Amid the glass office towers of London’s Bishopsgate sits a space that time forgot. Built in 1895, the Victorian Bath House has survived the blitz and surrounding redevelopment, standing proud in Bishopsgate Churchyard. Now it has been re-baptised as an events space – available to rent through HeadBox – after a refresher job by Russell Sage Studio.
‘It’s a jewel of a space, filled with crazy patterns and colonnades,’ says Sage. ‘That’s something we wanted to celebrate in our work.’
The now Grade II-listed bath house, originally designed by G Harold Elphick, is a heady whirl of Arabic motifs, mosaics and gilt finishes. City gents would once emerge preened to perfection from its marble-lined hot rooms. But the bath house closed in 1954, when post-war budgets pushed up fuel costs to unsustainable levels, and the building was relegated to a storage facility.
It later doubled as a restaurant, then a nightclub, but had fallen into a poor state by the time events company Camm & Hooper got their hands on it.
‘Many of its details had been covered up,’ says Sage. ‘We did a lot of restoration work and a lot of reimagining.’ Layers of paint were stripped back and the tiles were repaired. ‘Some of the patterns we found were extraordinary – there were even tiles shaped like bow ties.’
Visitors enter the underground space via a spiral staircase, which leads down to a long, colonnaded room. With it’s ground floor courtyard space included, the bath house can hold events for some 150 people.
Before he took on the project, Sage had been experimenting with fret-cutting wallpaper in his studio, which he has layered in the bath house to rich effect. The results are unashamedly extravagant.
‘We wanted it to be full of intense pattern,’ the designer adds. ‘It’s an opulent, over-the-top space, hidden below the street.’
Of course, with this being a former bath house, a tub of some description was a necessity. Naturally, the bath is used as a champagne cooler.
Victorian Bath House, Bishopsgate Churchyard, London EC2M 3TJ; www.headbox.com