Cleethorpes retail designer's pride in completion of Royal Opera House commission

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 24 Oct 2018

The work of a Cleethorpes interior designer has formed a key part of the recently unveiled £50 million refurbishment of the Royal Opera House.

Angela Drinkall, half of the husband and wife team at the helm of London-based Drinkall Dean, has lead on the new retail space brought forward as part of the famous venue’s Open Up project.

London-based, the company was appointed in March last year after winning a tender, which tasked it with creating a new and contemporary shop that would reflect the rich heritage of the institution.

It is the latest prestigious completion to follow a run of cultural appointments in the capital and beyond, including shops and gallery spaces for many brands and institutions, with the Imperial War Museums and The Natural History Museum in the portfolio.

Proud of the latest work, Angela said “We wanted to create a space that sits firmly within the new architectural environment and a space inspired by the magic of performance at The Royal Opera House.” Keen to build on the theatre’s ability to “transport people and evoke emotions on many levels,” she said: “The Royal Opera House’s expertise for staging art productions was also a constant inspiration during the design process, and one that underpins the final design.”

The three-year refurbishment has transformed public spaces with inviting new entrances, extended foyers and terraces, a new café, bar and restaurant, too. All will welcome the public, not just ticket holders, in a first that aims to remove an elitist ideology. An additional world-class stage has been added in the brand new 400-seat Linbury Theatre.

The shop sits within the route between the new entrance on Bow Street and that of Covent Garden Piazza.

Many of the design features within the 100 sq m space reflect the multi-faceted theatrical provenance of the Royal Opera House. There are subtle reflections to this in the construction of the modular units; the tables, for example, are fitted with grand piano castors, allowing the space to be flexible and interchangeable, while giving the impression that the units are poised; like dancers en pointe. Even the book displays take the shape of a music stand.

Much of the furniture is large scale and bold, conjuring a sense of the craftsmanship of musical instruments. The units are largely constructed in walnut with antiqued brass with white as a background accent. The space itself is relaxed, and encourages extensive browsing.

Born in Hessle, Angela moved with her family to Cleethorpes as an eight-year-old, attending Bursar Primary School before being part of the first intake at newly built Signhills, where her late father helped build the swimming pool. She went on to Matthew Humberstone and then a foundation course at Grimsby Art College, under the highly respected Peter Todd, before heading to London. She studied Interior Design at Kingston University, moving on to the Royal College of Art for her Masters. Landing a job with Din Associates, a company that helped style the likes of Next and French Connection, she stayed there for 20 years, working mainly in retail, as well as on exhibitions, galleries and on occasional residential designs.

When the founder, Rasshied Din, retired she was a project director alongside her partner Paul Dean, who hails from Hull and who she had met there. The couple went alone, and now employ a team of six, and are based in Wandsworth.

“We went from being a fairly large business to a small business, but working on very similar schemes,” she said.

In 2010 Drinkall Dean landed the design of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes autumn season exhibition. “It all really came on the back of that, we started to design temporary exhibitions for museums, mainly in London,” she said.

“We started bringing our retail experience into these, started to mix retail and gallery, and then we tendered for and won the retail project for Imperial War Museum. It has gone from there.”

Currently, she is heading a project for The Science Museum, with work for English Heritage on the £1.6 million revamp of Whitby Abbey and the Lake District’s Lowther Castle also on the horizon, as well as work with National Trust for Scotland.

“These projects are all prestigious, and Royal Opera House was such a different project because we were working with the architect, Stanton Williams, as part of a much bigger team, on a project of a far greater scale, so it felt special,” Angela said. “We are really proud of all our work, we have wonderful clients, but this felt like quite a moment.

“It is a state-of-the-art institution and not in any way stuffy or fuddy-duddy. The use of technology is incredible from how they make the costumes to the stage. Every day is a different performance, and they start from scratch and build in hours.”

Pictures: Luke Hayes, Royal Opera House.

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