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In Conversation: Concorde BGW

Words: Polly

Photos:  Concorde BGW / Ben Carpenter

“The Bedford in Balham – is such an important venue on the circuit and always had great acts playing every night. It holds fond memories for me and I look forward to coming back one day”. Ed Sheeran (Complete Music Update)

Among the many amazing projects Concorde BGW has completed, The Bedford refurb is one that really caught my eye. Talk us through the site and design choices in terms of colours, materials and ff+e.
The Bedford is a Grade II listed building built originally in 1931. It was in a very poor state of repair and had lost all it’s beautiful, historic charm which we worked hard to restore. We were briefed to fully refurbish to create an unrivaled pub, club, restaurant, live music and entertainment venue, including 15 stunning boutique bedrooms. Additional function spaces were needed and now include a decadent ballroom and private cocktail bar. The overall design needed to be in line with the Three Cheers’ current brand offering of a destination site with great food, drink and ambiance.

Due to the listed status of the building, leaving the olde-worlde interior pleasingly intact was a challenge. We restored the original layout of the restaurant and bar areas, but at the heart of the renovation was the famous Club Room with its rotunda theatre on the ground floor, host to live entertainment an music. The décor specified is magnificent; velvet drapes, gilt sconces and chandeliers have created a luxurious ambiance that is sure to wow. Intimate spaces and fixed seating give it a sense of decadence, while the extravagant textures in rich hues and jewel tones create the mysterious mood of the room. It has a young vibe that’s on trend and unique in its setting.

The exterior façade also had to be tackled – bold and vivid colours were used on the fascias along with large scale graffiti on the brick walls to make an impact. Contemporary motifs and monograms with a 30’s style typeface and cinema style lightboxes create the speakeasy look that continues inside. We won the Northern Design Award in 2018 for Best Commercial Build as well as being highly commended at the LABC awards for listed building renovation. It’s always nice to keep part of a building’s history in place.

Great interior design really enriches a space and has the power to positively or negatively impact on a hospitality business. How do you guide your clients to ensure a positive design and commercial outcome?
Sometimes it’s about having the hard conversations with them, if something isn’t going work or it hasn’t worked on a previous site, we need to be honest. We have a commercial view on projects i.e. putting pounds in the till. We are passionate about projects working for the client and about it having a positive social impact which you naturally get with good design. One of our company values is clarity and we want to be sure to never mislead or misinform. Being clear from the start with what can be achieved with different budgets and managing expectations always makes the process flow better.

How do you approach each project?
We approach it with an open mind, the worst thing you can do is make assumptions, we need to be open to how our clients want to run their business and what designs would suit them. Then you can take their thoughts and make them a reality, it allows us to create a beautiful project for a happy client. When a brief comes through, we always research the site and surrounding area before attending a formal brief with the client.

The best brief is 20% talking and 80% listening.

We are the ones listening. After they have briefed us, we then produce a briefing document to record their intentions and begin work on our proposal. The proposal depends on the project size and scale. If it’s a small project they might only have a plan and a mood board whereas somewhere like The Bedford needed a 3d plan, visualisation and sample boards.

During this process we even pick apart the little things, from making sure the wardrobe has space to store hair dryers or irons, to making sure the bar is big enough with space for particular drinks etc. Once the layout has been produced, we do a feasibility cost alongside the proposal. The costs are usually a shopping list of everything that has been briefed. We may then need to talk to the client about what they “need” to have vs what is “nice” to have, what would put another £1 in the till compared to things that maybe wouldn’t.

Once the proposal is signed off, we work on the drawing pack and schedule to finalise all aspects of the design to ensure the site works operationally for the client. 

A pre-contract meeting finalises all proposals as well as agreeing timescales and programme of works with client and any direct suppliers. We usually start on site 2 weeks after pre-contract meetings. The project manager will coordinate all the in-house departments e.g. furniture, upholstery, interior styling, site labour and trade. As well as liaising with our inhouse H&S manager, QS team and in-house designer on the project and any client appointed direct or principle designers like CDM roles.

We do talk about “instagramability” and the social media influence of a design. Social media is more of a tool for our clients to attract customers, so it’s so important we have an awareness of trends and keep with the times. But also, we don’t want to copy someone else, we push originality but still create something their customers will love.

Design is in the detail and this resonates with your bespoke furnishings department who hold dear a belief in the ‘accumulation of small improvements’. How does pride and craftsmanship benefit the project, client and end user?
Pride is another of our values and resonates in everything we create. From impressive design to sticking to budgets and completing projects when we say we will, as well as creating unique pieces that we are proud of.

We have been established for a long time and our upholstery team especially, are very experienced craftspeople. They take great pride in delivering what our designers imagine. We like to push them to the edge of sanity with the things we ask for, to ensure we are better than the competition. The upholstery team in particular take great pride in being able to deliver things on such tight timescales.

Relationships with our suppliers have been built over many years. This means we can produce things on short timescales and deliver projects, often including the impossible, on time. Our experience in the industry tells us what works and what doesn’t. We advise clients to use a certain material on furniture for it to have longevity, we add value with our knowledge of craftsmanship.

Sustainability and a circle economy are important topics right now. As interiors and construction come under sharper focus, how do you currently manage your carbon footprint and in what areas do you see a need for improvement?
We work really hard to use local suppliers wherever we are working to minimise our carbon footprint and we also use a lot of reclaimed materials. Also, if a site wants to throw something away we try to reuse it elsewhere. We repair, modify and upcycle wherever possible, for example, at Arkell’s Grape & Grain wine shop we reused timber slats from an old conveyor belt to make the counter front on reception. We add social value by employing placement students and apprentices within the construction industry.

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