Furniture for 2 Bessborough Street

Pimlico Castle Ensemble.

Pimlico is a family of sofa, coffee table, armchair and side table, designed for a reception area of a grade II listed office building on 2 Bessborough Street, London.

The building designed by William Whitfield in early 80s is a rather hefty construction with an octagonal plan. We took this as a starting point to design a family of lounge furniture with faceted features, and played with the weightiness of solid surfaces and the lightness tapered thin edges create. All wooden parts were made with FSC certified European oak.

 

Commissioned by The Crown Estate for 2 Bessborough Road site, modernised by Stiff+Trevillion Architects, 2021
Pimlico armchairs and side table / Photo © Nick Rochowski
The building

2 Bessborough Street is recently Grade II listed unused office building in Pimlico, which was refurbished by Stiff+Trevillion Architects in order to make the building suitable for modern office use, and to better integrate into the surrounding streetscape.

2 Bessborough Street and 33 Vauxhall Bridge Road are two office buildings that form a commercial development for the Crown Estate Commissioners, designed in 1977-9 by Sir William Whitfield and complete by 1983. This is a typical post-war office development, combining a landmark tower with a long, low-rise block that is surrounded by some public space, including an entrance to Pimlico underground station and works of public art. 2 Bessborough Street was dubbed the ‘Pimlico castle’ in the press and was said to be inspired by Whitfield’s love of historic military architecture.

The buildings’ deep brick outer structural skins create a sense of permanence and monumentality, and the development has a powerful muscular presence within the streetscape, particularly the defensive fortress-like tower on Bessborough Street.

 

Our brief

As a part of the refurbishment project, we were commissioned to design and make a feature lighting for its double height lift hall, and furniture for the lounge at the entrance, which had been redesigned into a lighter, more open space by Stiff+Trevillion Architects.

Our approach was to design furniture that nod to the character of the building, but lighten and soften the impression at the same time. We also wanted to reflect the current shift in the idea of a work space, where more comfortable, human centred space are desired, and flexible and casual working more expected. The result was the shape that echoes the geometric and solidness of the building, and choice of materials that emphasise the warmth and the tactility, be it oak wood, fabrics on upholstery or marble on tables.

Material samples: Moorecroft marble and stained oak
Visualisation to communicate the size of timber section on armchair
Colour scheme for sofa
Colour scheme for armchair
Illustrated sketch of furniture set in the lounge
Photo by Britannicus Stone

British marble

For this project, we felt a material like marble was quite appropriate, on coffee table being physically a centre piece of the lounge pieces, but we did not really know much about stone. But at the same time we knew Italian marble would look out of place in the Pimlico’s brick building. We worked with the British stone specialist, Britannicus Stone and we chose stone called Moorcroft Cartoon for the tops of Pimlico Coffee table and side table. Quarried in Plymouth, the stone has significant variations produced by mineral clustering and colouration. We really liked its soft combination of light pink and grey, giving the quiet and warm impression, while the white veins was striking and descretely exciting.

Pimlico coffe table / Photo © Nick Rochowski
Pimlico sofa / Photo © Nick Rochowski

Natural upholstery

At the beginning of the project, we made a decision to use natural upholstery materials and avoid use of PU foams to reduce amount of chemicals that go into upholstered furniture. We worked with Marie and Jenny at Shoreditch Design Rooms to pick a right combination of natural materials to achieve a desired level of firmness to go into a public space.

Sofa base was constructed from solid European oak, with webbing frame made with beech, and jute webbings. Cushions were made with wool/cattle hair mix, and the covers made with natural fibre fabric from Tibor.

Seat and backrest on the armchairs were upholstered with natural latex foam for smart slim finish, and natural fibre textile from Tibor.

 

 

Webbing under the cushions provides additional comfort
Formed plywood panels were upholstered and mounted on the chairs
Pimlico sofa / Photo © Nick Rochowski
Photo © Nick Rochowski

In use: 2 Bessborough Street