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Hotel design: Inhabit 03 October 2019

The first in what is anticipated to be a growing concept, Inhabit in London’s Paddington offers guests a wellness paradise. Tessa Allingham checks in

Described by its co-founders as “London’s first mindfulness boutique hotel”, Inhabit opened in Paddington, west London, following the 14-month redevelopment of the former Shaftesbury Metropolis London Hyde Park hotel.

Third-generation hotelier Nadira Lalji and her cousin, Rahim Lalji, have created the concept and opened the first of what they intend to develop – in time – into a fresh brand on the city’s hospitality scene, separate from the wider family’s business interests, which include the Montcalm Hotel Group.

Inhabit taps into the growing hunger for ‘wellness’, a sector of travel and tourism which, if latest figures from the Global Wellness Institute (which include travel for medical purposes) are to be believed, is flying. Growing at twice the pace of conventional tourism and estimated to have a global worth of £517b, the sector shows no sign of its wings being clipped either. In fact, annual growth is expected to rise a percentage point to 7.5% by 2022, the institute says.

Inhabit plans to keep pace. Just minutes from Paddington train station, it is well-placed to benefit from the massive regeneration of the area that has been driven at least in part by Crossrail, the transport route that will pass through Paddington on its east-west journey across London.

Design details

Nadira Lalji will not be drawn on the spend, but the attention to design and ethics throughout the property suggests no corners have been cut. The notion of wellness and ambition to provide “life-enhancing hospitality” is clearly in the hotel’s DNA.

“It’s not about ticking the wellness box by putting in a gym or a spa,” she says. “Inhabit is imbued with wellness; the idea is fully integrated.”

The message is indeed carefully curated, from the flowing script of the logo – the brand look was developed by London-based designers Studio ND – and discreet hotel entrance to the choice of books in the Library, the art on the walls, the vegetarian-leaning food in the Kitchen, and customised fragrance in the bedrooms.

“Our starting point was ‘what are our priorities when we want to lay our head down?’, ‘What sort of hotel do we like to stay in?’,” says Lalji, who worked with Londonbased Holland Harvey Architects and Caitlin Henderson Design to realise the vision.

Six Grade II-listed townhouses make up the hotel, having been knocked together by previous owners before the Montcalm Hotel Group bought the property in 2009. Senior architect Alice Williams said the rooms and corridors had been a “maze”.

“The space had been compromised by the previous restructure,” she explains. “The key was to open it up as much as possible and make the most of the original details, such as the tall Georgian windows.”

She also ensured a flow between rooms, that ceiling heights were maximised, and essentials such as air-conditioning units were tucked away. Doors have been removed where possible (replaced by rolling fire shutters), and the area has become an inviting, contemporary, light-filled space. The look is an appealing collision between minimalist, Scandi-fresh airiness, with its neutral colours and soothing shades of grey, and the classical elegance of British Georgian architecture, with deeper colours used as accents.

The Laljis, Williams and Henderson collaborated from the start. “You get the feel of a place that way,” says Henderson. “We shared the vision: we all wanted to pare back, take things away that weren’t necessary, bring the design back to essentials.”

And rather than being about traditional luxury – “we are not guided by star aspirations by any means,” says Lalji – it’s about offering a restorative, restful stay to a target market that embraces solo business travellers as readily as families and short-break leisure visitors who bring their pets (two pet-friendly rooms have easy ground-floor access).

The notion of ‘urban sanctuary’ goes beyond the personal benefits of a gym, yoga and meditation area and bicycles for hire, Lalji insists. Broader community and social responsibility is reflected in the choice of suppliers, such as social-enterprise furniture manufacturer Goldfinger Factory, based in nearby Golborne Road, while others, such as Kalinko Homewares and Aerende, are chosen for their ethical or environmental credentials.

With a nod to global issues, a £1 opt-out donation to WaterAid made via a collaboration with Belu water is added to bills. It comes as no surprise that waste is minimised and sustainability maximised.

During construction, the team partnered with Globechain to ensure that almost three tonnes of unwanted items were diverted from landfill to a fresh lease of life in another business. In the hotel, plastics are banished.

