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45 Park lane collage

Checking in to experience The Spa at 45 Park Lane

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to experience The Spa at 45 Park Lane

“All this time, I had been looking in the completely wrong direction when trying to understand how 45 Park Lane can stand out from its older sibling – and neighbour – The Dorchester.” Editor Hamish Kilburn is among the first to explore the luxury hotel’s new spa, which shelters a clever biophilic design narrative as well as the largest pool on Park Lane, London…

45 Park lane collage

For any hotel operating in close proximity to a sibling property, the need to do something different is innate. In the case of 45 Park Lane, whose sister (and neighbour) is The Dorchester, which in style as well as service is one of London’s most iconic hotels, standing out is essential. Luckily for 45 Park Lane, though, its 1920s design scheme along with its effortless ability to serve up London’s finest pre-dinner negroni followed by an award-winning steak has kept the property on the map – and as such an integral member of The Dorchester Collection.

With arguably less weight on its shoulders than that of The Dorchester to preserve a deep-rooted legacy, the design scheme inside 45 Park Lane is given space to play. That’s not to say for one minute that it does not feel like a Dorchester Collection hotel, because it very much does with the same attentive service that threads together all properties within the collection. The smaller (in size, not personality) hotel stands up to The Dorchester as a younger, confident and slightly more masculine sibling. The General Manager, John Scanlon, who first joined the hotel in 2015 and who was profiled in The Brit List 2020 as one of Britain’s leading hoteliers, is totally committed to ensuring that guests have the best possible stay experience, immediately upon entry. Scanlon’s hospitable nature is undisputed – I caught him, on several occasions, warmly greeting and seating guests. Aside from his cordial style of leadership, it is his passion for art that is simply refreshing.

As I check in, what would be a conventional check-in experience becomes a conversation between myself and the front desk about who is responsible for the colourful art installation that is on show around the public areas. “The artist is called Nat Bowen,” I am told – and to my delight that Scanlon has just extended her artist residency. Perhaps it’s the times we are living in, or my admiration for hotels with traditional values creating scenes that juxtapose pre-conceptions – more than likely it’s a mixture of both – but as arrival experiences go, 45 Park Lane delivers the goods.

Image caption: The lobby lounge at 45 Park Lane sets the tone for an unparalleled luxury experience. | Image credit: The Dorchester Collection

Image caption: The lobby lounge at 45 Park Lane sets the tone for an unparalleled luxury experience. | Image credit: The Dorchester Collection

In just 10 years since it originally opened, the hotel has carved out its own niche, sheltering a members’ club-like interior design scheme that attracts those who want luxury served in more contemporary glassware.

“After a few years of making my way through the cocktail, wine and steak menu, I have no regret to admit that I had been looking in the complete wrong direction before.”

But, despite being a stunning hotel that naturally beats its own rhythm, I can’t help but feel, with just a decade of experience on the London hospitality scene, that it has been wrongly overlooked for more obvious and iconic properties nearby. Well, not anymore.

I have always wondered how a hotel like 45 Park Lane can differentiate itself from not only its neighbouring sibling but also other luxury hotels in the neighbourhood. After a few years of making my way through the cocktail, wine and steak menu, I have no regret to admit that I had been looking in the complete wrong direction all this time. The answer to how 45 Park Lane can remove itself from the cold-morning shadow of its older sister is in fact situated in what was, until recently, a building being used as offices.

Located on the lower levels of the hotel, and reached via its very own lift (which I haste to add is completely accessible for people of all abilities), the hotel has recently opened a spa, designed by Joubin Manku and developed by Clivedale London, that will simply take your breath away – and transport you worlds away from the hustle and bustle of London. “The major challenge was making the spa feel like it is not below ground and a separate destination to the Residences and 45 Park Lane,” explains Steven Blaess Head of Interior Design, Clivedale London.

The Spa at 45 Park Lane

Image caption: The Spa at 45 Park Lane is a botanical dream designed by Joubin Manku. | Image credit: The Dorchester Collection.

Its clever design utilises space while allowing guests the pleasure to meander through wellness and wellbeing heaven, where the walls are adorned with hand-placed mosaic tiles to inject a sensitive nod to biophic design and where the length of the pool is (almost) endless, by Park Lane’s standards at least.

But with any underground spa comes the challenge of light. “The intention for the spa spaces was to create a sense of calmness and tranquillity,” says Blaess. “The subtle glistening of light onto the glass mosaics is a reminder of water droplets on foliage. Dappled lighting was dispersed to help create the illusion of walking through a leafy canopy of light.”

I’m told that Manku, when taking on the project, conducted a brief study of other spas in central London and what was missing from all was a sense of nature and connectedness. “These other spas were usually designed with hard architectural materials and more formal in their layout and approach, adds Blaess. The important thing for the spa was to address both the 45 Park Lane guests link and the residences direct access, without making one or the other less important. It was about creating a unique yet somewhat separate experience for both.

“The Spa Lounge, for example, is the hub of the entire level, where people want to naturally either start their journey or end their spa experience, relaxing on over-sized sofas and armchairs set around a central feature fireplace. Visual glimpses onto the swimming pool provide a connection to water while also providing swimmers with privacy.”

The overriding theme and concept developed by Manku was a connection to Hyde Park and therefore bringing into the interiors natural references of leaves, native grasses and wild flowers. “The glass mosaics were conceptualised by Manku to reference a liberty-style, decorative design pattern, that were successfully mass manufactured as part of the Industrial Revolution,” adds Blaess. “The glass mosaics were made in Venice with one of the regions oldest family mosaics manufacturing companies.” Natural feeling timber was also used to reference woodland trees on wall and ceiling slatted panels with leaves, grasses and native wildflowers designed into the glass mosaics.”

Image caption: The hand-placed mosaic tiles are a unique theme throughout the spa areas that inject biophilic design into the space. | Image credit: The Dorchester Collection

Image caption: The hand-placed mosaic tiles are a unique theme throughout the spa areas that inject biophilic design into the space. | Image credit: The Dorchester Collection

The Spa at 45 Park Lane is undisputedly beautiful, but I would go one step further. The addition of the spa inside the hotel has actually elevated the entire hotel experience for guests checking in. Pre-spa era, the hotel’s rooms and suites were aptly stylish, timeless and complete with their own details (as you would expect from a hotel within the collection). While these areas continue to marry together a voguish collection of art with a distinct 1920s soul that comes through in the interiors, many modern travellers feel as if a luxury experience is not absolute without a destination spa to match. Interestingly, for me, the spa has put more of a focus on wellbeing. As such, even the bathrooms, which always have been beyond perfect – complete with walk-in showers, sumptuously deep baths and hidden TVs in the mirrors, now feel that much more special.

As with all good and meaningful renovations, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the hotel before. However, the addition of the spa has, I believe, helped keep 45 Park Lane on the radar of luxury travellers by offering an experience unmatched by any other hotel on Park Lane.

Today, as the hotel re-opens up to welcome a new chapter of hospitality – one where the demand for wellness is and will remain off the scale – the existing hotel that shelters timeless decor remains an invigorating blend of art and landmark architecture in the middle of classical London. The spa feeds the demand of luxury travellers, while also cleverly staying true to the Dorchester Collection’s undisputed hospitality style.

Main image credit: The Dorchester Collection

Collage of ME Dubai, including the exterior of the building, the sleek bedrooms and the luxury pool area

Checking in to ME Dubai, the ‘legacy project’ of Zaha Hadid

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to ME Dubai, the ‘legacy project’ of Zaha Hadid

We set renowned furniture designer Rock Galpin a comfortable mission to kickstart the year: to write the exclusive design review of ME Dubai, the brainchild of the late Zaha Hadid, which has become the destination’s latest architectural marvel…

Collage of ME Dubai, including the exterior of the building, the sleek bedrooms and the luxury pool area

Being a designer myself, and familiar with the pioneering and expansive body of work of Zaha Hadid since her very first project, I was very much looking forward to reviewing the recently opened ME Dubai, which is sheltered inside The Opus.

Known as Hadid’s ‘legacy project’, ME Dubai is the only hotel in the world to have both its interiors and exteriors designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) – and its futuristic architecture, characterised by curves, sharp angles and bold materials epitomises the studio’s unique design style.

An exterior shot of the Opus

Image caption: Set in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa district, the Opus is a mixed-use mirrored glass building, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, that shelters ME Hotel’s latest property. | Image credit: ME Dubai

Inside the 93-key hotel you can find lighting, furniture, patterns, bespoke-shaped products, rugs and seamless features and detailing, all of which have been designed by the forward-thinking studio – it really is a celebration of Hadid’s full scope of work and will be remembered, no doubt, for this.

Following Hadid’s passing, Christos Passas, who recently won Architect of the Year at The Brit List Awards 2020, was responsible for the project that aimed to ‘leave its mark’ in the urban space of Dubai. “I think the idea of having a coherent approach, to both interior and exterior design, is very compelling and indeed it requires a whole lot of commitment by the designer,” he told Hotel Designs. “We were given the opportunity to transit intellectually and emotionally from an architectural, large scale project to the finer details of the building that have to do with the user interfaces and the experience of the visitor. Such a context can allow designers to develop more holistic experiences for the user and to express the clients vision in a much more consistent and eloquent way.”

First impressions count

Having recovered in awe from taking in the huge glass cube facade and amorphic structure of the building in person, the entrance into the hotel itself is subtle and aptly plays down your reaction to what is to follow, with its minimal led forecourt dot lights, at night, tracing a suggested route to the door for cars. The proceeding experience, as you head into the reception is simply quite special.

Approaching the lobby, I was not surprised to be suitably impressed by the vast and completely and utterly unique parametric design styling of the four-storey atrium.

An image to show the expansive atrium inside the ME Dubai

Image caption: The expansive atrium inside the ME Dubai, which is a strong first impression. | Image credit: ME Dubai

“Here, all the rules are broken and re-written with inspiring results.”

Sweeping and fluid mezzanine balconies flow in rhythm around all floors, traced by a light channel and a sloped-in continuous glass railing at an impossible angle. There are so many examples of bold innovation and experimentation which demonstrate very advanced design vision and engineering feats indeed. Hadid’s undulating, fluid and visually engaging design typology references, for me, a soft bio mimicry that clearly push the technological boundaries of materials, fabrication and build possibilities. Here the rules are not only being broken they are being re-written with inspiring results.

Whilst the atrium is an addictive dream for any photographer, myself included, it does somehow feel perhaps lacking a little something if it’s aiming to house a ‘warm’ hotel reception. Therefore, I question whether the design in this space is too hard – are softer acoustics and materials absent? Some would argue that as a hotel lobby, the space is too sparse (or too white perhaps).

Close up of furniture in the atrium at ME Dubai

Image caption: ME Dubai is the only hotel in the world only hotel in the world to have both its interiors and exteriors designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA). | Image credit: ME Dubai

The large oval-shaped seating zones carefully positioned around, which feature built-in sweeping curved sofas, provide neat social areas that create necessary micro enclaves of activity. These softer social spaces, within a vastly white atrium, work well but feel almost not enough to create warmth, softness and a welcoming feeling. In fact, it feels a little sterile – a tad cold – but nonetheless, no one can argue against this space being spectacular! When the hotel is up to speed, with a healthy occupancy and the vibrancy and colour of many guests, it may fill that void.

“If you love progressive architecture and interior design that pushes the boundaries, bringing interior typology and technology closer to us, then you will no doubt be impressed with ME Dubai.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hotel Designs: What will you remember most about the hotel?
Rock Galpin: The dynamic and compelling relationship between architecture and interior design and the emotive impact that this parametric based design has when experienced first hand.

HD: What should guests experience when checking in?
RG: DESEO Restaurant, bar and pool complete with Ibiza DJ, and the Wagu steak and Rum sponge. The 18:00 ‘lights on’ till 00:00 where the building’s facade comes to life with LEDs – most notable is the inner ‘hole’ which is more intensely lit.

HK: What could be improved?
RG: The extreme, experimental interior is impressive to say the least, however, there needs to be a further appraisal of how people feel in this space; how they react, how they interact and their needs in order to improve guest engagement. Despite the staff being lovely, the service throughout the hotel was, when I checked in at least, a little erratic.

HK: What was your favourite area of the hotel?
RG: DESEO restaurant and bar and of course the atrium.

HK: Can you describe the hotel in a sentence or two?
RG: This is a unique and inspiring hotel to be experienced first-hand. If you love progressive architecture and interior design that pushes the boundaries, bringing interior typology and technology closer to us, then you will no doubt be impressed with ME Dubai.

Between spaces, an often-forgotten part of the hotel experience

There’s a lovely journey to be had when walking from your room to most parts of the hotel, as you’re pleasurably forced to walk along the atrium mezzanines taking in beautiful elevated views of the upper floors. Aside from the DESEO restaurant and pool area, there is a distinctive lack of outdoor space in the hotel, so you do feel somewhat incubated with some light passing through the atrium roof.

Guestrooms and Suites

I had the opportunity to explore two category rooms; the standard Aura room at 47m squared and the much larger Personality Suite at 92m square. There are two colour schemes. Desert is much more subtle – think spiritual and cool. Meanwhile, the Midnight Blue scheme is deeper and more intimate that also packs a masculine punch. Both are equally as beautiful and any decision for either style will be down to personal preference.

Aura Room

The first impression of the generously sized Aura room was of light – there’s lots of it – from floor-to-ceiling windows which span the width of the whole room. The beds are quite something! Not only are they large, but they are super comfortable, with an angled cushioned Alcantara headrest at 45 degrees, which works really well.

The built-in cantilever bedside tables are a well-considered feature – there are no ugly plug sockets in sight. Instead, these are hidden under the table with a useful, minimal touchtronic operated black light arm sprouting upwards from the tables, with two useful USB ports at the base. The bed base also features flat areas to the frame that extend useful seats, which works well with the complementary, asymmetric matching rug underneath.

“No wall was perpendicular to another.”

As I started to look more at the interior, I was surprised to realised that no wall was perpendicular to another and that many materials are cut on the angle or applied in complex shapes. The full marble bathroom, for example, white in the Aura and black in the Personality Suites, runs on the diagonal in both directions, so the pieces are actually rhombus shaped. These features very much reflect the entire design approach, to experiment and push the limits of what has conventionally been done up until now.

Personality Suite

The Personality Suite, similar to the Passion Suite, is 92m square and is one of the hotels larger mid-level rooms. It’s differentiated by a separate lounge/dining area and two bathrooms, one with bath, double sinks and shower cubicle the other with toilet, bidet and another sink. The Midnight Blue suite felt special. The deep blues and darker colour scheme had more contrast to that of the Desert scheme. The black and white quartz streaked marble throughout the whole bathroom is beautiful, offset by the amorphic ZHA shaped double sink and mirrors, with parametric laser etched patination.

“The technology in the rooms match the design form in being progressive.”

All bathroom fittings are designed by ZHA and follow suit to studio’s typology. The technology in the rooms match the design form in being progressive, with touch plates on many walls for the double-skinned electric curtains and lighting throughout. In fact, download the ME Hotels App and you have full mobile electrical control of the entire suite, including the two large TVs.

The lounge area, complete with the boomerang shaped ZHA sofa and beautifully crafted dark wood desk blended in and, looks aesthetically harmonious. However, the comfort and desire to want to use this space was sorely missing. The sofas are extremely hard, no doubt to retain the sculpted form, but off-putting in terms of comfort and relaxation, where the lounge should be king.

Image caption: A ZHA designed sofa in one of the Midnight Blue themed suites in the hotel.

Image caption: A ZHA designed sofa in one of the Midnight Blue themed suites. | Image credit: ME Dubai

The F&B experience

The F&B journey within the luxury hotel starts on the ground floor. Botanica, described as a gin bar, features an Italian accent throughout and doubles as a lunchtime restaurant. It occupies part of the lobby, where the reception dominates with its music, reverberation and activity that is heard through the pale-slatted wooden walls of the bar. The space is soft, comfortable and pleasant, lending itself more to a relaxed lounge bar/restaurant.

Meanwhile, Central is the designated breakfast restaurant that seems quite lifeless outside of breakfast time, inward looking to the Atrium, which gives you the opportunity to take more of those lovely views in. This would seem a hard, austere place for a morning bite, however, despite the reverberation from lower down, the experience was actually very pleasant being relaxed and quite peaceful.

Where the Botanica, on the ground floor, is perhaps lacking some atmosphere, DESEO makes up for it ten-fold – in fact it is real contrast in most ways and a very welcome part of the hotel experience. This is where the up-tempo vibes lives.

The design of the restaurant uses Downtown skyscrapers as a backdrop and contrasts this with a leafy green design scheme that is simply lovely. With a raised freestanding bar and a wooden pergola adorned by a thousand wind cones, the impression was of movement and energy, mix that with a DJ on an Ibiza-style white podium – his back to a rectangular pool lined by sun loungers one side, slatted cabana’s the other – you realise DESEO has what it takes.

The gym is a generous in size and a pleasant space to work up a good sweat. there is also a sauna, which is an intimate small, pined welcome addition. On the fourth floor, a little bit out the way, but worth a trip just for the quirky space complete with high tech curved glass, as it’s on the cusp of the atrium’s ceiling curving into the vertical inner ‘void’ wall is a specialist massage treatment facility.

An industrial-styled gym in ME Dubai

Image caption: The hotel features a state-of-the-art industrial-style gym. | Image credit: ME Dubai

In addition, and not to be missed, there are two excellent restaurants, which are also part of The Opus building. The Maine is a big favourite of mine, from interior to food quality, and Roka restaurant is also a fantastic new asset to the local area.

Standing out in a city like Dubai, which is no shrinking violet, is one thing. But sheltering an interior design scheme that is equally as impressive as its architecture is an almost impossible task. The interior design scheme inside ME Dubai seamlessly compliments the buildings unique architectural form and meets, I would argue, the ever-changing demands of modern travellers and in-the-know locals alike.

Over and out,

Rock.

Main image credit: ME Dubai

Weekly briefing: international hotel arrivals – we have ‘lift-off’!

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Weekly briefing: international hotel arrivals – we have ‘lift-off’!

Editor Hamish Kilburn here to deliver your first weekly briefing of the year, featuring all the hottest hotel stories of the week. This round-up includes a look at this year’s VIP international arrivals, a rather ‘dandy’ hotel review and even a pre-flight check into what a hotel in space will look like…

If, by any chance, you needed reassuring about the state of the international hotel scene, then all you have to do is take a glance at the below; stories that we have published this week in order to inject some positivity into the industry we love the serve. From London’s latest hotel opening in Mayfair to Q1 and Q2’s hottest arrivals, we have started 2021 by looking into the future to capture how the international hotel design arena is preparing to welcome back modern travellers.

With even more juicy stories and exclusive features waiting in the wings (to be published next week), here are your top stories from the last few days…

The Hot list: most anticipated hotel for 2021 (Q1 & Q2)

Render of infinity pool in Maldives

Image credit: LXR

Concussed from 2020, we are kicking off the year with positivity; shining its editorial spotlight on the hotel openings that will take hospitality worldwide to new heights. In our first of two series we take a look at Q1 & Q2’s VIP arrivals.

Read more.

Sneak peek: inside SLS Cancun, a “barefoot-chic tropical” hotel

Lounge inside SLS Hotels

Image credit: SLS Hotels

Having designed a myriad of hotels around the world, Piero Lissoni brought his iconic design magic to Cancun to bring to life sbe’s vision of a “barefoot-chic tropical” hotel. SLS Cancun, which opens in early February, is a perfectly timed arrival as the SLS brand is one at the centre of the Ennismore and Accor merge to become the largest and fastest growing global player.

Read more.

Checking in to The Mayfair Townhouse, London’s ‘dandiest’ hotel

Mayfair Townhouse hotel peacock entrance

Image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

Following what must have been the most dramatic build-up to any opening in 2020, The Mayfair Townhouse, which is made up of 15 Georgian townhouses (seven of which are Grade II listed buildings), has officially arrived in London.

Read more. 

Project watch: the ‘shimmering’ Dorsett Gold Coast takes shape

Render of sophisticated guestroom inside hotel

Credit: Destination Gold Coast Consortium

Currently on the boards, but preparing to take the Gold Coast to new heights of luxury, the golden-glazed windows of what will be Dorsett Gold Coast at The Star Gold Coast are being installed. And as construction of the building that will shelter the 313-key hotel has reached the 24th storey out of a total of 53 storeys, the new development is beginning to make a statement.

Read more.

“Ground control to Major Tom” – plans for a hotel in space on track for a 2024 launch

Collage of Axiom space station - hotel in space

250 miles above the earth in the wilderness of space, with cabins designed by the world-renowned Philippe Starck – think ‘nest-like comfort’ – the Axiom space station is the brainchild of former NASA chiefs.

Read more.

IHG to launch a landmark duel-branded hotel in Nottingham

Render of Hotel Indigo Nottingham

Hotel Indigo Nottingham/IHG

IHG has signed terms with development group Conygar to bring two of its world-renowned brands, Hotel Indigo and Staybridge Suites, to Nottingham. With both architecture and design led by Jestico + Whiles, we’re being told to expect something stunning as the building that will shelter the two brands becomes the city’s first of its size in nearly two decades.

Read more.

Main image credit: W Hotels/Marriott International

The Mayfair Townhouse - Garden Suite

Checking in to The Mayfair Townhouse, London’s ‘dandiest’ hotel

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to The Mayfair Townhouse, London’s ‘dandiest’ hotel

“If only these walls could talk, my job would have been so much easier,” admits art curator Minda Dowling to editor Hamish Kilburn as he checks in to explore the design narrative, drawn up by Goddard Littlefair, that spectacularly and effortlessly unfolds inside The Mayfair Townhouse

The Mayfair Townhouse - Garden Suite

Following what must have been the most dramatic build-up to any hotel opening in 2020, The Mayfair Townhouse, which is made up of 15 Georgian townhouses (seven of which are Grade II listed buildings), has officially arrived in London.

Having myself teased our readers to expect a 172-key luxury lifestyle hotel unlike any other in the W1 postcode – think Oscar Wilde meets Alice in Wonderland – I was intrigued to explore how award-winning design firm Goddard Littlefair and the design team at Iconic Luxury Hotels had masterfully layered the flirtatious motif of being completely ‘dandy’ throughout the latest luxury lair to appear in Mayfair.

“One of the challenges with getting the tone of the styling right was to not overplay the themes.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair.

“Determining the direction for the concept took some time as it was clear that the design could have developed into a couple of distinctly different routes,” Jo Littlefair, co-founder of Goddard Littlefair tells Hotel Designs. “We eventually reached the conclusion that we would pursue a contemporary rendering of the style of the ‘Dandy’ to befit the Georgian architecture while feeling bedded in present-day Mayfair. One of the challenges with getting the tone of the styling right was to not overplay the themes so that while the fabric of the design all serve to allude to extravagant dress sense and rich textures and colours we strove to do so in a way that the interior is still comfortable to be in, subtle in it’s story-telling and essentially doesn’t labour a concept to the extent that its charm is lost.”

Soon after walking through the main entrance to what will no-doubt be the warmest of welcomes from the front-of-house team, you have entered a different world; an adventure into the unknown where a 67-inches-tall peacock made out of no less than 25,000 Swarovski is the first indication that this hotel is going to anything but ordinary – and foot trails of a friendly fox will follow your experience from here on in, because why not?

Mayfair Townhouse peacock entrance

Image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

Past the tasteful walkway towards the lift, where a delicate installation depicting gold leaves effortlessly grows on the ceiling, up five floors and along the rabbit-warren corridor, you will come to suite 519 – otherwise known as The Skyline Suite.

“The glass ceiling gives the suite a contemporary, almost James Bond moment.”

In true Goddard Littlefair style, the design and layout of the suite perfectly complements the original architecture of the rooms – it automatically feels like a home-from-home in Mayfair. “We wanted to bring an extra level to this suite,” explains Littlefair. “Put simply, we wanted to bring as much day or moonlight into the suite as possible.” 

To achieve this, the design team have installed a partially glass ceiling that sets it aside from others in the hotel. This gives the suite a contemporary, almost James Bond moment that Littlefair describes as “complementing the opulence of the suite.” This eye-catching feature encourages guests to do what few people in London are able to master: to look up! By night, to avoid distraction, the large window into the above sky can be covered by a ceiling blind, which is conveniently controlled remotely from the wall switches.

