It must be a daunting prospect for any designer to work on revamping classic properties; let alone when that classic property is Regent Street’s iconic bastion of style and design, Liberty. Originally built using the timber from two warships in 1924, Liberty is one of the capital’s most famous buildings, and easily one of the most beautiful department stores in the world… No pressure then for London based architects SHH, who were asked to revamp its 60-cover, second floor restaurant.
The aim for the designers – whose Barbican Foodhall & Lounge we so adored last year – was to better integrate the café with the store and to “evoke the craft and maker spirit of the Arts & Crafts movement” and, seemingly undeterred by the intimidating task at hand, lead designer Helen Hughes has over-achieved. A whole bundle of reclaimed 1920s features sit alongside handmade wallpapers from Chiswick artist Marthe Armitage – a British treasure who began designing and producing wallpapers just after World War 2 – and Hughes’ pièce de résistance; a custom-designed flying duck sculpture in shocking pink neon, ensuring the elegant space never veers towards ‘twee’.
Refined, respectful to its history, but with a knowing nod to the store’s pioneering dedication to design, SHH’s Café Liberty is most definitely worthy of its lofty surroundings.