Luxury furniture showroom breathes new life into historic Clerkenwell warehouse
International high-end furniture company Brunner has opened its new London headquarters to the public. Designed by McDowell+Benedetti, the showroom and offices occupy a large 3-storey Victorian warehouse space on Rosebery Avenue, near Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell.
The new home for Brunner UK enables the company to expand its London base from its former cramped premises near Old Street, into a light and spacious gallery showroom in the heart of London’s design quarter. Set in an unusually long and narrow industrial warehouse building on Rosebery Avenue (built c.1890), the new showroom is part of Brunner’s long-term plan to expand its UK operations and dramatically increase the business’ public face. The new showroom has a 40m street frontage, where Brunner’s former London showroom had no street frontage at all from which to advertise the company’s luxurious office and contract furniture products.
McDowell+Benedetti’s response to Brunner’s brief was to strip back the building’s interior to reveal original key features of the building's industrial heritage, including steel beams and sandblasted brickwork. A calm palette of materials and colours was then introduced, including a monolithic pale grey resin to all three floors, forming a theatrical and unified backdrop for the furniture displays.
In addition, simple but dramatic interventions make the space truly unique to Brunner. Voids were opened up and a powerful linear floating staircase added to connect the three floors. The black waxed steel staircase forms a strong dark ribbon threading through the existing structure, unifying the space. Also complementing the building’s vast scale, a new oversized pivot door makes a striking entrance to the showroom. The 2.7m wide door has been finely engineered to require only the lightest touch to open. New full-size shop front windows show off Brunner’s furniture to full effect, while hanging chairs are displayed in the double height voids, highlighted with atmospheric lighting, which casts dramatic shadows of the furniture. The new double-glazed, thermally broken windows and door contribute to the overall environmental upgrade of the space.
McDowell+Benedetti has been involved in the development of this historic warehouse site for over 16 years. The architecture firm was based in the space for 12 years, during which time it worked on various phases of the building’s development for its owners and other tenants. Prior to being appointed to design the Brunner showroom on the lower floors, McDowell+Benedetti secured planning consent in 2009 for the building’s owners to add a roof extension, creating four residential duplex apartments, which are currently under construction.