On closer inspection, one can’t help but notice the finer details: the leather handles on the drawers, sophisticated paneling throughout and brushed brass light switches, which together create a timeless and balanced feel – not pushing the themes to the point of exploitation, but instead caressing their true meanings.

In the bedroom, which is arguably the most important element within any hotel, the bed is gargantuan! Two chunky, marble-top bedside units sit beside an emperor king size, navy-blue, bed which commands the room and is complete with a plush, oversized headboard. Sleeping on a comfortable Harrison Spinks mattress, there is no compromise on luxury and guests are guaranteed a pleasant night’s sleep.

Image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

Around the room, a juxtaposition is apparent in the art, which traditionally frames modern and fashionable prints of glamourous women with vibrant birds cleverly interrupting the mise en scené to present something unapologetically different. This seamless reference of nature is complimented also in the soft furnishings and, in my opinion, is further evidence of a meaningful working relationship between art curator and interior design team.

On the other side of the suite  – past the corridor which features a relaxing workstation and dressing area – is a large marble-tiled bathroom, which naturally evokes a sense of calm and features a deep freestanding bath and a separate shower enclosure. “The layout we could achieve meant we had a fabulous bathing experience with the roll top bath, double vanity and huge walk in shower,” adds Littlefair. With demands elevated around how wellness is offered within hospitality, it is reassuring to see that the design team specified high quality products, such as hansgrohe showers, AXOR fittings, Roca toilets, Geberit flush plates and Kohler his-and-hers vanity sinks.

Although the guestrooms and suites are impressive, in order to capture the full narrative of the hotel, guests need to spend time downstairs in the F&B areas. And nothing is what it first seems.

First of all, the Dandy Bar has all the ingredients to become an iconic destination bar – think Soho House but without the members’ fee (and friendlier staff). With a cocktail menu that amplifies the hotel’s brand, the area when full with guests and locals alike will very much become an extension of the design itself.

Behind the concierge desk in the lobby is a staircase that leads down to the basement, which weaves itself to more F&B areas, event spaces and the gym. Acting as a fitting backdrop for this staircase is large mural entitled: “Peacock Mural”. It displays two peacocks, feathers erect walking towards each other to embrace. The style of this piece, which is acrylic painted with faux gold leaf and varnished on canvas, embraces the Aesthetic Movement. This era, which lasted from 1860 – 1900, aimed to escape the ugliness and materialism of the Industrial Age, by focusing instead on producing art that was beautiful rather than having a deeper meaning – ‘Art for Art’s sake’.

In the basement, the Club Room is where breakfast is served. Impressively, despite being located on the lower ground, the design team have masterfully made this space light and bright with subtle nods to the hotel’s sense of place, such as a mural in the function room entitled ‘Green Park’, which through wedgewood, three-dimensional style reflects an idealised image of Green Park and includes characters from the hotel. It is here where the hotel’s art narrative really comes into its own.

With an endless stream of inspiration from all centuries that the design team could have captured, in a bid to challenge convention in a meaningful way, the decision was made to create their own narrative.“Usually the brief for hotel artwork is to appeal to as many people as possible, to be inoffensive as well as relating to relate to the location and the design concept,” adds Littlefair. “Luckily the developers and Iconic Luxury Hotels, as a hotel brand, were much more open to interesting suggestions and, through working with art consultant Minda Dowling, had the courage of their conviction to pursue a significant amount of portraiture.”

Meet the fictious Renard/Reynolds family, who were cloth and silk merchants in La Rochelle, France, and fled to London in 1688; they were amongst the wealthier Huguenot refugees as Jean Renard had sold all his stock for gold, prior to embarking for England.

In the Club Room, the complex characters of the family are referenced around the walls, such as the ‘Butterfly Hunter’ and ‘Twins’, among others.

Littlefair explains: “For me, I think the art demonstrates that the Mayfair Townhouse accepts that, as human beings, we’re all capable of being imperfect sometimes and this hotel celebrates those fabulous moments that transpire because of that very spirit of adventure.”

Quick-fire Q&A with the designer

Hamish Kilburn: If you could go for dinner with one of the Fictious Renard/Reynolds Family, who would it be with?

Jo Littlefair: I’d have to say the mother, Mum’s know everything don’t they?

HK: What is your favourite cocktail on the menu?

JL: Earl of Mayfair

HK: What will you remember most about this project?

JL: Guarding the Swarovski peacock from builders as we were deciding it’s final positioning in the hotel lobby.

HK: Describe the hotel in a sentence or less?

JL: This is a hotel brimming with personality and stories to tell, it has a glamorous beating heart in the Dandy bar with sumptuous, residential bedrooms that are a real sanctuary in the heart of Mayfair

HK: Favourite piece of art in the hotel?

JL: I love the hand painted mural of the gold peacock, it’s just exquisite.

Images of foxes in The Den at The Mayfair Townhouse

Image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

Also in the basement are several break-off meeting and private dining booths, one of which is named the Oscar Wilde, Oscar’s Study, in which the design cleverly blends together two prominent themes of the hotel: the true definition of dandy and the fox. On the wall, an interpretation of a fragment of a well-known painting of Oscar Wilde reclined on a sofa, which focuses on his jacket, reflects luxury and the laid-back attitude of the smart dandy. Meanwhile, a chandelier by Moooi is (whether it is intentional or not, I do not know) references fox-proof, mesh fencing.

A mesh-like chandelier inside The Mayfair Townhouse

Image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

It’s one thing for a hotel to open in Oscar Wilde’s pre-Soho territory, but it is another thing entirely to focus a hotel’s theme, In Wilde’s old scandalous stomping ground, around Mayfair’s perhaps forgotten characters.

Checking out feeling, well, quite rather dandy, with a spring in my step, I feel as if I have discovered a completely unique London jewel – one that nods to all eras of this iconic neighbourhood. With its own quirky and bushy-tailed attitude, please join me in welcoming The Mayfair Townhouse to its new bachelor quarters.

Main image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

Idle Rocks Hotel, St Mawes, Opening Day, June 24th 2013

Checking in: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes, Cornwall

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes, Cornwall

During the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, editor Hamish Kilburn managed to escape briefly to check in to The Idle Rocks, St Mawes in Cornwall – a hotel that knows a thing or two about battling adversity – which shelters an unmatched personality, character and style…

Idle Rocks Hotel, St Mawes, Opening Day, June 24th 2013

Being close to the water’s edge – so close you can hear shrunken waves break on the shoreline – does something to us, mentally. Not only does it send a reflux through our bodies to sharply loosen our shoulders to allow for a deeper exhale from a life that feels constantly left on fast-forward, but it also enables us to find a different perspective (something we could all benefit from, I’m sure, right now).

If like me you grew up by the coast before diving into the deep end of city life, then you would have also felt the magnetic pull, like gravity, that regularly drags me back to the edge of the land. My recent nostalgic fix came when I travelled down to Cornwall, to check in to The Idle Rocks, St Mawes.

Image of exterior of The Idle Rocks St Mawes

Image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

The hotel, which is the brainchild of husband and wife duo Karen Richards and David Richards, was originally opened in 2013. Two years prior, the pair fell in love with the building that now shelters the hotel. It’s position right at the water’s edge of the harbour, inspired the name of the hotel as well as its quirky, contemporary and stripped-back luxury style. “Our aim was to create a hotel that was young, fresh and relaxing,” explained Karen in an interview with Hotel Designs. “We wanted to make it a home-from-home, eliminating formalities and in this way, differentiate ourselves from our more traditional competitors.”

Image of door opening in St Mawes hotel to see the sea

Image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Karen, who lives and breathes design, envisioned the boutique gem with its own identity, when she fell in love with the property. But for David, whose career within motor sport has led to great acclaim in a wide range of disciplines from F1 to Sports Car racing and rallying, hospitality was a new adventure, which (it turns out) shared similar traits to the motor sport industry, such as forming the ‘dream team’ – from housekeeping to chefs, front-of-house staff to savvy marketing – in order to find that sweet spot of personable luxury hospitality.

With the current Covid-19 crisis dominating headlines and sadly bringing hospitality to its knees, it would be easy to forget other storms that The Idle Rocks, St Mawes has weathered over the years – but we must not as it forms an integral chapter in the property’s history. Less than a year after first opening, a 90-mph winds hit St Mawes combined with an extremely high tide. The impact of the storm destroyed the ground floor of the hotel. “The following day, I was on site with the team and we did what we could to board up the smashed windows,” Karen painfully recalls. “Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, that evening another squall came in and caused even more damage.”

It took the team just two months to definitely repair the damage before reopening once more, with more soul and purpose than ever.

Seven years later, following the hotel being the subject of major broadsheets for its unparalleled hospitality offering, I arrive to check in to the boutique legend that is The Idle Rocks St Mawes.

Walking through the front door evokes the same effortless, refreshing coastal vibes as the destination itself has done for centuries, which has allured the likes of writers, artists and even royalty alike. No other hotel can match Karen’s home-from-home style, which in the lobby/lounge area is complete with deep, comfy sofas and furnishings that come in every shade of blue.

“In a coastal hotel, it is all too easy for the design to be predictable and something I worked hard to avoid.” – Karen Richards, co-owner, The Idle Rocks, St Mawes.

The art is a story in itself – framed traditional woollen swimsuits and abstract pieces that depict boats painted in primary colours. “We have very consciously focused on local Cornish Artists throughout the hotel,” explains Karen. “In a coastal hotel, it is all too easy for the design to be predictable and something I worked hard to avoid. I love visiting antique shops and fairs, which is where a lot of pieces within the property came from.”

Although the design inside the F&B areas is impressive, with wooden bucket-like chandeliers and vibrant art that hangs on a rustic wall, it is the view that stretches over the working harbour, seen from all perspectives in the restaurant, that is this hotel’s wildcard and offers guests a window into the community outside.

Colourful and vibrant restaurant

Image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Acting as an ever-changing backdrop as storms come and go, the restaurant, which presents young chef Dorian Janmaat’s locally inspired menu, is the beating heart of the hotel.

Upstairs, each of the 19 guestrooms and suites have been individually designed to sensitively inject a meaningful sense of place. Naturally, the colour scheme is toned down with just a few flashes of colour to allow the view over the water to become part of the hotel experience, which it does very quickly.

Through a translucent sliding door, the bathrooms include a deep, freestanding Victoria + Albert bath that is positioned right next to the window. Quirky nods to the hotel’s coastal location, such as shells that act as soap dishes and distressed wooden framed mirrors above the sink. A Rainfinity shower from hansgrohe with Axor fittings takes this wellness scene to a new level, and is positioned in such as way at the back of the bathroom so that you can see outside through the window but people cannot see in. The bathroom is completed with a quality Villeroy & Boch toilet with Geberit push button panels.

Light and minimalist sea-themed bathroom

Image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Considering Cornwall’s etched reputation in the history books for delivering quality hospitality time and time again, The Idle Rocks St Mawes stands out from the crowd as being something different on the luxury scene in the westcountry. It’s colourful and vibrant personality makes it hard for any guest to check out of what feels very much like a home away from home. And with my tastebuds teased, body rested and state of mind recovered I reluctantly check out of this boutique jewel, taking one last look at the postcard perfect view of St Mawes, a town I will no-doubt be returning to shortly.

Main image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Suite inside The Modernist in Athens

The Modernist Athens – designed for the urban explorer

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
The Modernist Athens – designed for the urban explorer

With a statement as grand as that headline, it was only ever a matter of time before Hotel Designs took a sneaky peek inside the latest boutique beauty to arrive in Athens: The Modernist. Sheltering a design that is said to inspire curiosity, we find out how this new 38-key hotel is settling in to its city surroundings…

Suite inside The Modernist in Athens

For many design enthusiasts, including myself, Athens is the etherial Goddess of boutique hotels – and therefore any brand entering this built-up authentic metropolis should do so with caution. In a destination where culture actually rises from the earth – I’m talking about the acropolis, of course – any hotel planning to open without a personality will be exposed and swallowed up by the noise of disobedience that echoes through cobbled streets.

Cue the opening of The Modernist, a 38-key gem that is perched aptly on a street corner. It opens with the aim to authentically connect its guests to the real Athens; to entice its guests to “explore its soul through culture and meaningful connections with the locals.”

The boutique hotel stands as the sister property to the award-winning Modernist Thessaloniki and marks a second chapter in the expanding hospitality brand created by entrepreneur Kostis Karatzas.

Located in the former Canadian embassy in Kolonaki, this new project maintains the same playful juxtaposition of art deco elements, mid-century detailing and Danish design found in its companion Thessaloniki location. Its high-quality offerings are grounded by the interior and exterior’s cool, well-honed character. The result is a relaxed, elegant environment that makes guests feel at home from the moment they set foot in the lobby.

“The Modernist is about contemporary hospitality that inspires curiosity and authentic experiences,” Karatzas says. “Ethics and aesthetics course through everything we do, as an invisible thread that connects us with the world. Following the opening of our first property in Thessaloniki two years ago, Athens was a natural next step for us. And this is only the beginning for our brand.”

Image of the staircase inside The Modernist Athens

Image credit: The Modernist

The building itself commingles the minimalism of post-war 1950s architecture with the nowness of sleek yet subtle contemporary spaces. With clean, symmetrical lines that stay true to the brand’s design philosophy, the exterior of The Modernist Athens is a sight to behold amid the vibrant cityscape.

Inside, guests are greeted by sharp contrasts in colour and shape, which anchor them back in the present day. The raw assertiveness of the marble, plaster, bronze and black glass within the lobby perfectly juxtaposes the softer, more refined nature of the oak wood floors, leather headboards and artful midcentury-inspired furnishings found inside the rooms.

An image showing exposed wardrobe and work area inside suite - The Modernist in Athens

Image credit: The Modernist

“We want its guests to be able to move and thrive in this space.” – Konstantinos Theodoridis and Eleni Papaevangelou, Co-Founders of FORMrelated.

Collaborating architects FORMrelated made use of an eclectic mix of local and international interior design brands, while employing custom builds such as embossed veneer panels and bronze details to articulate the second, equally cool addition to the Modernist name.

“We see The Modernist Athens becoming a compelling value proposition not just in living but in the experience industry as well,” explains Konstantinos Theodoridis and Eleni Papaevangelou, the studio’s co-founders. “We want its guests to be able to move and thrive in this space, in this small and intimate unit that manages to encapsulate contemporary luxuries in such an understated way.”

The 38 rooms are spread across six floors. Designed to be modern living spaces, each guestroom offers an uncomplicated aesthetic that is elevated by custom lighting and made-to-measure furniture, ensuring elegance across the board. Meanwhile, a meaningful sizing nomenclature (S, M, L, XL) makes it easy for guests to select the option that best fits their individual needs.

Image of a guestroom with contemporary interiors inside The Modernist in Athens

Image credit: The Modernist

Elsewhere, the lobby maintains an aura of refinement thanks to its midcentury vibe, with dark tones and bronze details marrying minimalism with opulence. At the same time, true to the brand’s overall intuitive approach to spatial planning, it acts as the hotel’s beating heart, orienting and guiding its patrons organically between different floors and services.

On the ground floor, the breakfast buffet transforms into an all-day cafe bar, ideal for relaxation. Plywood and marble blend together to create a warm atmosphere, while minimalist shelves are filled with a refined selection of modern and limited edition books.

The rooftop garden, which can double up as an open cinema, features verdant greens and frames breath-taking views over Athens and the Acropolis, which serves as the jewel in the crown of this urban oasis.

Image of rooftop garden overlooking Athens

Image credit: The Modernist

The Modernist project began in downtown Thessaloniki as the perfect hub for constant travellers. While ideating its Athenian counterpart, the main challenge lay in staying true to the spirit of the brand, and at the same time expressing the individual spirit of each city.

A respect for the existing exterior architecture has remained one of the brand’s common denominators, as has the propensity towards using natural, reusable materials in the interiors.

Still, by far the most important element of both Modernist hotels is the symbiotic relationship they maintain with their respective creative communities.

Given Athens’ vast cultural heritage, the hotel has a plethora of options to connect its guests to locals through highly curated experiences. The introduction to a refined couleur locale starts from inside the hotel, where various artists have put their stamp on everything, from ceramics and the artwork on walls to tailor-made music playlists, and even a vinyl collection that’s in the works. The hotel also offers itself as an events epicentre, with its rooftop garden doubling as an open cinema and its ground floor as a space for workshops and talks by guest artists.

Aiming to inspire curiosity and meaningful connections with the city’s creatives, The Modernist Athens is an exciting new chapter not only for the brand which celebrates metropolitanism in a collected, understated way but also for the hospitality scene in Athens, which has taken a battering this year due to the on-going Covid-19 crisis.

Main image credit: The Modernist

Sofitel London St James luxury room with blue tartan carpets and blue modern furniture

Hotel review (in video): checking in to Sofitel London St James

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Hotel review (in video): checking in to Sofitel London St James

17 years after first unveiling the original designs for the Sofitel London St James, Pierre-Yves Rochon returned to London to breathe new life into the 183-key lifestyle luxury hotel. Editor Hamish Kilburn, along with a production team to film his response, checks in find out more…

Sofitel London St James luxury room with blue tartan carpets and blue modern furniture

The ultimate compliment for a hotel designer, aside from a client signing off one stage allowing them to move on to the next, is being asked to return back to a project years later to lead it sensitively into a new era. This scenario, although rare and therefore highly momentous, also comes with certain pressures, considering that each and every decision will be scrutinised by client and critic and compared to the statement design scheme that was originally unveiled and considered a success.

For Sofitel London St James, a flagship for the global hotel brand that is positioned in between Westminster and Mayfair, the decision to invite legendary designer Pierre-Yves Rochon back to redesign the guestrooms and suites was one that came naturally. And it was his ability to combine English décor with refined French elegance that gave this hotel’s interiors a new and somewhat an unexpected personality.

“It was important to preserve the identity of the hotel that was created 17 years ago.” – Pierre-Yves Rochon

To truly capture the essence of this modern hotel sheltered in a heritage building, I checked in with our product team at CUBE Video to explore what makes this hotel special. Here’s how I got on…

“It was important to preserve the identity of the hotel that was created 17 years ago,” Rochon told Hotel Designs. “So, there was a clever mix between the elements of the past that we have kept and the new elements marking the new decoration. For example, we kept the headboards and bedside tables the same, but we created a new concept in the guestrooms and suites, which we refer to as the ‘Media wall library’.”

Sofitel London St James luxury twin room in red

Image credit: Sofitel London St James

Inside the new guestrooms, which are complete with retro furniture and bold colours, it is clear that the aim was to, in Rochon’s words, “give a new life to the hotel.” To prevent each room in either green, red or blue colour schemes from looking ‘tired’, and to refine a modern interior design scheme fit for the flagship status it has been given, Rochon’s bold leap away from convention allowed him to further blur the definition of what a London hotel should look like. The tartan carpets, for example, create a textured layer of detail but also compliment the 1960s – 70s theme explored in the design scheme, as Rochon explains: “The choice of Scottish-inspired carpets in the bedrooms is, of course, linked to the fact that we are in the UK, but another reason we choose these carpets was because of the geometric appearance which corresponds to this particular period of design in the 1960s and 70s.”

Image credit: Sofitel London St James blue guestrooms with tartan carpets and blue walls

Image credit: Sofitel London St James

Throughout the hotel, there is a dominant theme of English Style meeting French elegance. While the guestrooms are trendy with certain nods to British iconic fashion figures of the 60s and 70s, the bathrooms are chic, well-lit and with a black and white colour scheme they are also somewhat timeless. “The bathrooms have always been appreciated by the hotel’s guests, so we simply decided to refurbish them when necessary,” said Rochon. “This included improving the lighting, creating showers and redesigning the floors in black and white graphics, in continuity with the original decoration.”

When asked, Rochon admitted that the most challenging aspect of the renovation was staying within budget, “while also respecting the decorative spirit” of the hotel. Regardless of having to stay between the lines of a budget, it is admirable how one designer’s creativity can lead one hotel into two different eras, and as a result re-unveil a modern masterpiece that lives up to its flagship title.

Main image credit: Sofitel London St James

Checking In: The Cave Hotel, Canterbury – Kent’s tech-savvy luxury pad

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking In: The Cave Hotel, Canterbury – Kent’s tech-savvy luxury pad

In a sea of standard ‘luxury’ hotel offerings in Kent, The Cave Hotel in Canterbury, which opened late last year, has certainly made a statement. Editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to The Penthouse to discover the warm design scheme inspired by multiple hotels around the world…

Before humans had yet understood the concept of a home – let alone a hotel – we sheltered in caves for warmth, comfort and safety. They were practical and offered natural protection from the harsh elements and predators on the outside. The original hotel, one could argue, and once a fire was lit, these territories became sanctuaries.

Positioned on the outskirts of Canterbury, in Kent, and attached seamlessly to Boughton Golf Club, a new unexpected hotel has emerged. The Cave Hotel is not really like a cave at all. Instead, it is a well-designed luxury hotel that cleverly removes all who check in from the stress of modern life. It shelters an authentic design scheme – from the room layouts right down to the technology that works behind the scenes – that was inspired by owners James Tory and Jonathan Callister’s own experiences during their many years of checking in and out of some of the world’s finest hotels. “We have lived hospitality for years,” Callister told Hotel Designs. “Having travelled the world, we have injected the best design and architecture that we have experienced into this hotel.” The result is a well-rehearsed and well-timed arrival onto the luxury hospitality scene.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

On the outside, the 41-key boutique hotel is an isolated gem, surrounded only by undulating hills in the county that is known as the Garden of England. But inside, the hotel shelters a very different vibe, one that challenges conventional hospitality and hotel design in Kent and beyond.

The arrival experience creates a powerful first impression with a modern take on the nomadic lifestyle (times have evolved since caves were our homes). Walk past the heavy curtained entrance, and the lobby becomes a comfortable den that features a high-vaulted ceiling and dark warm tones – a secluded sanctuary far away from the outside world with an atmosphere that is automatically muted and relaxed. It is complete with low-level furniture and contemporary shelving, which provides textured décor as well as clever boundaries between spaces.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

An exposed elevated walkway above – accessible via lift or stairs – leads to the ‘Firepit’, a sleek bar and restaurant, which serves up a contemporary sharing-plate experience. A burst of flavours of world cuisine meet and fuse together in the fresh, re-imagined menu. The smokey, barbecue aromas of the American west combine with the delicate spiced tastes of the far east to create ambitious dishes that excite.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

Upstairs, the 41 guestrooms and suites are serene havens, and further reveal intuitive design features inspired by the owners’ travels. The lighting, for example, is set simply via moods (chill, romance and blaze), which automatically adjusts the temperature and harshness of the light in the room, allowing guests to simply personalise their own hotel experience from a touch of a button.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

With no expense spared – and leading its market in terms of using 21st century technical innovation – the hotel puts emphasis on guests’ digital needs and demands. Each room is complemented with state of the art Wi-Fi, super-fast internet, bespoke 65″ Smart LED televisions with music, digital art and connectivity for laptops and smart phones. 

Even the function of the bed has been carefully considered from concept through to completion, with there even being an area under its structure where guests can store their luggage. “It was a a big bugbear of mine,” said Callister, “checking in to a hotel where there was no where to put my suitcase after I had unpacked. It was therefore an important element to include when designing the bed, and was it was only achievable by designing everything bespoke.”

“I have never slept in such a comfortable bed and mattress in my life.” – Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs.

In addition to the beds being functional and stylish, the mattresses are also unique to the hotel. They have been designed bespoke by manufacturer Harrison Spinks. The brief from the owners was to create a mattress that guests would sink into but also felt secure on. “This idea came from sleeping on so many hotel mattresses that didn’t offer the right level of support or comfort,” Callister explained. “I was yet to find a mattress that met my two demands [as a modern traveller].”

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

“We provided Johnathan and his team the opportunity to sample a range of hospitality beds, each with its own unique look and feel,” said Stephen Truswell, Hospitality Sales Director at Harrison Spinks. “Once we had established the look and specification, we moved on to feel. Because we have the facility to provide different tensions, our showroom allowed them to select the tension that would deliver their guests the ultimate night’s sleep.”

In my editorial opinion, although bed and mattress preference differs from person to person, it was the most comfortable sleep experience I have ever had in a hotel, which is a testament to both the hotel and the manufacturer.

