Refreshing Islamabad

Refreshing Islamabad

Project: Residence refurbishment
Customer: FCO (ESD)
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan

The High Commissioner’s residence in Islamabad was built in the seventies and filled with furniture from the closed residence in Karachi, the old capital. It has remained largely unchanged since due to lack of budget. Outdated furniture, aging curtain treatments and faded carpets did not reflect the modern, innovative and professional service of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. FCO Services were asked to bring the residence up to date with a minimal budget.

After visiting the residence, designs were developed in London, using a combination of bespoke pieces and off-the-shelf items from trusted UK suppliers. It was important for design elements to reflect our relationship with the host country and in doing so we were able to use special pieces provided by the UK Crafts Council, including a crafted bowl made by British-Pakistani artist Halima Cassell.

We are very pleased with the result.  The colour schemes in the sitting areas are bright and welcoming, complementing new items from the Government Art Collection.   The dining and reception areas – unchanged for decades – have been transformed to areas which are inviting and uplifting.   The use of local motifs in fabrics and accessories was an inspired idea.   Much positive feedback received and most importantly we now have a Residence that befits the UK’s second biggest diplomatic mission in the network – and projects a professional, contemporary and inspiring image to the thousands of visitors who pass through our doors every year. Our thanks to all who worked on this project. It really has been transformational.

Tom Drew, British High Commissioner to Pakistan, and his wife Joanna Roper, FCO Special Envoy for Gender Equality

The main entertaining room was designed with a large modular sofa, capable of being re-arranged into different configurations, with breakout areas of seating at each end of the room. All three areas sit on custom-made rugs featuring a modern graphic interpretation of Mughal-era fretwork.

In the entrance hall, we designed a special circular rug, inspired by motifs in the Pakistani flag. An ornamental chest from northern Swat region reinforces the cultural selection and a mix of modern shapes and local motifs was achieved with careful selection of fabrics and furniture. The colour scheme was kept subtle to create a sense of calm, and a new lighting plan uses cordless light boxes and dimmable LED downlights to cater for evening diplomatic events.

The project was received by all as a fresh, modern transformation to what had been a neglected space, providing the High Commission with a whole new suite of stylish reception rooms, fit to host all types of events and coinciding with celebrations to mark 70 years of UK-Pakistani relations.