Conference and event rooms refurbishment

An elegant engagement: transforming a venue space

Occupying the east wing of the first floor at 66 Lincoln’s Inn Fields is a tranquil and elegant multipurpose space, fit for a prestigious law firm.

The requirements for the revitalised space went beyond a regular office refurbishment due to the building’s Grade II listed status. It was a project that required expertise and sensitivity, and the firm and building owner, Farrer & Co, would not settle for less.

The brief

Meeting rooms 1 and 2 span 775 square feet in the Georgian building. Each room needed to be updated aesthetically and technically to keep up with the needs of the staff. The rooms also needed to complement each other and open as one to maximise space and flexibility.

In addition, the rooms needed bringing back to life and the architectural elements restored. It required time-consuming attention to detail and engineering challenges to overcome.

Adam English, project manager at Sorrel Group, was not deterred by the brief: “The client could see the potential for this project and so could we. Our priority was to identify the architectural details and understand how they could be preserved while introducing modern facilities.”

Show time

The meeting rooms are used for conferences, training and events. At full capacity, the two rooms can host 120 people. For the client to get the most from their room they needed up-to-date audio visual capabilities. For comfort, the air conditioning units needed upgrading too.

The largest pieces of equipment to be introduced were projectors and large co-ordinating screens. For most venues, the addition of this equipment is a simple procedure. But it is a different story for a listed building.

The delicate lime plaster walls could not hold the weight of the projector or screen and traditional installation could have caused permanent damage. Instead, the Sorrel team cut out sections of existing plasterboard, a 1980s addition, and created an internal skeleton in the walls that would take the weight of the projector. A bespoke iron and steel frame held everything in place inside the wall and protected the plaster.

One of the screens was able to be fitted into the skeleton frame that had been installed above the adjoining doors, the other screen was fitted above the windows. The team created a system that was hidden behind the six-metre long curtains. The screen is fitted underneath the curtain pelmet and the whole setup is discreet.

Restoring the Georgian details

The meeting rooms are fine examples of the grandeur and space associated with Georgian architecture. In other meeting rooms bright colours were used, but the feel for this space was contemporary and calming.

To create a crisp and professional atmosphere, Sorrel chose a muted grey paint ‘Elephant’s Breath’ from Farrow & Ball which set the tone for the furnishings. The broad weave heirloom carpet is traditional Georgian style and was made in Britain.

To dress the windows, bespoke Indian-silk curtains were hand stitched, lined and finished with a fire-retardant solution.

The marble fireplace needed full restoration. The Sorrel team hand cleaned the marble using a specialist organic soap solution. A marble restoration expert made minor repairs and then the team polished and buffed the fireplace for a perfect finish.

The doors connecting the two rooms are true to the original style and had been lacquered in paint over the years. To restore them to their former glory they were dipped to remove the excess paint. This revealed rose leaf detailing to the mouldings. They were touched up to emphasise the detail which complements the cornicing.

The ceiling was one of the most challenging aspects to the project and required traditional techniques to bring out the lost detail. As with the doors, the ceiling had built up years of layers of emulsion paint. Using a diluted acidic sugar and soap-like solution, the team stripped it back to the original cornice details, the elaborate motif and ceiling rose.

“It had a fantastic effect,” recalls Adam. “So much detail was uncovered and now the room is a perfect balance between the intricate details of the Georgian era and a warm, modern workspace. For the finishing touch, we sourced traditional two-tier chandeliers for each room. It’s a stunning look.”

The chandeliers weigh 75kg and the installation required care and attention. First, a safety cable was fitted and tied through the ceiling rose to the joist beams of the floor above. The chandelier was then fitted in sections and completed with the addition of the crystals.

Trevor Cox, premises project manager at Farrer & Co, said: “It was an impressive feat to incorporate the technology we needed without damaging the interior. Sorrel Group always finds a variety of ways to install technology without damaging the walls. And it is all reversible, which gives us peace of mind.

“Sorrel researched the building to understand the detail. They are genuinely interested in the architecture and preserving it. All the work is carried out by qualified professionals with the appropriate training for buildings like these. Sorrel invests in its staff and we reap those benefits.”