Opening on the 29th April 2022, Pirajean Lees is delighted to unveil the interiors for The House of KOKO, a new members offering created as part of the ambitious renovation of the iconic 19th century theatre KOKO in Camden, London. Pirajean Lees, in collaboration with Olly Bengough, KOKO’s Creative Director and Founder have designed more than 20,000 sq. feet of new spaces, including The House of Koko (four new floors for members), the ground floorCafé KOKO, and KOKO’s new shop/DJ space. The original Victorian Theatre and its newly restored Fly Tower sit at the heart of this unique building, offering guests an unprecedented experience throughout the members’ floors, reflective of being backstage at an iconic KOKO gig.
The new KOKO blends together three historic buildings – the Grade II-listed theatre, an adjacent piano factory dating from 1800 and the Hope & Anchor pub, established in 1860. Working alongside Bengough and Archer Humphryes Architects since 2017, Pirajean Lees have created bespoke interior architecture for 16 new spaces including a beautiful new roof terrace and restaurant, dome cocktail bar, penthouse and recording studio, piano room, library, a hidden speakeasy, stage kitchen, cocktail bar and secret vinyl rooms. All new spaces are carefully connected to one another, providing KOKO members with a constant sense of adventure and discovery through the beautifully designed interiors.
The design concept for The House of KOKO pays homage to the history of the timeless theatre, from its colourful Victorian origins to the bohemian lifestyles of its many past performers (Charlie Chaplin, The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, Grace Jones, Kanye West, and many more). Pirajean Lees took inspiration from how the theatre would have lived and breathed. Anchored in this strong narrative, each room has its own identity, reflecting all elements required to operate a theatre. From the first floor Stage Kitchen which takes inspiration from the ironmongery; to the bathrooms, inspired by backstage hair and make-up rooms where performers would get ready. Influenced by the old screen-printing rooms, Ellen’s Jazz and blues club features a hand-painted mural by Christopher Lux, whilst intimate vinyl listening booths reference what could have been KOKO’s old lighting storage rooms.
“Working on the restoration and redevelopment of a building with such rich history, it was important for us to introduce timeless design elements that honour and express KOKO’s eclectic past, whilst allowing the space to create its own stories for years to come” say Clemence Pirajean and James Lees.
Throughout the interiors, Pirajean Lees have introduced bespoke features, design elements and furniture that acknowledge the language of the music industry and KOKO’s colourful past. Textures, patterns and materials used throughout The House of Koko are inspired by the Bohemian styles of legendary KOKO performers. In the Vinyl Rooms, a bespoke ceiling references the structure of the original Fly Tower, and the Battens Bar features a vintage speaker fabric used as a ceiling finish. A bespoke leather sofa in the piano room harks back to the punk era, whilst the one-of-a-kind cigarette carpet in Ellen’s creates an intimate salon ambience of a traditional 1940’s jazz bar. Inspired by the original backstage doors at KOKO in the 1920s, bespoke deep olive doors with black frames are replicated throughout the building. In the penthouse, fabric-lined rosewood sliding doors are inspired by vintage Sony speakers.
Once owned by the BBC (‘The Camden Theatre 1945-1975) – Bengough is now taking KOKO back to its broadcasting roots. Bringing it up-to-date for a modern era, Bengough integrated high spec live streaming capabilities throughout the venue, a factor carefully taken into consideration when designing the space. With the studio’s background in film production, Pirajean Lees and Bengough designed each space as if it were a set, where every element and detail has been carefully considered as to how it looks on screen and the perspective of the guest experience. With 360-degree cameras situated in each performance space, the studio has created a space that offers eye-catching details from every angle. The designers carefully selected textiles and materials that are both tactile and visually beautiful, allowing guests to interact with the textures and colours whilst in person or in the digital world.
With sustainability a key part of KOKO’s brand ethos and a key principle for the studio, it was essential that eco-friendly design elements were featured throughout. Ethically sourced materials run through every piece of furniture created through the building and where possible the pieces have been locally manufactured in London and Europe. “When thinking about the design of the new KOKO, it was so important for me to work with a studio as collaborative as Pirajean Lees. Together we have been on this extraordinary creative journey; I wanted to create a one-off experience that celebrated everything that KOKO represents – its history, beauty, artistic legacy – and Pirajean Lees really understood this vision” Olly Bengough, CEO, Founder and Creative Director, KOKO