INTERIOR DESIGN BY KATIE FEROLA

When Tim Pain, the director of Verve asked if I could help design the seating area of the café at Bedford Heights in 2015, I was, for a minute a little daunted by the prospect but this quickly evaporated I could not wait to get started. I had only done small spaces before for individuals never a public space apart from Verve’s head office.

The original café was extremely tired and had an institutional look about it. It was cold in every sense of the word and un-inviting, a place where you felt you had to quickly escape.  I wanted to create a space where people could enjoy their breaks, meet up with colleagues and most importantly want to come back.

Bedford was originally an agricultural market town for the surrounding region, mainly sheep with wool being its industry and so I thought it apt to name the café Graze and I like to think its customers can do just that.

As the building itself was built in the early 60’s and is made of concrete, steel and brick I decided to use natural materials for the interiors and keep it quite raw and simple without it becoming too grungy like many cafes in London and to bring it up to date. I liked the idea of having polished concrete for the dining tables and found a solo craftsman, Daniel who made the table tops and had the legs made of steel which work well against the brickwork.  He also made some benches to match and I have mixed the seating up with Xavier gun metal steel French bistro chairs and stools.

I chose a white neon ‘Graze’ sign, against the brickwork wall bringing it to life and giving it a subtle American diner feel.

The floors were sourced from a company called Forbo and are a rustic wood effect.   I chose this flooring as it was easy to manage and keep clean.  Using real wood would have soon become tired and sticky given the flow of people using the café.

The white ceiling lanterns are a contemporary, modern warehouse style and give the area a lift from all the grey. The underside of the roof is exposed with all the electrical pipework and trunking visible. By spraying it in the same grey RAL colour as the window frames changes the mood and gives it a modern and contemporary feel.

Bedford Heights was built for Texas Instruments and is a replica of their original building in Dallas, USA. I wanted to put back a bit of Texas here and introduced extra large cacti plants and two gorgeous giant long horn wallpapers which cover the entire walls either side of the kitchen. These I sourced on line and our design company, Run for the Hills had them made and installed. I love the fact that the longhorns appear to be watching the people graze as they do.  They add a bit of humour really whilst bringing life, vibrancy and colour to the room.

The kitchen was designed by the catering management company, Elior in conjunction with Catering Design Group Ltd. To blend the kitchen with the seating area I chose the food counter lanterns in a similar style to the ones in the seating area but in a slick aluminium finish giving it a contemporary canteen kitchen look and by incorporating a cool grey and white marbled counter and a stainless steel facia underneath sets off Elior’s food nicely.

The café is lucky to have its own courtyard and the planting has been re-designed by one of the occupiers, Graham Pavey. This has added interest from what was a very overgrown and neglected area. We have introduced 8 white picnic benches with black parasols, some large lit wooden planters and I have introduced a splash of colour by sourcing some funky plastic three piece suites in turquoise and white.   Now the occupiers of Bedford Heights can dine and relax al fresco when the British weather permits and escape being stuck in an office environment all day.

It is a joy to see the café invariably packed and being used for morning, lunch and afternoon breaks. Tenants having meetings/briefings are able to use the area to relax in an environment made for them to enjoy.

Following the café, I was asked to take on the other areas within the building and create a lounge area. Given Bedford Heights was built in the 50’s and Tim having a personal interest in mid century, I felt this area was calling out to include furniture from this period. Researching all the different pieces from around Europe, I soon got hooked on Italian mid century. For me, it had more style, flare and elegance.   All the pieces are original Italian and sourced from antiques dealers and a couple of pieces were off eBay.

I had all the seating re-upholstered to give them a more modern and contemporary feel with some luxurious fabrics, some velour’s, velvets, felts and tweeds.   Although choosing the fabrics took some time it was like being let loose in a sweet shop choosing all the colours and blending them together with greys, teals, greens and yellows plus two chairs in shocking red which finish the room off rather like wearing a red lipstick on a night out.

The ceiling was left exposed again and sprayed in a Farrow & Ball colour, Hague Blue. I chose this dark teal colour to create warmth and a calming atmosphere. Each ceiling light comprises of 3 long pendant mid century white glass adding a homely touch. The floor is a lovely product called Bolon which is a vinyl weave tile and when laid in different directions, creates varying textures and colour. Adding a variety of bold shiny green tropical palms and cheese plants to  the room brings it to life. The majestic black mid century matador ornaments reflect Bedford Height’s logo and adorn window sills. The elegant sweetheart shaped mirrors add interest and reflexion and the 50s sun burst clock on the wall is a reminder of that era and what time the tenants should get back to work! It was a fun project to do and an area I hope gives the tenants a place of tranquillity and another place to meet.

The lounge also benefits from another refurbished courtyard. I have added the same vibrant plastic seating as the café courtyard but this time using different colours in lime and slate grey which are the Bedford Heights corporate colours.

The conference centre is what it says on the tin, it is a slick and professional looking area.  My brief was to keep this space corporate given the nature of the room.   Included is a giant wallpaper on one wall, an idea of Tim’s and further developed, designed and installed by Run for the Hills with various male and female philosophers and inventors including Jack Kilby from Texas Instruments who invented the first microchip. I have also introduced some Sansevieria plants in contemporary troughs around the room to add a bit of colour and life..

The long hallway leading to the conference centre has been uplifted with historic black and white canvases of Bedford which Mandy Bolam, the conference manager at Bedford Heights helped me select.   Occupiers and visitors now stop and study the images of a bygone era which has become a talking point.

SO to my next project at Bedford Heights ….  Furnishing the reception area with a state of the art reception desk, visitors seating, lighting, pictures, plants and helping with wayfinding. I cannot wait.

My aim is to make Bedford Heights a destination where you want to go to work and to enjoy the environment you are in.

Finally, I could not have done this project without all the hard preparation and work of Verve’s fantastic team, Josh Nellis from ACME Developments Ltd, Brian Roberts from Strebor Management Ltd, the electricians, painters, plasterers and labourers who worked and still do work tirelessly to complete each area in readiness for all the interiors to happen.

Katie Ferola
Trained at the London College of Fashion in Fashion Design & Fashion Drawing

CONSTRUCTION TEAM

Architects – Reform

Kitchen – Catering Design Group Ltd

Café Management – Elior

Landscaping – Graham Pavey

M&E Consultants – Furness Green

Main Contractor – ACME Developments Ltd

Project Manager – Strebor Management Ltd

Graphics and branding – Run for the Hills