Neighbours, episode 2
Our emails, blog and generally everything other than our absolute core services have been stripped back the last few weeks. We’ve been in survival mode; battling dust, building shelves, moving heavy tables and plugging roof leaks (100mm of rain in 12 days! We had 2mm in the whole of June last year!)
We’re up and running now though. The leaks are slowing as we work out the rickety old terracotta roof and everything is out of the boxes. Our new neighbours have mostly arrived too - of the 6 of us sharing this massive space only 1 is yet to move in. Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to them properly so watch this space, but we’ve got another florist, a painter, a caterer, a gallery and a print designer. Exciting combination. Very Hackney.
There’s a popular perception that everyone in the East End of London lives and works in big old warehouses like this. The reality is that relatively few do - for some very good reasons - but we thought it might be interesting to share the realities of making one usable for a business. This particular one has been unoccupied for some time, and was last used as a base for the builders working on the site next door so that didn’t help with the dust levels endemic to these places.
Dealing with the dust tends to be a good place to start. Exposed brick walls (which we decided to keep down one side of the building) need sealing. If you don’t you’ll get marks all over your clothes every time you lean against them for years (literally) and they’ll continue to kick low levels of dust out in to the room. The secret is to give them a thick dose of PVA (yeah, the glue you used in design tech lessons at school) diluted with a bit of water. This binds the inside of the brick, leaving you dust free. The floor in this place is concrete, the kind of lovely textured concrete that’s impossible to recreate, so we wanted to preserve it as much as possible. This involves a more industrial version of the above - a thick concrete sealer in copious quantities and a couple of layers, as well as filling in the particularly damaged parts with fresh concrete. We got a great snap of James, Elly & Ian just at the beginning of this process (it’s not been taken on an old Nokia, there’s just that much dust in the air!)
Some walls can’t be saved. Even by trends of industrial aesthetic. We boarded the whole right hand wall with plasterboard and absolutely dosed it with white paint. A key part of this step is recognising which bits behind these boards you might need to get at - we found a couple of waste pipes and attached some drainage to them - florists need a lot of drainage! This wasn’t all plain sailing though, we still had to locate a couple of underground waste pipes through a combination of guesswork and the gentle use of a demolition hammer.
It was also time to think about dividing the space up. We tried to do this while maintaining as much light and openness as possible, opting for 2.5 metre shelving units made of plywood rather than full partition walls wherever possible.
Fitting out a place like this needs to bear the surroundings in mind. There’s a way of doing this that doesn’t involve bankrupting yourself. The reality is that the sort of industrial vibes we see in a lot of refurbished old buildings are a product of remaining in keeping with the surroundings but also cost effectiveness. As a result we ran all of the copper piping around the tops of the walls for the whole space so that we could then drop taps down in to the space wherever we need (the reality is that we’ll have different tenant friends over the next few years and need to be flexible to their needs). By doing this we’re making a feature of the practical realities of the building, and the result is a very open system of plumbing and electricity, as seen in the pictures below.
From here we let each tenant bring their own personality to their spaces. We’ll introduce you to these spaces over the coming weeks, as well as sharing a few snaps of the new Petalon set up. In the meantime we wish you happy day dreams about getting down and dirty with your own industrial space.