The making of: United House

Past meets present in TOG’s Notting Hill launch

What connects celebrated British artist David Hockney to The Office Group’s new London space, United House in Notting Hill? More than you may think. 

‘We considered the types of people who live in the area,’ says Paul Gulati, director of design studio Universal, when asked how his team approached the project. ‘We found an image of David Hockney in his studio in the area in the 1960s, and it had the qualities you’d imagine – a bit bohemian with lots of found things, and some pieces of familiar furniture.’ 

Notting Hill remains a focal point for creatives – around 38 per cent of locals work in sectors like music, fashion, publishing and film. So, for Gulati, United House's design approach needed to reflect this individualistic, artistic spirit, while also taking into consideration the area’s predominantly residential look and feel. 

One such example is what Gulati describes as the ‘pocket lounges’ created throughout the building, inspired by the gardens dotted throughout the neighbourhood. 'These re-create the feeling of moving through a city and finding a little garden nestled somewhere, which becomes this moment of delight. Each lounge has its own identity.' 

Gulati also points to celebrating Notting Hill’s idiosyncratic personality through the objects his team curated for the building's interior design. Step inside a meeting room and you’re greeted by rich colour canvases, patterned upholstery and playful furniture. Spaces feel cosy and considered. A dedicated meditation room has an original LED colour piece by artist Lauren Baker as its centrepiece.

The unique experiences these spaces offer contrast with the clean, pared back co-working areas, inspired by a historic Notting Hill street scene. ‘We looked at the typology of the streets in the area, and two really stood out – the mews and the Victorian terrace,’ Gulati explains. He describes how handmade tiles, end-grain timber and natural stonework used throughout United House reference wooden doors opening onto cobbled alleys, and the grand stucco-fronted properties they hide behind. 

‘The unique identities or qualities of the location, and the people who use it, are what comes out in the building. You get this idea of personalisation, but in a logical way for shared working,' he says. 

The finished product successfully marries visual elements of Notting Hill past and present, and pays homage to those who call this corner of London home. A perfect extension of their environment and attitude, it’s a space every bit as inspiring as the community itself. 

Martin Guttridge-Hewitt edits Design Exchange Magazine, and also contributes to Vice, Mixmag and the BBC