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Lost & Found Interview with Concorde BGW

Knutsford Lost & Found

The Design Behind The Idea

The Lost and Found collection of cocktail bars and restaurants began as a single 'botanical Victorian hideaway in the heart of Birmingham, with a bustling restaurant serving British classics and a cocktail bar for any discerning drinker.' The popularity of the original venue has seen the portfolio grow since 2013 into 5 venues, across Leeds, Birmingham and as of 20th April 2018, Bristol.

A key component to its success lies in the unique branding that informs the interior design of each venue. Each bar is headed by its own Victorian professor - a fictional personality with their own set of curious interests and peculiar pastimes.

  • Hetty G Watson - Botany - Bennets Hill, Birmingham
  • Virginia K. Stevenson - Ornithology - Greek Street, Leeds
  • Emily B Kinglsey - Lepidoptera - Old Town Hall, Knutsford
  • Benedict Pike - Chemistry - Leeds Club, Albion Place
  • Elizabeth E. Lightfoot - Astronomy - Clifton Pavilion, Bristol

I chatted with Emma Scarff from Concorde BGW about the design behind the idea.

What’s the inspiration behind the fictional Victorian personalities that give the Lost and Found venues such a strong sense of identity. How do you create each persona?

The marketing team at Revere (the pub company who own Lost & Found) have created a whole backstory for each character. Every story has a lost part and a found part.

Every site has a board room and every professor has a monikered chair. There are 5 sites currently but there are many more professors, and therefore the potential for many more Lost & Found venues.

Snippets of the stories are evident in everything from the menus where each cocktail links to a professor, to the walls where there are paintings of the characters and quotes displayed.

Photo frame with neon sshhh sign above in KnutsfordPhotograph of Lost & Found Knutsford  by Ben Carpenter

Each bar also has a secret bar with a secret entrance; Knutsford has a hidden door in the form of a picture frame. Over the top is a Sshh sign with a neon sign. If the light’s on the bar is open. In both Knutsford and Birmingham the door disguised as a picture, in Albion Place it's a rose garden leading up the stairs towards a door.

Each venue is interestingly unique but still resonates the Lost & Found brand. How do you achieve this?

We have core fabrics and furniture styles that are used as well as materials such as antique brass and marble. Victoriana styling is a core element. Revere wanted Knutsford to be a bit more affluent and suited to the surrounding area so its textures and colours are a lot brighter throughout. Then you have to incorporate the buildings. The Lost & Found locations are mostly in heritage buildings which leave their own signature.

Botanical themed interiors featuring fake treesPhotograph of Lost & Found Albion Place by Ben Carpenter

The bars have a heavy botanical influence. Are the plants & hedges in the designs real? Do they require a lot of maintenance?

The timber elements are real - it's petrified wood and moss - but essentially all plants are artificial to save on maintenance.

There’s been a trend towards darker, more luxuriant inspired interiors like those in the Lost & Found venues. Why are they so popular at the moment? Are we all just sick of minimalism?

Albion Place has a lot more of a Victoriana feel with muted dusky colour palettes due to the building style. Bristol is a modern building so there are newer, more modern touches. Personally I think it’s all about the atmosphere and lighting, everyone loves a dark, moody speakeasy style bar where you can sit back and enjoy your evening… it’s definitely very now. I prefer a more eclectic mix where you can pick the best parts of the design trends. Classic designs never go out of style.

Interior of Albion PlacePhotograph of Lost & Found Albion Place by Ben Carpenter

 Where do you source your taxidermy and the other unique curiosities?

(Laughs) I once met a man in a car park in the dark to pick up a load of taxidermy birds. I had to tell a friend ‘If I’m not back....” Thankfully it turned out to be legit. A lot of the antiques are sourced from the internet or from boutiques in London. With the Albion Place backstory, the Professor is into chemistry and medicine and wanted to move away from standard elements of medicine so disappeared into the Indies. He's the quintessential Victorian colonial explorer...so as well as Victorian apothecary paraphernalia there are lots of globes and anatomical diagrams incorporated throughout.

We wanted to channel the ‘lost’ element and the idea that his office would be overgrown in his absence, I took inspiration from films such as Indiana Jones & Jumanji which is where the overgrown planting elements come from in the secret bar and also the colonial vibe in the restaurant which I love right now. [And the monkey lights] Ah yes the monkey lights. It was on my head if the monkey lights didn’t work in the scheme. [They're awesome].

It must be a designer’s dream to get to create a space with such a rich backstory.

You can definitely get very involved in a project like this - particularly junior designers. However you still have to win the client over and achieve their goals for the space so it’s like any other project really.

Exterior of Knutsford, Old town hallPhotograph of Lost & Found Knutsford by Ben Carpenter

The Knutsford Lost & Found won Best Restaurant or Bar in a Heritage Building at the RBDA 2017. What are the challenges of designing for a heritage space?

My colleague worked on the Knutsford design, but it can involve be a lot of consideration as you have to agree finishes and any changes to building layouts with a listed building. The plans for Albion Place took a lot of work to agree, the listed building officer has to approve the proposals, but ultimately the client has to be happy too. Essentially you have to work with the building not against it.

You used a wide variety of chairs for Albion place. Increasingly, we’re seeing designers order a wide selection of different chairs for a single venue, many with multiple fabric combinations and customisations. Why do you think that is?

There are more and more independent bars out there so I think that this helps larger venues look less corporate. A variety of furniture means the design looks individual and more considered. In the Lost and Found sites it's all about blending the Victorian elements with more contemporary styles, so this works for their brand.

How do you judge the success of a project?

A happy client is always a good sign! Launch night is a good indicator too, when full of customers I like to hear and see customers enjoying it and listen to their comments.

You get a good indicator when the professional photos come back too. To see someone else objectively picking out small elements of the design means you take a step back from the thick of it and gain someone else’s perspective. If they make it look good too, then you know it works.

Launch nights must be quite nerve-racking.

The handover when the client first comes in is the moment you hold your breath. But to get to this stage there’s been so much planning, sign off and approval that 9 times out of 10 they’re happy. That said, every building has its challenges. Albion Place is the first building of this size and style that I've worked on. It has 4 floors and huge ceiling heights.

Albion PlacePhotograph of Lost & Found Albion Place by Ben Carpenter

guess you needed a clever design to fill the space and keep within the budget?

That’s why the trees went in; to give a space-filling wow-factor. We also had to put blinds in because the windows were so big it was too bright inside. Revere like a slightly darker interior for a more relaxed atmosphere.

So that’s also why you ordered so many different types of chairs! You had 4 floors to zone.

The trade space was over 3 floors but each area has its own style and themeing. The upholstery ties the whole scheme together. The site has so much potential for further phases and additional rooms for function spaces and hotel bedrooms… it was a fantastic building to work on.

What exciting new projects do you have on the horizon?

The new Bristol Lost & Found site is coming to a close and will be opening on 20th April. Then there's a boutique hotel bedroom scheme in central Bath, and a new Pitcher and Piano in Sheffield.

Want to explore the Lost & Found designs further? Explore the projects section of our website or click to view images for:

Lost & Found Leeds Club: Albion Place

Lost & Found Knutsford: Old Town Hall

Lost & Found Leeds: Greek Street

Topics: Restaurant furniture, Bar furniture, Interior design interviews, Project focus

By Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth on 23/04/18 11:30
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