Reception

A striking handwoven textile by Danish artist Annemette Beck hangs behind the reception table. Air is filtered throughout the ground floor by environmental engineering experts Airlabs, and scented by Self Care Co candles, the fragrance chosen according to the time of day.

Guests are encouraged during their stay to ‘take a moment of calm’ in one of the meditation pods in the Atrium, choosing from a selection of five-minute guided meditations delivered through headphones by Yeotown founder and positive psychology coach Mercedes Sieff.

Yeotown Kitchen

Where a conventional hotel might have a restaurant and bar, Inhabit has the open-plan Yeotown Kitchen. A limestone island with Bumble oak counter stools by Loaf and a long communal table anchor the uncluttered, lightfilled space. Open shelves are filled with attractive crockery, and splash-back tiles, handmade in Morocco, glint in the light. It all feels easy, relaxed. “We want people to feel they can come dressed as they are, it’s not formal in any way,” says Lalji. She hopes that the convivial vibe will attract non-residents as well as guests.

The mixed-materials dining table – and other items – is by Goldfinger Factory, a social enterprise based in nearby North Kensington that aims to get disadvantaged people back into work by teaching joinery and design skills in its Academy.

Woven rattan pieces are by Kalinko Homewares, supplied direct from makers in Myanmar. Inhabit’s ‘buying with a conscience’ approach continues with cushions via the online shop, Aerende, made by Studio 306, a company which supports people recovering from mental illness.

The food

An all-day food offer (7am-9pm, £15 for a continental breakfast buffet) is managed by Yeotown, the company behind the Devonbased health retreat of the same name and the Yeotown Kitchen café in Marylebone.

Plant-based dishes get top billing on a pared-back breakfast/brunch menu that includes eggs (simply fried in coconut oil or as Benedict with coconut and turmeric dairy-free hollandaise), Yeotown granola and made-toorder smoothies.

Berries, spirulina, coconut yogurt, seeds and avocado all feature, but so too does sustainably sourced smoked salmon. Some items are prepared in the Yeotown Kitchen, though cooked food will be brought up from a basement kitchen, staffed by Yeotown, via a dumbwaiter. Instead of inroom minibars, a communal Pantry offers complimentary savoury snacks, quality chocolate bars and fresh fruit, while in the Yeotown Kitchen there is a self-service coffee bar for all-day top-ups, and filtered still and sparkling water on tap (this is also available in lift lobbies).

Library

The Library is a serene, noise-free space, with paint up to dado-rail level in Pier View, a deep blue-grey Crown Period Collection colour. It has comfortable sofas by various Scandinavian designers, oak-framed armchairs with handwoven cord seating by Danish maker Carl Hansen, and a carefully curated array of books on architecture, design, gardens and wellbeing.

Grey cushions make for inviting window seats, and wall lights from Danish brand Le Klint filter light through pleated paper shades. “It was bold to lose the keys [the Library was formerly a bedroom],” says Lalji, “but this room is more intimate than the Yeotown Kitchen; it gives guests a different space to relax.” She envisages it being used for product or book launches, talks by authors and private functions in time.

Bedrooms

The 88 bedrooms are accessed over three meandering floors. The restful neutral and grey tones of the ground floor continue into the bedrooms, where Casper mattresses and pillows (guest dogs get a Casper bed too), simple, hand-stamped linen curtains that soften the blackout blinds and a customised aromatherapy scent by Aromatherapy Associates contribute to the relaxed feel.

Hanging planters made from steam-bent wood by Cornish designer Tom Raffield contain air-purifying succulents, and water is supplied in glass carafes rather than single-use plastic bottles. This is a hotel with a global conscience and the drive to minimise waste is important to the team.

Lalji would have liked to banish technology from bedrooms, but has compromised. A flat-screen television is wall-mounted, but preset to show a meditation programme when switched on, and guests are encouraged to put phones away at night in a lock-box that charges the device. In-room aromatherapy massages or reflexology treatments can be booked.

