‘We are often asked about our house style. The truth is we don’t have one. We are only interested in interpreting our clients,’ says architect Graham Harris, co-founder and MD of premier London-based chartered architects and interior design practice SHH. ‘We leave our egos by the door and give the client what they want.’ And nothing is beyond their means, he adds, not walk-in humidors, nor memory mirrors, nor private wine cellars.
Along with lifetime friends architect David Spence and designer Neil Hogan, Harris runs a smooth operation of over fifty architects, designers and specialist CGI artists, creating tailor-made super-high-end residential and hospitality projects with ‘integrity, intelligence and flair’. ‘We’re able to do everything from the architecture, interiors, fabrics and furniture for one-off super-homes and commercial properties, whereas normally, at that level, you’d bring in many teams. We keep the flow seamless,’ says Harris, who says he ‘basically grew up on a building site’. All three come from construction backgrounds, in fact, and Spence is the very ‘rare breed’ of builder turned architect. ‘We build 95% of what we draw,’ Harris says.
Harris brought the trio together in 1992 when they started off doing graphic design projects for Harvey Nicholls and London Zoo from Harris’ West Hampstead flat. They then moved into pure architecture and design quickly attracting attention for their revolutionary conversions in West London, notably the Princes Gate Mews house which made it into the AJ and got them the nickname ‘the muse kids of Kensington’.
‘We actually turned the accommodation upside down – sliding roofs, bedrooms downstairs – and people thought we were being too radical with the design,’ says Harris. ‘We created loft style living in the middle of Knightsbridge, which no one had done before.’
Their approach seems to be working: twenty five years since they started, they boast clients as far-flung as Beijing, Dubai and Lagos, where they recently completed at 30,000 square foot new build villa. Closer to home, working with Grosvenor and Crown estates, they have completed a number of projects in Regent’s Park and Belgravia where they are currently working on a Grade 1 listed building that will go on sale early next year for about £100million. ‘We have a unique knowledge of London’s super-prime residential markets,’ says Harris.
On the hospitality side, a major London hotel, private aircraft terminals, bespoke bars, the restaurants at Royal Ascot and Wimbledon’s Court No. 1 are just a few of their projects, all of which ‘represent the aspirational lifestyle’ to which SHH cater. ‘Our clients are captains of industry, celebrities, mostly those we can’t name. As they say: “those who know know”,’ says Harris.
A defining glory will always be the ‘15,000 foot contemporary house complete with waterslides over-looking Hampstead Heath’, however, a recent success included acquiring planning permission for Athlone House, a stunning restoration project in London – that will be restored to its former glory.