While the guestrooms offer their corner of luxury and unparalleled comfort, the jewel in the crown is the custom-build penthouse, which is located on the fifth floor at the end of the architecturally lit corridor and offers more than a bed for the night – it is an experience; a unique space and an opportunity to explore a cutting-edge smart hotel in style. Framing what are unreservedly the best views of the gold course and surrounding landscape of rolling hills, the expansive suite, at just under 3,000 sq ft, features a unique space that is layered with technology to enhance and enrich the consumer journey.

The living area is flooded in tech – from the Gallo acoustic speakers to the personalised Lutron lighting and blinds. To add personality into the space, a distressed leather bar from Timothy Oulton provides the perfect minibar. Adjacent to it is a large dining table, which filters into the suite’s private kitchen. A separate work area in the lounge plays well into the new ‘workcation’ travel trend that has emerged in recent months. Once the work emails are answered, guests can sink into what the hotel describes as “the most comfortable sofa in the world”, which was imported in from America.

The style of the bedroom within The Penthouse is similar to other rooms within the hotel, but the bathroom is an open-planned area of indulgent luxury. Complete with a freestanding bath, a large shower and dark, moody and textured stone surfaces (giving a nod to the inside of a cave, perhaps), this area further provides laid-back character and seductive design.

Meanwhile, downstairs on the ground floor the spa and wellness area may be small but it is fit for purpose. Complete with a sauna, steam room, hydro-pool and a gym, the wellness facilities are there to cater to modern demands of luxury ‘bleisure’ (business/leisure) travellers.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel & Resort

The hotel recently appointed award-winning hotelier Robert Richardson to take the helm as General Manager, who believes The Cave Hotel’s independent status gives it an advantage in a post-pandemic world. “As an independent hotel we can be boundlessly creative in our approach to providing a memorable guest journey,” he said. “The natural beauty of the stunning Garden of England, our close proximity to London, and the singular vision of the hotel owners has all been combined to create a destination venue never before seen in Kent.”

What makes the hotel that much more interesting – other than it just being a superb luxury countryside hotel with an urban personality – is its expansion plans. It may well be an independent hotel at the moment, but the aim is for The Cave Hotel in Canterbury to be the first of what is said to be many hotels that will open in the portfolio in and outside of the UK.

As I come back down to earth to check out of The Penthouse, I can see how The Cave Hotel’s effortless style and thoughtful design would work in metropolis’ around the world. It’s refreshing to immerse myself in a hotel that answers to the hefty demands of modern luxury travellers. With its luxe contemporary design and laid-back atmosphere throughout, the hotel in many ways erases conventional hospitality and replaces it with a completely new hotel experience that makes a lot of sense in the tech-fuelled ‘new normal’ world we live in today.

Main image credit: The Cave Hotel 

Checking in to Selina Brighton – a room with a view

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Selina Brighton – a room with a view

Following the recent opening of Selina Brighton, we sent travel journalist Sara Darling – who pre-Covid would be travelling to far-flung destinations around the world – to be one of the first to check in to the hotel, which is conveniently located on her doorstep…

Brighton has got the best of everything. And I say that, because I am biased (it’s my home)! It’s hilly, happy and generally quite hippy! It’s also perfect for a staycation – something we have evolved to love since lockdown.

However, with all it’s quirks, the seafront is like a mecca of swish hotels, posh apartments, restaurants and quaint squares – and very rarely do I get to frequent them. However, the opening of the latest hotel to hit the beach was a local affair, and I was happy to shimmy on down, with little more than a toothbrush and a party frock, to check it out.

Selina Hotel is situated in a perfect tourist spot – opposite the i360 and the West Pier; the iconic landmarks have not been forgotten within the design of the redecorated rooms as many have a view of both.

Designed to reflect Brighton’s iconic ocean-front location and the city’s creative spirit, interior designer Tola Ojuolape collaborated closely with Selina’s workshop team, using materials that represent and embrace the community, and each of the rooms has been given a quirky and whimsical twist.

As an international nomadic lifestyle brand, Selina is renowned for its combination of co-working spaces, wellness and recreational experiences; in fact, you can find Selina Hotels in more than 70 urban, beach, jungle and mountain-side locations across 20 countries worldwide. With a plan to develop a global infrastructure for nomads and remote workers who want to make the world their classroom/office/playground Brighton is a great fit.

Image credit: Selina

The modern, on-site restaurant, The Old Pier, offers an uninterrupted vista for people watchers- and the constant enchantment of the bobbing tide and 360 pod will ensure anyone who doesn’t have their sea legs, feels safe cocooned in the shabby-chic, atmospheric, plant-filled bar.

31 uniquely designed private rooms, suites and shared rooms are all tasteful, yet uncluttered; they are designed not to be lived in, as Brighton is there to be explored! I stayed in a delightful king size room, with a damn comfortable bed, and sash windows which let in a refreshing sea breeze. With a small (original natch) school desk and chair, open plan wardrobe and ensuite with quality condiments, the room led off a rickety floorboard corridor, which was miraculously un-squeaky throughout the night.

Image credit: Selina

But perhaps that had something to do with copious amounts of alcohol that came when celebrating the opening of the property. Both residents and non-residents are welcome to take part in the weekly bingo sesh, which is hosted by Party with Ginger and her entourage of incredible performers. If you’ve never seen Grace Jones, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Madonna or Kylie up close, I can only imagine it would be as much fun as this! Bingo is the name of the game, but actually takes second place to these dancers – socially distanced of course, and complemented by house line shots of tequila.

While you’re being entertained, you can scan the menu from the table topped bar code and enjoy table service – I’d highly recommend the signature 48-hour sourdough pizza – they do a vegan one obviously this being Brighton- the Dungeon with vegan mozzarella, grated chilli seitan, red peppers and crushed green chillies, which was insanely delicious! Over the coming months, The Old Pier will also expand the menu further to include salmon sashimi poke bowls, Bajan style fish tacos and beef and vegan burgers, but I loved the sweet corn niblets and cauliflower tempura and fish tacos.

If your first night was unexpected, it’s well worth engaging in the full Brighton experience and signing up for a rejuvenating morning yoga session in the i360. Blow away the cobwebs and set yourself up for the day with sea views from a downward dog position, before tottering back across the prom to the hotel for brunch.

Whether you are keen to get out and explore the city, which is right on your doorstep, hang around the lobby with your laptop or peruse the products from local brands that are on display in reception, Selina is in the heart of the action. Locals will soon be able to snap up a spot in a co-working space, which will no doubt be a creative hot pot – showcasing local artist Amy Isles Freeman, whose work themes around female sexuality, freedom and joy.

Whether you live in Brighton or just fancy a Covid friendly trip to the seaside, I’d highly recommend checking out the range of lofts, suites, family rooms that accommodate up to four, standard and micro-sized double rooms at the Selina. What’s more, the brand has a further 19 opening in 2021 including shared community rooms which fit up to six guests.

Main image credit: Selina Brighton

Checking in to Villa Copenhagen, a new brand of conscious luxury

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Villa Copenhagen, a new brand of conscious luxury

A much-anticipated addition to the Danish capital city, Copenhagen, transforms an iconic architectural landmark into a modern oasis of cool. Writer Collette Swindells explores…

It is not often that a space of more than 25,600 square metres becomes available in the centre of a European capital – least of all in a city like Copenhagen, where it is often considered something of a luxury to have a separate shower and toilet in your downtown apartment.

Instantly recognising the tremendous potential of the site, Nordic Hotels & Resort, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, sought to transform the imposing old-world grandeur of the five-floor, Neo-Baroque former headquarters of the Danish Post and Telegraph into a fresh expression of what it means to be Scandinavian.

Combining an impressive roll-call of talents including award-winning London architecture and interiors firm Universal, award-winning design studio Goddard Littlefair, specialist F&B design studio Epicurean, Danish architect Eva Harlou and Nordic jewellery designers Shamballa Jewels, the reconstruction weaves together three key themes of contrast, conscious luxury and happiness.

The arrival experience

Entering the somewhat unassuming frontage, adjacent to the Copenhagen Central Station, guests are immediately greeted with an expansive, light-filled, glass-roofed atrium lobby – appropriately named The Square – centrally adorned by a tongue-in-cheek ‘Whispering’ sculpture from Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

A large lobby with glass ceiling and modern furniture

Image credit: Stine Christiansen

Cleverly designed to be a multi-functional space that welcomes both locals and foreigners, it artfully mixes classic Danish design elements with contemporary flourishes and finishes that unite the functions of the hotel boutique, lounge area, bar, self-service check-in and reception. It is a space that comes alive at night too, with live music and DJs cementing its vibrant personality, and other day-time pop-ups including a mobile piercing station from jeweller Maria Black.

Direct access to most of the hotel’s F&B and public areas is available from The Courtyard, ensuring it is continually an animated, lively thoroughfare and meeting point for all.

Relaxed public areas for all occasions

To the city side of this, The Playroom acts as a further extension of the lobby lounge space, with even more intimate spaces and cosy pockets that encourage visitors to have fun with friends while playing board games, foosball and other table games on custom-made tops. Part grand parlour part secluded den, the space is also perfect for hosting large groups, with Epicurean ensuring a relaxed, cultivated atmosphere with its Carl Hansen furniture, vintage tiling, antique-style woodwork and panelling and patina mirrored walls.

Image caption: The Playroom | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

On the alternate side of The Courtyard, Kontrast, a contemporary brasserie, offers an equally smart take on mid-century styling, with subtle tributes to its former tenant. Replica carvings and window details from the original posthouse inspire wood panelling details, with reused and recycled materials cleverly woven in where possible.

A diner style F&B area with tiled floors and globe like chandeliers

Image caption: Kontrast | Image credit: Stine Christiansen

Curved booth seats in warm brown leather tones are complimented with custom high chairs in striking hues that fill out the main dining area inside, allowing guests the chance to gaze into the large, open kitchen and bar. Bespoke tables are inlaid with brass, showcasing the level of craftsmanship and attention Epicurean brings to each fit-out, while also adding something new and fun to the traditional Scandinavian styling visitors might come to expect elsewhere in town.

On the terrace, overlooking the main station, more contemporary woven textile furniture sits outside, alongside Tore Gustafsson’s menu of fresh, local and seasonal produce. Taking inspiration from the south of Europe and North Africa, Gustafsson – known for previously steering the helm of Copenhagen Meatpacking favourite Paté Paté – has built an impressive sustainable food profile across all the F&B outlets, with a focus on providing a ‘carbon-free’ experience.

Sustainable hospitality solutions

Part of the overall commitment by the hotel to four of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – Decent Work and Economic Growth; Sustainable Cities and Communities; Responsible Consumption; and Production and Partnerships for the Goals – meat consumption at each outlet has been reduced, alongside overall food waste, with an innovative technology converting this into green energy. Fresh herbs and spices are also handpicked from the hidden rooftop garden, which sits next to a beehive from Bybi and the famed lapping pool.

F&B areas

Designed by Goddard Littlefair to reflect the local community’s relationship with food, drink and socialising, there are a plethora of options when it comes to F&B in the hotel. Breakfast is served daily in the former postage sorting room, Public, located on the lower floor which is accessed via a neon light-filled stairwell off The Courtyard. Descending into what feels like the belly of the grand building, you can hear the hum of the nearby train station, which provides a steady memory of its previous life.

Image caption: Public | Image credit: Stine Christiansen

Indeed Epicurean drew heavily from archival photos of the space in its former glory, invoking its archways, lighting, brickwork and paneling in their redesign. The expansive area, filled with rows of bespoke banquette seating and commanding repurposed copper arches, can also host larger functions and groups and extends onto the sunken garden, containing the entrance to the almost completed Rug Bakery.

The original arrival point for the mail, the impressive terrace space is somewhat of a hidden gem for the hotel – exposed when the roof was removed from the loading dock – and a perfect place to enjoy the freshly baked local pastries Denmark is known for.

The guestrooms and suites

In contrast to the lively public and F&B areas, Universal took their starting point for the design of the guestrooms and suites from the art of Danish master painter Vilhelm Hammershøi – known for his understated composition, elegant lighting, muted palette and study of secluded moments and spaces.

Mapping out the building’s original interior, the studio restored and reinstalled many of the key period features like the impressive windows, herringbone flooring, cornices, architraves and wood paneling. Each room and suite has been treated like a grand Danish residence, housing a sophisticated collection of custom-designed classic and contemporary furniture, alongside original pieces from known Danish designers Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl, Nanna Ditzel, Niels Otto Møller, Ole Wanscher and Borge Morgensen. Warmth and softness is key, with bespoke textiles, lighting and ceramics amplifying the comfort to create a calm refuge with more than a few touches of brilliance. Materials are locally and sustainably sourced where possible, with Kvadrat’s Sahco brand providing natural wool textiles that sit next to other highlights including biodegradable and recyclable linen headboards produced by Scandinavian interior textile studio Astrid.

Image caption: Delux guestroom | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Image caption: Delux guestroom | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Each of the rooms has its own typography – there are 50 in total – with sprawling four metre-high ceilings on the lower levels and near floor-to-ceiling windows that give you various views of the city surrounds. The converted attic, with its exposed timber beams, differs only because of its unique character and obvious height limitations – but its roof-lit views of the city more than compensate for this.

Of course all the usual five-star modern conveniences apply, with keyless entry, remote check-in, virtual check-out, and an optional white glove service available in each of the 381 rooms. In-room facilities are on-point too, with a considered range of local favourites that includes Mikkeller beer and chocolate, Great Dane Rum, Nordic winegums, Harahorn Norwegian gin, and ELG vodka.

Image caption: Guestroom | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Sustainability stays top of mind, with custom in-room guest amenities provided by Skandinavisk in a signature range that pays homage to the smell of wood-laden northern forests. Gone are the plastic-wrapped pairs of slippers, replaced instead by slides that can be bought in the hotel’s boutique store, together with a collection of other local, sustainable and notable designers.

But if you really want to experience something different, then check-in to the ‘Universal Penthouse Suite’ which was designed across two floors with a central walnut and steel spiral staircase connecting the upper master bedroom with the lounge space on the lower floor.

Added to this next-level option is the completely sustainable suite, the Earth Suite, designed by Eva Harlou using eco-friendly furniture and recycled materials and textiles. Denmark’s most expensive suite, the Shamballa Master Suite was designed by Shamballa Jewels and takes in 110sqm that includes the former Postmaster’s office and the best view of the adjoining main station.

Sitting in a collection of seven other Shamballa suites, these exclusive retreats are due to be completed by the end of 2020 – a small casualty of the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Luckily though, if you can’t afford the additional extravagance of the Shamballa suites, the lapping pool, with its centralised cooling system using excess heat from the hotel to keep it at a steady 34 degree, provides a welcome space to relax and unwind. Adjacent to the 24-hour fitness centre, sauna and wellness area, it is a colourful, secluded spot that sits beside the rooftops of Copenhagen and offers a cabana service from its Pool Bar.

a rooftop pool overlooking Copenhagen

Image credit: Stine Christiansen

You might also like to take a walk through the five floors to check out the private collection of artwork – valued at more than US$2 million – that includes local and international artists like Per Kirkeby, Ian McKeever and Bent Stokke. Norwegian Stokke produced 383 unique charcoal artworks to be featured in each room, as well as along the many hallways and restored stairways.

But perhaps the real jewel of the hotel is the Old Boardroom, available to be hired as a private function space for intimate dinners and gatherings, and still proudly displaying the plaque bestowed to the building by both Kings Frederick III and Christian X who both ruled the year it was inaugurated. Its restored tapestry-and-chandelier adorned space, with adjoining bar, sits in stark, refined contrast to the other over 2,000sqm of meeting and event room spaces that are decorated with more than 850 conference chairs produced using 2.75kg of upcycled plastic ocean waste and fishing nets. It is just another example of how the hotel holds dual respect and reverence for the past and the future – carefully balancing respect for each in the present.

And like a home that becomes more of itself every day new memories are created within it, Villa Copenhagen, in all its imposing glory, is sure to become a welcomed part of the city’s new landscape: a reinvigorated icon that stands even taller than its predecessor.

Main image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Checking in to No.5 Maddox Street, London

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to No.5 Maddox Street, London

Embracing change – and predicting a rise in demand for luxury apartments post-pandemic – editor Hamish Kilburn checks himself in review No.5 Maddox Street

It was the first time since the start of lockdown I had made the trip into the capital, but certain things were not how I remembered.

For starters, not a single person on the train journey had demanded for me to move my bag on the empty seat next to me. Pre-Covid, not standing on the commute would have been seen as a miracle. Five months after the government put us into a forced hibernation, the empty carriage felt lonely. I disembarked the train at St Pancras International, checked my watch – it was 08:59 on a Wednesday – I could hear the echo of an barren terminal in what was supposed to be ‘rush hour’.

On my walk from the station to Maddox Street in Mayfair, the stark reality hit: most of London’s iconic hotels were closed and lifeless. And yet, while the majority of hotels in the city were shaking up re-opening strategies and not cocktails, other accommodation offerings – like for example No.5 Maddox Street – were able to open fully because of their design scheme being friendly to social distancing.

I launched the Living Rooms concept in 1999 after recognising the modern traveller’s desire for privacy and independence.” – Tracy Lowy, owner, Living Rooms.

Nestled between high-end art galleries and luxury boutiques – conveniently tucked behind Bond Street and metres away from Regent Street – is the discreet entrance to No.5 Maddox Street.

Sheltering just 12 luxury apartments – all of which were renovated last year by the owner herself, Tracy Lowy – No.5 Maddox Street is part of the Living Rooms collection, which also includes The Laslett and Weymouth Mews. Offering what it claims is ‘the best of apartment living and hotel service’, it’s almost as if the collection was unconsciously designed for the post-pandemic world. “I launched the Living Rooms concept in 1999 after recognising the modern traveller’s desire for privacy and independence,” Lowy told Hotel Designs. “From concept through to the finished product, we sought to create the best of both worlds; design-led apartments that combine the services of a luxury hotel, complete with the privacy, space and the comfort of home.”

Image credit: No5. Maddox Street

The arrival experience at No.5 Maddox Street is unlike any hotel I have ever stayed in – there is no lobby, for example, which immediately creates an understated entrance with no room for drama. With no lift, meaning that No.5 Maddox Street is not accessible for everyone, I climbed the industrial-like stairs to check in.

While each apartment sheltered within the building is different, all of them are competitively spacious. In fact, the smallest apartment, at 27 sqm, is almost double the size of a typical London hotel guestroom, which adds to the home-from-home setting that Lowry has created. In addition, and something of a rarity in the city where space is a premium, many of the apartments feature decked terraces, balconies and open fire places.

A luxe masculine bedroom

Image credit: No5. Maddox Street

The property was given a refurbishment last year to mark its 20th anniversary. Impressively, No.5 Maddox Street remained open throughout. “As the refurb was mostly cosmetic, we remained open for guests and blocked apartments out in groups  – it was a bit of a game of Tetris,” explained Lowy.

“We sourced a lot of vintage design pieces which come with their own set of challenges.” – Tracy Lowy, owner, Living Rooms.

Although Living Rooms decided not to hire in a design firm for the project, Lowry carefully selected items that she believed would create an apt homely environment in the centre of the action. “We sourced a lot of vintage design pieces which come with their own set of challenges,” she said. “But we are lucky to have some great partners in that area that we can always count on to help us come up with the goods.” 

The apartments have been refreshed, nipped, tucked and brightened with modernised interiors. As well as vintage rugs by Larusi, the spaces feature one-of-a-kind furnishings from Les Couilles Du Chien and a curated selection of photography and artwork that reflects the rich history of the local area.

With as much emphasis on service as well as design, guests of No.5 are encouraged to ‘live like a local’. Those checking in can explore the city by using the constantly updated neighbourhood guide, as well as tapping up the knowledgable and friendly concierge service.

an open light kitchen

Image credit: No5. Maddox Street

As I checked out of No.5, following a relaxing and comfortable nights sleep, I am intrigued to understand from Lowy’s perspective whether or not the demand for this style of accommodation has increased following the pandemic. “Travellers, both leisure and business, are really seeing the benefit of the personal space we can offer,” she explained. “In this part of London, where hotel rates can be very high, we can often offer an entire apartment for the price of a hotel room.”

In conclusion, I agree with the term ‘hotel alternative’ when describing No.5 Maddox Street. Although I am not fully won over by apart-hotels stealing the limelight in hospitality completely, the apartments at No.5 Maddox Street are smartly designed to offer a discreet urban pad, suitable for one or two nights. They are warm and inviting but, in my opinion, feel more like you are staying in someone else’s home-from-home – similar to a stylish, well-stocked and well-hosted AirBnB, if you like.

Main image credit: No5. Maddox Street

Checking in to Hotel Brooklyn, the best of both worlds

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Hotel Brooklyn, the best of both worlds

Two years after Hotel Designs reviewed Hotel Gotham, editor Hamish Kilburn is transported to New York City without having to leave Manchester as he checks in to review Hotel Brooklyn…  

Could checking in to places like Hotel Brooklyn – experiencing the unequivocal flair and flavour of a destination from the safety and comfort of your once hometown – become a new method of travel in the post-pandemic world, I wonder?

Positioned, I’m told, in the exact spot which used to be the main stage for Manchester Pride, on the fringe of the Gay Village, Hotel Brooklyn is anything but closeted. Its playful and at times voyeuristic design scheme reflects the authentic personality of a city that I have grown to love, Manchester.

The hotel’s new-build shell not only sets it apart from other properties in the Bespoke Hotels portfolio, including its big sister in the same neighbourhood, Hotel Gotham, but it also presents a unique opportunity for the building and brand to play a role in rewriting the lifestyle hospitality scene in the north.

A modern lobby with white and black flooring, brick wall and exposed ceiling with 'Brooklyn' in white

Image caption: The welcoming lobby inside Hotel Brooklyn.

“Weaving the lines between Manchester and Brooklyn is a bold and inspirational project that draws many parallels and it was incredibly fun to do, partnering with some of the best local suppliers to create the finished look.” – Olly Redfern, lead interior designer of Squid Inc.

After much anticipation, and two years of sworn secrecy from me, Hotel Brooklyn finally opened in February with the aim to become an epicentre of eclectic substance and a home-away-from-home to the creators and style setters.

The concept for the hotel, which was imagined by design studio Squid Inc., was to create sanctuary for urban explorers – think of a living room away from home and a workplace away from the office.

Image credit: Brooklyn Heights inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image credit: Brooklyn Heights inside Hotel Brooklyn

3,334 miles away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan – the most obvious source of inspiration for hotel’s creation – Hotel Brooklyn is about raw, unpolished creativity, irresistible in its youthful heat. “Weaving the lines between Manchester and Brooklyn is a bold and inspirational project that draws many parallels and it was incredibly fun to do, partnering with some of the best local suppliers to create the finished look,” explained Olly Redfern, lead interior designer of Squid Inc. “It was an honour to work with Bespoke Hotels again on creating another iconic Manchester hotel with a strong identity and character.”

That bold spirit starts in the lobby, often blended together with the sound of live music as guests check in. The walk-in-the-park design scheme, complete with charming park benches under an exposed industrial ceiling, is uncluttered and smartly blends in biophilic design elements while reflecting modern, industrial vibes. Around the corner from the understated check-in desks is a tiered seated cinema, which offers a communal area unlike anywhere else in the city, where guests can relax and unwind.

Runyon’s Bar and Restaurant was named after New York journalist and writer Damon Runyon, who was renowned for his depictions of Brooklyn characters. The F&B area, complete with chandeliers made from upcycled glass bottles, is an energetic and refreshing in its design. The iconic backdrop of a wall mural featuring the hybrid cable-stayed Brooklyn Bridge, which was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States of America, can be seen from all angles of the restaurant and further distorts guests’ sense of place.

Upstairs, while the 189 rooms are impressively designed, it is the 18 fully accessible suites that set the hotel aside from others. With Bespoke Hotels being award-winningly famous for pioneering stylish accessibility in hospitality for all, the group turned to Motionspot, the UK’s leading accessible design company, to help delicately balance style and functionality. “Accessible accommodation at Hotel Brooklyn features subtle details like basins with integrated hand grips, removable matt black grab rails, accessible bedroom storage and a hidden ceiling track hoist”, said Ed Warner, Founder and CEO of Motionspot. “We hope this high level of attention paid to inclusivity will make Hotel Brooklyn one of the most sought-after venues for guests of all abilities.”

