Sowerbys open for business - and pleasure in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 14:35 17 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:27 17 February 2015

The new Sowerbys estate agents office.

The new Sowerbys estate agents office. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

Estate agents Sowerbys have opened for business in Norwich in one of the city's most beautiful period buildings.

The new Sowerbys estate agents office.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe new Sowerbys estate agents office. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

One of Norwich’s most well known buildings in the heart of the city has been shrouded in scaffolding and mystery while work was going on to transform it into the new Norwich HQ for country agent Sowerbys. It recently opened for business. It’s hard to believe that in such a short time, the renowned former architect’s office at Bank of England Court, Queen Street has been transformed from what resembled a building site into this elegant suite of period rooms. The building – originally a bank and then from 1875, famous architect Edward Boardman’s office – was bought by Max Sowerby last year with a vision of bringing his country agency brand to the city and making the three storey building not just an office but a club with an exclusive ‘hunting lodge’ feel – right in one of the city’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfares. “There is a lot of competition in estate agency in the city and I knew if Sowerbys expanded into Norwich, we needed to be able to offer something special for customers,” said Mr Sowerby. “I had this idea of creating a ladies and gentleman’s club where our clients can come and sit in beautiful surroundings, read the papers and have a coffee – all in the warm in winter and enjoying our outside terrace and inner courtyard in the summer. A concierge will meet and greet people as they come in and whilst this is a throw-back to the old style of superior customer service, we are also introducing some really impressive new technology too such as the use of specially commissioned iPads which display our properties and services which we leave with potential customers. Of course we are estate agents and here to sell properties but we really think if you can enjoy beautiful surroundings or become a member of our club which means you can use our board room for functions or attend our special events, it’s all part of an extra special service that I don’t believe any other agent is offering.” Mr Sowerby and his co-director Lloyd Sandy chose interior designer Paula Gundry to make the project happen.

You walk in to a beautiful hallway with an original Victorian tiled floor off which is the sales office with a marble fireplace. Paula had the walls painted in Farrow and Ball’s down pipe, including all woodwork, plantation shutters and skirting. “On this was placed a wonderful light fitting, a sconce by Heathfield, a company used in many of London’s top hotels,” said Paula. As a special touch, fixtures from sets of drawers used to store original plans were added to desks to reflect the fact this was Boardman’s office and a natural grass flooring was laid. Complying with the listing, structural work was carried out to create a glass walkway linking the front sales offices to the rear where there is a courtyard and the client’s lounge. A medieval church forms part of the actual wall within this room which Max Sowerby had exposed so you can see its brick and flintwork as a special feature. For Paula this was an interesting challenge. “The brief was to create a comfortable area within which clients could relax. I designed a beautiful wing chair made from a very soft duck egg blue velvet, and with a toile linen seat. Leather chairs, with antique stud work and a bespoke sofa in a Wedgewood coloured velvet were also designed. But the show stealing feature is a huge mural on one wall of curlews and concealed within this is the door.” Off this are beautifully dressed client’s wash rooms and upstairs is the boardroom – again this had to make a statement. Paula said: “The feel is very elegant, it is a statement room with an stunning wallpaper by Cole and Son showing images of beautiful buildings in Italy. The lighting is more rustic with a fun twist, in the form of a fake ‘antler’ chandelier and four fake ‘antler’ wall lights. I designed a gold buttoned chair made in moire fabric which has a wavy, watery appearance. Max himself sourced an antique table which seats 12 and is complemented by leather and hessian button backed chairs. We also decided to make the most of the fantastic fireplace. I suggested we lit it from within to highlight the beautiful brickwork.” Every corner of this building has been dressed – with fabrics by William Morris on window seats and curtains that puddle on the floor. In the commercial office where there is some fabulous original panelling, Paula used Farrow and Ball’s

mizzle shade and in the hall, a mustard and black wallpaper by Pier Frey depicting floor plans and elevations of historic buildings. One of the biggest decisions was which colour to paint the outside of the building – which was a period blue shade but which Paula advised should be changed to French grey and slate lime from the Little Green Paint company.

The result – take a look as Sowerbys, Bank of England Court, Queen Street, Norwich is open!


You can contact Sowerbys in Norwich on 01603 558153.

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