Mortimer HouseNeena Dhillon • Photography by Ed Reeve • January 17, 2018
In considering what makes people happy, American psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a theory of human motivation in the 1940s that came to be known as the hierarchy of needs. It is this notion that informs the design of Fitzrovia’s newest multiuse venue, Mortimer House, a thoughtfully restored seven-story Art Deco building near London’s West End that founder and owner Guy Ivesha describes as “the closest thing to a hotel—with the warmth of hospitality—but one in which bedrooms are replaced by work places.”
Noting how hoteliers in London’s challenging real estate market were struggling to compete with office developers, Ivesha saw an opening for a flexible working environment, informal in approach, community-oriented, offering genuine service with an emphasis on wellbeing. “When I first shared my idea with friends, they observed how close it was to the philosophy of Maslow, a pioneer in understanding how different factors hold the key to human happiness,” he recalls. “This has become Mortimer House’s raison d’être–to help our community achieve self-actualization.”
Ivesha tapped New York-based AvroKO to help balance the public with private members’ areas, which takes cues from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to drive the narrative of the 31,000-square-foot structure. “We’ve used the theory as a guide to develop psychological touchpoints within the various spaces, helping to connect people to their needs for safety, belonging, community, and ultimately self-esteem,” says Adam Farmerie, principal and partner of the firm along with Kristina O’Neal, Greg Bradshaw, and William Harris
Accordingly, the ground floor answers the call for basic needs, such as food and shelter, with the Mortimer House Kitchen where residential-style seating, chefs’ islands, Bardiglio stone bar, and a greenhouse area replete with plants and communal tables are found alongside a lounge whose décor provides a taste of the members’ floors above. The building’s treatment is most clearly signaled in the adjoining reception, though, where its inherent character is celebrated through the preservation of terracotta ceilings, walnut paneling, cornices, mosaic tile flooring, and marble fireplace. “As the gut renovation took place, we exposed the original fabric of Mortimer House, its 1930s aesthetic reflecting the environment that Guy wished to achieve,” notes Farmerie. “We worked to uncover and preserve these features or insert replica details of the same period.”
Maslow’s specified needs of belonging and inclusion come to light on the coworking floors, in which a neutral palette is punctuated by pastel and green accents with shared amenities designed to foster organic social connection. On the fifth floor, the members’ lounge equates to an expression of self-esteem in which a series of experiences, including a bar, library, workstations, meeting room, and outdoor deck, are characterized by midcentury furniture, wallcoverings, glazed tile, marble fireplaces, and more paneling. Bespoke furniture is married with vintage finds that have been sourced from European auctions, including lighting that continues the vintage theme. Art that depicts fashion illustrations and works on paper comes courtesy of a direct arrangement between Ivesha and Nick Knight’s fashion website, SHOWstudio.
As the crowning glory, the sixth floor events space is light, bright, and flexible, whitewashed to remove any clutter of materiality so it can double as a gallery and a quiet floor on which members can reflect and contemplate. Along with a gym and studio, the finishing flourish is a separate meditation room, which turns this site into a home offering members meaningful work-life balance.