The Mayfair Townhouse has joined the Iconic Luxury Hotels portfolio as the second London property in its collection. A relaxed approach to the public spaces and a quirky collection of art have created a notable addition to the capital's top-end hotel scene. Janet Harmer reports.
Need to know
The opening of the 172-bedroom Mayfair Townhouse, just a stone's throw from Piccadilly and Green Park, marks the second hotel in London for the Iconic Luxury Hotel collection. As well as being sister hotel to 11 Cadogan Gardens in Chelsea, it is part of the portfolio that includes Cliveden, Chewton Glen and the Lygon Arms in Berkshire, Hampshire and Worcestershire respectively.
Private investment group L+R Hotels, parent company of Iconic Luxury Hotels, bought the property – comprising 15 Georgian townhouses, seven of which are Grade II-listed – in 2017. The hotel initially continued to operate as the Hilton London Green Park until its closure the following year to undergo a radical transformation.
The focus has been to increase the number of keys from 130 to 172, adding bedrooms from previously underused office and back of house spaces, and create a lifestyle hotel that more than matches up to its eminent country cousins.
"Iconic is an eclectic brand so the Mayfair Townhouse is very different from our other hotels, but we wanted it to reflect the collection's core values of people, personality and effortless hospitality," says Andrew Stembridge, executive director of Iconic Luxury Hotels. "The old Hilton building was the perfect opportunity to create something special in the heart of Mayfair. As with our other projects, we started with a tired old lady and breathed in new life and energy with timeless interiors designed for the modern, independently minded traveller."
We wanted it to reflect the collection's core values of people, personality and effortless hospitality
Overseeing the launch of the hotel on 3 December was general manager Federico Ciampi, who joined the property from the Trafalgar St James hotel, also owned by L+R Hotels.
Stembridge and Ciampi are hoping that demand for a second London hotel from the group's 40,000-strong, loyal database will help drive business to the Mayfair Townhouse at a time when demand for luxury hotel rooms in the capital are at an all-time low, due to Covid-19. "The location in the heart of Mayfair makes the hotel a particularly attractive place for Iconic guests to stay," says Stembridge.
The hotel's situation on Half Moon Street, once home to Oscar Wilde and a setting of his most famous play The Importance of Being Earnest, provided interior design studio Goddard Littlefair the perfect starting point for the look of the Mayfair Townhouse.
The aesthetic movement of the late 19th century when Wilde lived on the street, with its focus on beauty and ‘art for art's sake' is something which Jo Littlefair, director and co-founder of Goddard Littlefair, tapped into to inspire the visual language of the hotel.
"Alongside a nod to the history of the building, we have introduced a contemporary element through the colour palette using a flat paint and simplicity in some of the detailing," she says. "It is an intriguing, interesting way to approach the design, which respects the past, but is in no way a pastiche. It is very much a design for now."
The references to dandies, representing Wilde and his contemporaries, are important throughout and played out in the detailing, be it in a flash of scarlet red, providing a narrow border to the antique mirrors or as piping around the dusky grey-blue headboards in the bedrooms. "There is just a hint of something playful, but nothing overburdened or gimmicky," adds Littlefair.
Meanwhile, the fox, a creature of both the country and city, which links the properties across the Iconic Luxury Hotels collection, is woven as a motif throughout the hotel, from hooks on the bedroom doors to embroidered emblems on the uniforms supplied by Field Grey. "The fox is symbolic of the subversive and mischievous characteristics of the aesthete, whose influences we are channelling," explains Littlefair.
Curated by Minda Dowling Art Consultants, the artwork plays a significant part in bringing together the different themes of the interior design, more of which later.
Goddard Littlefair previously worked for Iconic Luxury Hotels on the design of Hans Bar & Grill at 11 Cadogan Gardens.
Reception hall and the Dandy bar
The public areas of the Mayfair Townhouse are not as expansive as some of the other hotels in the immediate area. "Mindful of how guests now use city centre hotels, we purposely opted for a townhouse model, creating an exceptionally comfortable base for our guests to work or play from with five-star comforts but fewer, often unwanted, facilities," said Stembridge, highlighting the 200 or so restaurants in Mayfair. "Having a good number of bedrooms without the burden of lots of public facilities is also the optimal business model."
However, this did not stop the creation of what Littlefair describes as "a sumptuous, glittering jewel box of a bar" at the heart of the property, on view via floor-to-ceiling Crittall-style doors to anyone walking in through the main entrance of the hotel. Guests arrive under a fanned metal canopy into the marble-floored entrance hall, with reception to one side and concierge desk on the other. Guests can either check in at the desk or go straight through to the Dandy bar, where reception staff will join them.
The bar itself, at the back of the room, forms the focal point of the space. Here a brass and hand-blown glass gantry with embossed feather detailing, inspired by flamboyant flapper dresses, forms an impressive light feature.
Seating, in banquettes, sofas and tub chairs, are covered in printed velvets and leather, while antique, distressed mirrors around the periphery of the room and on the ceiling reflect the diffused light.
Easily accessible from the street, the Dandy bar is open for takeaway coffees and pastries, as well as somewhere to enjoy a light snack during the day, before focusing on serving cocktails from 5pm.
The Club room
Located on the lower-ground floor, the Club room is a series of spaces that morphs from serving leisurely breakfasts to somewhere guests may sit during the day with their laptops. It is not a restaurant in the traditional sense with set service times; instead it is somewhere to linger or meet people. "I see it as a space that is something like the Virgin Atlantic upper-class lounge, a convivial place to work, relax or gather," says Stembridge.
