Kensington and Chelsea are buzzing right now with some of the capital’s most exciting and creative new restaurant and hotel openings. I go behind the scenes and am inspired by a new wave of design innovation
Who hasn’t checked into a gorgeous, boutique hotel and eyed the gleaming furniture, statement wallpapers and fine bed-linen with an envious eye? Let’s face it, if you haven’t mentally redesigned your own home by the time you check out these days, you probably won’t be returning. When it comes to the hospitality industry, bland is blasphemy. Instead, it’s all about having a ‘personality’ for us all to be inspired by and the latest ventures are employing the finest interior designers to do just that.
One prime example is The Exhibitionist Hotel, which has recently opened in South Kensington (theexhibitionisthotel.com). From the outside the original 18th century townhouse may look sedate with its classical façade, but inside it’s a different story. The hotel has a bold USP conceived by designer Steve Crummack. As well as being a five-star hotel with an emphasis on personalised service, it is a working contemporary art gallery with constantly evolving exhibitions, room ‘stylists’ and dramatic interiors.
Steve Crummack explains: “The Exhibitionist Hotel is one of a kind. The art will change every few months and it is this transformation that is important to us. Each time a guest stays, they’ll have a different experience.”
This idea of evolvement is also played out in features such as the ‘living’ chandelier found in the lounge, which changes according to the seasons. “I have commissioned florists to come in and adapt the core structure,” Steve says. “At the moment it is just about to burst into bud and by the summer it will be a beautiful canopy over the furniture.”
In addition, the rooms themselves will also be subject to change with the hotel collaborating with renowned international artists, such as Angelo Valentino, and the hottest new street artists, such as Dotmasters, who will come in and style chosen rooms. While these very rooms at The Exhibitionist are utterly glamourous already with their jewel colour schemes – think emerald, amber and sapphire palettes – funky furniture and striking contemporary lighting, it is the four suites that are the real piece de resistance. Butler service, private plunge pools and outdoor cinemas add up to a decadent offering. But, it will no doubt be the signature patchwork furniture supplied by hip London design house Squint Limited (squintlimited.com) and edgy pop art that guests will be lusting after for their own homes.
It’s no coincidence, says Steve, that his design ethos may provoke guests to think about their own environments. “We set out to create the feeling of a home from home,” he comments. “We resolved to dispense with the sterility and seriousness of the hotel business and create a space that we would like to live in. It seems to have worked. I have been commissioned numerous times already by international clients to recreate the hotel in their home! It’s all to do with getting the fundamental elements right.”
Also getting the fundamentals right are the power-house designers behind the new The Ivy Chelsea Garden recently opened on the King’s Road (theivychelseagarden.com). Housed in an iconic Grade II listed building, which was formerly the Six Bells pub dating back to 1722, The Ivy’s third London outpost will offer all-day British dining via a series of different areas – a lounge, bar, café, restaurant and terrace. While the food will no doubt impress, it could very well be overshadowed by the seductive surroundings. Designed by the Martin Brudnizki Design Studio – famous for countless glitzy restaurants (think Le Caprice, Wild Honey, Dean Street Townhouse) – the new venture references vintage luxury. Earthy colours – burnt orange, pewter, forest green – are set against reclaimed parquet flooring and black and white mosaics, bronzed wall lights and antique mirrors. The overall look is successfully executed to appear relaxed yet sumptuous.
Meanwhile, sure to set keen gardeners running home secateurs in hand, are the extensive gardens – home to a charming orangery and terrace. Designed by renowned Ginkgo Gardens, the large space is surprisingly serene despite being in the midst of SW3, and is steeped in British tradition, featuring trailing wisteria and climbing roses, fountains and lush planting.
Also taking up residence in a historic building on the King’s Road is the new The World’s End Market (theworldsendmarket.com). The restaurant, featuring ‘market fresh’ produce for all day dining, is located in the former World’s End pub, originally a tavern during the times of Charles II. Nowadays it has been given a new lease of life and is the ideal spot for lovers of stripped-back design. Reclaimed wooden crates have been re-worked to create the woodwork on the bar, subway tiles line the walls and oversized industrial lighting hang above scrubbed tables. Flooded with natural light, the high ceilinged dining room is evocative of a 1930s canteen except it’s been bought bang up to date with artworks dotted around from street artist Ninth Seal.
Identifying a blurring of boundaries between private and public design is Chelsea-based designer Katharine Pooley (katharinepooley.com). She has experienced many clients coming to her armed with ideas from favourite restaurants and hotels: “My clients tend to be well travelled and have been fortunate to experience top hotels and restaurants around the world. These experiences often provide a natural starting point for our initial discussions about the design of their homes. It is also true that residential design is becoming increasingly influential in hotel design as hoteliers seek more homely, comfortable styles for their super-luxurious boutique hotels.”
Offering his advice on the subject is renowned designer Martin Hulbert, best known for the interiors at the Dorchester’s Coworth Park Hotel: “The luxe look is now very accessible,” he says. “I see many residential interiors that aspire to look like hotels. For it to work successfully, however, you need to go beyond a cursory look at any design for the home and do what good hotels do well – spend money to create real comfort. This is particularly true of the bedroom, where high quality and extra comfortable beds and bed-linen can add enormously to an owners’ satisfaction with the finished product.”
Beautifully demonstrating the point is The Goring Hotel, which has recently completed a major renovation in time for its 105th birthday (thegoring.com). The Royal favourite, which was first opened in 1910, has called upon four major British designers to overhaul its décor over the past three years, making it the perfect destination for interior buffs.
Here style notes can be taken from Nina Campbell’s ultra-elegant style, seen in the hotel’s suites with their pretty wallpapers and bespoke furniture. While Tim Gosling’s remake of The Bar & Lounge features a crimson and gold colour-scheme and is wonderfully cocooning. For a chic, pared-back look, book dinner in the Relais & Chateaux Dining Room and be enchanted by David Linley’s light and airy scheme illuminated at night by the stand-out Swarovski chandeliers. But it’s designer Russell Sage, responsible for the Front Hall, as well as the Royal Suite where the Princess of Cambridge stayed the night before her wedding, who will take the limelight here. Featuring Georgian Chippendale furniture, Gainsborough Silk window treatments and exquisite hand-painted wallpaper by Fromental, his designs make for the ultimate in glamourous welcomes. It’s also the perfect starting point for inspiration.