New Britannia: London’s Boomlet of Modernist Hotels

New Britannia: London’s Boomlet of Modernist Hotels

By Adam H. Graham
London has long drawn visitors to its traditional Tudors, Edwardians, and Vics, architectural styles by turns traditionalist and stuffy and often reflected in its hotel décor. But as the city readied itself for two epic events—the Queen’s Jubilee and the 2012 Summer Olympics—its hotel sector started adopting more modernist and contemporary styles. And this has been a boon to more modern-minded travelers. Here’s a look at ten newly opened London hotels that are taking hospitality design to new heights and reinterpreting British style and comfort.

The generation of hotels began opening in 2011 and includes the work of Renzo Piano, David Chipperfield, and Sir Norman Foster, while big name designers, chefs and hoteliers, like Tara Bernerd, Anouska Hempel, David Collins, Nobu Matsuhisa and Ian Schrager have jumped on the London hospitality bandwagon too.

Brit firms EPR Architects and Tara Bernerd & Partners joined forces to create the winning warm modernism that lead Thompson Hotels into London hospitalitydom. The subdued 85-room Belgraves opened in February of 2012 in London’s Belgravia neighborhood, a stone’s throw from Sloane Square. Quasi-industrial brick walls with geometric furniture and lend the property a neo-Brooklyn texture, while plush velvet upholstery and contemporary pieces from Brit artists Miranda Donovon and Mat Collishaw amp up the New Britania. Rooms from $350.

"We knew we had to create an exceptional experience for guests that would make the hotel stand out in an increasingly competitive design-led market," says Giles Robinson, Partner, Foster + Partners of the new ME by Melia property in Covent Garden. "Every material we used has been carefully selected and items of furniture are bespoke, developed by our product design team and the rooms were extensively prototyped and tested to ensure every aspect of a visitors experience had been fully considered."

The Bulgari eschews granny florals and Empire-era chintz for a steely 1920’s modernist look that could have been lifted from Milan’s Villa Necchi Campiglio (the modernist mansion used in 2009’s I Am Love). Poster-sized sketches of its vintage jewelry collections, glossy mahogany woodwork, and tidy silver chandeliers set a restrained lobby tone, while a showier jewel-box spa made with onyx, oak, and Vicenza stone sports a vertical fireplace and a 75-foot pool. Rooms from $770.

Not only has this raised the bar for hotel design, but it’s kick-started a hotel migration away from the traditional luxury areas of Mayfair and Knightsbridge, allowing for fresher perspectives and a freeing of the tethered styles that accompanied the ideas of luxury design in Great Britain—often floral wingbacks, worn leather chesterfields, and dark oak paneling.

Leafy, Hyde Park-adjacent Bayswater is home to some of London’s best Chinese food, no to mention this new affordable Design Hotel member which debuted in August 2012 in a whitewashed 19th century Vic. British designer Anouska Hempel contemporarized the warm lush interiors at the hedgerow-fronted 19th-century Vic. La Suite West's elegant lobby features a lengthy fireplace while relaxing minimalist rooms alight in tones of charcoal, violet and glossy black. Rooms from $250.

Photo Contact: Anja Voparil

Opening in September of 2012, The South Place is the first hotel project by restaurateurs D&D London who nestled this new 80-room Design Hotel on the extremities of Shoreditch, making it a go-to for well-heeled creatives and their bespectacled cohorts. Conran and Partners peppered the bright rooms with macro houndstooth loungers, craft gin stocked minibars, and glass-sided tubs—a daring and sexy take on the ubiquitous clawfoot. Rooms from $299.

Sir Norman Foster goes high-tech at the ME by Melia, which debuted in early 2013 with 157 sound-proofed rooms, some stocked with play stations, personalized iPads, and terrace fire pits, and others swaddled in luxurious Egyptian linens and marquina marble. Rooms from $390.

Opulent Louis XVI décor may not exactly be mod, but contemporary British architect David Chipperfield helped re-imagine the Café Royal—where louche met lux—that re-opened in December 2012 with renovated parquet floors, cast-plaster walls, a new Champagne and Caviar lounge, marble hammam, and restored ballrooms once frequented by Liz Taylor, David Bowie, and Oscar Wilde. Rooms from $530.

Famed American hotelier Ian Schrager has taken the helm of London’s new minimalist 175-bedroom Edition, Marriot’s new upmarket lifestyle brand, poised to open in winter/spring 2013 in the former Berners Hotel in Fitzrovia after a 7-year, £33 million redux. Room price TBD.

Soon to occupy the top floors of Renzo Piano’s dazzling Shard—Europe’s tallest building— the 185-room Shangri La—minutes from Tate Modern and Burough Market—feature amenities like customized beds with patented body contouring technology, Asian-style washlets, and an indoor infinity pool. Opening June of 2013. Rooms from $715.

Nobu Hotels are the latest luxury crossover, with the first property opening in Las Vegas in late 2012 by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and the London property slated to open in mid 2013. Details are scant about the sure-to-please luxury property, but we can surely expect several one-upping perks and amenities, and an obvious stellar pad to nibble on some of the world’s best sushi. Price TBD.


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