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The Art of Designing a Museum, with Award-winning Artistry House


manchester museum
Photography credits - Sean Conboy Photography
The Art of Designing a Museum, with Award-winning Artistry House
Clara Carlino de Paz
January 11, 2024

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BIID named Artistry House’s Manchester Museum project as one of this year’s Best Interior Designs in the UK, and their choice was no accident. With a £15 million investment into a new museum life for this legacy building, everything was on the line for an intriguing, sustainable and inclusive space… And did the studio deliver. 

Before we get into the incredible project of Manchester Museum, we want to meet the incredible minds behind its interior design; Artistry House. Enter Rose Peploe, Interior & Spatial Designer for the studio.

Meeting Artistry House

Hi Rose! Thank you for sitting down with me. Could you walk me through Artistry House’s history and ethos?

The Artistry House was originally founded in 2017 by Lynsey Thompson and Andy Walmsley of Wash Studio, a Northern creative team working across all aspects of brand communication. With a passion for place and interior design they decided to invest in a building and create their own space for creatives to collaborate, meet and work. 

We were introduced off the back of this project and came together to deliver two holistic concepts for their existing clients, Hy hotel and Rise brunch café. Following the success of these projects I was brought on board full time in 2021 to lead the interior design offer. Over the last 2 years we have been building our portfolio, delivering a visionary approach that brings together brand and interior design thinking. 

Our Artistry House home is more than a workspace to us, it’s a place for big ideas and innovation, a living design workshop and an art gallery. Our design ethos is really inspired by the culture within and centres around people. 

With the breadth of skill set within our team we can think much further than your usual interior design studio and our process helps to curate the client’s vision with the needs of the audience. The result is a better use of a space, and a superior environment for the people within. Spaces to connect with others, places with real character and timeless warmth.

manchester museum interior inside

How would you describe the Artistry House’s style?

For us, design is all about character and experience. How a space makes you feel and how it reflects your personality. As a predominantly commercial studio our work is hugely influenced by the client’s vision and the narrative of the project. Our role is to help bring that vision to life and to guide the brief in a clear and considered direction. 

Although unusual for an interior design studio we don’t like to pigeonhole ourselves into a specific style. We always work sympathetically with a building's structure to create beautiful spaces that harmonise architectural style with interior. We are hugely influenced by art, we love mid century design and have a playfulness to our style; but whether it’s a heritage project or a contemporary scheme we are excited by the prospect of every brief being different and the opportunity to push the boundaries of design. 

manchester museum interior inside

What does the Artistry House “process” look like?

We offer a full interior & spatial design service, connecting projects with integral elements of the design scheme from architecture and brand to colour direction, art, specification and the final detailed styling process.

Our process starts with good conversation and getting to know the client, understanding the brief and their space. Following this our initial phase of work includes visual research, space planning and building narrative; this allows us to connect with our clients over a mutual vision leading us into an informed design concept.

We always bring our work to life using 3D visualisation, a process that allows the client to understand the concept in depth and visualise the space. At this point we are already thinking about specification, materiality, furniture and lighting so that we can bring together samples for client review. 

In our final stage we create a full design pack which has all of the relevant information for a contractor to complete the job on site and we support our clients through to final delivery and project styling. 

What learnings could you share about doing projects as large as the Manchester Museum?

Projects of this scale really remind us that collaboration is key. There are many roles and stakeholders to engage with and you have to create open and positive communication to allow the project to succeed. 

Also that doing the research and really getting to understand the client and their needs is of utmost importance. By aligning their values to the project from the very beginning you can really inspire people to deliver projects that stands out. 

manchester museum interior inside

What other tidbits are on the horizon for the Artistry House team?

We are working on a number of eclectic projects, in both commercial & residential, across the UK. A particular project we are excited to launch in the coming weeks is our concept for a high end luxury retail store, Maison 49, in Wilmslow, Cheshire. 

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Before we finish, could you let us know what three products on Portaire’s directory would make the Artistry House edit?

Of course! Here is a selection of our favourites. 

Source on Portaire: Artisans of Devizes, Hard & Ware, Armac Martin, Hendel & Hendel, Northern Lights, LEDS C4, Ateliers Zellij, YesColours and Croft

hello future: Manchester Museum’s £15 million transformation

With a legacy spanning over a century and thirty years, Manchester Museum stands tall as one of the United Kingdom's premier university museums. Designed by the illustrious architect Alfred Waterhouse (1830–1905), the original neo-Gothic structure serves as a venerable home to an extensive collection boasting approximately four and a half million objects, ranging from the realms of natural sciences to human cultures. 

Since its inception, the museum has been a hub for research and learning, playing a pivotal role in the city's contemporary research infrastructure. Today, it continues to be a critical institution fostering knowledge and exploration.

As part of the hello future £15 million transformation, Artistry House Interiors conceptualised and implemented the interior design for various non-gallery areas within the museum. These spaces encompassed the entrance area, reception, main hall, pop-up café, shop, main café, high-impact object displays, and a designated prayer room. The studio's innovative approach involved creating unobstructed interior spaces characterised by a vibrant interplay of colour, texture, and historical significance.

manchester museum interior inside

Environmental considerations were a key aspect of the project. “As the Museum is part of the University of Manchesters estate, we had to adhere to the universities Code of Practice for Design Teams. Factors such as; Sustainability, Low maintenance, future maintenance, replacement and recyclability were all at the forefront of the FF&E specification.”

Rose continues, “Modern design built to last was our outlook, we engaged with TAG Furniture consultants to assist us with choosing loose furniture for the project. We focused on using manufacturers that have sustainability manifestos that fell in line with our code of practice. Using brands such as; HAY, Audo, Arper and Howe.We also adopted a reuse attitude where possible, we were taken on a tour around the museum's vaults and storage to find any items of furniture that could be repurposed. We implemented recycled items into the shop fittings.”

manchester museum interior inside

Accessibility from a disability lens was also fundamental to the development of the new and improved Manchester Museum. “We had bespoke elements of the design that were created to accommodate accessibility for people with disabilities and wheelchair users. A variety of the loose furniture was specified for the same purpose.”

The end design scheme perfectly combines the traditional architecture of the museum’s building with contemporary, modern elements – giving the whole space a Scandinavian, warm yet simple feel. ‘Our interior scheme began with research into the museum’s past whilst focusing on the aspiration of creating a museum where “everybody is welcome”, representing and encouraging all cultures and generations to spend quality time within the museum’, says Artistry House interior designer Rose Peploe.

manchester museum interior inside

At the core of the project lay the imperative of establishing a seamless visual continuity throughout these non-gallery interior spaces. This involved the strategic presentation of high-impact objects, all while carefully considering the distinct functionality of each area, enhancing the overall visitor experience, and ensuring a smooth visitor flow.

Inspired by the museum’s fabulous collection of natural history and human culture exhibits, Artistry House developed a scheme consisting of historic colour textures, natural stones, brass and solid oak. Specifically, the studio partnered with Little Green Paints to curate the colour palette for the museum, including striking colours like Goblin, Nether Red and Cordoba.

manchester museum interior inside

Working in a Natural History Museum, when faced with choosing materiality, Artistry House was driven by authenticity. Rose says “We aimed to use as many raw materials as possible, such as brass, marble, granite and wood to reflect the ethos & longevity of the building. All materials were ethically & sustainably sourced and crafted by local trades.”

Most important of all, was the warm reception Manchester Museum’s community had to this new project. “It has been overwhelmingly positive, we have been informed from the client that they have surpassed the amount of visitors & revenue they ever expected in the first 6 months of opening.”

manchester museum interior inside