Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Architect has grand designs on new HQ

AN award-winning Henley architect’s practice has moved to bigger premises in the town.

AN award-winning Henley architect’s practice has moved to bigger premises in the town.

Spratley Studios, which was previously based at Isis House off Station Road, has made a “significant investment” in its refurbishment of a former warehouse at Centenary Business Park.

The firm develops projects across London and the Thames Valley and was recently honoured by the Royal Institute of British Architects for its work on the University of Oxford’s Ruskin School of Art building.

It was running out of space for its 30 staff at the old 2,000 sq ft site, which has been purchased by a new owner who intends to convert it into flats.

Now the company, launched by Henley-born architect Jeremy Spratley in 2003, has 4,000 sq ft over two storeys and could eventually expand to 50 or 60 employees.

Mr Spratley removed the large roller door at the front of the unit, which is also off Station Road, and replaced it with a glass-fronted entrance.

He installed air conditioning throughout the building and a large open-plan kitchen on the ground floor. There are now meeting rooms upstairs and downstairs plus a reception area displaying photographs and models of the firm’s recent projects.

When Mr Spratley learned he would have to leave Isis House, he initially struggled to find bigger offices in Henley that he could afford to rent. The 50-year-old then got planning permission to convert the premises, which were previously occupied by furniture rental business Place Settings, four months ago and moved in at the start of this month.

Mr Spratley said his practice could now remain in Henley for at least another decade. He said: “We were so full at the old place that we were bursting at the seams.

“This is a good, spacious unit though we’ve spent a lot of cash making it look nice. I see this as ‘gentrification’ of an industrial unit and I think you’re going to see a lot more of that as offices are pushed further and further out.

“This turned out to be a lucky find as we’ve been able to put our own stamp on it and show our creative abilities to clients and, if you time it right, you can get into central London in 45 minutes, so you’re almost as near as some firms in east London but with a quarter of the running costs.”

Mr Spratley, whose brother Richard coaches Oxford Brookes University’s rowing team and was recently named GB Rowing’s coach of the year, grew up in Fawley and attended King James College in Deanfield Avenue, Henley.

He studied architecture at Kingston Polytechnic and was working for a London practice before he struck out on his own. He started with six staff and was renting premises on the corner of Station Road and Queen Street, Henley, now occupied by ART Security, before he moved to Isis House in 2006.

He now lives in Cookham while his father John, also an architect, and mother Margaret live in Hambleden.

In 2013 Spratley Studios built new offices for luxury watch maker Bremont at Sawmills on the Culden Faw estate, off Marlow Road near Henley.

The oak-framed building was named best small commercial development in the 2013 Local Authority Building Excellence Awards and highly commended in that year’s Chiltern Building Design Awards.

The firm is about to begin building another new headquarters for Bremont at Sheephouse Farm, off Reading Road, which was granted planning permission last month. It is also working on two 100,000 sq ft office redevelopments off the M4 flyover in Chiswick.

Mr Spratley added: “Being based in Henley is a big part of our identity and a strong selling point. Clients love coming here and it has a good business reputation.

“We’re going to focus on growing organically rather than having a grand scheme to take over the world but I never thought we’d get this far — we have accomplished way more than I thought would be possible when I started the business.”

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