Setting Sail for a New Era of Grandeur: BLDA Relies on Franchi for Specialist Ironmongery at Oceanic House
Pall Mall became known for its shops and grand houses as early as the 18th century. It soon began attracting writers and artists, including Thomas Gainsborough, and at one time, was at the heart of London’s fine art scene. Some of the district’s neoclassical architecture earned it a stylish reputation that continued to evolve throughout the Victorian era.
The building of Oceanic House, at the junction of Cockspur Street and Pall Mall East, was completed in 1907. It served as a commercial property for over a century: initially as the London headquarters for White Star Line; later as a Barclays bank and finally, the Texas Embassy Cantina until its closure in 2012.
Barrett Lloyd-Davis Architects (BLDA) had recognised the building’s potential within a growing market for residential luxury. In 2016, BLDA appointed F.B. Ellmer to oversee the restoration. It was an elaborate renovation project to transform Oceanic House into seven deluxe apartments with interiors reminiscent of the Belle Epoque era.
Each apartment includes an inter-leading suite of reception rooms in the traditional enfilade style typical of mansions of the time. Fitted bespoke kitchens and panelled studies open onto the main reception rooms. Each apartment’s interior has been inspired by luxury Edwardian liners combined with a harmonious nod to the classical architecture of this iconic grade II listed building.
The main contractor for the project, Ellmer, has enjoyed a long-standing business relationship with Franchi spanning almost twenty years. During this time, the two companies have collaborated on high profile restorations across the capital, including recent installations at Lillie Square, Project Hilt Mayfair, Fitzroy Farm and Piccadilly Arcade. The Franchi brand of customised ironmongery and its class of workmanship led Ellmer to recommend Franchi for the BLDA’s Oceanic House restoration.
Describing one of the challenges their architects had faced, Chris Phillips of BLDA said, “The interior décor of the era, stone and hardwood flooring, panelled walling and coffered ceilings, lent itself to more complex ironmongery requirements. Franchi rose to the challenge by providing fully-coordinated, complementary fixtures and fittings. This included a bespoke cupboard-knob that was customised to match pieces made from superior bronzed-brass. Throughout, the Franchi Specifications team set out excellent equipment schedules, which ensured there were no issues when it was time to do the fittings.”
Franchi’s Amin Nezam added, “We delivered a range of custom lever handles and cupboard knobs, characteristic of the Edwardian era. Concealed hinges were used for most of the internal apartment doors, ensuring that the eye of the onlooker is not distracted from the beautiful interior design and detailed wall-panelling. On each pair of double doors, we also used what I refer to as a Butler’s latch. This is essentially a fully-concealed mortice latch that allows both leaves to open simultaneously, showcasing the grandeur of the doors’ design.”