Iconic Barbican unit refreshed with new art and vintage furniture

A Barbican apartment interior design refresh by designer Oskar Kohnen blends modern minimalism and art with the Brutalist complex's original character in London

Oskar Kohnen's Barbican apartment with white dining table and black, white and grey art
(Image credit: Oskar Proctor )

A Barbican apartment interior has received a modern refresh by Oskar Kohnen Studio. East London based Kohnen leads an interior architecture and design studio that tackles spatial challenges with substance and refinement, through modern design and the use of art, and the case of this redesign of a Type 23 apartment in London's famous brutalist housing estate is no exception. 

Built between 1965 and 1975 to a design by architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, the brutalist architecture of the Barbican Estate is iconic of its genre. The particular apartment featured all the hallmarks of a typical Barbican penthouse, stretching from north to south and including signature barrel vaulted ceilings, long City views and original 1960s fittings and fixtures. 

Living room with cream couch, a side table with green plant and large windows with view of the city

(Image credit: Oskar Proctor )

Kohnen employed a minimalist touch, maintaining the 20th century character of the apartment interior design and enriching it with contemporary interventions and mod-cons, such as a Swedish design kitchen, custom-made door hardware and bespoke bathroom fittings. Window frames were restored, walls were polished and kept their original off-white colour, and the decor remained clean and simple, based on craft and the original design's modernist approach.  

Complementing the architecture, the interior was filled with a collection of vintage and modern furniture and art. ‘The Senzafine sofa from 1969, a prototype for Zanotta by Eleonore Peduzzi Riva who co-designed the famous DS-600, is situated facing out to help residents enjoy the view,' says Kohnen. ‘It is a perfect example of the utopian optimism of this era, that was dominated by young architects and designers being able to realise their ideas at large scale.'

Other pieces in this modern apartment interior design include the 1969 Biscia dining table and chairs by Pascal Mourgue for Steiner Paris, Mario Bellini's 1966 Amanta armchair for B&B Italia, and vintage lights by Iguzzini and Artemide. The products sit next to art, such as a large self-portrait by German 1980s avant-garde painter Markus Oehlen, and works on paper by the Czech sculptor Vaclav Pozarek. 

Cream couch, brown dining room chair, white walls and modern art in Barbican apartment

(Image credit: Oskar Proctor )

Cream couch, side tables with green plant and art on the wall in Barbican apartment

(Image credit: Oskar Proctor )

Entrance to Barbican apartment with a blue door

(Image credit: Oskar Proctor )

Terrace of Barbican apartment with orange chairs and green plants

(Image credit: Oskar Proctor )

Bedroom in the Barbican apartment with mustard bedding and side table with books

(Image credit: Oskar Proctor )

Dining room with white table, brown chairs and white walls in Barbican apartment

(Image credit: Oskar Proctor )

Look out from the bathroom in the Barbican apartment

(Image credit: Oskar Proctor )

INFORMATION

oskarkohnen.com (opens in new tab)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).

With contributions from