Residents and non-residents are able to order from the all-day menu, overseen by head chef Adam Simmonds, whose last London hotel appointment was at the Capital. Dishes include artichoke salad, gem lettuce, edamame beans and natural yeast; Scottish lobster curry with cardamom rice; and sticky toffee pudding served with vanilla ice-cream.
The two main rooms are connected by a white marble walled pantry area, with the second used for hosting events or being closed off during quieter periods. There are also two smaller spaces used for private dining: the red-panelled Den with black leather upholstery providing a dramatic space, and Oscar's, where the blue furnishings offer a more relaxed option.
To avoid the space feeling too dark, Littlefair has used a fresh and restful green palette in the main rooms with panels of backlit glass to create an impression of daylight. "Lighting here is very important, with shaded lamps on cantilevered arms over corner banquettes, providing intimate areas where people can nestle down."
Heading upstairs and along the corridors is where the higgledy-piggledy nature of the connected townhouses becomes apparent. The warren of hallways and the bedrooms that lead off them – each one different – created a challenge for the designers, but Littlefair believes the end result is "a really intricate boutique design".
The bedrooms are linked via the dusky grey-blue painted walls throughout, with a crispness created by period architraves and dado rails picked out in white. Carpets in a blue and ivory trellis pattern and grey silk curtains with a braided trim on the leading edge add some detailing. The simplicity is punched up by tan leather and jewel-coloured velvet upholstery.
Noble Isle products have been chosen as the bathroom amenities.
The 15 suites include four garden suites, each offering direct access to a private walled courtyard area, a rarity for a London hotel.
"The position of garden suites on the ground floor gave us the opportunity to create an indoor/outdoor scheme," says Littlefair. Inspired by the work of fashion photographer and interior designer Cecil Beaton, these suites feature a Crittall-framed conservatory, up a level from the bedroom, with oversized rattan peacock chairs.
"The overall effect is one of drama and opulence." Outside the courtyard terrace is accessorised with wall-hung mirrors and planting.
The artwork at the Mayfair Townhouse is intended to surprise and amuse guests with a series of tongue-in-cheek, surreal images.
On being appointed by Richard and Ian Livingstone, founders of L+R Hotels, to curate the art collection, Minda Dowling, who has worked on the Corinthia and Beaumont hotels in the capital alongside properties all over the world, set about creating a narrative of fictional characters who may have once inhabited the building. "My immediate thought on visiting the property for the first time was, ‘if the walls could talk!'," she explains.
Inspired by the fox motif, Dowling dreamt up the Renard (French for fox) family, who moved to London from La Rochelle, France, in the late 17th century. The former cloth and silk merchants moved into banking, creating Reynolds Bank, anglicising the family name in order to attract English clients. Over the subsequent years, the history of the somewhat dysfunctional family included some rather shady and louche characters who have informed a fantastical collection of images.
From arriving into the entrance hall – where a peacock sculpture by Clarita Brinkerhoff made out of 25,000 Swarovski crystals struts his stuff – to the kaleidoscopic images of plants in the garden suites, there is much that is whimsical and unexpected.
More peacocks, a strong representation of the aesthetic movement, appear in a contemporary interpretation of James Whistler's ‘Harmony in Blue and Gold: the Peacock Room'. Meanwhile the fox motif comes to life in a series of 50 prints and photographs of the cunning beast in the Den.
"There is a playful thread throughout," explains Dowling, highlighting the spirited selection of images intending to represent the Reynolds' family in the restaurant, photography of women with flowers on their heads in the bedroom corridors and intriguing fashion photography in the bedrooms themselves.
"Putting together the collection was not about the status quo – it is about creating something unique, witty and stand out," concludes Dowling.
Putting together the collection was not about the status quo – it is about creating something unique, witty and stand out
The Mayfair Townhouse
27-41 Half Moon Street, London W1J 7BG
020 8138 3400
Owner L+R Hotels, parent company of Iconic Luxury Hotels
Executive director, Iconic Luxury Hotels Andrew Stembridge
General manager Federico Ciampi
Head chef Adam Simmonds
Starting room rate £300, including breakfast
Minda Dowling www.mindadowlinghotelartconsultants.com
Brintons (bedrooms and bedroom corridors) www.brintons.net
Clarke & Clarke www.clarke-clarke.com
Colefax & Fowler www.colefax.com
Crest Leather www.crestleather.com
Fameed Khalique www.fameedkhalique.com
Holland & Sherry www.hollandandsherry.com
Pierre Frey www.pierrefrey.com/en
Samuel & Sons www.samuelandsons.com/en
Scalamandre (Christian Fischbacher) www.scalamandre.com
The Style Library www.stylelibrary.com
Turnell & Gigon www.turnellandgigon.com
Whistler Leather www.whistlerleather.com
Havwoods (timber flooring in bar and restaurant) www.havwoods.com/uk
Ozo Living (bespoke furniture in bedrooms and public areas) www.ozoliving.com
Abbey Upholsterers (restaurant and function room banquettes) www.abbeyupholsterers.com
Edgewater Contracts (fit out plus joinery) www.edgewatercontracts.co.uk
A Shade Above (Garden Suite pendant) www.ashadeabove.co.uk
Colonel Shop (bar wall lights) www.moncolonel.fr/en
Contardi (bespoke lighting for bedrooms and public areas) www.contardi-italia.it
Kate and Sam Lighting Designers (lighting consultants) www.kateandsam.co.uk
Northern Lights (bespoke light fitting above bar) www.northern-lights.co.uk
Field Grey www.field-grey.com
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