The focus on wellbeing continues in the guest directory which, alongside conventional information, includes tips on sleeping soundly, ways to nurture the mind and body, and where to shop locally to support neighbourhood businesses.

Bathrooms

Designed with a grasp of the importance of ledges, the compact, unfussy bathrooms contain just what’s needed: sufficient storage, proper lighting, a powerful shower and underfloor heating. Tiles by Johnson Tiles give interest to the white and chrome spaces, while large-format Ren Clean Skincare products contribute ethically sound luxury. The hotel’s bid to achieve a zero-plastic position reaches the bathroom, where shower caps and bin-liners are banned.

The artworks

Art from emerging and established artists has been chosen by Amsterdam-based art consultancy Culture A in collaboration with Henderson. There’s a contemplative tone to the collection, much of it nature photography, such as the image of treetops in a misty Scottish forest or waves breaking on a Cornish beach that are part of an attractive display in the Kitchen.

On the opposite wall, an abstract painting by American artist and Buddhist Miya Ando is a restful canvas of blues and greys. Urban images feature on the upstairs corridors, small scenes from around London a playful nod to the hotel’s location.

“Wellness doesn’t have to be about far-flung places, Californian beaches or Thai spas,” says Henderson. “It can be every day, found in what’s immediately around us.”

Dreamcatchers hang on the wall that stretches across three storeys, from the basement yoga and gym space, through the ground floor and up to the first floor, providing a suitably contemplative view for guests using the meditation pods.

Fitness

A compact gym and yoga room make use of basement space, with an infrared Clearlight sauna to relieve the strain of exercise. Traditional-style Tokyo bicycles are available to hire and guides can take guests on walks or jogs in the immediate area – Hyde Park is just minutes away.

Forecast

So convinced is Lalji of her brand’s unique place in the busy London hotel market that there are already plans for a second Inhabit. Work is due to start – it is hoped – in early 2020 to transform the Shaftesbury Park Grand London Paddington hotel into an Inhabit. Beyond that? Lalji says there are no plans yet, the team’s immediate focus being to achieve an occupancy of 85% and an average daily rate of £180.

Contact and details

Inhabit, 25-27 Southwick Street, London W2 1JQ 020 7723 7723 www.inhabithotels.com

  • Owner Inhabit Hotels, run by cousins Nadira Lalji and Rahim Lalji. The Lalji family owns the Montcalm Hotel Group
  • Chief executive Nadira Lalji
  • Architect Holland Harvey Architects
  • Interior design Caitlin Henderson Design
  • Staff 20
  • Bedrooms 88 rooms across five categories: sleeper (13 rooms); standard (56); twin (seven); super (seven); family (five). Two are pet-friendly
  • Rates From £180, room only

Suppliers Bedrooms and bathrooms

Bespoke fragrance

Aromatherapy Associates www.aromatherapyassociates.com

Hand-stamped curtains Casamance www.casamance.com

Mattresses and pillows Casper www.casper.com

Planters

Tom Raffield www.tomraffield.com

Shower fittings

Methven www.methven.com

Skincare

Ren Skincare www.renskincare.com

Tiles

Absolute Collection, Johnson Tiles www.johnson-tiles.com

Public areas

Armchairs and sofas

Space Copenhagen www.spacecph.dk

&tradition www.andtradition.com

Fritz Hansen www.fritzhansen.com

Hay www.hay.dk

Art

Curated by Culture A consultancy www.culture-A.com

Candles

Self Care Co www.selfcarecompany.com

Cushions and soft furnishings

Studio 306 via Aerende www.aerende.co.uk

Kalinko Homeware www.kalinko.com

Health and eco

Tokyobike www.tokyobike.co.uk

Belu Water www.belu.org

Infrared sauna www.clearlightsaunas.eu

Air filtration www.airlabs.com

Island stools

Loaf www.loaf.com

Library wall lights

Le Klint www.leklint.com

Rugs

Woven www.woven.co.uk

Clippings www.clippings.com

Tables and cabinets

Goldfinger Factory www.goldfingerfactory.com

Woven cord chairs

Hans Wenger for Carl Hansen www.carlhansen.com

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