National Theatre

If it ain’t broke, make it better


Due to our significant expertise, IVORY have been trusted with interior design projects for some of London’s greatest listed buildings, including the Barbican Arts Centre and historic headquarters of The Law Society.


These places already have history and personality that must be respected. We have a track record of navigating the challenge this represents to create interior design that enhances and celebrates the beautiful building surrounding it.

The National Theatre is a grade I listed building on London’s South Bank. We were invited to redesign the theatre’s Lyttelton Café and Espresso Bar. The new space had to conform to English Heritage preservation requirements (even down to the materials used), but also embody the forward-thinking nature of the contemporary National Theatre. It had to attract a new younger audience to the space, but also avoid alienating loyal regulars.


Our solution fused the elegance of Denys Lasdun’s original architecture with a more contemporary feel. We connected the design language of the Café and Espresso Bar in an overall scheme that rhymed with the theatre around it, while a palette of man-made stone and warm dark timber gave the spaces a material relationship to the larger environment. In terms of the layout, we took a lot of care with visual sight lines so the café was easily locatable but didn’t attract attention to itself when not in operation (as the theatre is often open when it is not).

Based on this work we were called in by the theatre to consult on how the front-of-house visitor experience could be improved. Our suggestions were to open up the front of the theatre to the river, reposition and re-plan key customer interfaces, and make these more visible and intuitive to use. Together, this would create an elegant but functional combination of booking, retail and information.

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