Michelin House, Chelsea, London

François Espinasse
Date Built
81 Fulham Road
This building at the corner of the Fulham Road and Sloane Avenue was once the UK headquarters of the Michelin tyre company.  The building that today occupies an entire city block was built in stages behind the ornate original section on the Fulham Road end.  What today is an oyster bar, once featured the fitting bays of the tyre company and an office that sold the famous Michelin maps.  Over 30,000 tyres were stored in the basement of the building and brought up to the fitting bays using a lift and a purpose built sloped floor.

The building was one of the first in the UK to employ the ferro-concrete construction system developed by François Hennebique.  This system was also employed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the construction of a Co-op warehouse, now a Malmaison Hotel.  Among the features of this construction system are the ability to create large open interior spaces free of supporting columns and, of particular importance in a tyre warehouse, fire-resistance.

The building’s designer was François Espinasse who was employed by Michelin as an engineer.  He is also believed to have designed the company’s Paris Headquarters.  The design of the building defies accurate classification.  It has features of Art Nouveau but has hints of the Art Deco style that was to become popular in the years to come.  Among the decorative features of the building are three large stained glass windows featuring Bibendum, the famous Michelin Man. 

The windows that grace the building today though are replicas.  The original windows were removed and moved to Michelin’s Stoke-on-Trent factory during WWII to protect them from the bombing.  However, in the intervening years they went missing. 

Other decoration includes a series of attractive ceramic plaques featuring famous racing cars ....

....  ceramic tiles in the form of tyres ....

 and, at the front of the building two pinnacles, in the form of stacked tyres, that are illuminated from within at night. 

This front section of the building, now occupied by an oyster bar, was given a Grade II Listing in 1969.

Over the years the front block was added to by extensions back towards  Ixworth Place.  Michelin moved their headquarters to Stoke-on-Trent in 1930 but continued to own the Fulham Road building until 1985 when they sold it to Sir Terrance Conran and Paul Hamlyn.  Following the sale a number of changes were made to the building including the addition of a glass and steel structure in the former loading bay on Sloane Avenue.  Today this is occupied by Conran’s furniture store. 

Another occupant of the building is the Bibendum restaurant.