During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Portman family developed around 110 acres of their land holdings in west London into a grid of streets and squares. Today theirs is one of London’s ‘great estates’, stretching from Edgware Road in the west almost as far as Marylebone High Street to the east. The area has a broad mix of uses – grand mansion blocks and Georgian townhouses rub shoulders with world-renowned department stores, important cultural buildings with fashionable restaurants. Development since the original laying-out of the area has happened incrementally, taking advantage of any forgotten spaces in the mews and yards behind the main frontages. Seymour Mews House is one such development, sitting on a withdrawn site between Portman and Manchester Squares.
The building, constructed in the 1960s, displayed many of the issues associated with structures of its age and type: the external palette of brick, concrete, render and metal-framed windows felt dated, the common parts felt underwhelming and lacked presence, and the office floors had low floor to ceiling heights and dated finishes. It sat uncomfortably alongside its neighbours, which range from small mews houses on cobbled streets through to much larger residential mansion blocks. We saw an opportunity to remodel this unloved building as a more forward-thinking workspace which is sustainable in its performance and takes full advantage of the relative tranquillity of its setting.
We followed a simple sequence of moves to unlock the building’s latent potential. Filling in the partial undercroft at ground floor level extended the office floor space available, and allowed us to create a generous reception space central to the building. We incorporated an existing conservatory at fifth floor level into the main office floorplate to give a high-quality penthouse workspace, and introduced new building services throughout. This, and a series of other small moves – new windows and cladding, a painted brick base, a re-rendered frame – have dramatically improved the external look of the building.