Designing a restaurant interior to satisfy the Instagram-hungry audience is one thing, but to come up with a concept that fits an Asian-inspired restaurant seamlessly into a Grade-II listed church is another.
Architecture firm Michaelis Boyd stepped up to the plate, however, creating an environment that would keep the building’s ecclesiastical features intact while transforming the interior into an ultra-modern restaurant that also references Duddell’s Cantonese heritage.
St Thomas Church is an impressive Queen Anne building in the heart of Southwark. Sandwiched between the Shard and Borough Market, it was built by Sir Christopher Wren’s (St Paul’s Cathedral‘s architect) master mason Thomas Cartwright between 1680 and 1703.
Practice co-founder Alex Michaelis said: ‘We wanted to celebrate the beauty of this listed building so a great deal of thought went into elements that would enhance the ambience of this unique environment.
‘We connected super-sized modern chandeliers using lightweight fixtures as a contemporary interpretation of traditional church illumination. Furthermore, we applied modern materials such as brass and bright geometric tiles to contrast with the existing timber cladding lining the perimeter of the space.’
On the ground floor, the layout is focused towards the existing decorative altar that sits against contrasting crisp white walls, which allow the dark oak panelling to sing while also accentuating the sheer volume of the church’s interior.
A mezzanine level also makes the most of this unique space, with clear glass balustrades allowing for views across the vast eight metre-high building and towards the four impressive stained-glass windows.
While the scale of the church and its original features is part of its charm, the firm also wanted to ensure that Duddell’s was relatable and inviting. Michaelis Boyd introduced pendant lights over the banquette seating to bring the space to a more human scale and make it more intimate.
‘The design was inspired by the traditional 1960s Hong Kong tea restaurant, making use of colour and pattern to create a retro interior with a contemporary twist,’ adds Michaelis. ‘Most of all we wanted to ensure that eating at Duddells’ feels like an adventure.’
There are undoubtedly playful and on-trend details incorporated into the design, from the geometric rubber flooring that’s protecting the original parquet underneath, to the pink terrazzo and metro-tiled cocktail bar.
The new Duddell’s will also act as a gallery space to showcase contemporary art, much like its Hong Kong counterpart, which opened back in 2013 as a dining destination for people with a keen interest in the arts and culture.
Michaelis Boyd is also currently working on the interiors for the new residential properties at Battersea Power Station, plus it was behind the design for the trendy Soho Farmhouse renovation, Victory House on Leicester Square and also New York’s hip Williamsburg Hotel.
Duddell’s, 9a St Thomas St, London, SE1 9RY. Nearest tube: London Bridge.