Alex Holloway gives us his insights on how he refreshed his home with a fun and highly experimental new look; this includes installing a bathtub in the living room
The elegant, tree-lined district of Highbury in North London may be known for its rows of stately Victorian-style houses. But one apartment within this plush environment, in particular, stands out with its daring and whimsical approach to home design.
This striking abode is not only a lively home but also a beautiful new addition to a London-based design firm Holloway Li. It is the home of Alex Holloway, who is the creative director and namesake founder of the firm; he leads the architectural and interior design consultancy that he leads with its managing director, Na Li. The renovation, which took place during the pandemic, gave the design practice newfound freedom to explore new ideas in a slow lull during the strict restrictions; the project was completed last September.
“After a decade of renting in London, I decided to take the plunge and buy,” says Holloway. “Having my own studio, Holloway Li, which I co-founded with Na Li, and completing some complex hospitality and residential projects gave me the courage to tackle this personal project. I found the apartment in 2019, and the rest is history.”
Taking inspiration from “art, film, and notions of [both] shared and lived experience”, Holloway’s year-long home renovation project carries influences from the firm’s expertise in designing hospitality, retail, and private residences. The London-based firm is known for projects such as the Mural Farmhouse restaurant in Munich, co-living space Ark in London, and the Hylla private villas in Hong Kong.
“My design studio, Holloway Li, specialises in the hospitality industry, operating at the forefront of a new wave of designers who blur the boundaries between historicism, decoration, and digital processes to create intricate interiors comfortable in the context of contemporary design culture,” shares Holloway. “We have become known for our playful and innovative use of materials while remaining focused on low-impact design solutions.”
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The floor plan had to be redone to create the open-concept design that Holloway wanted for his 700 sq ft corner property. “The apartment is in a Victorian building, so the idea was to reconfigure and open up the space to give it a continental open-plan feel,” tells Holloway.
Before the home’s revamp, Holloway described the original site as “fairly boxy” with “limited natural light in communal areas.” In efforts to give the apartment a revival, the construction process saw the removal of wall partitions and the installation of two new windows that reimagined the space to be an area for living, entertaining, and even bathing—with its unconventional placement of a bathtub in the living room. The apartment’s original ceiling was also removed and replaced by wooden beams to complement the apartment’s flooring.
Holloway adds: “Rather than playing to the traditional configuration of rooms and layout, we wanted to create a space that would allow one to work and play with ease while benefiting from the morning light and sunsets.”
Holloway also looked towards the local context when adapting the buzzy yet stylish home design of the Highbury Apartment. “The idea was for the space to allow us to have fun and to riff off high-low cultural references from London’s vernacular architecture,” quips Holloway. “The kitchen, for example, nods to the iconic London kebab shop and its stainless steel kitchens, utilising the same materials but in an elevated way. We’ve had such an incredible response and would get emails asking us how to recreate it. So, we ended up making a guide for our Instagram followers!”
Colours and materiality were also heavily considered to captivate visual interest and foster a mid-century modern appeal throughout the abode. “I wanted the space to be flexible and evolve over time,” says Holloway. “I chose to use plaster on the walls to add to its versatility. It’s a forgiving material that allows us to change the artwork or wall light placement over time and not worry overly about marks or signs of wear. With the furnishings and furniture, we chose to go bolder. For instance, the kitchen’s stainless steel facade contrasts with a warm-toned resin table and colourful seating.”
Evident throughout the apartment is Holloway’s eco-conscious appreciation for recycled materials and characterful vintage pieces. This includes the use of off-cut materials left over from past projects and a mix of various vintage furniture and art sourced from Goods In, a furniture dealership that belongs to Holloway’s partner, Elle Parmar Jenkins.
There is one particular piece of furniture that Holloway deems as the pièce de résistance of his personal sanctuary: “I personally love the resin shower screen which is an idea we played out in The Market Building project, and it was nice to be able to take this idea and tweak it for a domestic setting.”
Another highlight is Holloway Li’s T4 modular seating prototype, designed in collaboration with Turkish furniture label Uma, which Holloway believes is a great example of the design studio’s creative finesse. “It allowed us to develop our work creating bespoke furniture pieces,” says Holloway. “We actually loved the T4 sofa so much we decided to launch it with furniture brand Uma for the London Design Festival last September.”