As if they didn’t have enough to cry about, London’s young bankers lost a favorite watering hole this year — the seminal Shoreditch nightclub Home, whose hipster cachet had long faded since its opening in 1997. When local designers Andrew Haythornthwaite and Shai Akram were invited to help transform the space into The Book Club — where the activities include not just eating, drinking, and dancing but also more cerebral pursuits like poetry, storytelling, and workshops — it was a delicate transition. “We didn’t want it to feel like a brand-new bar,” says Haythornthwaite. “We wanted it to be one of those places that seems like it’s always been there but you just haven’t noticed it.”
The result is a kind of high-design rec room. The pair packed the space with elegant quirks, like a ceiling covered with 23,000 individually suspended lightbulbs. “There are so many amazing places around here,” Akram says of the Shoreditch neighborhood. “You need to have something that will set you apart.” Beyond the bulbs, the pair repeated simple elements throughout the interior. Just inside the entrance, the wall is peppered with houseplants, each mounted in its own terracotta pot. In the game room, a custom Ping-Pong table is accompanied by a wall of paddles, and one end of the reading room is stacked high with secondhand books.
For Haythornthwaite, design runs in the family. His father, an established New Zealand-born industrial designer, worked for Henry Dreyfuss in New York, and all four of his brothers also ended up in the field. Akram, his partner in work and life, traces her creative influence a generation further: Her grandparents moved to the UK from Pakistan in the 1960s, and her grandmother set up a dressmaking shop where Akram can remember pestering her for the chance to dress the window so as to tell a story rather than simply display the merchandise. The pair met at London’s Royal College of Art, where they both studied under Ron Arad, and they’ve worked together on and off ever since. They took us through the process of transforming The Book Club space.
Francesca Gavin is a London-based writer, editor, and blogger, and, like you and me, she’s a major voyeur. For her book Creative Space: Urban Homes of Artists and Innovators, she traveled the world, slipping inside the studios, apartments, and houses of designers, artists, photographers, stylists, curators, writers, and filmmakers to document the chaotic interiors she found there.
The first thing people marvel at when they see the furniture of the young duo Sebastian Herkner and Reinhard Dienes is its industrial, institutional cool — bare wood against metal against richly colored glass, in shapes evoking old spotlights and torches and desk chairs. The second thing is how these hip, talented designers — whose first collection this year caught the eye of Wallpaper, DAMn, and Monocle — landed in Frankfurt, a middling city of 650,000 without a glimmer of Berlin’s cachet.
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