How to design a modern mews house
Words by Words by Leo Russell
49 William Mews was transformed by Echlin designers into a contemporary masterpiece.
Lowndes Square is a grand garden square in Belgravia, behind Knightsbridge tube station. The square is lined with tall terraces of white stucco, but in the northern corner lies a private street named William Mews.
Voted top home interior
From the outside, No.49 William Mews looks smart but unassuming. However, the inside of the property was voted one of the top home interiors of 2021, according to the influential magazine, Dezeen. That interior was the work of Echlin, whose founding partner Mark O’Callaghan recently spoke to us about the project.
Mark spent twenty years in fashion and luxury brands, before founding Echlin eleven years ago with Sam McNally. His team includes architects and interior designers, working together to create unique properties. Since their first project – a modern townhouse on Old Church Street in Chelsea – their work has expanded to include private and commercial clients, as well as their own developments. Last year, Elle Decoration called them one of the top British designers to know about.
Like many mews houses, the original property at No.49 was ‘small, dark and a bit of rabbit warren,’ Mark explained. While keeping the same template, most of the property was rebuilt to get as much space and light into the home as possible. Upstairs, the roof was raised, skylights were installed, and each room was given an ensuite. What’s more, soft colours and a calming palette were used, adding a sense of serenity.
Spacious sitting room enjoying the light.
The most dramatic changes took place in the communal spaces downstairs. Echlin specialise in opening up basements, although that term hardly does justice to the large, light-filled room they have created on the lower ground floor. A combination of atriums and roof lights, as well as a sunken seating area, gives a high and bright space that looks out on a living wall.
Mark and his team always welcome the input of clients. The owner of William Mews liked the palette and materials used for the Emirates lounge at Heathrow, so Echlin furnished the house with a blend of dark and medium-tone woods, as well as muted fabrics with occasional touches of colour for the furniture and artwork. The team also created an open layout for the ground floor, meaning the study and dining area both connect with the main reception room, separated by unbacked shelving units that can be sealed off for more privacy.
Details at the dining room.
Echlin’s current projects include private houses in Marylebone, Mayfair and St John’s Wood, as well as rooftop apartments in Camden and penthouses near Sloane Square. In each case, the team chooses properties that will fit their individual aesthetic and design principles: ‘space, light, and finding the types of buildings that are going to work for us.’ The aim is to create buildings with their own architectural legacy.
In most of Echlin’s properties, about two-thirds of the furniture is designed for the space, with craftsmen from across Britain contributing. In the case of William Mews, one of the most striking features is the helical staircase running between each floor, which was designed by a specialist carpenter based in East Sussex. ‘Nearly all of our houses have had bespoke, hand-made staircases,’ Mark explains. ‘It brings the property together, and it’s also a very good use of the space, giving more room for the reception and study areas.’
The helical staircase running between each floor was designed by a specialist carpenter based in East Sussex.
The effect is not just practical, but personal too: ‘These sorts of details create an emotional response from someone looking around. When you’ve got a client looking around, they’re looking for a home, and it’s an emotional relationship you have with your home.
Along the way, you’ve helped craftsmen in the UK, or up-and-coming artists. People like that, and we like doing it. We work with a lot of different people to produce the smaller parts of the property, just to create that really bespoke feel.’