Architecture and design firm SSH gives Café Liberty, the restaurant of London’s iconic 136-year-old store, a modern and playful twist.
SHH, a firm that made its name in high-end residential schemes, was commissioned by Liberty of London and Compass Group, the catering company that operates Café Liberty, to revamp the 125-square-metre space of the famous Regent Street location.
“Our overall approach was to make the interior properly integrate into the building, make the restaurant function better, with more appropriate seating and lighting, and introduce striking new elements,” said Helen Hughes, project lead and senior designer at SHH. She is responsible for such restaurant/bar projects as the award-winning Barbican Foodhall and Lounge.
For the entrance, Hughes designed three shocking pink flying ducks to create an “unexpected element in the risk-taking-spirit of Liberty’s.” These eye-popping additions, along with the painted grey columns, provide a contemporary feel in the space, which has been re-finished in dark wood to match the department store’s original 1924 timbers. Meanwhile, to keep in line with this tudor spirit, Hughes clad walls in Martha Armitage’s nature-themed hand-blocked wallpaper, and repurposed a 1920s mahogany cabinet and Arts & Crafts washstand as waiter stations, as well as a vintage reading desk as the host station.
Futhermore, suspended in the dining area are six bell-shaped lights made of reclaimed glass. They are surrounded by discreet, directional spotlights over new marble-topped tables for four (and one table for ten). Reclaimed 1920s doors, lined with pleated and gathered suit fabric, act as screens dividing the dining area from the store’s back offices while also partially concealing the kitchen. “These really were a lucky find,” says Hughes, “as their slightly battered and beaten look is perfect for the building. It’s hard to believe they haven’t always been in place.”
The client is pleased, to say the least. Roy Westwood, Compass Group’s creative manager, says, “SHH interpreted our vision with an abundance of style and elegance, while still retaining a ‘rock ’n’ roll’ playful twist.”
Café Liberty is located on the second floor of Liberty of London’s Regent Street location.