This award-winning live/work studio was once a derelict Borough shop

Jeweller Alex Monroe, beloved of London fashionistas, turned a derelict shop off Borough High Street into an impressive live/work studio that is both comfy and creative.
South of London Bridge railway station, behind sprawling Guy’s Hospital, lurks one of the last bits of real Dickensian London. Off Borough High Street, alleys and narrow streets are dotted with old warehouses and crumbling brick buildings. Above it all soars the Shard, glinting pale blue, while tall cranes busily develop this increasingly desirable area. 

Along one street, jutting from the end of a row of old-fashioned shops, is what looks like a slender triangular ship’s prow. Five floors high, clad in vertically ribbed brown metal, further metal stripes provide shade over the windows. At pavement level there’s still the old shop front and window, charmingly refurbished.

Inside it is a humming jewellery shop, one of an army of small businesses opening up and providing a marketplace for UK craftspeople. What makes Alex Monroe’s business outstanding is the care with which he has, with the help of his architects DSDHA, curated a stimulating and creative atmosphere in this building.

Above the jewellery store perch small workshops, one to a floor, while at the top is a pleasant living space and balcony for Monroe and his jewellery makers, for whom this building is a home-and-studio, every day of the week. Rather than the designers and makers working alone, there’s a sense of life and fun.
 
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Illustrious neighbours: Monroe’s award-winning jewellery store and zinc-clad workshops above it, with Guy’s Hospital tower and the Shard in the background

But there was a monumental delay at the planning stage, almost entirely, Monroe says, because of the cladding. “Here was a gem of a building that would bring in employment. We took it to the planners and for two years they hit us with everything they’d got. For some reason they wanted it covered in ceramic. Then they didn’t want stripes over the windows. In the end we took it to a council meeting, and it went straight through. Now it’s won loads of awards, and the planners like it. But that added at least £100,000 to the overall bill.”

The shop-cum-workshop-cum-home is delicate yet robust, charming yet practical; a model for artistic live-work premises. Monroe laughs. “When we started, there was no Shard in the background. But because of the delay, that got built before we finished this.”

Get the look Alex Monroe's jewellery: alexmonroe.com The building has won the RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize and this year's RIBA London Award. Find architect Deborah Saunt at dsdha.co.uk Timber building of cross-laminated spruce: made by klhuk.com Pigmented zinc cladding: by VM Zinc, at vmzinc.co.uk Loft and Augustin industrial lamps in shop and workrooms: from jielde.com Pine is whitewashed with simple thinned white emulsion (with fireproofing on top)

HOW TO GET THE LOOK
Alex Monroe's jewellery: www.alexmonroe.com
Find architect Deborah Saunt at www.dsdha.co.uk
Timber building of cross-laminated spruce: made by www.klhuk.com
Pigmented zinc cladding: by VM Zinc, at www.vmzinc.co.uk
Loft and Augustin industrial lamps in shop and workrooms: from www.jielde.com
Pine is whitewashed with simple thinned white emulsion (with fireproofing on top)

 

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