Like a residence, this workplace has a kitchen designed to be its heart. Located in a historic mews in London’s Paddington neighborhood, the three-story, 2,260-square-foot building was recently renovated and transformed into an office by the London-based Edward Williams Architects for a client who wanted a modern yet intimate and friendly environment, in keeping with the domestic scale of its surroundings.
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The onetime stable had been abandoned mid-restoration by a previous developer, who sought to convert it from a residence to offices. It was a crumbling shell, topped with a partial steel frame where the mansard roof should have been. Principal Edward Willliams and his team restored the brickwork on the perimeter walls and inserted a new steel frame into the cavity to support the two new upper levels of offices and workstations, as well as adding the ground-floor kitchen, adjacent conference room, and tidy L-shaped restroom enclosure between those spaces and a staircase to the second and third floors on the back wall. (Stairs are the only means of accessing upper floors, as the building is too small for an elevator.)
To adapt the structure for its new use, the architect worked with the client, a family-owned fund that invests in sustainable agriculture and forestry, to develop a fittingly carbon-neutral office. “We talked a lot about the image they wanted to project,” says Williams. Taking cues from the ethos of the business, many of the construction materials are locally sourced or recycled and have minimal finishes. The design team also replaced the previous owner’s gas boiler with an electric one for radiant heating beneath the floors, and installed operable skylights, efficient windows, and garage doors that provide passive cooling.
The interior, meanwhile, features a series of spaces capable of supporting multiple functions, making the most of the building’s compact size. Few areas illustrate this concept better than the kitchen, which is also the reception area, breakout room, and, when necessary, extra workspace.
“The building doesn’t have an enormous footprint, so we wanted to avoid unnecessary dead space,” Williams says. He adds that “the office didn’t need a lobby with security and a reception desk. So our approach was to design for transparency. Why not let clients be greeted by a timber table and a coffee machine?”
Visitors can enter through a narrow doorway or, in summer, through the garage doors. Either way, the warm, oak-clad, LED-lit kitchen is the first space they see. Except for a dining table flanked by two benches, the kitchen is identifiable only by its one- wall prep zone, consisting of an oak backsplash and cabinets, a sink in a stone countertop, and an oven. The space can be quickly transformed to accommodate a meeting or event. And activity can flow into the neighboring conference room, partly screened by a glass partition, or outside, if staff pull back either or both of the adjacent rooms’ folding garage doors, which open to the mews’ cobble paving.
Between these hospitable areas and the stairs, a door leads into the conveniently situated restroom zone, which contains a communal vanity on one side of a corridor, an enclosed water closet opposite, and a wheelchair- accessible powder room with its own sink at the opposite end. Surfaces here echo the kitchen’s and meeting room’s oak ceiling, soffit, and walls.
The office manager can remotely monitor clients’ arrivals using a video entry system on the second floor—to ensure that the informal atmosphere doesn’t undermine a warm welcome.
“We usually like to get two or three uses out of a space,” says Williams. “It is possible to design efficiently and still provide a spatial feeling.”
Edward Williams Architects — Edward Williams, principal in charge; Victoria Thong, associate
2,260 square feet