The King of Clubs and London Edition
Last week, A-Gent of Style thought that the best way to start the weekend would be to mix business (design) with pleasure (well, one of them – food) and to have breakfast in stylish surroundings.
The London EDITION opened its doors during London Fashion Week last month and consequently got engulfed in a mediatised whirlwind. This opulent establishment is the third of the EDITION Hotel brand, co-founded by Ian Schrager – he of Studio 54 and the 1990s revolutionary (now derided) concept of the boutique hotel (The Sanderson, St Martin’s Lane, Mondrian, The Delano), – and Marriott International, which marks the return of the hotelier to London after almost fifteen years.
Located in Fitzrovia, opposite The Sanderson, The London EDITION is a 173-room hotel with plenty of charisma and history. The hotel is said to be inspired by ‘the grand traditions of Great Britain: the traditional, aristocratic English country manor and the London private gentleman’s club with a modern, edgy, urban feel’.
After a £33,000,000 makeover, the hotel can boast deluxe rooms, suites, a penthouse, two bars, a restaurant, a dance club and a 24-hour fitness facility. Originally built in 1835 as five luxurious townhouses still showing the Georgian hallmarks that characterize London’s finest residences, the buildings were combined to form the Berners Hotel in 1908, at the height of the grandeur of the Edwardian era. The sumptuous interiors, lavishly decorated with marble and intricate carved ceilings, are superb Grade II-listed examples of Belle Époque extravagance at its very finest.
The London EDITION has managed to make the transition to the 21st century swimmingly and has a plethora of modern design elements to prove it. Third time lucky, Schrager designed the hotel collaboratively with the amazing American design studio Yabu Pushelberg honouring the orignal features by blending them with sophisticated yet welcoming contemporary touches and innovation.
This result of old and new, past and present, authenticity and originality makes
The London EDITION difficult to pigeonhole or classify; what could have been transformed into an overbearing, grotesque pastiche of styles comes together as a seducing confluence of refined Georgian and Edwardian elegance, edgy urbanity and an undeniable pulsating energy.
The restaurant, Berner’s Tavern, run by none other than award-winning chef
Jason Atherton is where A-Gent of Style’s aesthetic and culinary experience began.
As I entered the room from Berners Street, I was first struck by the white, intricately carved plasterwork, mouldings and cornices, all original, featuring the gamut of medallions, urns, fans, muses and cherubs that you would expect from Georgian times. Two large ‘skeletal’ Fabergé Egg-shaped bronze chandeliers with naked bulbs inspired by the ones in New York’s Grand Central Station adorn the room (their shape reminded me also of Cinderella’s carriage even though this inspiration is probably unlikely and just the result of my wild imagination) – a great addition to anchor the room and scale it down. Underneath them, eight back-to-back demi-lune banquettes upholstered in beige leather and ebony chairs with seats in raspberry cotton velvet make up a central island topped with scattered candles (not seen on these pictures) which, I was told by the head waiter, give the room a sensual and intimate feel in the evening.
There is an impressive display of disparate gilt frames with black and white or colour photographs (expect contemporary still lives, interiors, statues, portraits and landscapes) on all the walls, themselves dipped in a warm lead colour with undertones of purple, similar to Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe.
The room with its reddish-brown chevron parquet is furnished with chestnut-brown mohair banquettes against the walls and two-seater bleached oak square tables with circular bronze pedestals (ideal when you have long legs like mine that can’t ‘navigate’ around table legs). Facing the street entrance, there is a long communal oak table with newspapers strewn on it in the morning that can accommodate ten diners if necessary, one of the welcoming touches of the ‘a home from home’ ethos of the hotel, like the glass sliding doors of the kitchen that let you have a peek at the work in progress.
If you enter the room from the foyer, the first thing you see is the central long bar with its imposing and bright sunflower-yellow, back-lit vitrine displaying a vast array of bottles; the bar is made of dark brown wengé, and is topped in aluminium; it stretches almost as far as the wall ends and is lined up with oak stools. Behind them, three sets of tables (travertine top and bronze pedestal, both circular) with leather tub chairs arranged as a quatrefoil (with a chic bronze nailing dotted around the top of the frame) offer a more intimate seating.
When you enter the hotel from the main entrance, you go through a glass box-like vestibule leading you into the foyer and reception areas. Large and imposing are an understatement here as the soaring ceilings and tall columns will take your breath away. It would be futile to try to narrow the style down to one era as old and new happily cohabit and complement each other. The surrounding walls, floor and columns are clad in the original marble which continues on the sweeping staircase in the corner. There are different ‘loungey’ areas dotted around the foyer where the guests can relax, entertain themselves, work or simply marvel at the aristocratic grandeur of the building.
The hanging egg-shaped sculpture in polished silver by Ingo Maurer presides over the room and is compelling, not simply because of its size but also by the mirroring effect that distorts the space (and the viewer).
The intervention of modern furniture and lighting like Christian Liaigre’s allows simplicity and minimalism and is the perfect foil to counterbalance the four majestic back-lit arches in antique mirror.
The color palette juxtaposes old with new: subtle, subdued off-white and taupey fabrics complement the bright green accent colour of the cotton velvet on some of the sofas.
Situated by an original fireplace, vintage-looking highback and wingback chairs by Frits Henningsen give this space delineated by a rug an air of Gentlemen’s Club.
There is a game area on the left-hand side of the foyer with an L-shaped deep-buttoned sofa leather upholstered in dark khaki leather and slipper chairs in mustard cotton velvet, siding a vintage billiard table.
On the left-hand side, a Donald Judd inspired black walnut table with pull-out chairs is fitted with Apple desktop computers and outlets for laptops, the perfect 21st century workstations.
The reception desk features a striking reproduction of a 1773 Louis XV Gobelin tapestry (that made an appearance in the The King’s Speech) stylistically confronting a contemporary art piece on the back wall that works like a convex mirror and changes colour (a recurring theme in Schrager’s hotels – see the rooms at St Martin’s Lane).
The corridor leads, on your right, to the lifts and restrooms. The Gents’ are wrapped in white marble with little veining and the joinery is bronzed, resulting in a definite air of sobriety and masculinity heightened by up-market fixtures in polished silver by Duravit, Geberit and Villeroy & Boch.
Nestled at the back of the hotel is The Punch Room; this is the private Gentlemen’s Club of the hotel that looks like an English country manor den with plenty of intimate areas: wood panels envelop the room furnished with tufted banquettes in Gustavian blue velvet, mint green leather tub chairs, dark brown leather club chairs, modernist brass sconces and a small bar in solid bronze tucked away in a corner.
Away from the communal, social spaces, The London EDITION is devoted to the personal, the private and the intimate, and to offering an individual experience of luxury and a retreat from the street.
Sadly, A-Gent of Style did not have the time to see the rooms and the 2,000 sq. ft. custom-furnished penthouse, all clad with wood panels in a Scandinavian style, which would require an entirely separate feature. As for the dance club, there is only one way to relive Studio 54 and review it…
So almost a year after the opening of The Wellesley, here is another glittering Grande Dame of hotels with a written and visual narrative that sees a new light of day in the English capital. The London EDITION offers the individual a new lifestyle and blurs the lines between home, office and playroom for relaxation and indulgence. Creating a unique atmosphere and aesthetic experience that give its guests a sense of belonging and satisfaction was paramount to the ethos of a hotel of this calibre. Mission accomplished.
Author: French Interior Designer Fabrice Bana, founder and editor of A-Gent of Style