Open House: architects Chan and Eayrs on the travel-inspired interiors of their latest project, a beautifully converted warehouse in Shoreditch
Our ‘Open House’ series takes us into some of our most exceptional homes ahead of their sale. Here, husband and wife duo Chan and Eayrs show us around the travel-inspired interiors of their latest project, which is an expansive converted warehouse in Shoreditch.
Zoe: “The place was owned by a set designer before us. He had bought it way back in the mid-1990s when all the warehouses around here were first being used as residential spaces. It was a very different layout before, and it kind of looked like a stage set with curved walls and neon lights.
“When we bought it, we moved in from a period house in Spitalfields. The way we work on a project is from start to finish, overseeing all aspects of the design and build, only ever working on one job at a time. It’s a very holistic process not only because of our involvement at all stages, but also because of our decision to live there.”
Merlin: “What’s unique about this space is that it has windows on all four sides. Most old warehouses around here are part of a terrace, so you don’t get the same sort of views or natural light.
“The first thing we did was to take out all the walls to just appreciate the lateral space and the quadruple aspect. We lived here for about a year and a half without any walls or blinds; literally just a bed and a bath.”
Zoe: “It’s a bit extreme but we like to really immerse ourselves in the volume to understand how the light comes in at different times of the day and how the space can be used. It’s very difficult to get a sense of the space if you only look at it on the computer.
“From there we just sketch and sketch lots of ideas, constantly coming up with different iterations. Even when we have a final set of drawings and we contract the work, we change things and work with craftspeople the whole way through to evolve and refine ideas.
“We developed a general concept from the view looking out towards the church. Being right in the thick of Shoreditch is great, but the ground floor is quite intensely urban. We wanted the space to feel calm, so we chose to echo the greenery outside with the plasterwork, which is traditional lime plaster.
“All of our spaces are very personal; I’m Chinese and Merlin is English, and we travel a lot, so we tie our projects together with lots of influences.”
Merlin: “Even before we start a project we have lots of ideas, which are often based on things we have found. Here, we wanted to use these solid marble basins we found at an antique market in Lectoure in France. In that way, the architecture is informed by fragments of varying scale, meaning that the design comes together very organically from collected pieces.
“All of the tiles here are Moroccan, which is a place we have a particular affinity towards. We were inspired by the courtyard houses there, because there is an element of surprise that we found here too: the exterior walls are anonymous and don’t give much away, but the interiors open up when you step inside.”
Zoe: “One of the challenges was asking how we could retain a sense of openness while still articulating different zones. So, we came up with the idea of expressing different areas through the patterns the tiles are laid in. You don’t necessarily notice it when you come in, but the different styles lead the eye through and create subtle distinctions without physical walls.
“The patterns we used are inspired from a wide range of sources: traditional British basket weave; herringbone, which references our first project; and designs inspired by a courtyard house in Suzhou, China.”
Merlin: “The result of all that time and attention is hopefully a space that feels like a sanctuary, and one in which the human touch comes through. We’ve lived and breathed this project for over two years, and everything in here has been crafted with a lot of love.
“We love coming here with our young daughter, Max, as we see her interacting with the space, running around and having fun. It’s great to have seen the space evolve from the raw warehouse space it was when we bought it to its current form, which could be used as a family home.
“A lot of what we come into contact with in our day-to-day lives is machine made, and it’s hard to feel the humanity in something that has been pumped out of a factory along with thousands of others just like it. Home should make you feel comfortable and secure through a sense of the time and love that has been dedicated to it.”