It’s not often that a London-design studio pride themselves on being completely ‘un-London’. Yet for Emma Rayner and Katie Earl, the duo behind interior architecture studio No.12, escaping the city’s normal (some say generic) style is what they aim to do.
“There’s a set ‘London’ look which has been around for about 15 years,” explains Katie. “It features lots of shiny velvets, highly polished marbles, Swarovski crystals, chunky furniture and dark woods — basically what people traditionally associate with opulence and expense. Personally, we didn’t like that style, but we couldn’t find a studio which deviated from it.”
Their answer was to start No.12 — a two-year-old, all-female design studio which combines Emma’s decorative skills and Katie’s background in interior architecture to create a unique signature style. Rather than the shiny London look, No.12 embodies a contemporary, clean, masculine style that champions paired-back simplicity — think exceptionally curated craftsmanship rather than just pure expense.
It is a look which they are now channeling into Gasholders London, a new residential building overlooking Regent’s Canal. A contemporary building encased in Grade-II listed interlocking cast-iron gasholder guide frames, the development plays cleverly on King’s Cross’ industrial heritage. Architects WilkinsonEyre were inspired by the functional mechanisms of a watch, with the building’s circular façade appearing responsive to passers-by, changing as residents adjust their view.
Within, the interiors feature reiterations of this greater overall concept, with perforated metal screens on the outside of the building echoed in the panels of the cinema room. “Everything we select has a purpose — it’s one of our design principles,” explains Emma. “If there isn’t a reason for a piece we choose in response to the space or the context of the building, then it isn’t included in a project.”
This principle is most evident in Gasholders’ common areas, where huge, red, upscaled armchairs make a bold statement, holding the building’s cavernous space and becoming pieces of art in their own right. For the cinema, deep black velvets, an inky green and brass accents build luxurious layers. “The building was entirely monochromatic, so we were essentially working on a palette of fifty shades of grey ,” laughs Katie. “That’s why we put in lots of deep, desaturated colours, because our brief was to make the space feel less sterile.”
“People often think that putting loads of colours and patterns together make you a brave designer, but we believe that the bravest design is often the simplest,” says Emma. This courage comes through in the curation; in the mixing of mid-century Danish design with contemporary Italian lighting, which is paired with a beautiful piece of stone from an English quarry and mounted on a base from eBay (the designers’ secret weapon for sourcing affordable materials).
“Our advice is to let the pieces speak for themselves,” says Katie. “Too much detail and you lose any sense of the original piece. The design of the furniture should be strong enough to stand alone, so all you really need is one beautiful fabric.” It’s something you’d be wise to take their word on. After all, standing alone is something No.12 does best.
This article first appeared in the spring 2018 edition of King’s Cross Quarterly magazine. Read more about the people and stories that make King’s Cross, or find out where you can pick up the latest copy of King’s Cross Quarterly below.