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FOLLOWING an £8m transformation, the Grade II listed Leighton House has reopened to the public. The former home of artist Frederick Leighton, a previous president of the Royal Academy, the building is famed for its opulent interiors, filled with art and treasures acquired by Leighton on his travels.

Architects BDP restored and adapted the historic building to include a new entrance, gallery, learning centre and café with significantly improved, step-free access throughout the museum. The sensitive restoration has preserved the original integrity of the house and transformed the way it is used by visitors, meeting the needs of a modern-day museum.

The architect identified Junckers’ flooring in the early design stages to inform cost planning and detailed design. BDP had specified Junckers on several previous projects and felt they could be sure of product quality and consistency, as well as expert technical support.

Given the importance and extent of the new timber flooring for the project, BDP settled on Black Oak Boulevard early in the design process in order to inform decisions on colour and detailing for adjacent joinery such as bespoke high skirting, handrails and architrave surrounds, which were all detailed to match the floor. The building has several different types of substrate and services considerations.

BDP worked closely with Junckers’ technical department to ensure detailing and specifications were robust and integrated for a solid wood product.

The restoration and new additions to Leighton House sit in complete harmony with the original interiors. The use of high-quality design and materials throughout reflects the rich visual language created by Leighton. Junckers Black Oak flooring, specified for its rich, dark tones, reportedly forms a warm and tactile backdrop to several areas.

David Artis, architect director, BDP described the design process: ‘It’s about subtle interventions that don’t detract from the overall legibility of the building.’

Junckers approved flooring contractor PICA Floorings installed Black Oak Boulevard, a 185mm wide plank floor in several areas of the museum, including as treads and risers for the bespoke helical staircase spanning three flights.

The staircase installation included stainless-steel non-slip inserts on every tread and elsewhere the Black Oak flooring was fitted over underfloor heating which was incorporated in the subfloor after close consultation at the design stage.

In addition, PICA Floorings made bespoke access hatches required by the museum to enable moving artworks from one area to another. To ensure minimal waste during the installation process, materials were delivered to site in stages.

Junckers Black Oak flooring is made by mimicking the natural process known as ‘bog oak’ where timber left submerged in bog conditions takes on a rich, dark hue. The colour is drawn deep into the wood, unlike a surface stain.

This method enables sanding and refinishing of the floor without loss of colour. The floor has a crevice-free surface which cannot harbour dust or mites and it’s reportedly easy to keep clean and maintain. Made in solid wood, it contributes to a healthy indoor climate by maintaining an even temperature in a room and minimising static from electrical devices.

Junckers flooring carries the Danish Indoor Climate Label, which is recognised by BREEAM, having undergone extensive degassing and odour testing to ensure no harmful gases are released into the room.

Restoring and adapting existing buildings is an important part of designing and building in a more sustainable way. By upgrading older properties and making them net zero carbon ready, historic and heritage buildings are safeguarded and ensured a sustainable future.

Junckers says its solid hardwood flooring, ‘a material which is naturally low in embodied carbon, forms an integral part of the project with its proven long lifespan. With an expected design life of well over 60 years, the floor forms part of the design to future-proof the museum.

‘The importance of high ethical standards is often a key objective for materials sourcing, particularly for publicly funded projects. BDP was able to rely on Junckers’ sustainably sourced and manufactured wood flooring complete with sustainability credentials including EPDs, FSC, PEFCTM and Indoor Climate certification as well as a BRE Green Guide rating of A+.’

With the building having been in use for some time, it’s safe to say the installation has fulfilled the brief for a durable floor and at the same time provides a backdrop which is in perfect harmony with the overall aesthetic of the historic house.

Best of all, says Junckers, there’s good feedback from the client: ‘The public’s reaction to the new wing at Leighton House has been fantastic and the Junckers flooring has been a big part of this. Its rich, dark appearance has given the new spaces their identity and character and immediately conveys the quality that we’ve worked hard to achieve.

‘A centrepiece of the new wing is the helical staircase where the flooring is key to creating a fantastic new experience for visitors in combination with the mural ‘Oneness’ by the artist Shahrzad Ghaffari,’ said Daniel Robbins, senior curator at Leighton House Museum.

The development of Leighton House was supported by Kensington and Chelsea Council and Friends of the Leighton House project alongside a £1.6m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
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