Accessible, well-designed large bathroom inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image caption: Hotel Brooklyn shelters 18 accessible design-led suites

The aesthetic of each guestrooms was inspired by Brooklyn’s loft spaces, peppered with immaculate features that favour quality and high-spec finishes. The beds, for example, have brass adornments, while Turkish-inspired carpets by Brintons contrast with the concrete walls. Wooden pink and blue chairs, supplied by TON, compliment black desks, while modern lamps by R&S Robertson and a traditional dial phone from Orbis add to the interior’s overall mise en scene.

Large suite with grey bath and modern furniture inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image caption: A large, modern suite inside Hotel Brooklyn

The modern bathrooms within the rooms feature matt-black fixtures and fittings from Geberit, which stand out against a simple white-tiled backdrop. The majority of bathroom configurations in each room have been cleverly-angled to allow their back walls and semi opaque windows to look out across the bedroom – a nod, I feel, to the city’s voyeuristic and playful side.

On the top floor, the hotel’s meeting and event space has been aptly named, Brooklyn Heights. Complete with hanging baskets and panoramic vistas across the city, Salvation Bar has the swag to become a new destination venue.

Terrace and suite inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image caption: Terrace Suite inside Hotel Brooklyn

Now familiar with its surroundings, Hotel Brooklyn has redefined luxury lifestyle in the city by bringing together the best elements of two vivacious destinations. With another Hotel Brooklyn ‘lair’ in Leicester on the way, and Bespoke Hotels welcoming a new CEO in Thomas Greenall who is taking the helm, the Manchester property is officially re-emerging from the Covid-19 hospitality slumber on August 21, and it is determined not be ignored as a middle sibling. With its comfortable, timeless guestroom interiors layered with vibrant and adaptable public areas, I predict that Hotel Brooklyn will be standing loud and proud, giving guests checking in each time an accurate taste of Brooklyn in Manchester, for many years to come.

Main image credit: Hotel Brooklyn

Checking in: Hôtel Chais Monnet, Cognac

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in: Hôtel Chais Monnet, Cognac

Four years after Hotel Designs got the on-the-boards industry sneak peek of Hôtel Chais Monnet, editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to the luxury hotel in the heart of Cognac…

Positioned in close proximity of Cognac’s Charente River, Hôtel Chais Monnet took chief architect Didier Poignant of Paris-based Ertim Architects four years to plan, and a further 26 months to convert into a reality.

Built in the 19th century, the site that was the childhood home of Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union. The building had sat uninhabited since 2004 before the decision was made to transform the trading house into a majestic, five-star getaway, combining traditional architecture with cutting-edge contemporary design.

The luxury spa hotel was described as a “modern take on traditional French luxe” when Hotel Designs first caught wind of the project in 2016. In simple terms, the restoration has given the buildings on site a new lease of life.

I would go one step further, though, to say that it has reopened up the destination’s history books, perhaps to a different chapter. For starters, during the restoration process, the architectural plans included adding a new contemporary structure ­­– a rare find in and around the low-level city of Cognac.

Image caption: The arrival experience allows guests to capture the two original buildings on the site that used to be wine cellars | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

Image caption: The arrival experience allows guests to capture the two original buildings on the site that used to be wine cellars | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

Despite the property being centrally located – only a ten-minute walk down to some of the great cognac houses in the region – the hotel’s space is not sacrificed, nor is it limited in its ambitious design. Guests arrive through a long driveway, past two retro Citroen 2CVs, and enter the hotel via a walkway that cuts through the two original limestone buildings, which used to be wine cellars. Bridging together these structures at the end of the pathway is a magnificent glass-box building. Inside, the lobby, which evokes a strong first impression and proof that architecture styles of different eras can, in fact, work in harmony.

Image caption: The hotel is a classic tale of old and new architecture meeting in harmony | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

Although this was very much a heroic rescue operation to retain the site’s heritage, the layout of the hotel allows for a modern design scheme to filter into all areas. Separated off the side of the lobby, making it ideal for locals as well as guests to enjoy, is the characterful Cognac Bar. As well as serving more than 400 varieties of the spirits (I counted them), the bar features quirky lighting, residential-style furniture and idiosyncratic artefacts for good measure.

Image caption: The Cognac Bar | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

The majority of the hotel’s facilities – the 92 guestrooms, 13 suites, a wellness area and two restaurants – are sheltered in new-build glass structure that is covered with corten steel tendrils. The striking and unrestrained design of the framework compliments the contemporary, light and airy interiors that can be found in each guestroom and suite. With a safe colour scheme of whites, cream and the occasional accent of red in the soft furnishings, the rooms very much channel the spirit of Cognac to evoke a home-from-home, relaxed residential look and feel. Elements such as a rose-gold clocks from Karlsson and arresting chandeliers above the beds add a contemporary layer to the design, while subtle biophilic references in the artwork inject the strong sense of place, far removed from metropolis life.

Image caption: One of the hotel's stylish guestrooms | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

Image caption: One of the hotel’s stylish guestrooms | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

The bathrooms, complete with geometric-patterned surfaces and large bath tubs, are contemporary spaces. Quality brands in these generously sized areas include Kohler and Allia Paris basins, Grohe taps and showers and quality WCs from Ideal Standard.

Beneath the guestrooms and suites, the hotel’s spa wellness facilities include an impressive 25-metre indoor and outdoor pool, which allows guests to soak in the natural landscape while enjoying R&R from exploring the city. In addition, the spa also features a modern jacuzzi, a sauna, a handful of massage therapy rooms and a state-of-the-art gym.

Image caption: The 25-metre indoor and outdoor pool inside the hotel | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

In the two restaurants below, the sites heritage – and its connection to wine – is deeply ingrained in the design scheme. In the gourmet brasserie, Le Distillerie, a wooden ceiling and beams evoke a casual dining experience that is aptly centered around seasonal eating and using fresh, locally sourced produce. The hotel’s fine-dining option, meanwhile, is located on the lower level. Les Foudres, provides an unparalleled entrance that welcomes guests to dine amongst ancient Cognac barrels in the building’s historic Chais.

Since opening its doors in 2018, Hôtel Chais Monnet has become rooted into the community that surrounds it. There’s no better example of this than its recent initiative to freshly prepare and deliver 365 cooked meals to the town’s hospital during the COVID–19 pandemic. Cognac-born pastry chef Isabelle Bovy has paired up with the hotel’s very own pastry chef Camille Roché to create a substantial yet balanced menu to sustain and satisfy these health workers.

The two chefs created a delicious menu which included a starter of quinoa salad, followed by a main course of beef and Grenailles potatoes and finishing with a sweet and sticky lemon cake. “We have enough kitchen space to ensure that everyone can cook safely,” commented Hôtel Chais Monnet’s General Manager, Arnaud Bamvems. “If we can help those in need, let’s do it!”

My conclusion of Hôtel Chais Monnet is that looks can often be deceiving. Its compelling old-meets-new architectural style has unlocked the opportunity for a modern luxury hotel to operate seamlessly on a historic site. Its carefully and sensitively curated design scheme allows for an effortless flow between all areas so that guests and locals alike can be part of the renaissance of Cognac.

Main image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

Checking in to Inhabit Hotel, sheltering a new level of eco design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Inhabit Hotel, sheltering a new level of eco design

During the London hotel’s soft launch period, editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to discover Inhabit’s debut property, which in the process earns his eco stamp of approval…

Last year, an insightful study revealed that the city of London had the eighth highest level of pollution in the world, making the sky 67 times brighter than it would be without the contribution of humans. In the same study, it was highlighted that a staggering 84 per cent of Brits spend less than 10 minutes a day enjoying peace and quiet.

Armed with these statistics, it came with great delight reading about a new hospitality concept of a fresh urban hotel perspective, where wellbeing and sustainable design was at the core of everything. Where the aim is for guests to leave feeling lighter, more free and inspired by taking the pace of life down a gear or two. Where time is luxury. Where Inhabit Hotel becomes a home-from-home.

After a chaotic experience navigating the London Underground, which I politely consider to be ‘the pits’ of all public transport with it being the most polluted place in the city, I arrived at Paddington’s new boutique hotel in the same state of mind as I imagine most guests do; slightly stressed showing early symptoms of rush-hour rage. Juxtaposing the hustle and bustle of the city’s zone 1, the hotel’s understated is guests’ first indication of a new kind of hotel.

The sixth-floor urban sanctuary is the brainchild of Nadira and Rihim Lalji, and is the cousins’ first hotel within the portfolio. Created by architecture firm Holland Harvey Architects and Caitlin Henderson Design, the 90-key hotel is designed with busy travellers in mind. My arrival experience feels more as if I am staying with warm hosts rather than a hotel. The lobby sits in perfect harmony between the F&B area, named Yeotown, and book-filled library.

The check-in desk is down-played, and marries nicely into the laid-back luxury design concept. While checking in, my eyes are drawn to a timetable that I am not familiar with; a yoga and mediation schedule, which I am told launched only this week but was very much part of the core plan for the hotel. “Wellness is at the heart of our brand,” says Nadira Lalji. “Every aspect of our hotel is aligned with what being well means to us. We think of wellness as more than a physical state, but a way of being. Our brand pillars, which stand for social connectedness, intellectual expansion and environmental responsibility, reinforce this belief.”

The ground-floor library is Inhabit’s answer to the rise in demand for public areas designed with bleisure in mind. The space encourages residents and members of the public to unwind, work and be inspired. The noise-free corner is complete with LED bulbs, which are 80 per cent more efficient in terms of energy used than traditional lighting. Occupancy sensors ensure that no energy is lost and guests are seen in their best light when they require it.

Image credit: Inhabit Hotel

Yeotown, is an innovative and thoughtful F&B area, perfect for guests on the move or as a venue for casual meetings. By partnering with food-wastage apps Karma and Too Good to Go, the area allows non-guests to pick up perfectly edible bargains which would otherwise be put into waste. The tables and chairs, made also by Holland and Harvey, have been created using materials honestly and in their natural state. “At Inhabit, we have specified oak flooring and joinery, all finished with a natural sealant to show off their natural colouring and tones,” said architect Richard Holland. “The floor is a natural stone from Fired Earth, which has beautiful variations and tonal differences.”

Upstairs, the sustainability story continues, which is most impressive when considering that the hotel is sheltered within a Grade II listed building. From Casper eco-friendly mattresses to the REN amenities that are made from recycled plastic – even the soft toilet paper is 100 per cent recycled – the guestrooms and bathrooms are quite obviously designed with conscious guests in mind. But on close inspection, it becomes apparent just how high up on the agenda sustainability is for the hotel. Taking the concept of ‘escapism’, one step further, each room comes complete with Studio ND phone charge and stowaway boxes, made from scrap materials, so that guests can break away from their devices.

Perhaps it was my perfectly timed stay to sit in-between speaking about this very topic on stage at the Independent Hotel Show – more likely it’s simply the sheer statement of an urban hotel having such an eco-focused message – that has put on a smile on my face when checking out following one of the best night’s sleep I have had in London for a while. I can’t help but feel totally relaxed and reassured that the bottom line of profit is not the only value when it comes to successfully operating a hotel. And it was this that inspired my latest Editor Checks In online column, where I argue that consciousness could very well become the new luxury.

Main image credit: InHabit London

Eco gem: The Tongsai Bay, Koh Samui

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Eco gem: The Tongsai Bay, Koh Samui

In search of eco gems, as we continue putting sustainability under the spotlight this month, journalist Sara Darling has committed to long haul, and Asia is firmly on her agenda. Removed from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Koh Samui is Darling’s next adventure as it is home to one of the world’s few fully sustainable boutique hotels, The Tongsai Bay…

Koh Samui, just east of mainland Thailand, is a relaxed island, famous for its giant temple of the Big Buddha- a 39ft golden Buddha erected in 1792 at Wat Phra Yai. It is also the home of what I have found to be one of the world’s most sustainable boutique hotels.

The Tongsai Bay, on the north east tip of the beautiful island, is a family run business which has been welcoming visitors since 1987, and is the ideal  tranquil break that is full of many sustainable and thoughtful moments thanks to its design, architecture and day-to-day operations.

Nestled amongst 28 and a half acres of greenery, the secluded property consisting of low rise apartments, bungalows and cottages are spread in the valley of a private cove. Only 15 minutes from the airport, it is a short hop north of the popular Choeng Mon beach, and a ten minute transfer to the buzzy restaurants, bars and shopping in Fisherman’s Village.

Paying attention to all the small details, the hotel has a modern rustic feel, which blends Eastern and Western philosophies with science and spirituality; However the subtle decor is more homely than pretentious and enhances the brand’s ethical stance. For example, the art throughout the property, which has been created by the hotel’s resident artist Mook, uses recycled materials – and paints my first indication of a sustainable and eco-friendly picture.

Meanwhile, the elegant, airy villas have private pathways and pools which are interspersed amongst the greenery. Along with cottages, villas and suites, there are low rise blocks, all which maximise the uninterrupted sea views, and are designed to utilise the natural sun and shade within their open spaces.

With a low-key, back-to-nature environment, the 83 chalets and villas that cascade down to a private beach on the Gulf of Thailand, have also been designed to enhance their natural surroundings, so guests can enjoy the birdsong, crashing waves and sound of crickets on their terrace. The terrace cottages all offer an outside “bath with a view”, four poster gazebo, bar, dining area and sun loungers, along with a freshwater plunge pool for ultimate luxury while feeling at one with the elements.

“Dedicated to improving its carbon footprint, Tongsai Bay has abolished the use of all plastic – providing re-fillable glass drinking bottles and lemongrass straws for guests.”

Great care has been taken to integrate the buildings into nature. They are furnished in contemporary Thai style – dark wood tables and beds, hardwood floors, along with modern showers, hairdryer and walk-in wardrobe.

Dedicated to improving its carbon footprint, The Tongsai Bay has abolished the use of all plastic – providing re-fillable glass drinking bottles and lemongrass straws for guests. It also applies energy-saving measures throughout, stocks guestrooms with environmentally-friendly toiletries made by local supplier, and only changes bedding when requested.

Other eco-conscious details include washing-up liquid and cleaning products produced from leftover peelings, and mosquito deterrent created with natural citronella and lemongrass. Staff are trained to be environmentally aware and the hotel prides itself on upcycling and composting everything it can- including the waste of the compost toilets for fertiliser, and recycling cooking oil.

These simple approaches go a long way in making a difference to the future of the planet, and the ethos is subtly carried out across the site. From a bay that is free from mechanical water sports, to avoid pollution, to the two fresh water pools.

Image credit: Tongsai Bay

In regards to food, as much produce as possible is home grown for the Tongsai, at an impressive, off-site organic garden which provides ingredients for the bar, kitchen and spa, and is open to guests by arrangement. Packed with edibles including exotic fruits, herbs and vegetables, they are cared for using sustainable agricultural practices, and knowledgeable gardners.  The breakfast “Happy Juice” prepared by larger than life Khun Pu is an essential kick start to your day.

A visit to Thailand is not complete without a massage, and the onsite Prana Spa provides a wide range of luxury, innovative treatments for a traditional  taste of Thailand. The scents and oils are provided by the same organic company as the bathroom products, and you can get transported to another world either in one of the cosy spa cottages or shady daybeds on the beach.

For a deluxe stay in a hotel that really puts the environment first, along with friendly staff, The Tongsai Bay is a great place to escape from the rat race where guests can feel at one with nature and themselves.

Main image credit: Tongsai Bay

Checking in to a urban landmark: The Edwardian Manchester

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to a urban landmark: The Edwardian Manchester

The Edwardian Manchester, which joins The May Fair as Edwardian Hotels London’s second Radisson Collection property, has recently completed a £12m renovation. Editor Hamish Kilburn was invited to exclusive review the 263-room hotel… 

A coherent blend of old and new is my first impression when, stood under a glass box that divides two buildings, I check in to the modern and contemporary The Edwardian Manchester.

The Grade II listed The Free Trade Hall plays an integral role in the UK’s history and has long been an important spot for Mancunians. From the political, the Free Trade Hall was constructed in 1853–56 on St Peter’s Fields, the site of the Peterloo Massacre, to the cultural; a range of  iconic names have either performed or spoken at the property, from Charles Dickens to the Sex Pistols to Winston Churchill, the hotel embodies a sense of community and union.

Edwardian Hotels London’s Design Team, led by Creative Director Rob Steul and Product Design Manager Krishma Singh-Dear, has successfully created a dynamic destination through smart, intuitive architectural design. Guests are drawn to a series of connected focal points throughout the building, with each location serving as a distinct purpose to enhance their visit. Their refusal to compromise on quality, and consistent attention to detail is apparent through the use of robust, yet luxurious materials and subtle highlights that consciously link spaces together.

“The top-to-bottom renovation allowed the opportunity to marry the modern bedroom tower with the important heritage of the Grade II* listed original building,” says Steul. “The ground floor public rooms now create a coherent guest arrival leading to a varied and memorable flow of elegant spaces – layering materials, colour and lighting in a clear spatial sequence with texture and drama. It was critical in this building to get the balance of old and new right, allowing the memory of the Free Trade Hall, with its heroic façade, to live on as part of a confidently modern yet comfortable hotel. For me, the great surprise is the spa, gym and pool found below the entry level – a true urban resort in the heart of Manchester.”

The lobby’s design is an excellent place to start. Balanced to reflect both the building’s heritage as well as the modern soul of Manchester. A large contemporary chandelier hangs in the entrance under a carefully curated mix of relaxed public seating. Meanwhile, above the long check-in desk, deliberately hidden from view upon arrival, are crests of honour, which reference the properties previous life.

Peter Street Kitchen

The ground floor restaurant, Peter Street Kitchen, serves hotel guests a fusion of Japanese and Mexican cuisine under a quirky and thoughtful design concept that aims to bring people closer together. The design team created a sequence of four distinctive spaces; a heroic scaled bar, an intimate circular dining room, a shared table area, and a relaxed lounge running the length of the barrel-vaulted colonnade overlooking the nightlife of Peter Street.

“A varied palette juxtaposes smooth and textured materials to further define the space.”

The unique menu inspired design features such as shared bench tables, a Hibachi inspired fire pit, and sumptuous leather-clad booths. Highly dramatic mood and feature lighting complements the stylish textures of natural woods, river stone, and sleek steel, with the historic carved stone arches and highly detailed plasterwork serving as a rich backdrop.

A varied palette juxtaposes smooth and textured materials to further define the space. Circular marble mosaics and wood planking is used on the floors with historic stone with hand-crafted plaster framing circular mirrors and reflecting the shape and light of the arches opposite. The rough, raw timber exterior cladding of the bespoke dining banquets gives way to a supple white leather interior, further enhancing the powerful, circular form of the dining area.

Image caption/credit: Peter Street Kitchen/Edwardian Hotels

The Library

Also situated on the ground floor, The Library has been curated by Assouline and is nestled adjacent to the welcoming lobby. The chic and contemporary dining concept includes neon lighting and considered bookshelves to create subtle boundaries. What is arguably most impressive, though, is the style of the menu. Designed around the theme of a recipe book, a clean image of the dish is the left of the page, while a precise list of ingredients is on the right page.

“Mirrored nickel lamps project a warm glow over the navy velvet and dark woollen charcoal grey armchairs.”

Complete with stunning, limited-edition books, the area, especially during the day, is a sophisticated space that encourages guests to sink into leather sofas and wingback armchairs to truly relax. Mirrored nickel lamps project a warm glow over the navy velvet and dark woollen charcoal grey armchairs, whilst the baby grand piano greets guests with a luxury setting to eat, drink and relax in, simultaneously capturing Manchester’s ties to art and culture. The property’s birch tree wallpaper has been used to mirror the exterior birch trees that line South Street entrance, bringing a connection and synergy between the two spaces.

Wellness and wellbeing

The lower floor of the hotel features the hotel’s gym and spa, which has been completely reimagined to manipulate ceiling heights, remove the appearance of walls and barriers, and create an open and fluid floor plan that provides clear sight lines between the defined spaces. The entire pool area is encompassed by a neutral palette of wood, concrete, marble and white flooring which aesthetically contrasts with the 12-metre pool’s aqua blue stone lining, creating an alluring lagoon. Crittall glass dividers are used to open the space and maximise light, while the swimming pool is further enhanced as a destination space with seven low cabanas creating a truly relaxing escape for guests.

“The project allowed us to combine modern design influence with the property’s classic heritage.” – Product Design Manager, Krishma Singh-Dear

Image caption/credit: The spa/Edwardian Hotels

Guestrooms and suites

The hotel’s guestrooms and suites have also been transformed, aligning with the contemporary design used throughout the property’s ground floor. Modern, yet relaxed and inviting, a pallet of greys mixes with black leather, smart dogtooth, marble, walnut and brass.

Iconic images of Manchester and its history adorn each room, bringing flashes of colour alongside bespoke graphic prints designed exclusively for the hotel, while quirky details, such as the same checkered armchair seen in the lobby, add personality and form to each room.

Image caption/credit: Modern guestroom/Edwardian Hotels

“Aside from our ongoing work on the group’s first Super Boutique hotel The Londoner, the refurbishment of The Edwardian Manchester has been our largest and most complicated in-house designed and managed project to date,” explains Singh-Dear. “The project allowed us to combine modern design influence with the property’s classic heritage. I am very proud of the result and enjoy seeing our guests enjoy the spaces we have created.”

Combining luxury, style and a rich history, The Edwardian Manchester has become one of the most established five-star hotels in the region as the brand prepares to open what is said to become one of the most environmentally friendly in the UK, with sustainability at its core.

Main image credit: Edwardian Hotels

INTERACTIVE HOTEL REVIEW: Monkey Island Estate, Bray-on-Thames

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
INTERACTIVE HOTEL REVIEW: Monkey Island Estate, Bray-on-Thames

Unearthing eight centuries of history, editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to Bray-on-Thames’ Monkey Island Estate to interactively review a new kind of private countryside luxury…

Travel upstream from London and you eventually arrive in the quintessentially British surroundings of Bray-on-Thames, a quiet suburban village that is arguably most for harbouring two of the UK’s five restaurants that hold three Michelin stars.

But before the existence of award-winning gourmet F&B establishment, some 800 years prior, there quietly sat an empty island, which went on to soak up interesting eras. It was firstly an ideal setting for monks seeking peace on the banks of the river. It is said that after the Great Fire of London in 1666, materials from Oxfordshire, such as stone and brick, were transported down the river for rebuilding the city. On the vessels’ return, rubble would be spread around some of the Thames islands, which greatly reduced erosion and helped to strengthen the foundations.

A few decades later, in 1738, the land was purchased by Charles Spencer, 3rdDuke of Marlborough, who was rumoured to have paid palladian architect Robert Morris £2,277 to erect the first two buildings on the island in order to indulge his hobby of fishing. It took Morri three years to complete, but his work marks an important milestone in the property and island’s history – and it is arguably here where the narrative of what is now known as Monkey Island Estate really begins. But it was only recently when the story took on a new narrative, complete with the introduction of new characters, to become a completely unique boutique hotel.

In 2016, YTL Hotels acquired the land, and work began to restore the property into a modern and relaxed countryside abode. Inspired by the haunts of monks, monarchs, aristocrats and writers alike, New York-based Champalimaud Design was responsible to sensitively orchestrate the interior design of the hotel. Having completed the interior design of YTL’s debut UK property, The Gainsborough Bath and Spa, and more recently The Academy in London, the studio, while also sensitively restoring Raffles Singapore, was well-poised to develop the relationship further.

Unlike any hotel project that lead designer Jon Kastl has faced before, the geography of Monkey Island Estate presented its own unique set of challenges. “You have no idea how difficult it is to work on a island that has no direct car access,” he explains. “Everything had to be carried over the footbridge onto the island. And then, the other challenge was the age of the buildings, and dealing with the neglect of the building. They were in pretty rough shape, almost falling into disrepair.”

Guests’ first impression of the hotel is an understated – almost camouflaged – lobby area in a cosy ‘boathouse’ – the feeling of being taken away from the daily grind does not get much stronger than this so close to the centre of London. “The hotel is relatively small,” adds “

The short walk over the footbridge from the unassuming lobby to the public areas is one of wonder. Architectural landscape designer AV Design has created a majestic garden that compliments the various buildings.

Framing what should be in my opinion the postcard picturesque views of the River Thames, the pavilion building, which shelters the majority of the public areas, sets a relaxing setting – and echoes, on a balmy summer afternoon at least, the same peaceful scene that I imagine was once enjoyed by monks centuries ago.

