Stephen Friedman Gallery by David Kohn is infused with subtly playful elegance

Stephen Friedman Gallery gets a new home by David Kohn in London, filled with elegant details and colourful accents

Stephen Friedman Gallery exterior nighttime view
(Image credit: Max Creasy)

When we first visited the new Stephen Friedman gallery on Cork Street, in London’s Mayfair, we knew we were unlikely to encounter the 'white box' often associated with the art world. When the acclaimed gallerist had decided to relocate his business to the new address (moving from nearby Old Burlington Street), he had called upon David Kohn. The award-winning London architect is known for his considered and characterful takes that often play with colour and shape, as seen in projects such as the Red House, which won RIBA House of the Year 2022.  

Stephen Friedman Gallery gate with blue metal door

(Image credit: Max Creasy)

The new Stephen Friedman Gallery is generous, including ample exhibition space with a street-facing, glass-glazed frontage; expansive, bespoke-designed offices for the business's staff; and a bonus rear garden, which is perfect for events and art activations, offering a flexible, mini urban sculpture park in the heart of London.

Stephen Friedman Gallery interior

(Image credit: Max Creasy)

'I wanted to rethink the gallery,' Kohn says, explaining that he was keen to create a flowing, unified space – front and back – and windows to get daylight in, for the displays, yes, but also for the staff working there daily. 'And the outside space here is for all [visitors and staff]. There’s a kiosk, a terrace, and it’s very much used by everyone.' 

Stephen Friedman Gallery interior with long meeting table

(Image credit: Max Creasy)

Inside, it's all about material surfaces and details, with bespoke timber joinery elevating the interior throughout. Kohn stresses it was important for him to introduce a design that speaks to the human scale – that feels warm and comfortable but also refined. 

It is a combination that resonates with the gallerist too. 'I love the mix of design and art, it’s the way I like to live. It creates a very comfortable environment,' Stephen Friedman says.

Stephen Friedman Gallery interior with library

(Image credit: Max Creasy)

The circulation spaces connecting everything were pivotal in the openness of this design – from the softly curved staircase in the gallery to the beautifully sculptural workspace at the rear, and the bright blue terrace steps that lead to a little balcony, its outline playfully, abstractly shaped like an elephant. 

'The flow is great,’ says Kohn. 'The joinery has a coherent, curved language. There’s a feeling and an encouragement to move between spaces and take the journey through the gallery.'

Stephen Friedman Gallery exterior in rear garden and blue stairs

(Image credit: Max Creasy)

Friedman says: 'Our ambition, along with [property owner] The Pollen Estate and David Kohn, is for the gallery to become a leading space both creatively and functionally. Cork Street’s history and its revival as an arts destination is a testament to London as a vital part of the global art world. We are incredibly proud to work with such exceptional artists and want to support them in the best ways we can. By undertaking such a significant development, we are creating a major pathway towards future growth.'

Stephen Friedman Gallery rear garden with green pavilion

(Image credit: Max Creasy)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director 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), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).