Posts tagged United Kingdom
The High Life

Designed by Joyce Wang, the newly unveiled penthouse at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park offers refined pied-à-terre living in one of London’s most prestigious locations

Following the most extensive refurbishment in the landmark hotel’s 117-year history, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park has debuted its ‘crowning jewel’: a three-bedroom penthouse by acclaimed Hong Kong designer Joyce Wang. Wang’s studio, which specialises in hospitality and residential interiors and furniture design, is also behind the Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong and is currently involved in designing residences Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.

Two interconnecting suites, the Mandarin and the Oriental, form the expansive suite that covers all of the ninth floor. Five private alfresco terraces boast panoramic views over Knightsbridge and beyond, while inside the design evokes the golden age of travel and elements of Art Deco design. The light-filled penthouse embraces soft, muted colours and botanical-inspired textures.

Text / Babette Radclyffe-Thomas

The Four-handed Creations of Takahashi McGil

The husband-and-wife duo combine Japanese and Western woodwork techniques to produce homeware and furniture that highlight the material


Working with wood is a labour of love, and Kaori Takahashi and Mark McGilvray — who founded their eponymous studio together in 2016 — know this well. Born in South Africa and with a father who was a self-taught cabinetmaker, McGilvray has been surrounded by wood as far back as he can remember. Takahashi — who moved from Japan to the UK to study — discovered her adoration for the material later in life, though she is no less passionate about and involved in the business.

McGilvray and Takahashi met at the Wimbledon College of Arts in London, where they both studied fine art, and eventually decided to settle down 300 kilometres southwest of the British capital in Cockington, a picturesque village in Torquay, Devon, where they now live and work. They started out producing simple pieces for themselves, and gradually their hobby evolved to become the woodworking, furniture and homeware brand Takahashi McGil.  

In their studio, the couple planes, chisels, turns, waxes and lacquers with precision, celebrating the natural beauty of their sole material. Made by hand from mostly local and sustainable hardwood slabs that have been gradually air-dried over several years, the pieces created by Takahashi McGil are usually finished with hard wax oil or tung oil, both made from natural ingredients. While McGilvray starts with the woodturning, Takahashi finishes the pieces, doing most of the chisel work. Working as a couple, this four-handed process is what makes every bowl, spoon, decorative pot, tray or furniture unique. Making their process and pieces even more compelling is their dual heritage and the combination of Japanese and Western woodworking techniques and tools they employ.  

Both admirers of Japanese-American woodworker and furniture maker George Nakashima, who mastered live edge furniture, the couple try to maintain a close connection to nature through their pieces. For Takahashi McGil, beauty doesn’t mean perfection. On the contrary: their wood creations often incorporate knots, voids and cracks, results of the drying process.

Always striving to expand their knowledge and hone their craft, the duo visits Takahashi’s family in Japan once a year, taking the opportunity to reconnect with the culture and attend courses, like the one they took on urushi lacquering in summer last year.

At the crossroads of different cultures, Takahashi McGil brings together the best of both in refined and functional objects that exemplify the infinite possibilities of one material.

Text / Karine Monié
Images / Courtesy of Takahashi McGil

Blue Jewel

This Hong Kong jewellery designer’s London penthouse has dazzling blue, bespoke, industrial-chic accents


The pied-a-terre of a Kong Kong jewellery designer who splits her time between Hong Kong and the UK, a 1450-square-foot, two-level penthouse apartment in Covent Garden, received a full revamp that includes a striking blue anodized aluminium staircase and hypnotic neon sculptures by award-winning glass artist Jochen Holz.

As someone who engages in creative work, the owner is keenly aware of advantages of the creative benefits of a carte blanche. She sought out Eryk Ulanowski of London firm Studio Ulanowski and gave him free reign to remodel the interior of her penthouse. Her only requirements were that there be three bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and spaces that are adaptable enough to be used for different purposes. 

