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Published October 12th 2012
Get to know Michelin Man and his house
Michelin House, located in Chelsea, is worth exploring. Due to its internal and external architecture, it can be called treasure of West London.
I came across Michelin House for the first time when I chose to go back home by different route than usually. I was coming from Pelham St. looking around at already beautiful buildings of Kensington and Chelsea while this stunning Art Deco building appeared to my eyes.
It drew my attention by the colourful glasses with picture of Michelin Man and the fact that it distinguishes itself from other buildings around. It is said that the building looks even better after the sun goes down as then the decorations are lit up. As I took a closer look I saw the details which make Michelin House so amazing – old adverts of Michelin painted on the tiles around the walls, mosaic on the floor at the entrance to the building and many others. Moreover, I felt like I was taken back to the beginning of the 20th century and I breathed in over 100 years of history and secrets which this building bears.
It was for the first time opened in the beginning of 1911, and in 2011 its centenary was celebrated by the former and current owners. At this occasion a short guide to the Michelin House has been published. For few decades the building served as first permanent British headquarters of Michelin Tyre Company and at the same time petrol station, warehouse and drive-in garage. It is even more impressive if you know that it wasn't designed by professional architecture but by one of Michelin's employee, Francois Espinasse. While Michelin was residing in the building it underwent a few extensions to serve company's needs.
Between 1933 and 1940, the upper storeys were let as a furniture warehouse, a workshop and offices for the Air Ministry. Due to company development, Michelin started slowly moving out from the building in 1940s to the new headquarter in Stoke-on-Trent. Though the company went back to London after WWII, it finally put the building on sale in 1985 as it had no longer met company's needs. Many were looking forward to buy the house. Lucky men were Sir Terence Conran, retailer and restaurateur, and Paul Hamlyn of the Octopus Publishing. They took few months to refurbish the building slightly and started there Conran Shop with famous furniture and Octopus Bar preserving the unique features of the original building and recommissioning the beautiful stained glass windows which had been removed before WWII and had subsequently disappeared.
Today, Michelin House is a home for the Oyster Bar, called Bibendum to pay an honour to the company who first owned it, as well as flower and shellfish stalls. Visitors can still enjoy most of the original construction as well as paintings on the tiles and mosaic on the floor at the entrance. All of them relate to history of Michelin Tyre Company Ltd.