In London’s Shoreditch, The Book Club is attracting crowds not only for its cool eclectic space, interesting menu and exhibition space, but also for its unique Ping Pong room!
Once upon a time in Shoreditch, London, there was a popular club called ‘Home’. It shut down, leaving office-goers and the residents of the area bereft of a cool place to hang out in. Enter architects Shai Akram and Andrew Haythornthwaite. They were commissioned to redo the space which was christened The Book Club.
The Book Club offers the Shoreditch area two levels of space for workshops, exhibitions, creative events, talks, good food at reasonable prices, and of course, ping-pong!
At the entrance, potted plants hanging on the wall beckon welcomingly. A graphic, reminiscent of the tube map, gives out directions for the two floors. The sign was hand-painted to reflect the detail and time the owners gave the project – there are no short cuts here.
Inside, the space is very different from what ‘Home’ used to be. The wallpaper, low ceilings and false walls were all taken down to create an open clean space. Everything was re-arranged by the designers, including the wiring.
The ground floor features the lounge, canteen, bar, ping pong area and restrooms. Full-length windows bring in the outside, and flood the loft space with natural light. The brick walls have been left exposed lending an industrial feel to the rooms, which is further enhanced by the exposed electrical wiring. Cut-outs in the walls allow customers to see through to the other rooms.
The furniture is simple and functional. Mismatched vintage chairs, antiques and other found furniture blend in beautifully with long canteen tables which were especially commissioned for the space.
The Bar stands out from the red brickwork thanks to its floor to ceiling white subway tiling and hints of mosaic. The tiles are used not just as a design feature but also as a substitute white-board. The cocktail menu is written directly onto the tiles with a dry-erase marker! The Book Club logo also gets pride of place here in a black, edgy twist to mosaic work.
London, though, is flocking to The Book Club for ping-pong. The Book Club doesn’t just have a ping-pong table; it has a whole room devoted to the game. Ping-pong paddles dress up the wall and they are not entirely there for a decorative purpose. Guests are invited to bring their own paddles (and there are many who do – it is a competitive sport!) and padlock them to the hooks provided.
Long wooden planks clad the room and provide warmth. The curtains, from roll ends, provide a kitschy feel to the room. Downstairs, in the clubbing areas, the airiness of the dining area is replaced by a funky vibe. Removing a false wall during construction revealed huge ducting, which the designers have chosen to showcase rather than hide. Backlit, these pipes blend in and stand out at the same time.
The most arresting part of The Book Club, though, is not its ping-pong room (no matter how popular). It is the Ceiling of Bulbs. Inspired by a scene in the Norwegian film ‘The Bothersome Man’ the bulb ceiling has 23,000 bulbs over a 500-sq.ft area. The designers brought in friends to help them with this project, getting them to twist wire around the bulb bayonet, which were then tied to sheets of mesh stretched across wooden frames. The effect of the ceiling, when lights are on (not all the 23,000 bulbs are lit, thankfully!) is simply spectacular. What a brilliant space, in every sense, to dance under. Disco-balls are outdated anyway.
And what is a book club without books? While the clients originally proposed a library in the space, they had to shelve the idea (no pun intended) for cost constraints. Instead, they stacked an alcove with books from floor to ceiling. There are no shelves. The look is fun, but one wonders if customers are warned to be extra-careful when they take a book out of the pile.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Sylvain Deleu