Caption: The Restaurant | Image credit: ACT Studios

Although the bar and restaurant is, on the surface, seemingly conventional, the building has a few hidden gems. The Monkey Room, for example, stands true to its original form and structure – and even design. “The only thing we changed was the purple paint colours on the ceiling and add the furnishings,” says Kastl. The eye-catching murals on the panelling is all original which has been there from since when the building was first built.

Caption: The Monkey Room | Image credit: ACT Studios

Up the spiral staircase, The Whiskey Room is the latest area that has opened. Designed with the winter months in mind, the cosy and home-from-home atmosphere, complete with tactile wallcoverings, is an expected treat.

It is because of the fact that the 41 guestrooms and one originally restored suite are sheltered in a grade I-listed building that makes the design story even more fascinating. The design of each and every one of the guestrooms utilises the entire space, with some stretching out onto terraces which look over the river, while carefully blending in a modern style that becomes timeless.  “We just had to accept the smallness of the rooms when designing them,” Kastl explains. “We did things like designing miniature shelves and additional service space. We designed rails that lined the rolls for guests to hang items from. Because there is such a limited closet space, we had to rely on these rails.” The furniture is scaled appropriately so that it fits in the limited space neatly. Meanwhile, the blinds and curtains, supplied by Concept Contract Furnishings are deliberately not heavy, and instead naturally flood the rooms with light to make them look and feel more expansive.

INTERACTIVE tour of The Wedgwood Suite | Image credit: ACT Studios

Despite the guestrooms being impressive – and adding to the overall interior design story (and challenges) – the masterpiece of the hotel is perhaps sheltered upstairs in the Wedgewood Suite. “The room, from the panelling to the ceiling, was very much intact,” explains Kastl. “One of the challenges was that it has windows on three sides, so from a layout point of view it created a few headaches.” The ensuite bathroom has been re-gutted and given a fresh and modern look. “ The suite is the coming together of old heritage design and the new.

Moored on the river bank, the hotel’s spa is unlike any other in or around London. The facilities have been curated by Melissa Mettler who took inspiration from its riverine surrounds, past inhabitants in the form of royalty, liturgy and literary stars, as well as elegant architecture. The floating spa, which features two treatment rooms that are uniquely sheltered within a renovated barge, is a celebration of the power of water blended together with natural wellbeing and wellness.

Image credit: ACT Studios

I’m sure, for the designers as much as the operators, that the thought of completing Monkey Island Estate and opening again to the public was a distant day dream. But, considering the drastic rise in demand for wellbeing as well as wellness, the timing of YTL hotel’s countryside retreat could not have been more perfect. Checking out of Monkey Island feeling fully restored in mind, body and spirit myself, following a short by sweet trip to the floating spa before departure, the hotel locks in so many unique and thoughtful moments – and exceeds expectations to become one of the UK’s premium countryside retreats.

Main image credit: ACT Studios

Checking In: Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking In: Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova

Past the old town of Palma’s cobbled streets sits a newly designed timeless hotel, Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova, which was designed by Marga Rotgeron. Chantal Borciani checks in to review… 

With almost guaranteed blue skies and sunshine for an average of more than 300 days per year year, it comes with little surprise that Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova on the island of Mallorca has been designed to make the most of natural light so that it floods in to the guest areas at every possible opportunity.

Upon entering the lobby, a double-height atrium with floor to ceiling glass ensures the connection between the interior scheme and the outdoors is seamless. Overlooking the hotel’s central garden and pools, as do all suites, restaurants and lounge areas, first impressions are that of a open and airy design scheme.

Located on the south west coast of Mallorca, 15 minutes from Palma Old Town’s cobbled lanes, Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova marries contemporary style with home-from-home comforts.

“The Zafiro hotel is imbued with a deep sense of connection to the island of Mallorca throughout.”

Run by the Mallorcan Plomer family, initially by Tomeu Plomer and now headed up by his daughter Antonia, the Zafiro hotel is imbued with a deep sense of connection to the island of Mallorca throughout. Native Mallorcan plants, for example, dot the gardens amid myriad swaying palms and the artwork, photography, fixtures and fittings have been selected from Mallorcan and Spanish purveyors.

Image credit: Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova

Opened in 2017, Antonia Plomer worked with Mallorca-based interior designer Marga Rotgeron on the hotel design, with an aim to deliver a Mediterranean look that is modern and stylish, ornamental yet not overloaded and practical for guests.

“Down the sweeping staircase from the reception, the cocktail bar takes centre stage.”

Down the sweeping staircase from the reception, the cocktail bar takes centre stage. This octagonal centrepiece is hewn from black marquina marble purchased from local suppliers and imported from Italy. Commissioned by the Plomers, a sculptural 3D art installation occupies the double height wall adjacent, imagined to reflect Mallorca’s foliage, nature and land. The pleated trellis is made from acebuche olive wood, and textured cottons, harmonised by gold and ochre tones. Designed and produced by Palma-based ABA ART LAB and F. Schalekamp, its form deploys branches, some bare and naked, others adorned by texture, and adds a note of drama to the bar area.

In a hotel ‘made for families, by families’ these rich artistic touches add intrigue and a sense of refinement that is usually the preserve of adult-only establishments. The choice of Edison light bulbs, large spherical white orb lights to illuminate the gardens, modernist wire chandeliers and sleek lighting in the a la carte restaurants, alongside the bespoke art afford this hotel a welcome contemporary edge and leave a long-lasting impression.

The hotel’s 240 suites range from spacious junior suites to penthouse suites, the latter equipped with a bedroom, lounge, roof terrace with private Jacuzzi and cabana daybed – the ultimate option for an adult getaway.

My room, a ‘swim up suite’, is on the ground floor and boasts a private garden terrace with direct access to the adjacent pool. There are a whopping 11 pools so guests opting for a swim up suite can largely find themselves in blissful solitude though the pool is not categorically private. A bali-style day bed sits snugly in the corner of the private garden area – a perfect spot to read and then pad down to the water’s edge.

Inside, the rooms are airy, bright and spacious, and can be configured to accommodate cots and beds for children. From a super-king bed, the restful view out drifts across the private terrace to the sapphire pool. The bathroom and bedroom in all suites are open-plan and offer both a shower and bath with high-end and pleasingly tactile fixtures and fittings. “The colour scheme that we chose is natural as we wanted to create a cosy and warm ambience throughout,” says Plomer. “We felt it created a nice contrast to more commonly used minimalistic white.”

image credit: Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova

Nature infuses the hand-picked art in the rooms – locally sourced framed art includes fern leaves mounted on manuscript backdrops while geometric mirrors and quality soft furnishings add a touch of luxury. All fabrics and linens are also locally sourced on the island and handy touches include microwaves in most rooms and USB chargers by the bedside.

At its heart, of course, this is a holiday destination and Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova doesn’t skimp on the attractions. Alongside the main pool, there are a multitude of smaller pools scattered around the gardens, giving guests a sense of space and exclusivity.  The children’s playground, bouncy castle and pirate ship are set away from the main gardens and pool area, meaning adults can relax in peace if desired. An adult’s only Oasis pool is also located on a raised terrace for ultimate seclusion and is lined with cabana beds. The delightfully squishy cabana day beds line many of the poolsides around the complex and are free to use for all guests, adding a feel of beach club luxury to proceedings. Complete with a swim-up bar in the main pool, and the al fresco poolside restaurant, the F&B areas have been created to enhance the overall guest experience.

The island connection continues in the lounges and restaurants where large artwork has been acquired from Art Mallorcan art studio & Gallery ABA Art, while photographic art throughout the hotel has been sourced from local artist Joan Sastre.

In the five a la carte restaurants, the interior design offers a nod to the cuisine or region of each dining concept, without (mercifully!) venturing into some theme feel.

El Olivo, for example, is the a la carte Mediterranean restaurant and adorned with foliage, which trails down from planters above the tables and has an airy, al fresco feel inspired by the Med. Meanwhile the Tastes & Sushi Bar Restaurant gives a hint of the east with hummingbird print wallpaper, blush seating, and gold accent mirrors.

It’s no mean feat to effectively cater for adults and families in the same establishment, but perhaps it’s the family hand on the tiller that steers Zafiro on the right course. The Plomers collaborate on every facet of the hotel’s design and operation and the result is all the better for it. Located in the busy Palmanova resort, the hotel will certainly suit families looking for a convenient haven close to the beach and hustle and bustle of Palmanova and nearby Palma. For vast vistas and a heightened secluded feel, the north of the island and perhaps the larger Zafiro Palace Alcudia will provide a restful alternative.

This is a hotel with proud family heritage and a deep-rooted Mallorcan connection. Be sure to take advantage of the on-site concierge – the owners are keen to share the beauty of the island with their guests and the concierge is a font of great authentic recommendations. Some of our favourites include tours of the small island wineries of the town of Binissalem and the best tapas and vermouth bars in nearby Palma Old Town, both activities offering that secret gem, local feel.

Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova is a hotel where adults can getaway and the kids can have lots of fun to boot. A step above many other family friendly hotels, this resort strives to deliver luxury with a home from home edge.

Main image credit: Zafiro Palace Hotel Palmanova

MINIVIEW: Joyze Hotel Xiamen Curio Collection by Hilton

800 533 Hamish Kilburn

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MINIVIEW: Joyze Hotel Xiamen Curio Collection by Hilton

Opened late last year, Joyze Hotel Xiamen Curio Collection by Hilton, with all its unique design qualities, is a mere shadow of the stereotypical chain hotel you would expect check in to. Editor Hamish Kilburn dives deeper into its Chinese design story to uncover how the boutique 104-key hotel came to be… 

As a boutique hotel, the concept of a ‘floating city on the sea’ can be seen throughout the hotel design of Joyze Hotel Xiamen Curio Collection by Hilton. Combining the local cultural elements of Minnan with urban design techniques, the hotel narrates the historical changes of “the fishing village” that it neighbours. Tasked to merge architecture with interior design was Hong Kong-based design firm CCD (CHENG CHUNG DESIGN).

Image credit: CCD/Cheng Chung Design (HK)/Curio Collection by Hilton

Surrounded by mountains and seas, with the Dongping Mountain in the North, and the coastline of Huandao Road in the South, the hotel enjoys the best of both worlds. The villages in Zengcuoan are divided by walls, and the houses in the villages are scattered around. The floor plan of the hotel follows the arrangement of the villages, as different zones are divided by walls and intersected by landscapes between different areas. Look down from the above; each area is like a box, representing a household with different personalities and designs. Guests enter the hotel as if they are on a village tour, complete with alleys, walls and landscapes.

Image credit: CCD/Cheng Chung Design (HK)/Curio Collection by Hilton

The entrance of the hotel incorporates the local culture of ‘brick wall’, which is a very unique way of building a wall in Minnan architecture that uses stones and bricks of different shapes to overlay and build simple and beautiful walls.

According to the legend in the end of the Ming Dynasty that, there was a major earthquake occurred in the Southern part of Minnan region. After the earthquake, the native people used the local materials such as bricks, stones, tiles and gravels collapsed from the natural disaster to build the unique wall. And thereby, this way of wall-building has been widely practiced and followed in the region.

Image credit: CCD/Cheng Chung Design (HK)/Curio Collection by Hilton

The designer also used the mansion method to design the hotel lobby. The first sight of the guest after they get off from the drop-off area and enter the hotel is not the hotel lobby, but a door that is several meters wide, and if they are entering a mansion house. Then they will see the brick wall, followed by cultural exhibition area, then other landscapes and finally the lobby bar and reception.

“Under each box, there is a light to create a sense of levitation.”

The design concept of “Floating City on the Sea” is expressed through the subtle design method.The façade of the wall is constructed with boxes, and it transforms from empty to solid, presenting a feeling of ‘floating’, the orderly change of the gradient also presents a sense of rhythm swinging with the current. A corner of the reception desk floats into the air, becoming a warm chandelier, floating on the sea, and the entire hotel is like a floating city on the sea.

In comparison to the hotel, every box in the space is the composition of the hotel as a floating city. Under each box, there is a light to create a sense of levitation.

“The design of the guestrooms are natural, warm and cosy, creating a sense of home.”

The design incorporates natural comfort and childhood memories, vintage chandeliers, metal-trimmed glass doors, wooden tables and chairs; it brings guests back to the restaurant where they used to go with their parents. Here, the curious people walk into the old days of Xiamen.

Image credit: CCD/Cheng Chung Design (HK)/Curio Collection by Hilton

The design of the guestrooms are natural, warm and cosy, creating a sense of home. Meanwhile, it also tries to open the space as much as possible as to form a transparent visual experience. Getting rid of the traditional framework, and strengthen the interaction of spatial functions through subtle design, so that each area can be used alone and connected.

After the entrance is the cloakroom and the luggage rack, which is designed to make the walkway more functional and to make the largest use of space. In detail, it also closely follows the concept of floating city, as the wash table and the bed are suspended from the ground.

The city view and beach outside the window is one of the hotel’s business cards. The wash table, mini bar and operating desk form a small living room, so that guest can sit in the living room and enjoy the scenery with tea, just like the local residents. The texture of the old buildings in the city is projected onto the walls of the guestrooms, and the patterns of the old buildings in Gulangyu are carved into ceramic tiles, which become time fragments to record the traces of the years.

Main image credit: CCD/Cheng Chung Design (HK)/Curio Collection by Hilton

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Checking In: MOB Hotel Paris, where it all started

768 512 Hamish Kilburn

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Checking In: MOB Hotel Paris, where it all started

On the doorstep of Paris’ infamous flea market, MOB Hotel Paris – the original MOB – is designed ‘for the people’. Editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to see where the MOB Hotels story started…

In order to understand MOB Hotels’ style, ethos and energy you must first, in my opinion, meet the man behind the brand.

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Cyril Aouizerate, the CEO of MOB Hotels, is a gentleman who eats, sleeps and breathes MOB Hotels, which he created last year and believes that a great hotel is designed around great people. “My desire to was create movement,” he told me when describing the brand’s origins. “My objective is to use the hotels in our portfolio to create a new vision in the world that a hotel is more than just a bed for the night. That is why, for me, understanding the culture of each of our hotel’s location is so important.” That movement started in Paris and has since moved into Lyon as well as there being plans for a 2020 opening in Washington D.C.

Hidden among red and orange buildings, the entrance to the 92-key MOB Hotel Paris is surprisingly understated and worlds away from the stereotypical view of postcard Paris. Instead being among of chic neighborhood of shops and cafes, the hotel is in the heart of an urban adventure, located just south of the Saint Ouen, north of the city centre. It’s not immediately obvious that the two buildings, which were disused telecom factories only a few years ago, would shelter a quirky design-led boutique hotel. But expecting the unexpected is something that all guests should prepare when joining the MOB way of thinking.

Much like the Flea Market that borders the property, the architecture firm BBC Architecte created MOB Hotel Paris around the raw energy and creativity of the brand. The lobby inside is complete with wooden trunks as pod-like reception desks and very wears a bohemian personality. Simple yet productive, the space is a relatively empty shell that is curated only with stylish pop-up-store merchandise.

Image credit: Mob Hotels

The first real indication of Aouizerate’s unravelled creative mind comes when walking through the lobby and into the open-planned, lounge-like restaurant. With interiors by Kristian Gavoille et Valérie Garcia, the walls tell a story of comedy with fruits and vegetables being personified and remembered with plaques – my personal favourite among them being “R.I.P Mister Eggplant, who died for Baba Ganouche.” Furthermore, the large curtains that separate the restaurant from the conservatory, at first, look like they are printed references of The Last Supper. However, on closer inspection, all is not what it first seems. Famous faces in both the design world, from the likes of Philippe Starck, and significant figures in popular culture, such as Barak Obama, have been printed on the fabrics to add character and offer a further reference to Aouizerate’s involvement in the design process and decisions.

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Image credit: Aldo Paredes

Upstairs and although the comedy is softened, the style of each guestrooms is equally as edgy while also remaining thoughtful to the needs and requirements of guests checking in. In the bathrooms, which are tastefully positioned without creating too many unnecessary barriers, include Duravit fittings, Geberit WCs and Villeroy & Boch showers. Although the mustard yellow carpets and peachy pink walls in the guestrooms may not be to everyone’s taste, the unique headboards that are made to reference theatre stage curtains cannot be ignored as a quirky and unique feature to entice guests to tell their own narrative.

Complete with a Fatboy beanbag, low-level furniture from IKEA and mobile spotlight lighting, the guestrooms are idiosyncratic to say the least, but also balance within them a sense of play and can adapted to suit the needs of whoever is checking in. With a strong message to bring guests together, there are deliberately no TVs in each of the rooms, but projectors and iPads can be provided on request.

Sneak peak into the bathroom

Image credit: Mob Hotels

The dictionary definition of mob is “a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence.” Although the brand isn’t planning on causing any violence or trouble, it certainly is ready to cause a scene. With plans for the brand to broaden out as far as Washington D.C., the Paris MOB is also expanding. Just down the road, the skeleton of a new kind of MOB is taking form. MOB House, which is expected to open in January 2020, will pride itself on a sheltering a different style. The hotel’s interiors are being imagined by non-other than award-winning designer and long-term friend of Mob Hotels, Phillipe Starck.

Other suppliers

Furniture in the restaurant: Tonet/Drucker
Outdoor furniture: Fermob
Furniture in guestroom: Fatboy/Sempre

Main image credit: Aldo Paredes

Technology expert Jason Bradbury reviews Eccleston Square Hotel in the future

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

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Technology expert Jason Bradbury reviews Eccleston Square Hotel in the future

Healing heating, holographic entertainment and a toilet that tells you your food printer what snacks to make, technology expert and futurist Jason Bradbury spent a night future gazing in the technologically enhanced 19th Century luxury of Eccleston Square Hotel, London

We’re living back to front. As technology marches inexorably forward, gaining speed at an exponential rate, it seems that the simple and the authentic have more value than ever before.

The resurgence of vinyl is a great example of this, independent coffee shops and organic grocers too – and so is a certain type of boutique hotel. In order to understand what a night in the hotel room of the future might be like, it’s necessary to appreciate why many of the standout disruptors in the current market are looking backwards, hiding their high-tech flaunts and instead focussing on experiences and simply good service.

Eccleston Square Hotel in London was the setting for my experiment in hotel room time travel. It’s a fine example of how well integrated smart technology can enhance a stay. Notable in-room features include LED clear-to-opaque glass in the bathroom, gestural lighting controls, a massaging bed and an improbably positioned outside/inside courtyard. All of these elements are design decisions that will have echoes in the rooms we will choose to book in the year 2049 (although few will have the Eccleston’s claim of being mere steps away from Winston Churchill’s front door).

Image of in-room ipad next to lighting controls

Image credit: Ecclestone Hotel London

 “The hotel room of the future will still rely heavily on technology, but it will be engineered for invisibility.”

30 years from now, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is currently the subject of deep moral conjecture will be commonplace. All retail, education, medicine, travel and data-centric areas of our lives will be handled by our personal Block-Chain driven A.Is. Much of our entertainment will be virtual visualisations; what we now call Augmented and Virtual Reality, immersive movies and games so convincing they’ll be indistinguishable from reality. It’s logical, therefore, to assume that when the mundane in life is handled by our personal A.I assistant and our persistent screen experience digital, we’ll seek out authenticity as an escape.

The hotel room of the future will still rely heavily on technology, but it will be engineered for invisibility. The down-lighters and wall switches that are currently in hotels will be replaced by neuro and mood interpreting imaging, ambient and natural light emulation, aimed at inducing calm and/or focus. Glass wall room dividers won’t just switch to opaque, they’ll transform into shimmering living jungle walls or expansive movie screens or personalised news feeds created by holographic projection. Think Minority Report, but without the need for gloves.

Modern bathroom

Image credit: Eccleston Square Hotel, London

In order to get a handle on all this future gazing, it’s sometimes helpful to have tangible examples to hand. The recently launched Magic Leap mixed reality headset offers insight into how a futuristic hotel room could be brought or augmented with ultra-high definition virtual assets. By 2049, several exponential leaps up the curve, the headset might be unnecessary, imaging handled by a projector and a glass room divider infused with highly refractive silver particles.

That’s entertainment, but what about the health and wellness opportunities offered by the hotel room of the next decade?

“Beyond just heating, far infrared light offers all manner of health benefits including immune system support, helping to alleviate stress, psoriasis and relieving joint and muscle pain.”

Astectherm is an example of an advanced technology that predicts the kind of hybrid between practical and health orientated benefits that might find itself in the guestroom in 10 years from now. I was able to install a working sample of this thin, flexible infrared thermal heating fabric between the electrically operated curtains during my Eccleston Square Hotel stay. More usually, lengths of Astectherm would be installed in walls or under floor and ceilings. Beyond just heating, far infrared light offers all manner of health benefits including immune system support, helping to alleviate stress, psoriasis and relieving joint and muscle pain. This system is an excellent example of an invisible technology that could offer in-room, spa-like health and wellness advantages for the future hotel room user checking in.

Hyper-personalisation will drive much high-end retail and leisure experiences in the future. The 3D printers that are still mainly the preserve of industry today will perhaps print bespoke, nutritionally focused meals in the kitchens of tomorrow. In order to compete, a morning in an Eccelston Square Hotel room circa 2049 will, for example, have to offer a high-end personalised breakfast and coffee experience. To give a sense of where our future caffeine fixes might come from, I tested the Ikawa Personal Coffee roaster in my room. As well as infusing the suite with a gorgeous aroma of freshly roasted green coffee beans, the tiny app-controlled machine offers concrete insight into the quick, delicious and bespoke snacks and meals we will come to expect in the near-future. In future in-room coffee machines, the ingredients will be determined by a stool and urine analysing toilet and other health monitoring wearables. If your morning bathroom routine flags a rise in your inflammatory markers, you might find turmeric in your freshly-roasted, non-dairy latte.

Image caption: Ikawa Personal Coffee Roaster – thanks to coffee gurus @Steampunkcoffeemachine & @Anyalou and Ben from imperialteas.co.uk

While we currently have the Apple Watch, in the future we’ll see far more discrete wearables, which will offer a much deeper insight into our general wellness. Take sleep for example, a critical part of any hotel room experience. At the moment, Some hotels offer a vague ‘good night guarantee’ based on little more than firm pillows. Eccleston Square Hotel already takes its bedtime more seriously than most, but as well as a mood lighting and an electronically adjustable bed, in 10 years time its beds might map guests’ REM and movement signatures. They high-tech beds might compare them to a block-chain powered pattern from thousands of my previous nights’ sleep, cross-referenced with a range of biological and psychological markers, blood sugar readings from bathroom analysis and wearables and even neurological data. And if this is all sounding a little too Sci-Fi, I took the liberty of installing a Nokia Smart Sleep sensor in my Eccleston Square hotel bed.

“The app data showed a high ‘Sleep Quality’ score of 90 per cent, only twenty seconds of snoring and a longer period of ‘deep sleep’ than on previous nights at home testing it.”

Perhaps it was exhaustion from setting up all the gadgets- or the massage – but the app data showed a high ‘Sleep Quality’ score of 90 per cent, only twenty seconds of snoring and a longer period of ‘deep sleep’ than on previous nights at home testing it. This level of detail, while insightful today will seem laughably trivial in ten years, but again, Nokia’s gadget is a fine example of where we’re heading.

Image Caption: Nokia Sleep Sensor. 2. Bed’s Massage Remote Control

The Eccleston Square Hotel has several rooms with distinctive private outdoor spaces. It achieves this by cleverly slicing up what would be larger areas and then giving each outdoor triangle the perception of space with large mirrored walls. This is another precursor to a future trend; the use of spacial sensory imaging, both auditory and visual, to create outdoor experiences, but on a considerably smaller scale. Looking beyond 2049 and it’s not implausible to imagine something like a Star Trek holodeck that transforms a tiny 24m² courtyard into an infinite forest in which you can jog by virtue of a 360° treadmill.

Image caption: Courtyard in Eccleston Square Hotel Room showing outside mirrored wall

It’s a contradiction for sure, but technology will deliver what the hotel guest of the future will desire most, authenticity. The design ethos, eco and energy awareness, food and customer service expectations of the discerning hotel guest a decade hence will still be central to their choice. What will change is the availability of bespoke, luxury personalised services, many of which will have echoes of a bygone age, a time when the gadgets that distract us today hadn’t been invented. Of course there will be no obvious gadgets in the hotel room of the future, just ‘real’ services and experiences. And when reality can’t be delivered, we’ll be happy to accept the perception of it.

