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This time, the building has effectively been gutted to create what James Knight, managing director of Bonhams Knightsbridge, describes as “friendly, accessible” salerooms offering high-frequency auctions for all and aimed at bringing in a new buying public to augment their ambitions of capturing a bigger market share from their rivals.

The costly refurbishment puts the Knightsbridge rooms at the hub of the company’s plans for its London sales with auction activity divided between here and their Bond Street rooms.

The project is designed to fulfill two ambitions: the physical redistribution and expansion of departments, salerooms and public facilities to create a more effective day-to-day operation, and the reinforcement of the Bonhams’ brand.

At the same time as increasing the number and versatility of the salerooms, with removable walls, departments have been relocated to reduce movement of fragile objects around the building to a minimum and improve security. The jewellery, silver and clocks departments surround the hub of the imaging studio, reducing the need for cumbersome longcases to be humped through numerous narrow doorways when it comes to taking photographs for catalogues. Viewing and salerooms have their respective departments next door or as close as possible. The delivery process is also now more secure.

At the front of house, designer Clare Agnew has taken up Robert Brooks’ offer to spend pretty freely. He has given public facilities – reception, catalogue display, valuation desks/rooms and lavatories – maximum priority. The space has been opened up to create a larger, lighter and brighter modern public face for the company, with understated slate greys and granite mixed with cream walls.

A great deal of time and money has been spent on getting the lighting right for all areas, and the warren of wires and ducts that ran up walls and across ceilings has all been ordered out of sight.

This clearing of clutter and presenting a clean and finished look has been deemed as important to explaining what Bonhams is all about as improved client services and the upgrading of computer

The refurbishment plus a programme of over 150 sales per year adds up to a considerable investment in the Knightsbridge rooms which will be one of the two primary London salerooms alongside New Bond Street. “It was natural to commit to Knightsbridge” said James Knight. “We have got four buildings in London as a result of the merger... there is no point in denying the fact that we don’t need four as main, primary salerooms. We feel that two is a good focus. New Bond Street is geographically close to Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Bayswater a little bit more off the beaten track, and the location of Knightsbridge is much stronger... we will keep the other two buildings, the facility to have sales will still be there but it will become more administrative based.”

Both Knightsbridge and New Bond Street have a full programme of sales with their own specialist departments, some unique to each location. Knightsbridge will be the venue for high-frequency auctions like Bonhams’ weekly sales of furniture, carpets and objects and picture sales and for the monthly or regular sales of ceramics, jewellery, silver and horology. It will also be the place for periodic specialist sales devoted to Islamic and tribal art and antiquities as well as arms, armour and sporting guns all of whose specialist departments are also located solely here. Knightsbridge is also the location for the automotive department although cars are sold in other locations and it will be the venue for collectors’ sales although that department is still based at Chelsea.

James Knight is very keen to make the Knightsbridge rooms a rendezvous point for people out on the town. With his Sunday afternoon and Monday evening viewings, he wants to entice people in who have never been to an auction before. The viewings could be a social event prior to going out for dinner, he believes, with Bonhams “breaking down the barriers” to encourage a new wave of buyers.