be embarking on? What is next for you?
We have lots of interesting things in the pipeline, both residential and commercial, and new strands to the business including our furniture collection. Most importantly we want to continue breathing life into old spaces, and become synonymous with a visionary approach to design and development. In terms of development projects for our sales portfolio, we’re working on a large family house in Notting Hill and a multiple-unit scheme in St Pancras. For clients, we are currently working on extensive projects in Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Kensington and South Kensington.

What would be your passion project?
Working on a famous London landmark, like a hotel or a gallery, would be a really exciting challenge as it will build on our ability to create great spaces which inspire people – not just while at home, but when at work, or play.

What do you think is the future of design?
Good quality sustainable design is the future. It is increasingly having an influence over people’s decisions, whether that’s buying a food item (the packaging), transportation, going to a restaurant or hotel. The overall design and what that brand stands for is more important than ever. Finding ways to upcycle and recycle materials such as old timber for furniture is increasingly in vogue. At the higher end of the market, there is appetite for bespoke or truly unique pieces that can’t be found online or in the shops.

To Echlin, the future of design would include collaborations between everyone – brands, disciplines, companies and even countries. We believe true progress comes from being part of the conversation.

#domusloveskenurehouse

Echlin; echlinlondon.com

Twitter: @echlinproperty
Instagram: @echlin_design