Jason Bradbury can booked for futurology talks at jla.co.uk and found on YouTube  & Instagram. Thanks also to the lovely staff at Eccleston Square Hotel. 

 Main image credit: Twitter @JasonBradbury/Eccleston Square Hotel London

Top 5 stories of the week: Suites in the sky, defining trends and X marks the spot in Toronto

Hamish Kilburn

In the same week Hotel Designs’ announced a new floating hotel in Edinburgh, a mountain of so-called 2019 trends and major openings were among the highlights of this weeks headlines, as editor Hamish Kilburn reports… 

January arrived, and what inevitably followed was a plethora of emails of which each subject claimed to have the answers to this year’s must-have trends (I use the term loosely). And while it’s interesting to read all about whether the ’70s will or will not makes its return, or whether chrome really will replace the brushed-brass finishes, hotel designers must ensure that whatever they produce is timeless. The age-old argument between whether it’s best to be fashionable or stylish is never more relevant than it is in hotel design. Style, in our industry at least, wins every time over ever-changing fashion. It is somewhat hypocritical of myself, therefore, to have uploaded a piece about flooring trends this week, but I urge you to approach this topic with a pinch of salt. If trends were concrete (and I’m not referring to the industrial-chic bathroom look that was ‘in’ in AW19), international hotel design would become static with nothing ever changing. My hope is that this piece, along with all my features I have the pleasure of writing for Hotel Designs, can be seen as a guide – one opinion among many, if you like, with the ‘many’ referring to our wonderful readers of course.

To start the conversation over the weekend, leaving trends aside for now, here are five headlines that have grabbed the attention of our industry this week.

1) New luxury floating hotel launches in Edinburgh

Image credit: Fingal

Developed by The Royal Yacht Britannia’s trading company, Royal Yacht Enterprises, Fingal, a new floating hotel with 23 luxury cabins that are each named after Stevenson lighthouses, has launched.

The hotel, which will be permanently berthed in Edinburgh’s historic Port of Leith, includes considered design that offers high specifications of craftmanship and finishes with nautical touches and polished woods throughout. Sumptuous Scottish leathers and the finest linens are in colour palates inspired by Fingal’s journey from land and sea.

Read more about Fingal >

2) SPOTLIGHT ON: Major hotel openings for Q3 & Q4 2019

Wallcoverings reflecting the city of Malta and a large bed in a modern suite

Image credit: Iniala Malta

Last week, we brought you what we considered to be the top hotels that are planning on opening in the first half of this year. Following suit, we have identified even more significant launches of design hotels that are planning to cut their ribbons from this Summer onwards this year. From beachside resorts, to cliff-side eco hotels, here are the editorial team’s top picks.

Read more about the major openings in Q2 & Q3 >

3) Checking in to Hotel X – the luxury Canadian hotel that stands alone

outdoor pool

Image credit: Hotel X Toronto

Juxtaposing the neighbouring buildings in the Liberty Village area, which were once cut off from the rest of the city of Toronto, Hotel X Toronto is the new sought-after boutique kid on the block that is making waves as a new kind of luxury experience in a city that welcomes more than 40 million tourists each year.

Read more about Hotel X here >

4) Hotels At New Heights: Airlines’ race to launch luxury suites in the sky

The bedroom of The Residence

Image credit: Etihad Airways

Travelling the world today is arguably the most comfortable it has ever been. And it comes with few raised eyebrows that the long-haul travel market is dominated, without a shadow of a doubt, by the airlines. In 2017, National Geographic reported that air travel is predicted to over the next 20 years. In the same year, Forbes reported that within just 12 months more than a staggering four billion passengers travelled by plane, which set a new record. But with slower forms of travel, such a luxury cruises and iconic train carriages, making their return in popular demand, airlines are having to adapt for the luxury market – and each other – in order to welcome guests into suites in the sky.

Read more about suites in the sky >

5) Radisson Blu opens two hotels in Abu Dhabi

Two new Radisson Blu-branded landmark hotels have arrived in Abu Dhabi, one of which is located on the vibrant and iconic sea walk of Abu Dhabi, while the other is situated in one of the UAE’s cultural gems, known as the Garden City for its natural springs, plantations and lush palm groves.

Read more about the Radisson openings here >

To keep up to date with all the international hotel design news as it happens, follow Hotel Designs on Twitter.

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Checking in to Hotel X – the luxury Canadian hotel that stands alone

768 405 Hamish Kilburn

Situated adjacent to Lake Ontario, a shimmering glass tower shelters a new kind of luxury in Toronto. Edited by Hamish KilburnVincenzo Ferrara reviews Hotel X…

Juxtaposing the neighbouring buildings in the Liberty Village area, which were once cut off from the rest of the city of Toronto, Hotel X Toronto is the new sought-after boutique kid on the block that is making waves as a new kind of luxury experience in a city that welcomes more than 40 million tourists each year.

Imagined and designed by Stephen B. Jacobs Group and Andi Pepper Interiors Design, the hotel opened in March 2018 with the aim of creating an extravagant and contemporary hotel with dramatic flourishes. Using its unparalleled location and striking views as a design and architectural reference, X certainly does now mark the spot near Liberty Village, which becomes directly apparent when checking in.

The exterior shell of Hotel X

Image credit: Hotel X, Toronto

Upon arrival, guests are immediately welcomed into the hotel’s towering size combined with unassuming elegance. On the exterior shell, reflected beams of light hit the glass building, which creates a colourful display in an otherwise grey, and somewhat sombre business district. Despite the hotel, with its state-of-the-art technology and business facilities, appropriately keeping in line with the suit-and-tie scene that surrounds, personality pops out in unassuming moments. In the entrance, for example, monochrome, geometric flooring that has been sourced from all corners of the earth is the perfect metaphor to represent the city as a place where people meet from around the world.

Black and white tiles echo in the balck and white chandeliers in the lobby

Image caption: View overlooking the monochrome lobby area at Hotel X

The hand-cut marble reception desk sits in front of a living wall that covers the height and width of the lobby and creates an instant sense of peace that is far removed from the metropolis outside. A grand staircase on the right leads to a glass bridge that overlooks the spacious and minimalist area and offers a platform where guests can enjoy the lobby area from a different perspective, such as an up-close look at the detailed circular patterned chandeliers.

The large, modern art gallery includes landscape photos on the walls and around the room

Image caption: Kandy Gallery, Hotel X

Art is a prominent theme captured throughout the hotel. A gallery on the ground floor is devoted to photographer Neil Dankoff, whose landscape pieces famously led him to become a staple on the art and photography scene in Toronto. His ‘Kandy Gallery’ commission with Hotel X, which sees his signature images that depict worldwide adventure hung on the walls, turned out to be the largest fine art photography transaction in Canadian history. Dankoff spent almost three years travelling the globe to capture more than 800 landscape photographs that were purposefully commissioned for use within the hotel. Hung in such a way so that guests notice an eye-catching canvas of natural beauty around every corner, Dankoff’s work is quite literally written on the walls. Cleverly, his work from the gallery filter into the guestrooms and suites, resulting in a further reclined backdrop. The guestrooms and suites that offer a lake view incorporate water within the pieces, whereas the rooms that face the city skyline contain more physical features such as woodlands and rock formations.

Monochrome tiles feature in a library. A large desk with white chairs sit in the centre of the room, surrounded by large book-shelf walls.

Image caption: The Library, Hotel X

The gallery is a strong design unique selling point that positions Hotel X in a league of its own, but the adjacent library, complete with an oversized statement floor-to-ceiling bookcase, is another design centrepoint. Set in a monochrome setting, which is filtered through from the lobby area, the library’s matte-silver backdrop creates a sense of place with a carved map of the famous downtown area embossed in black paint. The space, which is open to both guests and the public, has been sensitively designed to offer guests a tranquil working environment.

The ambiance within the ground floor corridors changes from the other public areas as the walls transform from a soft cream to white light glass panels. Placed side by side, these LED flashes create a chequered wall that both reinforces the Hotel X brand while also boosts new energy in an area that is lacking natural light.

Large guestroom with orange and purple furniture. The floor-to-ceiling windows frame the skyline of Toronto

Image Credit: Hotel X, Toronto

Taking full advantage of the complete Toronto skyline, each guestroom and suite features floor-to-ceiling windows. The spacious living quarters in the suites, which are filled with natural light, blend blues, greys and blacks into dark-oak fittings. Bright, block colour in the furniture infuses the right balance of personality. The sliding doors between the living areas and the bedroom keep the space open at all times and flooded with natural light that flows, like the carpet, throughout each room. The large beds with cream headboards create another layer of calmness that is occasionally interrupted by loud accents in the furniture.

“The glass conservatory has been built on several 18th century military forts.”

New Fort Hall is a unique area of the hotel, not only for its visual appeal but also for its way of retelling history. The glass conservatory has been built on several 18th century military forts. Instead of demolishing the ruins completely, the design team incorporated them to create an eye-catching venue space. The glass floor quite literally allows visitors of the hotel to look down on the original floors of the military barracks. The room itself provides a beautifully simplistic contrast between the old beneath and the modern metropolis that can be captured through its glass.

“No stay at Hotel X is complete without a visit to the 28th floor.”

The hotel supports multi-level sports halls that have been positioned in such a way to overlook some of the city’s largest sport stadiums including BMO field. Adding to this motivation is the personalised EGE Atelier carpet, which divides each area with the lyrics to the song ‘imagine’ by John Lennon.

No stay at Hotel X is complete without a visit to the 28th floor, which is where the vision for Liberty Village’s new era of luxury was conceived from. Both the rooftop Falcon SkyBar and heated swimming pool on the top floor offer guests the ability to experience the city from a VIP-perched level. The iconic three-level bar balances relaxation, style and drama. The suede purple wingback chairs sit alongside other gold and grey suede seating that tributes the colours of the sunset that reflects off Lake Ontario.

The 404-key Hotel X is more than just another urban hotel with a view to pop up. Unlike other hotels in the area, Hotel X took on mission impossible to help transform the largely undiscovered area of Liberty Village into a luxury tourist hotspot that was also equipped to take bleisure travel to new heights. Through design lenses, it has completed that mission in style and has become a go-to destination in itself, further complementing the city skyline with effortless charm.

Editor checks in: December 2018

800 534 Hamish Kilburn

Colouring outside the trendy lines…

The sun is falling on 2018 – and this particular sunset is filtered in a warm, peachy orange glow, also known as Living Coral or Pantone 16-154.

Despite December traditionally being a month of reflection, it’s also a time to sprinkle a hint of optimism on the horizon as the industry turns its head to leading international colour experts to understand next year’s dominant shade predictions.

Dulux settled for Spiced Honey, a versatile hue that signifies warmth, positivity, purpose and transformation. Pantone, on the other hand, divided opinions by opting for Living Coral, a colour that it describes as an “animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energises and enlivens with a softer edge.” Having listened to both sides of the argument as to whether this is just another marketing ploy or something more significant, I have my own opinions. I believe that, regardless of anything, this colour choice has the power to raise much-needed awareness that 60 per cent of the world’s remaining reefs are now at risk of being destroyed by human activity. As far as I am concerned, a shade with that much competence in the wider context is a shade to stay. It wasn’t long before contract companies unveiled their sneak peek into how they are splashing Living Coral into their 2019 products.

“This month, Hotel Designs took its eagle reviewer eyes across borders and into the African wilderness.”

From colour to design in all five continents, one trend that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon is the timeless look and feel that many luxury hotels strive to achieve while balancing character and personality. This month, Hotel Designs took its eagle reviewer eyes across borders and into the African wilderness to unearth an unassuming luxury hotel in Zimbabwe. Matetsi Victoria Falls is the country’s answer to luxury in the bush. I will never forget the feeling of checking out of technology, checking in with myself and opening my eyes to the great outdoors in all its splendour. Leaving my phone on airplane mode for the duration, I captured one-off moments that will stay with me forever; we even saved an elephant’s life (a detail that was left out of the main review). My conclusion of Matetsi is that it is a hotel that through design evokes one-off experiences, which is the real ‘luxury’ in luxury travel.

As the year closes, and before we start layering peachy orange hues all over our walls and in our furniture, one cannot help but look back on 2018 as one of significant change. It’s been a sheer delight editing our ultimate throwback (part one and part two) to highlight this year’s most game-changing product launches. From Milan to Paris; London to New York and Dubai to Singapore, over the last 12 months, hotel design suppliers have drip-feeded us with inspiring new products that have helped our industry leap into a new era.

Exciting times are ahead of us at Hotel Designs. Optimism has been left hanging in the air since we reached more than half a million readers over the last 11 months, breaking several monthly traffic records along the way. Not only are we debuting new meet-the-buyers events next year (IDAS, HTI, CES), but we are also bringing you more juicy news and features, all of which will be displayed on a newly designed website as we continue to be the leading international hotel design website for designers, hoteliers, architects and key-industry suppliers.

Here’s to 2019!

Editor, Hotel Designs

 

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MINI VIEW: CANVAS Dallas Hotel reopens

768 511 Hamish Kilburn

The newly branded CANVAS has been reimagined by Studio 11 Design to paint a fresh industrial-chic perspective on the boutique hotel in Dallas that previously lacked colour and character… 

Guests checking in to the newly launched CANVAS Hotel Dallas should expect color outside the lines as they enter into a space where art and hospitality collide to create dynamic and contemporary interiors.

Formerly known as NYLO Dallas South Side, CANVAS Hotel Dallas is an art-centric base for modern trendsetters, an inspirational hub for relentless artisans, and a destination for locals to be creatively inspired while enjoying world-class dining and unparalleled skyline views.

“CANVAS Dallas Hotel is a timely addition to the burgeoning district of South Dallas,” said Jack Matthews, president of Matthews Southwest, lead developer and co-owner. “With a prime location in the heart of the Cedars district, and in close proximity to downtown and the convention center,
CANVAS is nestled in an eclectic neighborhood undergoing a renaissance in terms of culture, shopping, food, art, and music. This property is poised to be the destination of choice for modern travelers looking for an authentic Dallas experience that will inspire their creativity and satisfy their contemporary tastes.”

“CANVAS paints a fresh perspective of its original building.”

With 76 art-infused suites and guestrooms, CANVAS Hotel Dallas offers an authentic-yet unconventional Lone Star State adventure. As a blank slate for guests to create their own experiences, the rooms, suites, lobby area, and F&B outlets have been renovated and reimagined.

The fresh interior design, décor and artistic elements directed by Dallas-based Studio 11 Design, CANVAS paints a fresh perspective of its original building, a structure integral to the history of South Dallas that is almost a century old, that has been well-preserved, refurbished and now LEED certified.

Upon entering, guests are made to feel at home in the refreshed first-level lobby and restaurant with elements that portray a living room-feel. Intimate seating areas foster common social spaces in the eclectic industrial space, adorned with locally discovered and bespoke accessories from the Dallas area. The restaurant’s dining area converts into flexible meeting space, divided by a sliding glass partition.

The guestrooms and suites feature quirky, loft-style design and décor, with 10-12 foot high ceilings, pressed concrete flooring, exposed brick, and funky industrial elements and fixtures. New custom carpeting, two lighting and art has been installed in all public areas and guest hallways, and the lobby has been reconfigured to be more conducive to social gatherings, common work areas and meeting the needs of the modern hotel guest. More room renovations are slated for 2019.

From palette to palate, CANVAS Hotel Dallas brings two art-inspired restaurants and lounges to the South Side of Dallas. Chef’s Palette is the redesigned first-level lounge and restaurant where every plate is a tasteful expression of culinary creation.

Meanwhile, the rooftop bar formerly known as SODA has been redesigned and renamed The Gallery Rooftop Lounge. The indoor/outdoor lounge offers a sweeping 270-degree view of the Dallas skyline, but the vista isn’t the only masterpiece at The Gallery. From chef-centric food offerings, to handcrafted cocktails and eclectic art by up-and-coming Dallas artists, everything at The Gallery Rooftop Lounge is an ode to originality.

Whether guests are experiencing the hotel for the first time or whether they are locals enjoying the sharp and quirky public areas, the whole hotel has been lifted and redesigned to inspire. CANVAS Hotel Dallas will officially open on January 1, 2019.

 

Checking in to Matetsi Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe’s answer to luxury

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Matetsi Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe’s answer to luxury

Travelling 7,500 miles to Zimbabwe, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn learns more about the design direction of one of the country’s most luxurious hotel offerings, the award-winning Matetsi Victoria Falls

Beyond the baobab trees – which are said to be sacred among the locals because of the natural healing powers they lock within their roots.

The dehydrated shrubs on the African soil, elephants, hyenas, zebras, warthogs, leapards and lions sits an award-winning luxury riverside hotel that is indubitably one of the most luxurious offerings in Zimbabwe.

After 15 minutes 4x4ing the dirt road into the heart of the 123,000-acre (55,000 hectres) reserve, we arrive at Matetsi Victoria Falls, a place that promises luxury, comfort and unmatched style. “I have the largest back yard in Africa,” jokes the owner John Gardiner who greets me on arrival. And with nothing between us and the natural safari, my experience in the African bush begins.

The entrance of the hotel is framed by three traditional Mokoro (dug-out) canoes, which hang from wooden beams and sway in harmony with the soft Zambezi breeze. With no need for a traditional lobby, guests are immediately welcomed into the indoor-outdoor public areas complete with a copper bar and durable outdoor sofas and chairs scattered in a home-from-home setting that has been designed around nature, and not the other way round. “We didn’t take out a single tree when designing these camps, because we wanted these areas to remain as close to nature as we could,” said interior designer Kerry van Leenhoff , a previous graduate from Cape Town University of Technology who was hand-selected by Gardiner and totally supported in all her decisions. Using the striking vista of the Zambezi River, which flows towards the tremendous Victoria Falls, dining tables are placed in such a way to make every meal one to remember. “The lobby areas have been designed in order to encourage guests to connect with people and nature,” adds van Leenhoff.

As we approach suite 17 – AKA, my home for the next four nights – I am reminded just how ‘in the sticks’ we are, catching a glimpse of an elephant and a giraffe just metres from each other as my key enters the lock. I open the heavy, black teak front door, which was recycled and polished from the previous lodge, and the room is immediately filled with light. Interestingly enough, though, this was not the case when the hotel first opened, as van Leenhoff explains: “When the hotel first opened and the guests gave us their feedback, we realised that we needed to revisit the lighting, especially in the public areas,” she says. “So we added some more outdoor feature lighting around the trees and columns in order to really pronounce what we felt were the important and dramatic areas of the hotel.” However, my immediate attention is not on the lighting. Instead, my imagination is taken over by the striking panoramic view of the Zambezi River, which I later find out is home to legend; the locals believe that a famous God is said to protect the flowing waters, and his name is Nyami Nyami. As legend goes, the spirit which is often depicted as half snake half fish, protects life in and around the river.

The River Lodge Suite is everything you would expect of a luxury lodge in the bush, and so much more. The skin of matepi latte creates an organic ceiling and roof – and this material does more than just give a nod to the location. This decision was made in order to keep the lodge blending into its location and celebrate Zimbabwean culture. “It was really important for us to work with skilled craftsmen and women from our culture,” explains van Leenhoff. “We have such a diverse culture with about 16 different tribes and languages. We mainly focused around the Tonga tribes as we were by the river.” The result is that from the far side of the river, you can’t actually see where the hotel starts and ends, which suggests even further that the whole property has been created with nature in mind.

Van Leenhoff decided to take Matetsi’s love for nature and the environment and inject it into the fabrics and the walls. The result is a naturally calming, peaceful abode, which empowers an everlasting feeling of total luxury and relaxation. Modern high-quality furniture and hand-scultpted trunks of trees used as tables create the perfect blend of modern, luxury and timeless décor.

All 18 suites have been thoughtfully curated and the hotel is a credit to the talent of van Leenhoff. The art, for example is by Helen Teede who spent much time on site at Matetsi in order to find the inspiration of a unique collection of 18 paintings entitled ‘Mapping Matetsi’. Having done extensive walks and drives in the area, Teede divided the cartographic map of Matetsi unit seven into 18 parts and drew it to scale on each canvas, adding her own impressions of the river, the landscape and the pathways walked in the area, both man and animal-made. These 18 paintings hang separately in each suite. However, put together and these pieces of art actually form the aerial map of the reserve.

With the privilege of space, the hotel shelters two camps: East Camp, West Camp and one large villa, River House, which sits in between the two camps. Interestingly, the whole team – chefs, butlers, housekeeping, back-of-house staff – alternate between both East and West camp every couple of weeks in order to maintain the property and keep service personable at all times.

Gardiner, who I first met in London just a few weeks before my trip, is the real visionary behind the property surrounding the reserve. A local Zimbabwean hotelier, Gardiner has transformed the reserve since acquiring it in 2014 and aims to “give back to Zimbabwe”. With the help of his team, who all share Gardiner’s love for nature, he has restored and conserved the natural wildlife within the reserve by building various watering holes, 15 in total with a further 10 in the pipeline, I am told.

Before I check out, I have an opportunity to exclusively discuss the future of Matetsi with the team and how it plans to expand its luxury arm. “We are working on a few things at the moment, which are really exciting projects,” adds van Leenhoff. “The design direction and our aim is to strike the balance between feeling isolated and feeling safe.” The new plans will further challenge conventional luxury lodges in Africa with a real focus on opening up the guests to undisturbed nature.

The future sounds exciting and it’s clear that the design team and the hotel are totally in sync with ideas, vision and what luxury in Africa should look like. I leave Matetsi and Zimbabwe having cemented my respect in African design and culture. I am grateful that the reserve’s calming atmosphere allowed me to relax and escape from the lively London scene, if not only for a few days.

Key suppliers

Guest Suites-
Tables/ Headboards/ Beds- Adam Seager Furniture (ZIM)
Upholstery – Fiona Edmunds (ZIM)
Desks/ Luggage racks/ Wardrobes/ Lounge chairs – Nigel Joselyn (ZIM)
Pottery Pendants and Chandeliers- Chart Pottery (ZIM)
Beaded Ottomans- CHIPO women’s group (ZIM)
Spring stone Basins- Tonderayi Mahachi (ZIM)
Bamboo Lights- STEP Trust (ZIM)
Floor lamps- Collaboration between Bruce Elliot & Tonderayi Mahachi (ZIM)
Porcupine wastepaper baskets- Lupane Women’s Centre (ZIM)
Basin Tops- Zambezi Roots (ZIM)
Bath- Euro trends (SA)
Sanitary ware- Antique baths (SA)
Nguni Cowhides- Holly Hudson (ZIM)
Ceramics- Marjorie Wallace: Mutapo (ZIM)
Mirrors- Brigette Lotter (ZIM)

Main areas-
Dining tables- Adam Seager Furniture (ZIM)
Woven Screens- Collaboration between Jane Taylor & Judith Ncube of Matabeleland Weavers (ZIM)
Curated Tables- Helen Teede (ZIM)
Bar and Interactive kitchen- Collaboration between Adam Seager & Copperwares (ZIM)
Woven Poufs – Lupane Women’s Centre (ZIM)
Wrought Iron lights- Misty Edwards (ZIM)
Pottery Pendants and Chandeliers- Chart Pottery (ZIM)
Reed mats- Newlands Craft Market (ZIM)
Shop – Nigel Joselyn (ZIM)
Sofas- Fiona Edmunds (ZIM)
Coco chairs- Coricraft (SA)
Chairs/ Bar stools- Weylandts (SA)
Boardroom table- Collaboration between Zambezi Roots & Complete Steel (ZIM)
Ceramics- Marjorie Wallace: Mutapo (ZIM)
Wine cellar Chandeliers- Basil & Lindy Rowlands (ZIM)
Wine cellar- Ruwa Furniture (ZIM)

Editor checks in: November 2018

Hamish Kilburn

And that’s a wrap!

Show Season 2018 was a delicious cocktail of all the freshest, and tastiest, ingredients. Served up in a number of containers, each event unique in its structure, content and general look and feel. Sheltering insights of the future as well as game-changing product launches, the whole season has been one to remember, as we will review in next month’s Spotlight On feature.

