The Chelsea-based interior and architectural designers behind Lawson Robb have turned hospitals into modern London apartments, suspended a ‘bed pod’ from a ceiling and are now expanding their design empire into yachts, meet the duo who think anything is possible

Cigar rooms with leather floors, wellness spas with ice rooms, retractable rooftops which open up to the sky – these are just some of the decadent requests that architecture and interior design practice, Lawson Robb has fulfilled – not in luxury hotels but in people’s homes. ‘Anything is possible,’ says co-founder Alix Lawson. ‘It just boils down to budget. Our clients tend to be international; they travel a lot and see these amazing spaces in the places they stay so they think ‘why not have that at home?’’

This forward-thinking approach led Alix to set up the practice 11 years ago with her friend and fellow design graduate Charlotte Robb. After studying Interior Architecture at the Inchbald School of Design the pair landed jobs, respectively in interior design and architectural companies. ‘We’d meet up and discuss what we were doing,’ says Alix, ‘and we both thought that there wasn’t enough cohesion between architecture and interior design. It wasn’t clear-cut for clients and we could see that there was a gap in the market for a practice that offered both.’ 

Three years later, aged 24, the two women set up Lawson Robb, offering a full design service with architecture and interior design capabilities. Their first project was for a cutting-edge apartment, setting them on a boundary-pushing path. ‘It was an apartment on the top floor of a development in a former hospital in Clapham,’ explains Alix. ‘We took the ceilings back to their original height of six metres and installed a suspended ‘bed pod’ in the bedroom and a sliding glass roof so the client could walk up to the roof terrace. It was very James Bond.’

Since then the practice has grown to a team of sixteen with a plethora of high-end residential projects in affluent central London locations, the Middle East and US. They have just embarked on their first commercial space, a small boutique hotel in Costa Rica, as well as the design for a fleet of motor yachts. ‘We don’t have a practice style,’ says Lawson. ‘We tailor each design according to the client’s brief and are guided by their lifestyle, culture and personality, but we do like to create something different and exclusive to them.’

Not all of the properties that Lawson Robb design are fit for fictional secret agents and international playboys, but they do all share a penchant for luxury with a capital ‘L’. ‘Our clients are very diverse, they’re from all over the world: India, Malaysia, The Middle East, America and Europe and they can be single, young couples or large families,’ says Lawson. ‘But what they do all look for is attention to detail, quality finishes and longevity.’

Growing up in Brisbane and Noosa, Australia – known for its glamorous contemporary beach houses – Lawson was exposed to architecture, art and design from an early age. ‘My mother is an art curator and we travelled a lot to galleries across Europe. I also saw a lot of beach houses being built around Noosa, including our own, as some of my parent’s friends were architects and interior designers,’ she says. ‘I was always fascinated by plans, then seeing the foundations being laid and the houses coming to fruition.’

These modern structures with their sense of space and light had a huge influence on Alix and they are qualities that Lawson Robb brings to its projects. ‘I always aim to maximize space and flow and create a seamless connection between the interior and exterior,’ says Alix. ‘Understanding the elements outside and the natural light and how that affects the interior is important.’

Exceptional bespoke finishes and taking design to the next level is a constant theme for the practice too. Whether it’s basement swimming pools with covers that close over to become dance floors or temperature controlled wine-tasting rooms, many of Lawson Robb’s clients are intensely private and like to entertain or relax at home to a standard they would expect in the world’s most exclusive establishments. ‘The cigar room that we designed was influenced by our client’s experience at Le Fumoir at Claridges,’ says Lawson. ‘It was exciting to bring some of that old school hedonistic ambience into a home. We had chocolate leather flooring, smoked oak panelling with patinated bronze trimming and lighting effects that accentuated the billowing smoke patterns. There were humidifier shelves and thermostatic elements hidden behind églomisé mirrored panels to keep his specialist cigar and cognac collections at the correct temperature and humidity levels.’

Cigar rooms and wellness spas at home might sound like another world but it wasn’t that long ago that walk-in wardrobes and home cinemas were considered the height of luxury. Now achievable in upmarket family homes, perhaps the former are not so far away. ‘Cigar rooms are definitely becoming popular. Design is so cyclical, it doesn’t take long for trends and ideas to filter out,’ says Alix. ‘The methods and how you approach them change according to new technology and modern living but what sets things apart is budget. We work with a lot of artisans and specialists. From creating couture embroiders from top fashion houses for wall panels to crackled eggshell, straw marquetry and parchment finishes for bespoke furniture, it’s highly detailed and time-consuming work, so it’s expensive.’

So are there any extravagant requests that Lawson Robb has declined? ‘We were asked to design a snake hall for keeping a pet python once,’ says Lawson. ‘We didn’t go ahead as it didn’t seem right, but when it comes to design we’re constantly pushing boundaries with suppliers to develop new ideas. We like to show clients that anything is possible.’


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