The jewellery designer’s husband is a big fan of industrial aesthetics, so Ulanowski combine elements from jewellery design and industrial style to come up with the design concept. 

“The floor plan was completely re-designed. We took the apartment back to a raw concrete shell and started again from scratch. The goal was to make the apartment flow better, to blend the different functions, and to bring in more light,” says Ulanowski who envisions the bold, metallic blue staircase by Joe Faller Fabrications as the jewel of the apartment. “We wanted it to be precision made with industrial materials, but to have an ethereal iridescence that was soft to the touch. Through a long process of research and development with the fabricators, we created a finish that would do just this,” he adds.

In the main living area, Ulanowski removed the existing designated living room, dining room, and kitchen, and brought these areas together in a single, open-plan space. To fulfil the brief for adaptability, the kitchen cabinetry wraps around and extends into the living area, and the dining table can either be linked to this cabinetry or turned and extended to seat a party of 12. A modular sofa was used to enable endless configurations that can accommodate family movie nights, intimate interactions, or lively parties with many guests. 

The modern and simple bedrooms each have a desk, a wardrobe, and an ensuite bathroom. “In the children's bedrooms we kept a datum line, taken from the height of the living room floor, and ran it around the rooms to serve as a reminder of the main space and view out into Covent Garden Market and the Royal Opera House,” says Ulanowski. 

The bespoke, hand-lacquered bed in the master bedroom, and a number of soft furnishings used in the apartment were custom designed and produced by artisans at British furniture and craft company The New Craftsmen.

“The challenging part of the project was the lengthy research and development of all the be bespoke items. While we worked with talented fabricators and craftspeople who understood our vision, it was difficult to get the external suppliers – for instance the company who anodised the stairs – who were often not used to projects like ours, to align with our vision and go beyond their comfort zones. But with a great team and lots of determination, the project turned out beautifully,” says Ulanowski.

Text / Michele Koh Morollo
Images / Michelle Young Photography

Japan House London

Japan House London opens in the heart of the British Capital, a mecca of Japanese culture, design and aesthetic refinement

It’s nirvana for Japanese design lovers: the minimal interiors inspired by a Japanese house; the restaurant serving seasonal sushi and wagyu beef; a contemporary gallery showcasing futuristic architecture; and a design shop selling crafts ranging from handmade paper to kitchen tools.

This may sound like the kind of impeccably presented creative venture found only in design-conscious Japan, so its location — more than 5,000 miles away from Tokyo —  may come as some surprise: London.

Welcome to Japan House London. Perhaps the Japanese government’s most ambitious cultural project in recent years, Japan House consists of a series of permanent architect-designed spaces in cities across the globe.

Its goal is as simple as its spaces are invariably stylish: to create international platforms showcasing the very best of Japanese culture, from design, art and architecture to food and technology.

Japan House London opened its doors Friday, June 22nd in a historic art deco building on Kensington High Street in the heart of the British capital. It is the third outpost following openings in Sao Paulo and Los Angeles last year, and is likely to become a bold new Japanese fixture on London’s cultural landscape.

An impressive roll call of Japan’s most high-profile talent is involved in the project, among whom rank Kenya Hara — the iconic designer, art director of Muji and Japan House’s chief creative director — and Masamichi Katayama, the interior designer from Wonderwall, who designed the London space defined by its minimal, contemporary aesthetic deeply rooted in Japanese concepts such as tokonoma — the raised, empty alcove traditionally used in homes to display seasonal flowers or scrolls.

‘The objective here was not to create a bridge between Japan and Britain but to present a genuine Japan, for today and the future,’ explained Katayama. ‘Key words are kyo (虚) which means a vacuum and kuu (空) which is emptiness. This is a uniquely Japanese notion that the imagination is enriched by blank, empty spaces. It’s also about how humans, spaces and objects interact with each other to maintain delicate balance and harmony. Our goal was to create this beautiful harmony.’