Following the incredible activities, exclusives and far too many after parties that surrounded Show Season 2018, the industry was in desperate need of a show-stopping climax. And that, this year, came in the fashionable form of The Brit List 2018, which showed up in an unlikely – yet warmly received – location and delivered an evening of celebrations and understated glamour. Deliberately designed this year take the industry outside of the hotel arena, The Brit List 2018 took place in a private members club, BEAT London. Enjoying that scene, and celebrating Britain’s leading figures in hotel design, were guests from the likes of Gleneagle’s Conor O’Leary, Ennismore’s Charlie North, HBA London’s Constantina Tsoutsikou, and Richmond International’s Terry McGillicuddy among many others; the room was heaving and further defined Britain as a major international hotel design hub. If you haven’t yet seen who the winners are (where have you been) click here.

Another event which settled into a new home this year, as it outgrew the Business Design Centre in Islington, was SLEEP + EAT which was warmly welcomed to Olympia London. Introducing what were, in my mind, the best Sleep Sets were four fabulous design houses, which all pushed boundaries under the umbrella theme of ‘collaboration’. HBA London partnered with the National History Museum, Yasmine Mohmoudieh linked arms with Penguin Books, AB Concept stirred the mix with Maison Pierre Hermé Paris, while Denton Corker Marshall kicked off a partnership with West Ham United. Each set was stunning and being in the audience of the Sleep Sets lecture, where each designer explained their concept, was inspiring as it was interesting; a real personal treat.

“This month has allowed our editorial team to mingle and meet up with old friends, while meeting new faces who are at the cusp of taking our industry forward.”

This month’s hotel review opened up our eyes to disobedient interiors in the shape of Hotel Gotham. Together with our photography partners, ACT Studios, we were able to bring you into the review with us. This, our second interactive hotel review, comes as the hotel group prepares to welcome a new member to the Bespoke Hotels family.

I believe that November 2018 was a significant 30 days in the calendar for designers, hoteliers, architects and key-industry suppliers for a number of reasons. The first being that it welcomed and encouraged the industry – through various means and methods – to network with like-minded people. Secondly, it invited a number of major product launches, many of which were from our Hotel Designs Recommended Suppliers (which can be accessed here). And thirdly, this month has allowed our editorial team to mingle and meet up with old friends, while meeting new faces who are at the cusp of taking our industry forward. Long may that continue!

Editor, Hotel Designs

Top stories of the week: MOB talks, Brit List countdown and celebrating Manchester’s decadent playground

Hamish Kilburn

With less than a week until interior designers, hoteliers, architects and key-industry suppliers descend on BEAT London for The Brit List 2018, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn breaks down the top five stories of the week… 

There seems to be a lot of uncertainty in the air at the moment – mainly around the political situation in the UK. While the nation performs the political ‘Hokey Cokey’, Hotel Designs has been busy speaking to interior designers, hotel groups and architects on why Britain strongly remains a major international design hub. Celebrating Britain as wonderful incubator of ideas, we are counting down to our most anticipated event this year, The Brit List 2018. There are very limited spaces left, so if you would like to purchase your ticket to network with the industry’s leading designers, hoteliers and architects, click here. I look forward to welcoming you to the climax of our nationwide search to find the hotel design influencers in Britain today. Until then, though, here are the top five stories of the week.

1) Interactive hotel review: Checking in to Hotel Gotham, Manchester’s decadent playground

As Manchester continues to turn heads on the hotel design scene, I checked in to check out Hotel Gotham’s bold and decadent interiors – all sheltered within a former bank.

Ever since its bold entrance onto the unapologetically loud Manchester scene in 2015, Hotel Gotham’s alluring charm has tantalised many senses of those who have passed through its spectacularly framed automatic doors. I, for one, am one of them, and I hold my hands up proudly to say that I have formed a lust for decadence and luxury since checking in.

2) The Brit List 2018: One week to go

In seven days time, the UK’s leading designers, hoteliers and architects will gather at BEAT London for what is being dubbed the ‘after-party of SLEEP + EAT’ for a networking event like no other.

With just seven days until The Brit List 2018 is unveiled and the winners of the six newly launched events are announced, time for designers, hoteliers, architects and key-industry suppliers to purchase their tickets to meet up with the UK’s leading influencers in international hotel design is running out.

3) MOB HOTEL speaks to Hotel Designs about expansion plans in Europe and the US

The hotel group, which launched last year with two properties, has announced large plans to expand its lifestyle portfolio in Europe and the US with a Washington hotel in the pipeline. I sat down with the CEO, Cyril Aouizerate, to find out more.

I predict a riot, at least in the hotel scene anyway. Since launching in November of last year, MOB HOTEL has started a revolution, proving that the centre of a city’s action does not have to neccessarily be geographically pinned in the centre of the city. The lifestyle brand has turned up the volume – and thrown in a bit of colour – in the mid-market sector with two quirky hotels; one located in a Paris Flea Market, the other situated riverside in Lyon.

4) IHG opens first voco on Australia’s Gold Coast

Following the exclusive unveiling of the new branding just five months agoInterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has opened the first hotel globally for its new upscale hotel brand: voco™. Owned by Australian property investment firm SB&G Group and located on the shores of the Gold Coast, voco™ Gold Coast is now open for guests to soak up the sun, sand and sea in Australia’s beloved Surfers Paradise.

voco™, inspired by the meaning ‘to invite’ or to ‘come together’ in Latin, will combine the informality and charm of an individual hotel, with the quality and reassurance of a global and respected brand. The public spaces of voco™ Gold Coast emphasise this social element, fittingly named Social House Café, which collectively houses a bar and lounge within the venue, offering a space for everyone.

5) Overcoming Grade II listed challenges to create £1.8m boutique hotel

Two derelict office buildings in Leicester – adjacent to the site of the car park where King Richard III’s remains were discovered in 2015 – have been converted into the 28-key boutique hotel, St Martins Lodge, which has just opened.

Building Services Design (BSD) provided mechanical and electrical engineering services for the Grade II listed Georgian buildings, with many of the original features being retained –including the hallway, with its chandelier and staircase.

Don’t forget, you can keep up to date on all the latest happens and all the trends by following our social channels: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn

 

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Checking in to Hotel Gotham, Manchester’s decadent playground

768 513 Hamish Kilburn

As Manchester continues to turn heads on the hotel design scene, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn checked in to check out Hotel Gotham’s bold and decadent interiors – all sheltered within a former bank…

Ever since its bold entrance onto the unapologetically loud Manchester scene in 2015, Hotel Gotham’s alluring charm has tantalised many senses of those who have passed through its spectacularly framed automatic doors. I, for one, am one of them, and I hold my hands up proudly to say that I have formed a lust for decadence and luxury since checking in.

Expect disruptive interiors that are balanced with effortless style and a narrative threaded throughout the whole building that will take you right back to ’20s glamour.

Manchester’s answer to Gothic-chic is often the heart of the action of the city thanks to the vivacious General Manager, Mario Ovsenjak. It’s this action captured within Hotel Gotham, almost on a need-to-know basis, that helped first raise the bar in hotel design in the North in order to compete not only against its London counterparts, but also against luxury hotels around the world. Because Hotel Gotham is, quite frankly, unlike anywhere else around the globe.

“Think Art Deco meets the Batcave.”

The concept was to create timeless luxury with the ability to take guests away from the city centre below they know and love and into a different universe entirely, all while remaining sensitive in restoring moments that capture the hotel how it used to be. Think Art Deco meets the Batcave.

The entrance, under the watchful focus of the building’s gargoyles, is surprisingly understated given its majestic shell. Designed to emphasise a theatrical greeting from magnificently dressed porters, as if themselves are part of wider performance or an extension of the interior styling, the doors to the hotel are more like a curtain to a stage. Look up and all is not what it first seems. The ceiling is made up of numerous upside-down umbrellas – not for the superstitious I must add – painted in black and gold. These elements are special because they didn’t quite work out according to the original plan. These items were supposed to arrive painted gold underneath and black on top, but it wasn’t until the interior designers erected the first one when they realised that they had been designed to be gold on top and black underneath. Today, the subtle reference to Manchester’s inevitable downpour is cleverly injected and hides the secret well.

Checking in on the sixth floor is an unusual experience to say the least, but an experience I have seen work before, at the W Amsterdam for example. Unlike the raucous, wild and fashion-forward W brand, though, Hotel Gotham’s lobby experience is private and provides and secluded and personal welcome. Just a few steps along and guests are greeted into a large and airy Honey Restaurant, with its own personality. The hotel describes this place as “Whatever Honey conjures up for you”, the 2 AA Rosette awarded restaurant offers guests to dine overlooking Manchester from an unmatched perspective.

Downstairs, the guestrooms and suites shelter the true character of Hotel Gotham. Disruptive interiors balance a seductive, playful misé en scene, yet still feel like a home from home – like a modern designer’s sanctuary… The zig-zagged, soft Newhey carpets and the striking pink accents in the furniture and the inside of the drinks cabinet add flair in all the right corners. Meanwhile, the oversized beds, complete with faux fur throws, make lying-in a privilege.

Challenging the convention of traditional luxury hotels, the most premium category rooms at Hotel Gotham do not boast the most premium views of the city – in fact they boast no view at all. Instead, cleverly I believe, the five Inner Sanctum Suites – each named after an iconic Manchester figure and featuring a huge ‘wonderwall’ screen – are vaulted within the core of the building. Windowless and worlds away from anything happening in the city below, the suites’ sharp cinema screen projections onto panelled wallcoverings offer various atmospheres, not just the one that Manchester wants you to see, including the intriguing narrative of Hotel Gotham characters.

The real showstopper is located on the top floor (floor seven), and is reserved for guests and members only. The history of the building is quite literally written on the walls in the bar. The surfaces are lathered in gold, giving more than just a subtle nod to the bank that the building used to shelter. The bar and lounge area naturally over-spills onto four separate terraces that together capture a jaw-dropping view over the city and beyond.

Bespoke Hotels recently announced that it was to open the 191-key The Brooklyn to Manchester, which will pay ‘homage to the Golden Age of New York City’. This follows Top Hotel Projects revealing a rather large development growth of luxury hotels in Manchester, with 18 first-class and luxury hotel projects listed for the city with 2,907 rooms in the pipeline – eight of which are slated to be unveiled in 2019. The Brooklyn, which will become the younger brother – or sister – of Hotel Gotham, is expected to share the same disobedience, and rightly so, as the hotel group arguably continues to lead the way in the city with endless possibilities that help to broaden the ever-changing landscape of hotel design in the North.

Key suppliers list: 

Carpets – Newhey Carpet
Lighting – RS Robertsons
Curtains –  Robena Contract Furnishings Limited
Furniture (pink seating)  – Style Matters
Desk – PTT design
Bathroom toilet, basin and shower – Marflow

Image credits: ACT Studios

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MINIVIEW: The Academy, London

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Editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn joins Alexandra Champalimaud herself to take a closer look of the new London boutique hotel that is on everyone’s lips at the moment…

Located in London’s more literary neighbourhood of Bloomsbury, The Academy Hotel, has revealed details of its million-pound interior design refurbishment. The hotel, which is part of YTL Hotels’ UK portfolio, has been designed by Alexandra Champalimaud and her skilful team whose portfolio includes The Gainsborough Bath and Spa and soon-to-open Monkey Island in Berkshire. The team worked close with the hotel group to convert the five Georgian townhouses into a charming, sophisticated and historical experience for guests who are checking in.

Inspired by the Bloomsbury Set who lived and worked there in the early 20th century, the interior design of the newly completed hotel is a tasteful blend of modern and vintage. The design team have perfectly balanced giving a nod to the building’s past while also drawing on inspiration from modern-day London.

The guestrooms

Each of the 50 elegant guest rooms have been designed to celebrate 240 years of the Georgian hotel’s history. High ceilings and sash windows give light-filled rooms an immediate sense of calm, which en-suite marble bathrooms and high king-sized beds (something I have noticed Champalimaud to love) add to the luxury. The soft furnishings of each guest room have been meticulously chosen to combine timeless glamour and fresh, contemporary city style. Statement walls feature fanciful wallpaper from Cole & Son, which arm chair, cushion and curtain fabrics have been sourced from Lee Sofa, a company that has been producing prints and fabric since 1823, and British brand Osborne & Little, among others.

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: What is your favourite colour this season?
Alexandra Champalimaud: I favour classic colours that don’t abide by trends. Rust orange, rich shades of blue, and green.
HK: What’s your advice to emerging designers?
AC: Believe in everything that you do.
HK: What is your number-one travel essential?
AC: Floracopeia Aged Patchouli oil
HK: What’s the secret to success in this world of hotel interior design?
AC: Challenges are opportunities to create something more awe inspiring than you may have initially thought – there are always changes, change in budget, change in schedule, perhaps the entire project gets scratched – but these are opportunities to bring more to the table. Charisma and good humour will also take you far.
HK: Biggest inspiration in your career?
AC: My team. At Champalimaud we have an unparalleled group of individuals in our New York based office, they make coming into work an absolute joy.

Beyond the guest rooms the hotel is brimming with personality and thoughtful design touched. On the ground level, the cosy Alchemy Bar which feature stunning olive-green velvet armchairs, marble-top tables and statement Liberty wallpaper, which leads out onto a sunlit-flooded garden, a rare feature for a hotel located in the centre of London. “Tapping into Bloomsbury’s storied past, we were inspired to create a space that is intimate, fresh and rich with charisma and narrative.”

 

 

Checking in to The Gainsborough Bath and Spa

800 537 Hamish Kilburn

Editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn checks in to the only hotel in Bath that taps into the natural thermal springs of the city, designed by the one and only Alexandra Champalimaud…

“First and foremost, the location is what really sets this project apart,” says Alexandra Champalimaud who, to me, looks far too composed and relaxed for two reasons as we meet for breakfast. For starters, although her soft English accent would suggest otherwise, Champalimaud is actually based in the loud, sleepless city of New York. And secondly, we are catching up at the same time of London Design Festival, when more than 450,000 designers, architects and creatives from around the globe descend onto the capital to catch the latest trends, discussions and product launches. Never before has the analogy of a duck above water been so apt than in this situation right now, and it’s inspiring to watch. “Bath is an actual treasure, a world UNESCO World Heritage Site, and frankly I think it’s one of the most magical places in the UK,” she says passionately as we begin to talk about The Gainsborough Bath and Spa, the five-star hotel that stole both of our hearts.

A few weeks before, I was checking in to the hotel for the first time. The precious interiors and renowned spa that are housed within The Gainsborough Bath and Spa are on a need to know basis. Tucked away from the rest of the town, yet very central in its address, the hotel among the locals is known for its luxury edge over the rest of the hotels in the area.

Just a two-hour drive from London’s thick smoke (and even quicker on the train), the feeling of tranquilly is immediately apparent upon arrival. “I can always tell if a guest is from London,” said Brian Benson, the hotel’s general manager as I arrived through the doors and into the large, open lobby. “Our guests from London always arrive in a hurry and look stressed. What I love about my job, and this hotel, is that guests always leave calmer than when they arrived.”

The lobby at The Gainsborough

Image caption: The lobby at The Gainsborough

Like many buildings in the hilly town of Bath, the hotel was once a Georgian-era hospital. The British painter Thomas Gainsborough had spent time there, which inspired the name. “The building itself looks grand, but it’s actually quite cosy,” says Champalimaud. “There’s an intimacy there that’s unmatched by other hotels in the area. The building is also Grade II listed; visitors will find that there are a lot of original details throughout the hotel.”

“Champalimaud and her team have created several dramatic scenes within the hotel’s public areas.”

The hotel’s look and feel is – like its staff – inviting, warm and naturally comfortable to be around. Deliberate attention to detail has been given to ensure that the modern hotel gives an appropriate nod to its storied past, with several references of traditional items evident in the public areas. Such as the Turin Portantina Seden Chair, which once in the 17th Century was used to carry royalty and now sits at the bottom of the main staircase in the lobby, creating a lasting first impression. The artefact is one of around 50 known to exist of its shape.

-The Gainsborough Restaurant

Image caption: -The Gainsborough restaurant

Champalimaud and her team have created several dramatic scenes within the hotel’s public areas. “We realised that we didn’t want to detract from the building’s historical charm, but simply enhance it,” says Champalimaud. “Whenever possible, we highlighted some of the hotel’s original features by employing design details that were reflective of the Roman and Georgian history of the city. Overall, the design is transitional – weaving in the classic English cosiness with a contemporary point of view.” One of these moments is the dynamically obscure chandelier that hangs in between the large main staircase. Another example of drama is quite literally written on the walls. Several pieces of contemporary art around the hotel, at first, look impressive and well placed. However, when learning that the artists are in fact local art students, the walls all of sudden have a different dimension. “What do you think it is,” said the waiter as I stood in front of a large abstract art piece which was full of dashes and colour. Tilting my head, I saw it. The piece of art, again imagined and created by local student artists was a contemporary representation of the restaurant we were actually stood in.

The Canvas Room at The Gainsborough

Image caption: The Canvas Room at The Gainsborough

On the lower level, the hotel’s main unique selling point is another classy reference to the town’s infamous past. The spa, which I have read about – and have wanted to experience – since it opened, is incomparable. It’s truly world-class, a feeling that has recently been shared by Condé Nast Traveller readers who have just voted it the second-best spa in the UK. That may well be because it is the only hotel spa in the city that actually taps into the natural thermal springs, meaning that the several therapy pools are all organically heated. “The spa is a dream,” says Champalimaud. “Located near one of the town’s thermal reserves the spa pool inside of the hotel contains the sought after precious healing waters that made Bath so famous.”

suite

Image caption: The Gainsborough

Although much of the attention at the hotel in the press is focused on the spa, the guestrooms and suites are equally as striking and impressive. Dressed to feel appropriately residential, with a colour palatte of duck egg blue, white and soft browns. My suite (room number 310) was defined as a junior suite, complete with a large living area, modest bathroom and a large bedroom. “Georgian design references are very much present in the guestrooms,” explained Champalimaud. “We wanted the rooms to feel comfortable, yet rich, so we focused on creating delicate layers with the tones, textures, and furnishings within them. The colours are contemporary and alluring while maintaining an air of subtlety – conjuring a sense of quiet. A number of the guestrooms have high ceilings that we accentuated with long curtains trimmed with a Roman inspired border, which complements the ornately patterned carpet. The furniture is all contemporary with a classic familiarity.”

guestroom

Image credit: The Gainsborough

Despite the design project running relatively smoothly, as with all grade II listed structures, unexpected delays in the design process were almost inevitable. “Since we were working with a Grade II structure, we had to be patient with the construction phase of the project,” explained Champalimaud. “The building had to be excavated as ancient artifacts were found while they were breaking ground – which was unexpected. From an interiors perspective, the hotel’s listing made us very mindful of maintaining the building’s original integrity with every design decision we made.”

Since experiencing the hotel in all its finery, The Gainsborough Bath and Spa has entered a special place in my heart – which is the same, it seems, for among many of its visitors who walk through its calming entrance. A little more than 100 miles from the centre of London, it is a South west gem, and certainly gives five-star hotels in the captital a run for their money. I checked out of The Gainsborough Bath and Spa and left with a much lower heart rate from when I arrived and a new-found appreciation for Georgian heritage buildings that shelter stunning hotels spas. The answer, perhaps, is in the waters.

 

 

 

Large suite in King Street Townhouse

Checking in to King Street Townhouse, Manchester

800 447 Hamish Kilburn

With hotel design in the north enjoying a major moment, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn checked in to the design-led King Street Townhouse, to marvel over Manchester from a totally unique perspective…

“Manchester is a shrinking violet,” said no designer, ever! It’s impossible to ignore the scale of construction that is happening right now in the UK’s third largest city. It has become, in its own right, a hive for hotel design and is going through what is reported to be one of the largest city centre developments the north has ever seen. According to TOPHOTELPROJECTS, there are currently 18 first-class and luxury hotel projects listed for Manchester with 2,907 rooms in the pipeline. Seven of these projects are scheduled to open before the end of the year – and a further eight are slated to be unveiled in 2019.

This has pushed open the floodgates to the launch of new hotels and turning a page to a new chapter of class, character and style – and the striking hotels are making London just a little bit jealous with the city’s jaggedly jaw-dropping cityscape skyline as a major focus.

The building itself was originally designed by local Mancunian architect Edward Salomons

Cue the launch of King Street Townhouse, which adds to the growing portfolio of the Eclectic Hotel Collection. The 40-key boutique hotel is small enough to have its own quirky personality but not to ever be confused with insignificant in any stretch of the imagination – its trendy interiors certainly make up for size. Located on Booth Street, on the fringe of the city’s central retail district, the hotel has attracted more than just city travellers and the occasional editor. The hotel has become ‘the place to visit’ for those wanting to experience the city from a totally unique perspective.

The building itself was originally designed by local Mancunian architect Edward Salomons and originally built in 1872 for the Manchester Salford Trustees Bank. The Eclectic Hotel Collection unveiled the hotel at the end of 2015 with the aim to respectfully expand on the allure and unique qualities of this historic building with a baby grand hotel providing the need for new contemporary accommodation in the area.

“The rich history in each of our properties is a part of our charm at Eclectic Hotels,” said Eamonn O’Loughlin, Founder of The Eclectic Hotel Collection in a press release. “Our intention was to respectfully expand on the allure and unique qualities of this historic building with our baby grand hotel providing the need for new, luxurious, contemporary accommodation in the area.”

Checking in to the hotel is an intimate experience. Guests turn left to a small, functional check-in desk. Monochrome tiles lead the way toward the grand staircase and a single lift. The wallpaper in each of the corridors is fun and quirky.

Each guestroom at the hotel is different, I mean really different. Because of its boutique label, the hotel owners were able to play around with different looks in each of the 40 rooms and suites. The result is that in each room, something different stands out. For example, in one room I viewed, an intricate headboard immediately attracted attention, giving the room a delicate feel. In another, a large free-standing bath, positioned under the window frame, sits on a slab of tiles.

Room 10

With the hotel being sheltered within a grade II listed building, the modern architects AEW Architects were limited as to what they could change. Using this as an opportunity for the hotel to give a nod to the heritage, the team worked on ways of how they could balance modern into the sensitive project.

Art, as it should be in all hotels, is a major focus. Many of the pieces have been curated to obviously depict major milestones in the city’s history while avoiding looking and feeling too cliché. Although the theme is the city, each room has a different take on what Manchester means.

Upstairs on the seventh floor is where the real point-of-difference is situated. The hotel is the only one in Manchester to have its own rooftop infinity pool, offering a totally unparalleled perspective over the city that stretches out towards the iconic Town Hall, Beetham Tower and the horizon beyond.

Just below that on the sixth floor is an open terrace and a suitable meetings and events venue area that recently and appropriately sheltered Hotel Designs Meet Up North.

From up high to down low, the The Cellars are reserved for the best screening seats in the house. Its own luxury cinema, in fact, and a private wine tasting room, complete with original red-bricked ceilings and walls create a unmatched atmosphere.

The Eclectic Hotel Collection currently operates a total of four destinations within Manchester and has a wealth of knowledge in respectfully converting historic buildings.

Overall, King Street Townhouse is a striking example of how Manchester is cutting the ribbon on design gems that have been designed to create unforgettable moments – moments that help lift an Instagram feed to new heights. The small hotel with a big personality – and even larger heritage – certainly makes its mark and turns a new page of luxury in the cultural and eclectic city of Manchester.

Opposites attract at Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay

800 533 Hamish Kilburn

Nestled behind vibrant streets, where thousands of Gap-Year backpackers find shelter in cheap hostels, rises a luxury hotel with personality, style and unmatched ocean views. Editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to the Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay to see for himself how opposites in South East Asia can attract after all…

Perched on a hilltop facing south, with Phuket’s Patong Beach to the left, Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay’s location was certainly not compromised when local architect Rachapuk Sungkhaphunt from Greenity Co. Ltd designed the foundations of what was said to be ‘a new kind of luxury’ away from the wild, bustling and polluted streets behind Patong Beach.

Exterior of the hotel

Image caption: Exterior of the hotel

Opened in December 2016, the hotel offers 214 elegantly appointed guestrooms and private villas as well as large public areas throughout. The hotel’s structure was thoughtfully designed using the natural landscape as a tool to stagger the individual blocks so that from all corners of the hotel, guests can marvel over the sweeping ocean vistas that extend over the Andaman Sea.

Guestroom image with stunning ocean views

Image caption: The hotel has been designed to capture striking views of the A Sea

Approachable by design, simplicity, minimalism and copious amount of space, interior designer Voravee Puranasamriddhi from Bangkok-based firm 1328 Pt Ltd led the interiors throughout the hotel. Vast emptiness and unused space captured my first impressions of the public areas. That’s because at first there is little to see, as the finest areas are rightfully to be enjoyed by guests only, and clearly detached from the loud streets across the bay.

