|Project Name||The Market Building||Posted in||Interior Design||Location||
72-82 Rosebery Avenue
|Architecture Practice||Holloway Li||Client||Coalbrook||Completed||Nov 2021|
Housed on the ground and basement floors of a former warehouse in Clerkenwell, London, the new showroom of design-led bathroom brand Coalbrook subverts the typical showroom typology with an unexpected, immersive, art gallery-like space where visitors get to experience the products as works of art. London-based design studio Holloway Li conjured up a surreal post-industrial landscape in reflection of the brand’s identity by appropriating the lost forms of the Industrial Revolution through a lens of contemporary design, i.e. the chimneys which towered over the skylines of cities, the searing heat of the furnaces and engine rooms, and rough chiselled quarries. Working closely with a network of master craftspeople, the designers created a series of bespoke product displays inspired by Victorian iconography that blur the boundary between historicism, decoration and the digital process.
Although it was only founded in 2020, Coalbrook nevertheless boasts a historical-minded brand narrative – the company takes its name from the town of Coalbrookdale in the Midlands, the site of the world’s first iron bridge and cradle of the Industrial Revolution. In response, the designers explored the history of industrial forms and processes in order to create a unique way in which to both showcase the brand’s products and embody its ethos. The result is a series of sculptural displays that channel the industrial language of the Victorian Age, fittingly housed in a historic warehouse stripped back to expose the building’s steel frame, boldly painted in a vivid crimson red.
Lined with large street-facing windows, the ground floor showroom is a bright and airy space populated by resin casts of Victorian bathroom wall panels and cast-iron renditions of industrial chimneys, both of which are used to mount the brand’s taps and showers. A collaboration with a company who typically makes moulded interiors for London buses, the ghostly wall panels impress in their level of detailing, which includes cornices, mouldings and sash windows, the familiarity of the forms subverted by the liquid-like material and piercing orange and amber hues. “The resin ‘dematerialises’ the form of the cast, at points appearing crystalline, ethereal or fluid depending on the viewer’s position and angle of light”, as creative director Alex Holloway says. Discreetly illuminated with up light fittings, they cast a warm glow out onto the street, just as industrial furnaces once did.
Connecting the ground and basement showrooms, a monolithic stone staircase is a marvel of both design and craftsmanship. Created in collaboration with a stonemason located near Stamford, it was cut from a single block of Limestone and chiselled on site, the edge profile gradually going from smooth on the top to rougher towards the basement level. Most impressively, the solid staircase appears to float with minimal support, courtesy of three invisible steel cables running through each step.
Contrary to the daylight-filled ground floor, the basement is a dark, watery space designed to evoke the atmosphere of a subterranean engine room. Dominating the space, two oversized industrial ‘boilers’ that house working tap displays were fabricated by an emerging metalwork studio based in South London who also produced the ‘chimneys’ on the ground floor. The water from the taps is collected in a bespoke metalwork sink to then eventually flow out from spouts on the boiler’s exterior and through the floor grating.
The two boilers are complemented by patinated cast iron wall panels used for mounting working shower displays, with water flowing through the floor grating as before. Following the form of a traditional Victorian bathroom, complete with cast cornices, skirtings and tiling detailing, the cast iron panels present a darker, more solid version of the translucent casts on the ground floor – the yin to the resin panels’ yang.
Completing the project, a series of co-working spaces combine contemporary elegance with playful touches and industrial references. On the ground floor, the ‘Drawing Room’ is a relaxed work/meeting setting swathed in pink hues, while the ‘Library’ is designed around a light blue colour palette, with red-painted steel beams and exposed masonry adding colour and texture. Bespoke display boards made from brass tubing typically used to make towel rails echo the showroom’s industrial aesthetic, as do the chainmail partitions and Crittall-style screens in the basement meeting room and bar area. Softly glowing through the glass screens, the amber-lit boilers bring the ‘heat of the furnaces’ into the workspace, firing up work meetings as much as product appeal.