Thanks to their heritage expertise, Lapworth Architects were engaged to restore this classically Georgian building in Edgbaston – now home to the Michelin-starred Simpsons.
20 Highfield Road – now home to Simpsons Restaurant – is in a prominent position by Highfield Road and Westbourne Crescent in the Calthorpe Estate. Its main elevation faces the Grade I listed St George’s Church, and is itself Grade II listed.
The building was constructed as a dwelling around 1830 and was extended and altered on more than one occasion during the Victorian and Edwardian Periods, leading to a rather confused layout and unsympathetic additions that took away from its considerable charm.
From the late 1950s, like many buildings in Edgbaston, the building was converted and used as offices but it had been unoccupied for over eight years before Lapworth Architects refurbished the handsome building for use by Simpsons, a legendary Birmingham meeting place for gourmets.
The brief from the now Michelin-starred Simpsons Restaurant was to convert the ground floor accommodation into dining areas and the kitchen, together with main entrance, reception and lounge bar area.
The previous refurbishment into an office had changed the character of many parts of the building with incongruous, unsuitable additions and the removal of many of the house’s original Georgian features that had originally led it to be listed.
The existing building was in poor condition before the restoration, with damage caused by the theft of the fireplaces and other items was also evident, as well as deterioration from general neglect. The old roof had leaked in several areas, causing serious damage to the interior areas and the veranda.
Our design incorporated the later additions to the building in a sensitive way, opening the downstairs up into a spacious dining room suitable for the ambitious cuisine the new chef served to make sure Simpsons remained a hub of local gastronomy.
To make the most of the generous proportions of the building, this project included us restoring the elegant Regency veranda of the dwelling to be integrated into the conservatory dining area.
Simpsons restaurant also wanted to covert the first floor level into a cooking school, together with four bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. The second floor was to be converted into facilities for staff and the restaurant wanted to refurbish the basement as a wine cellar for the finest vintages in the West Midlands.
The scale of the project and the previous use of the building meant we had to carefully unpick the damage caused, then create the restaurant facilities and also restore the building in keeping with its listed status.
This project was a real challenge, but is a fantastic example of Lapworth Architects’ skill at modernising Birmingham’s beautiful historic buildings for contemporary uses. Bon appétit!