Raymond Blanc is turning heads on the Thames Pathway with his first riverside Brasserie Blanc which opened in London last summer. Designer Jordan Littler created a sexy interior on the ground floor of a luxury apartment building with views over Hammersmith bridge.
Photographs Gareth Gardner, Words Dani Burns
Brasserie Blanc have previously worked with Black Sheep design studio re-developing the brand and interiors, to invite customers into the home of Brasserie Blanc. This feeling of home away from home is present at the new Fulham Reach site, but the mood created by Jordan has evolved to a different level. Some familiar touches are included and you could be mistaken for thinking you’re a guest at the Blanc family penthouse (albeit ground floor) overlooking the Thames.
Before checking in with Jordan, I asked myself what makes this place so incredibly inviting. I feel it might be down to a masculine vs feminine, yin and yang vibe. Angular tiles in inky hues with metalwork and concrete are merged with curvaceous banquettes and mohair velvets in cactus green and rose pink. Feature lighting spans from cut crystal to moooi heracleum to heavy industrial, giving zones their own identity while still connecting to the buzz of an open plan loft apartment setting.
The overall effect could be summed up as industrial, delicate, edgy, tactile, and extremely comfortable.While many brands churn out aesthetic clones in a bid for economies of scale and brand continuity, Brasserie Blanc appears free to express individual identity between sites, while integrating subtle references that provide a sense of belonging to a sophisticated collection.
How did this space happen? Jordan reflects on the process for us…
How has the interior design evolved for fulham reach?
“We approached this site almost as a standalone design, separate to the previous restaurants due to its location away from a high street and surrounded by apartments. With this in mind we paid particular attention to the residents’ needs and tried to create something that would appeal to them all through the day, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. Once we knew who we were catering for it was a case of trying to fit all of these elements into the site. There are touches that we reused from previous sites like the wallpaper, some of the chairs and paint colours but they all worked with the look and feel we were aiming for.”
How did you juggle function, flow, mood & atmosphere?
“We started with everyone round a table, Including the head of operations, the design and branding manager , the project manager, the catering consultant and the bar designer. This was an effort to make sure we could get everyone’s input early on so that we could incorporate the comments into the planning and concept. We worked closely with their design manager to understand what the ambitions for the site were before we went away to develop the first stage of the concept. At this stage we discussed the mood and atmosphere of spaces we liked that we were aiming for to make sure we were in the same page. We always try and start projects this way, almost like a workshop, where we pull very loose ideas and images together to provoke a discussion.”
which concepts, layouts or schemes did you explore before arriving at ‘The One’?
“The initial brief changed maybe twice before we settled on the chosen design. The core concept remained the same throughout, but the approach differed. For example the early plans included an area that had a lot more loose, low seating in the bar with sofas and groups of large armchairs. However we started to lose covers in the restaurant space and it just didn’t make sense from a commercial perspective. The building is egg shaped and glazed all the way around with concrete columns dotted throughout which led us down the path of establishing where the bar, kitchen and wc’s could go quite early on. Once these elements were locked in we could play around with the surrounding layout as much as we liked until we found the balance we needed. The idea was to bring some more loft style elements to the design through the use of the black metal work and offset them with colour and softer touches.”
How do you look for, collect and channel inspiration? Are there any habits or rituals you notice when you go through this process?
“It always starts with conversations and swapping stories in an effort to find some kind of visual reference point to begin the process. First and foremost we try and delve into the history of the building or the surrounding area to see if there is something we can build a connection to that anchors the concept and makes it unique. From that point we see how we can add something unexpected into the mix that will lift the concept above just a Brasserie. For example, with Fulham Reach the site was located near to the original Haig whiskey distillery, so we referenced this heavily with the design of the bar front and bar lighting to elevate the concept above its core idea.”
Do you feel there was a moment in your life when you realised your ability to design and create unique spaces?
“Wow, that’s a bit of a deep question. I’m a strong believer in experience through doing and I was lucky enough to end up doing work experience at school for a small interior design company in Nottingham. I wasn’t very good at school apart from in Art&Design but I had a tutor who recognised that I had a skill in design and arranged it all for me. I ended up staying on all through the summer, became friends with the owners and then went back whenever they would have me, all through to university and I even worked there when I graduated. If it wasn’t for that work experience I have no idea what I would be doing or where I would be now.”
Were there influences or specific opportunities that nurtured your design ability growing up?
“I suppose the answer above covers this but I think it’s always good to take any opportunities you can get as I did when I was at my work placement. It’s up to you what you get out of them. Film and set design was always a big inspiration for me growing up and I still find myself pausing Netflix and photographing details or colour schemes that might work on a future project.”
What was the most valuable thing you learned while studying interior design?
“1. To make decisions quickly. 2. Do what you think is right. You’re employed for your experience and opinion. 3. It’s better to bring something to the table rather than nothing.
Looking back at university I remember how much time I had to work on things and develop ideas. Now I work on some concepts that need to be pulled together in a week or a few days and they’re the most fun. They force you to be creative in a short time frame but crucially they take away the feeling to overwork something.”
To inspire children and help nurture creative open minds, what would be your top must-see, must-read or must-experience suggestions?
“I’ve always liked to take my 4yr old daughter to run around the turbine hall at the Tate Modern. Even if there isn’t an exhibition on she still loves to explore the space and run up and down the steps and ramps. It is also a good way to introduce them to art through play and exploring. I just get tired of telling her why she can’t touch the installations.”