Connock & Lockie, Bloomsbury, London

Benedetti Architects has completed the comprehensive refurbishment and reconfiguration of the bespoke tailor Connock & Lockie in Bloomsbury, providing an expanded shop, cutting and sewing rooms, as well as improved facilities for client consultations and fittings. The building is located on Lamb’s Conduit Street, a pedestrianised Georgian street celebrated for its rich variety of specialist independent, owner-run shops. The project will allow Connock & Lockie to fulfil its ambitions, under director Yusuke Nagashima, to make every part of their suits on site – from first measurement to final fit.

The architects’ approach to the project, which includes the remodeling of the business premises over two floors of shop and three residential floors above, is a sensitive response not only to the specific needs of this 114-year-old company, but also in providing it with a perfect fit to the Grade II-listed Lamb’s Conduit Street building which has been its base since 2004. The refurbishment is ‘another stage in the ongoing life’ of the building, which was originally built in 1765 as a three-bay wide, four-storey townhouse with basement, before being converted in the 1820s into a shop at ground floor level.

At street level an entrance to the right of the shop provides access via a corridor and stairs to the three storeys of refurbished residential accommodation above. Here a careful reconfiguring of kitchen and bathroom arrangements has converted a drab four-bedroom flat into a fine onebedroom flat at first-floor level and a generous two-bedroom flat above. The smaller flat demonstrates a playful reimagining of the space by incorporating space-saving fittings including a galley kitchen linking the front room to the rear bedroom. The larger flat’s attic-like spaces are now flooded with light by opening up a central skylight over the stair, which also creates a concealed roof terrace above, with terrific views over Bloomsbury.

The project started with a forensic assessment of the existing fabric – much of it still original but in a poor state. What followed was a process of filtering the key elements (a palimpsest of Georgian, Victorian and 20th century) – whether to keep, reinforce or replace – whilst maintaining the essential quality of the often idiosyncratic spaces. This reflects the settling of the structure over the centuries, and the careful restoration and augmentation of the interiors – structurally, spatially and functionally – which led the design team to create more than 60 items of bespoke joinery. These include a pattern-hanging rail for the firm’s archives; a practical pop-up, ground-floor changing room to conserve space; and a solid oak exterior façade to the courtyard, resulting in a careful remodelling and updating of the spaces which avoids both the imposition of a contemporary minimal aesthetic or a cod-historic approach.

The ateliers are thoughtfully integrated spaces which will enhance the journey that each client takes in commissioning a suit, enabling clientele to experience every step of tailoring and become familiar with every member of the team responsible for making it. They maintain their once-domestic intimacy of scale, functioning now as ‘gathering’ spaces for clients and staff to interact at every point in the process. 

At street level, a large cutting-table in the front area of the shop makes visible to passers-by the craft of the business, inviting clientele into a reception space and counter from which to be greeted and discuss initial enquiries.

Nagashima began his career in tailoring as an apprentice to the firm, joining in 2005, and acquired the company when the owner William Craig retired in 2011. Recognising that the strength of relationships between patron and maker has been at the heart of the company’s success, he has been the driving force behind the project and its core brief for spaces designed to foster dialogue and face-to-face interaction between customers and staff.

The ground-floor shop is arranged around a grand, dark-stained oak stair leading down into the lower-level ateliers, sewing room, fitting rooms and consultation room, which are cleverly integrated into the previously derelict basement with staff facilities located in the Georgian vaults below the street.

The shop fronts a deep ground-floor plan leading to a second atelier space overlooking a new yard, which has been sunken to bring light into the basement, and is faced at the rear by a new two– storey oak-clad extension. The extension provides a fully accessible ground-floor dressing room and toilet, and a new private office with access into the yard directly beneath.

At street level an entrance to the right of the shop provides access via a corridor and stairs to the three storeys of refurbished residential accommodation above. Here a careful reconfiguring of kitchen and bathroom arrangements has converted a drab four-bedroom flat into a fine onebedroom flat at first-floor level and a generous two-bedroom flat above. The smaller flat demonstrates a playful reimagining of the space by incorporating space-saving fittings including a galley kitchen linking the front room to the rear bedroom. The larger flat’s attic-like spaces are now flooded with light by opening up a central skylight over the stair, which also creates a concealed roof terrace above, with terrific views over Bloomsbury.

Everywhere in the scheme, colour and texture have been used to reflect and articulate the hierarchy and use of each space, from the choice of species and treatment of timber, to that of paint and tiles and the use of lighting. Staff areas are subject to the same level of detail and finishing as the streetlevel shop, underlining Nagashima’s care as much for the team of makers he has brought together as for his clients.

The scheme is imbued throughout with this sense of holistic balance, exhibiting a porosity between ‘front’ and ‘back’ of house – allowing for both degrees of privacy and views through, concentrated work places and engaging, characterful spaces for gathering and dialogue. The design perfectly fits and accommodates the process and skill of making which underlines the ethos of the company – but also allows for its celebration and enjoyment by both staff and customer alike.

Renato Benedetti said:

“Our approach was not dissimilar to re-tailoring a classic suit to fit the present owner. We were highly sensitive to the historic detail, carefully cutting/stitching the built fabric and adding the contemporary touches and refinement to make the whole composition entirely suited to Yusuke’s brief. The result is a completely new, functionally improved Connock & Lockie shop which retains the feeling and character of the original.”