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Bernard Interiors founder, Jen Bernard reveals her approach to creating a luxurious urban retreat for retirees in central London

Creating exceptional later living environments is something that Jen Bernard, founder of Bernard Interiors is passionate about.

Her interior architectural design practice has over 12 years experience in the sector and is part of the Audley Villages development team, designing the interiors for luxury retirement villages all throughout the UK, including the newly-opened Nightingale Place in Clapham, South London.

Completed during the first lockdown in June 2020, Nightingale Place comprises 94 apartments and penthouses overlooking Clapham Common and is the first central London development for Audley Villages.

The leisure facilities form the Audley Club, including a restaurant, bar bistro, cinema, pool and health spa. Jen and her talented team have created a haven of peace and relaxation in the capital for those over 55.

“The events of 2020 have reinforced the need for creating a strong sense of community. Outdoor spaces which can be enjoyed all year round as well as spaces which allow people to connect safely,” says Jen.

“The pandemic has highlighted how positive retirement villages are, with owners living in their own homes, surrounded by 5 star facilities with 24 hour care on hand, should it be needed.”

The brief for Nightingale Place was to create a unique hospitality interior for the Audley Club at the heart of the village. Many of Audley’s villages are situated within the grounds of a heritage building, utilising the main house for the Audley Club.

“This allows us to draw upon the history of each building for design inspiration. As Nightingale Place is an entirely new and urban development, inspiration has been taken from the adjacent Clapham Common, London and popular culture. We’ve mixed classic and contemporary to create a truly unique interior,” enthuses Jen.

The reception combines classic and contemporary perfectly to form a welcoming and vibrant entrance, setting the tone for the rest of the scheme.

Our inspiration for everything – from the colour palette to the artwork – has come from the surrounding area of Nightingale Place, London life and the experiences of the village’s future residents.

The statement curved sofa upholstered in mustard velvet is teamed with retro inspired cushions, positioned in-front of beautiful, bronze laser cut screens.

“The bespoke screens are installed throughout the ground floor to create defined areas whilst allowing light to filter through. Tub chairs upholstered in geometric prints are reminiscent of the famous London Underground fabric designed by Enid Marx, echoing the close proximity of the ‘Clapham South’ northern line tube station” continues Jen.

The restaurant design is inspired by Joe Gilmore, head barman at The Savoy Hotel’s elegant American Bar from 1955 to 1976, and the bar’s high society clientele.

Along with the private dining room, both spaces are elegant and refined, combining shades of blue, grey and terracotta with dark wood and classic ceramics.

The bar bistro is influenced by 1970’s pop culture, featuring timber décor panelling and bar stools upholstered in oxblood leather with black studding.

“Our inspiration for everything – from the colour palette to the artwork – has come from the surrounding area of Nightingale Place, London life and the experiences of the village’s future residents. Bold and vibrant large scale artworks line the communal corridors, and the pool and spa create a serene sanctuary in the city. Each area has its own identity, with the overall linking theme of a luxurious, relaxing urban retreat.” explains Jen.

Q&A with Jen Bernard.

Q) What do you believe are the key elements for designing interiors for luxury retirement villages?

A) Creating successful luxury interiors for retirement villages requires a special skill set. In terms of aesthetics, we consider high end residential and hotel design.

We also examine care and retirement sector specific regulations, requirements and research. Our motivation is that good interior design can enhance people’s lives.

When someone makes their first visit to look round a retirement village, they should feel comfortable and confident that their expectations will be met and that this is a home from home.

Q: How did the design process start for the interiors at Nightingale Place?

A: Every new development is a new place, a new venue, a new destination and a new home.

At Nightingale Place, we looked at the location and the people who will live there to create the story.

Telling the story through the design gives context, creating links with the local community and surroundings.

Q: Did you face any challenges throughout the project?

As Nightingale Place is an entirely new development, one of the biggest challenges we faced was to create a homely feel, as though the property has been lived in for years.

It’s a lot easier to create this in a heritage building steeped in history!

It is definitely more contemporary than the other developments we have worked on, we worked hard to create a very warm and welcoming feel, whilst maintaining Audley’s strong brand identity.

Another key challenge was to complete during the pandemic!

Q) Do you have a highlight of the project?

A) One memorable highlight was a conversation with two owners in the library, at a 2m distance wearing masks of course, who were so enthusiastic about the end result and excited to start their new chapter at Nightingale Place.