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Wood, Hide and Horsepower

Timber Floors, Spring 2000

'The finest motorcycle retail environment in Europe.'

'Leaf through any home interest magazine and you'll see how many things look good against timber floors - stylish sofas, exotic rugs, ceramics, sculpture, enormous pot plants. But if you go to the new £3m Warr's showroom on London's King's Road, you will realise that what goes best of all with timber flooring is Harley-Davidson motorbikes.

'These iconic American machines clearly deserve the best and the 75-year-old Warr's dealership has thrown the lot at them. The spectacular showcase features massive windows wrapped around the whole of the curved frontage. Light fittings are the latest ceramic metal discharge lamps and the back wall uses Guestling Red hand-made bricks. The overall aim of architects Cullum and Nightingale was to complement the Harley's unique blend of hi-tech and rugged, out west Americana.

'Completing the image with interest is the 300m3 of suspended wood flooring.

'Throughout the architects specified heavy duty 20x100mm lacquered black American walnut which looks as though it just moseyed out of some New Mexican hacienda, spurs clinking.

'To withstand the wear and tear of the Harleys being wheeled around (and not to put up with any oil leaks, because Harley's don't have 'em) the wood has been finished in tough but discreet lacquer.

'"The materials as a whole are unadorned and were selected on their combination of quality and their capacity to grow old gracefully," said architect Richard Nightingale. "Wood was specifically chosen because of its strength and beauty, and to create a space that doesn't look like a workshop."

'The floor was fitted by Northamptonshire-based Activity Flooring Systems and the installation took several weeks. Warr's declined to reveal the cost, but this was clearly a job where quality was uppermost and the money was no object.

'Completing the effect, other fixtures and fittings are also in walnut, including the massive central counter, which is inlaid in dressed leather to match Harley saddles and accessories, and weighs over a ton. The structure also includes the showroom's ventilation grills in its plinth, with the air actually circulating under the floor. "That's another reason timber was chosen," said project architect Edward Rutherfoord. "It acts as a plenum for the air conditioning, so could not be rigid."

'The end result, in the words of the dealership's managing director John Warr, is "without doubt the finest motorcycle retail environment in Europe". From the timber floors angle alone, you can't argue with that.'