The building spans three levels and attention to detail is apparent throughout, from the hand-made kawara clay floor tiles from Awaji Island to the scene-stealing central spiral staircase, which was built in Japan before it was shipped to London and re-assembled, piece by piece.

The lower ground floor is home to The Gallery, where an inaugural exhibition casts a spotlight on one of Japan’s most cutting-edge contemporary architects with the show ‘Sou Fujimoto: Futures of the Future’.

Meanwhile, an authentic taste of modern Japanese gastronomy is served up in the restaurant Akira — named for its chef Akira Shimizu — with a menu including charcoal-grilled kushiyaki skewers, seasonal vegetables and sushi.

The Shop at Japan House also showcases contemporary design products and artisan-made crafts from across the country. Japanese teas and cloth-filtered coffees are sold at The Stand, while nearby, The Library is packed with books curated by cult bookstore creator Yoshitaka Haba of Bach alongside a nature-themed exhibition by photographer Risaku Suzuki.

Workshops, seminars, talks and performances feature heavily on the packed schedule at Japan House London. And for the opening weekend? Avant-garde, Tokyo-based floral artist Makoto Azuma has created an abstract installation complemented by 30 so-called ‘Flower Messengers’ who visited Kensington’s cultural institutions on foot, handing out blooms to passers-by along the way — the first of many innovative events likely to forge a deep-rooted cultural connection between London and Japan.

Reflecting on the final production, Katayama said: ‘This project gave me great pleasure and an opportunity to relearn, revisit and reevaluate Japan's aesthetics and the mindset of our people.'

 Text / Danielle Demetriou

The Pilgrm

The Pilgrm hotel in London’s Paddington district is design-driven with interiors that fuse historical features such as 200-year-old mahogany parquet floors and original cast-iron radiators with contemporary details such as Tom Dixon’s striking cloud carpet. The passion project of veteran hoteliers, The Pilgrm represents a pivot for the group, who are looking to appeal to younger travellers by offering modern luxury at unrivalled value. A hipster cafe on the ground floor and lounge bar and dining space just above complete the offering.

Mei Ume Restaurant

Internationally acclaimed, Hong Kong-based design firm AB Concept recently completed its first London project, Mei Ume Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel on London’s Ten Trinity Square.

Internationally acclaimed, Hong Kong-based design firm AB Concept recently completed its first London project, Mei Ume Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel on London’s Ten Trinity Square. The restaurant, located in the 1922 headquarters of the Port of London Authority, features a balance of Eastern and Western design styles, though its name is firmly Eastern, deriving from the Chinese and Japanese words for plum blossom. In addition to the fusion of cultural designs, the firm incorporated into the narrative as much of the building’s rich history as possible. Originally built for traders from the East, the building gave the team an opportunity to ‘keep its legacy alive’ but to ‘reinvent it with new spirit and purpose’, said AB Concept co-founder Ed Ng.

On entering the restaurant, guests will immediately notice the colourful plum blossoms painted on a glass screen at the reception. The strategically placed screen works to invite guests to notice the other restaurant decor, from the main dining room’s bold red accents to the metal motifs constructed on the original 1922 columns. One can’t help but feel transported by the unique blend of Orient and Occident, which continues throughout the restaurant, bar and private dining space. Fittingly, the kitchen, run by chef Tony Truong, will feature authentic dishes from China and Japan accompanied by a contemporary cocktail menu inspired by the four key elements of Chinese astronomy.

Text / Kristy Kong

Twr y Felin

The freshly restored and expanded Twr y Felin boutique hotel in St Davids Pembrokeshire is a true Welsh gem — and the region’s first true art hotel, with more than 100 original pieces. Located in a 19th-century windmill, the hotel boasts history, design and significance to the locals that render it a unique destination. Aedas designed the interiors, taking palette and textural cues from the surrounding landscape for the property’s 19 ensuite bedrooms, two suites and restaurant with a delicate gallery lounge. They call it ‘modernity in an old fabric’.