Tall floor-to-ceiling glass doors open into a refined, elegant space

Designed to reflect more of a terminal than a lobby, the first building guests walk into when checking in on the ground floor is bare and offers just enough facilities for a member of staff to tick you off the list and direct you on. It shelters a constant flow of traffic and once guests have been filtered through this system they are picked up by a car and driven to the main lobby, which is situated three floors above the first terminal.

Unlike the main entrance, the lobby is striking with a strong, solid check-in desk sat in the middle of a modern, light and airy room. Tall floor-to-ceiling glass doors open into a refined and elegant space, while intricate wallcoverings, designed to replicate corral, burst with personality. The furniture is simple yet comfortable with under-seat lighting reflecting off the ceramic flooring.

Image caption: Lobby area

All guestrooms and suites are Asian-inspired with a modern touch. Wooden floors, warm colours and floor-to-ceiling windows create a blissful sanctuary allowing guests to unwind and take in the jaw-dropping views.

A control panel next to the large bed allows guests to personalise the ambiance to suit every mood

Offering by far, though, the most luxurious experience is the Luxury Private Pool Villa Panoramic Ocean View, which sit in the middle of the complex. Designed to blend Asian decor with Western, modern, spacious living – complete with a private infinity pool and decking – the abode allows you to enjoy the panoramic vistas of the bay from a premium perspective – whether that be on the balcony or on the edge of your own infinity pool, accessible from the decking, the living room and the large bathroom.

Image caption:  Luxury Private Pool Villa Panoramic Ocean View

Each of the resort’s 152 pool villas, the most in the Kalim-Patong area, feature a private outdoor sundeck and a six- or nine-metre infinity pools overlooking the ocean, providing guests checking in with privacy and seclusion as well as ultimate comfort and relaxation.

The lighting in the room is tasteful and well-designed. A control panel next to the large bed allows guests to personalise the ambiance to suit every mood. In addition to spotlight lighting, two pendants hang from the ceiling either side of the large bed. This, I believe, adds another dimension to the minimalist setup.

The bathrooms are large and again offer unmatched views through floor-to-ceiling windows that open completely so that the panoramic view is never sacrificed. A large twin tub sits above the infinity pool. Next to it is the walk-in rainfall shower. Above the large twin sink is an oversized mirror that reflects a spacious home-away-from-home feel.

Outside seating area at L'atitude 98 restaurant

Image caption: Outside seating area at L’atitude 98 restaurant

Dining at Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay has been designed to capture a multisensorial experience with two restaurants serving authentic Thai cuisine and international favourites amidst breathtaking sea views.

What I respect most about this hotel is that it may be a stones throw away from provocative streets of Patong Beach, but it is worlds away from the ‘in your face’ attitude that’s evident across the bay.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts now has more than 9,000 properties worldwide. Recently, Hotel Designs sat down with the new Managing Director (EMEA) to discover what the next chapter for the hotel group looks like.

 

Pastel palette in Legacy Suite

Checking in to Gleneagles, Scotland

800 534 Hamish Kilburn

Intrigued to find out to what extent the power of interior design can lift a building, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn checked in to review the one and only Gleneagles…

Positioned in 344 hectares of land, under Perthshire’s Ochil Hills, is a Scottish jewel. The ever-majestic Gleneagles first soared to be a natural star in the spotlight when it first opened its grand doors in 1924. Its ‘cutting of the ribbon’ was celebrated with Scotland’s first ever outside broadcast, and these moments of the hotel’s many milestones can be found injected into the fabrics of many pockets of the today’s Gleneagles.

Since the 1920s, ‘The Glen’ has served many important purposes and duties outside of being a luxury hotel in the country hills. During WW2, like many hotels of its time, it was converted into a hospital. In 2005, it witnessed world leaders tackle tough debates at the 31st G8 Summit. And most recently, in 2014, it’s famous golf course was the stage of the Ryder Cup.

With all great hotels, comes great renovations – and in this case even larger responsibility in maintaining a priceless charm throughout. In 2016, just after the hotel was sold to the ‘hipster team’ behind Hoxton Hotels, Ennismore, a multi-million-pound upgrade was announced. Calling for sensitive brushes and creative minds, the task to revamp the building fell onto the shoulders of four leading design firms under watchful eye of lead architecture firm 3D Reid. David Collins Studio, Timorous Beasties, Macaulay Sinclair and Goddard Littlefair together gave the hotel more than just a lick of paint. Instead, they bravely and boldly went about redesigning, re-crafting and to some degree restructuring the hotel to ensure that it created both a warm and inviting space which also gave an appropriate nod to its history in all the right places.

As I enter the building and walk up the steps, my pre-conceived perceptions of what I thought would be an overly stuffy and ‘far too posh’ hotel are immediately erased. Instead, thanks to the wonderful work of David Collins Studio, the large, airy lobby, which sits on luscious green carpet, creates the kind of first impression that many hotels from around the world can only strive to achieve.

Long corridors at Gleneagles

Image credit: Goddard Littlefair

The long corridors, designed by Goddard Littlefair and lit by Heathfield, are unlike any I have walked through before. It took 20 minutes for me to reach my suite. The fascinating art and original memorabilia, conceived by ARTIQ, hang on delicate gold chains as a further reminder of what the hotel walls have witnessed over the years. Although each piece is different, together they tell a tale of rich Scottish tradition, which is further explored in the rooms.

The guestroom experience

The Legacy Suite on the fourth floor is, like all the other 25 suites, aptly named after famous Scottish whiskey. The left door to room 404 opens into what is a large and comfortable living area, while the right door to 405 opens onto the bedroom. With a timeless pastel palette, the whole suite is outlined by wood panelling, which creates a high-end residential style throughout.

Formed of a lobby area, lounge, bedroom, bathroom and a dressing room, the overall look and feel of The Legacy Suite is that of a club lounge, where Chesterfield sofas and robust, hard-wearing materials reflect sporting activities and the feel of country life.

A sense of place is very much underlined in the design of the estate-like rooms. Goddard Littlefair worked with local craftsmen, fabric producers and upholsterers wherever possible, referencing the many classic fabrics Scotland is renowned for, supporting Scottish businesses and paying respect to long-standing links between the hotel and particular manufacturers.

The lounge is complete with an upholstered leather sofa, club chairs in olive-green buttoned leather, as well as a bespoke coffee table and a dining area that seats four people comfortably.

Separating the living area from the bedroom – something that not many other hotels can achieve because of lack of space – is a quirky corridor which leads to an unparalleled view which stretches over the estate. This area allows the suite to naturally breathe and very much makes the room look and feel large and spacious.

Image caption: The Legacy Suite (rooms 404 & 405)

The bedroom on the other side of the suite is a plush oasis with the same soft hues as what is in the living room, again creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. The oversized burgundy headboard is comforting, while natural light floods in through the panelled windows, which again look out onto the grounds. The flooring is a bespoke carpet and the rugs were sourced from India with varying colourways and designs selected individually to work the scheme. The rugs are in taupe with hints of green, a further nod to its luscious location.

The en-suite hand-picked marble bathroom is, quite frankly, fit and designed for a king. It is complete with a large bath on one side and a high-powered separate shower on the other, which is divided appropriately with vanity units and square basins from Villeroy & Boch with Perrin & Rowe brass finish taps. Completing the bathroom are ornate mirrors with an antique finish to communicate a timeless feel that marries up with the building’s age.

Image caption: The Birnam Brasserie

Elsewhere in the hotel, the public areas are equally impressive. The hotel shelters no less than nine bars and restaurants – of which the Strathearn is the main one and most formal. The Birnam Brasserie, designed by Ennismore Design Studio stands out as it is, unlike what I imagined, a casual dining experience designed in a conservatory-like space with many plants around the restaurant – including a full-sized living wall – playing on the concept of indoor-outdoor living to perfection.

American Bar

Image credit: The American Bar

Every decent hotel experience should end with a night cap in the bar. The award-winning American Bar, designed by David Collins Studio, is the perfect setting for such a thing. Layered with cashmere walls, the bar is a time machine taking guests back to the 1920s, complete with just the right injection of ’20s glamour, without the cliché glitz.

Meeting rooms

The glue that holds the whole meeting experience together, in my opinion, is the newly unveiled Ochil House. Inspired by the original private members clubs, Ennismore Design Studio has carved out each of the six rooms available to hire to create light, open and refined meeting spaces. Named after their original rooms in the hotel – including The Card Room, The Reading Room, The Writing Room and The Broadcasting Room – these spaces give an appropriate nod to the hotel’s storied history.

Image caption: Ochil House

“The overarching ambition of the design was to inspire, arouse ideas and stimulate conversation – encouraging guests to look around, explore and discuss, rather than sit at a table in a blank function room,” said Charlie North, design director at Ennismore. “It’s a reinvention of the meeting space concept – somewhere that’s not just practical but also beautiful, as well as homely, welcoming and fun – and a place where people naturally want to gather and enjoy conversation.”

Since checking out of Gleneagles, London – or anywhere for that matter – hasn’t quite looked or felt the same. The majestic countryside estate in the heart of Scotland made a lasting impression and it is as much a jewel today as it was in 1924.

 

Striking lighting adorns the lobby

MINIVIEW: HBA London completes a new jewel in Jerusalem

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We took a closer look at the timeless details that make up the new hotel on the block, The Orient Jerusalem by Isrotel Exclusive Collection…

Following Hotel Designs exclusive discussion with the design firm’s senior designer Constantina TsoutsikouHBA London has completed the interiors of The Orient Jerusalem by Isrotel Exclusive Collection.

Beginning with the cherished Song of Jerusalem ‘A timeless love song to the city’, the hotel’s interiors were inspired by the extraordinary layers of history, culture and artistry as well as the sheer beauty of the indigenous stone which bathes the city in a golden hue.

The Orient sits at the entrance to Jerusalem’s historically rich and increasingly cosmopolitan German Colony district. It combines two exquisite 19th century Templar houses, which have been restored and reinvented as a collection of more than 200 luxury guestrooms, with a modern nine-storey building crowned by an elegant rooftop pool and bar.

“We were particularly blessed with this project because we not only had the city to draw on, but the influences of the German Colony’s Swabian architecture,” said Inge Moore, the former Principal of HBA London. “Jerusalem is an amazing city for a designer to work in. Everything is embraced by the golden tint of the stone, interspersed with the green of foliage and plants and with bright punches of colour in the fruits, markets, textiles and ancient decoration. Over the centuries, Jerusalem has been a melting pot of peoples, each bringing their stories and crafts and leaving a great legacy of artisanal resourcefulness.

Striking sculpture in the lobby

Artwork plays a key part throughout the hotel. Art curator Sharon Toval has emphasised Isrotel’s belief in the essential role that art has in creating spaces full of powerful associations and beauty. Like the interior design, the inspiration for the artwork was Jerusalem’s history and the land, reimagined into contemporary expression. The result is a collection of sculptures, watercolours, prints and etchings by acclaimed and emerging Israeli artists as well as by the students of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design who undertook a year-long project to each create a sculpture relating to the city and the hotel.

The Lobby 

The journey begins within a grand atrium of glass and Jerusalem stone. The high-glazed ceiling welcomes in an abundance of natural light, that is complimented by thoughtfully positioned lighting from Northern Lights. The public area is dressed with gently gathered drapery that lends elegance to the space while also shields guests from the midday sun while softening the acoustics. Inspiration for the illuminated mosaic tiles was taken from encaustic tiles found in the Templar buildings.  The reception desk is of bronze and a chandelier with hand-blown local glass cascades through the central stairwell, suspended above a reflection pool two floors below, to captivate guests on arrival.

Dark tones in the lobby

The grand lounge bar is designed to be the beating heart of the hotel and has, as such, become a favourite hotspot for hotel’s residents and locals alike. Located just off the entrance lobby, it is an atmospheric double-height space that is a symphony of reflective and textural surfaces. The bar itself is clad in a richly grained green marble, the pattern of which has been translated into the wall covering. A composition of framed verre églomisé mirrors, together with antiqued mirror to the back of the bar, play with movement and reflections within the space.

Plush banquet seating, elegant leather covered armchairs and local lace chandeliers soften the geometric pattering and beaten metal features, while screens on each side of the bar recall the many layered views to be found in the streets of Jerusalem. Through soaring arched windows, guests can access cosy balconies overlooking the delightful outdoor courtyard below.

Courtyard dominated by striking treeThe Smadar Dining Room and Courtyard Terrace

Jerusalem stone walls carry through from the exterior facade to meet silvered mirror clad walls and glass screens etched with the pattern of the old encaustic tiles, which together poses a play of reflection, transparency and opacity that is the experience of Jerusalem. Olive wood adds to the energy of the space and forms a striking assembly of suspended panels with acoustic insulation which manage the volume of sound in this imposing room.

The dining room flows out into the courtyard – an al fresco area designed to accommodate guests throughout day and evening. From here, guests can take in the architecture of both the new and old hotel buildings.

Guestrooms – The Templar Buildings

The guestrooms in the Templar buildings are each unique in their architectural form and detailing, representing, in effect, 39 individual projects for the designers. Within the idiosyncratic spaces, the guestrooms combine luxury with elements of local handicraft to bring the authenticity of these heritage buildings to life. The blue and ivory palette is both beautiful and meaningful. These are the colours of the national flag and the “tekhelet” blue recalls the biblical blue of Judaism which, when combined with ivory tones, captures the spirit of Jerusalem. Encaustic floor tiles that flow from the bedroom into the bathrooms are similar to those found in the original buildings during restoration. Crafted wrought iron bed frames are focal points in the bedrooms with a blue leather chaise longue at the foot of each bed adding a touch of opulence.

Locally crafted, antique-style mother-of-pearl inlaid cabinetry enhances the residential feel whilst the neutral palette, tiling and use of stone emphasise the simple beauty of the old architecture. Many of the bathrooms feature a large window through which light streams in, illuminating the fittings that include aged metal basins and mixer taps, as well as a traditional free-standing copper-clad tub by Cifal.

Guestrooms – The New Building

The 205 guestrooms and suites in the new building reference local heritage and craftsmanship but within the context of a contemporary background. Studded headboards hint at the old doors of the city, lamps are artisanal, and table tops are of olive wood. The naturally warm tones of the textural woven fabrics of the drapery and upholstery are instrumental in creating a sense of tranquil luxury. Sliding panels between bedroom and bathroom open up to allow guests to appreciate the balance of natural stone, olive wood, wrought iron and plush woven fabrics across the entire space.

The 24 suites bring even further materiality and detailing as well as the addition of a spacious sitting room with deep, comfortable sofas and, in some cases, a dining area or a terrace allowing outdoor lounging and dining. The 118 sq metre Presidential Suite enjoys a deep, fully glazed dual aspect outdoor terrace. Indoor and out, guests have uninterrupted views across the panorama of Jerusalem.

Large guestroom with studded headboard and dark, natural tones

Carmel Forest Spa

Light, water and stone work in perfect harmony. It is as if the cavernous space around the pool has trapped the very source of “Jerusalem Gold” between its faceted ceiling and Jerusalem stone walls. The grand design statements of the rough-hewn lava stone feature wall with its cascading waterfall and the golden crystalline structure of the ceiling capture elements of the volcanic. Shimmering bronze chain-link is suspended along a glazed wall to obscure the gym.

In contrast to this grandeur, the seven treatment rooms, including a couple’s treatment suite, are simple and calming. They combine warm timber floors with a stone envelope and a light projection wall to create spaces where the focus is all on guest wellbeing.

Large open pool on the hotel's rooftop
Rooftop Pool and Orientop Bar

The rooftop pool and bar tops out the new building at 10th level. Guests can take full advantage of the spectacular 360 degree views over the old city walls whilst lounging in cabanas and pergolas by the poolside, or sipping cocktails in the glamourous, electric blue and white tiled bar, which has been decked out with artisan ceramic tables discovered by the designers in a local market.

“We approach every project with an open and curious mind,” explained Constantina Tsoutsikou, Creative Director of HBA London. “Our designers love to immerse themselves not just in the history and traditions of a place, but also the contemporary local culture, borrowing from both old and new to craft exceptional spaces that uniquely belong to their location.”

The Orient opens not as a contemporary hotel, but more a timeless masterpiece that has been sensitively designed in every detail to reflect the charm and character of the historic city it surrounds.

Key Suppliers:

Lighting: Northern Lights
Carpet/flooring: Timber floors May Sharon- Carpets and rugs- Brintons, Renby and  Dikla carpets
Furniture: Ahsap and  Interdecor
Wallcovering: Bruno triplet; Elite Homewear
Fabrics/textiles: Etun Fabrics
Bath fixtures: Cifial
Artwork: Sharon Toval

Armchair in front of hotel window

GUEST BLOG: Four keys that will help unlock the perfect hotel experience

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Marketing Executive from UK Trade Furnishings Ltd Ross King explains how to create the perfect hotel experience in four steps…

The hotel industry is one of the largest in the UK, with an average occupancy rate of 76 per cent as of 2018 alone. From business trips to family holidays, hotels are in constant demand, meaning that even the smallest of stays must be treated with the highest care and detail.

However what is it that goes into the perfect hotel stay, and what should you do to deliver the ultimate hosting experience?

Key number 1: Convenience

The first element to delivering the perfect hotel experience is convenience. Every potential guest expects the ultimate in convenience, seeking relief from the normal responsibilities of everyday life.

This can be simple things like asking to take guests’ bags to their room, and having a wide-ranging menu, suitable for all pallets. This can also be more luxurious convivences such high-end amenities and special welcome baskets for guests.

These elements combined add to the feeling of relaxation and relief that every guest should feel, whether they are staying for single night or a full week.

Key number 2: Comfort

Offering convenience is pointless if your guests do not feel comfortable during your stay. From the moment guests check in right up until they leave, they must feel as comfortable as possible.

Good service can contribute to this, as well as having high quality linen, towels and other essential items that guests now expect as standard when checking in to any hotel.

Another way to ensure and comfortable experience is within the design of the rooms themselves. Depending on the market your aiming for, your design and themes will be reflective of this target market.

However, even for those looking at a high-quality image without breaking the bank, there are options available for your room designs.

Simple changes like a fresh coat of paint or new wallpaper creates a rejuvenating atmosphere, along with stylish yet functional furnishings and fittings all add to the feeling of comfort. This even stretches down to the floor, from plush carpets, vibrant tiles and even wood laminate flooring enhancing the feeling of comfort for your guests.

Key number 3: Considering everyone

Not one human being is the same. Therefore, we all have different needs, tastes and demands, which as a hotelier you should aim to meet where possible.

Say for example you have a guest requesting to visit a local aquarium. Why not offer some recommendations to make them feel special and appreciated.

Perhaps you have guests with certain eating requirements? Offering a custom menu would leave a fantastic impression; even if such a thing may seem a little ad hoc for most hoteliers

Key number 4: Customise your approach

One reality of being a hotelier is that competition is everywhere; at times even on the same street. It is likely that your guests have stayed at dozens of hotels before yours, making an enjoyable stay even more of a challenge to achieve.

However consider what makes your hotel unique to you.

Portraying a professional and friendly image combined with a personable approach which you have customised, all go towards the hotel experience and can encourage positive reviews and repeat visits.

Quiz nights, an open bar, a free swimming pool (if you are in that market) are just some of the example of how you can create a custom hotel experience to meet your guests needs and expectations.

Dark-toned room with high ceilings mixes plush velvet and low lighting

Fitzrovia’s mysterious and magnificent The Mandrake Hotel

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Nestled under a canopy of plants in London’s Fitzrovia district sits The Mandrake Hotel, an unlikely yet very welcome neighbour to this part of town. Hamish Kilburn takes a peek inside…

Blink and you will miss it. The unassuming framed ornate wrought iron gates are the first of many indications that rules have been broken when designing the concept of The Mandrake Hotel. Unlike other luxury hotels in the area, such as Charlotte Street Hotel and The London Edition, The Mandrake’s entrance is very low key – almost as if its exact whereabouts is on a need-to-know basis, which of course it is.

Five years in the making, and a first for the Fustok family, The Mandrake Hotel sits in a former Victorian office block and has been artfully converted into the cool, urban boutique hotel that it is today.

During fashion week last year, when The Mandrake opened, its unique Bohemian-Gothic style led to it becoming the venue of choice for British Vogue’s editor Edward Enninful and a stream of A-listers who followed. The most recent neighbour to move in and name the hotel its premium local hangout spot is Facebook’s new swanky London headquarters in Rathbone Square.

One thing that is immediately apparent when entering the building is that the design elements of the hotel feel very personal. Interior designer Tala Fustok’s creativity literally runs through the walls of the hotel. “It was important to keep the honest feel of the building, and preserve its identity,” explains Fustok in a recent press release. An example of this can be found in the public areas that have been carefully curated with surrealist sculptures to portray the feeling that nothing in this hotel is what it first seems.

The Lobby. Image credit: The Mandrake Hotel

Striking pieces of art depicted by nature make a lasting impression when entering the strangely calming lobby. Industrial-style walls marry nicely with the understated yet stylish reception desk. The lobby hangs under a large gothic-style chandelier, lit by 30 wax candles, and the soft ambient lighting is well balanced to welcome guests into a curious new world.

The theme of outdoor indoor space has been well examined throughout the building, with natural light and the hotel’s incredible terrace being seen from almost all corners of the public area. A modest courtyard is poised and readily equipped for all occasions and looks up to the terrace, above which is a large living wall of plantation.

Outdoor terrace looks down onto a palm courtyard

The terrace. Image credit: The Mandrake Hotel

The dramatic Labradorite bar, at some 30ft in length, is the hotel’s source of energy. The dark Victorian panelled mahogany long bar is balanced by the room’s inspiration of nature. This area is rich in greens, with a gentle riot of Parisian fabrics and thick verdant palm textures of green, purple and red. Above the bar hangs the specially commissioned mythical-gazelcock (part-impala, park peacock) by Enrique Gomez de Molina, adding the mixture of eclecticism and humour.

The guestrooms

Considering the hype, only 34 guestrooms, three suites and one incredible penthouse are sheltered on three levels, each designed to unlock a chic, unique, cosy, quiet, high-ceilinged refuge, worlds away from the hustle and bustle of London life below.

All guestrooms are carved around the palm tree-studded interior courtyard, which centres the hotel and provides rooms with ample natural light. Designed with a mixture of maximalist bohemian throughout, the rooms create “a glamorous constructed garden of Eden” as Fustok puts it.

There is a sense of harmony as if two cities are colliding in the room’s interior fittings. Indulgent Parisian jewel-toned velvets, gilding mirrors and commanding metallic coffee tables add a flare of glitz in the interiors. This is balanced with a cool London city vibe of earthy-toned drape curtains, an curvaceous wing chairs.

Guestroom with statement circular mirror on the wall

Image credit: The Mandrake Hotel

“I wanted to keep the feel of the building’s natural, raw energy,” explains Fustok when describing the well-proportioned rooms and high ceilings of the Victorian shell. Clean lines have replaced the unusual period mouldings, resulting in bedrooms that envelop you in their infinity of moody hues. Striking vintage one-off pieces compliment the dark paint tones, while accents of colour are added by interesting artwork. Together, 33 different chandeliers and vintage panel screens covered with lush botanical plants in the guestrooms echo the bohemian vibes weaved around the hotel.

The pièce de résistance is The Mandrake Suite, painted in dark sultry tones that echo through from the bar and seductive hallways. The luxurious bed is swathed in Bedouin-style folds of fabric. A standalone bathtub set on a slab of black-veined marble adding to the majestic look and feel of the suite.


Image credit: The Mandrake Hotel

As I descend down the lift towards check-out, the courtyard emerges and the sense of coming back down to earth feels very real. My conclusion is that, among the hundreds of hotels to open in London, The Mandrake stands as a shining example of how taking risks and following the heart when injecting a hotel’s personality pays off. Bravo Tala, the rest of Fustok family and all others who were involved in creating what we hope to be the first of many truly transformational boutique luxury hotels.

Fitzrovia’s ever-evolving trendy hotspot is rumoured to soon welcome a new Bluebird cafe as well as one of London’s premium HIIT and spin studios, Digme Fitness, which will open directly opposite the new Facebook offices in Rathbone Square. With these major openings, I get the feeling that The Mandrake’s quirky shell could soon well become ‘the local’ for many premium businesses nearby.