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Hotel design: One Aldwych, London

21 July 2019 by

Launched 21 years ago, One Aldwych was swiftly established as an icon, raising the bar for hotel design. It has now undergone a total refurbishment with a new elegant look, featuring an injection of colour and texture. Janet Harmer pays a visit

One Aldwych was regarded as something of a game changer when it opened in 1998 as a 105-bedroom hotel.

The contemporary look, created by the hotel's founder, Gordon Campbell Gray, who worked closely with interior designer Mary Fox Linton and architects Jestico + Whiles, introduced something new to the London hotel scene.

One Aldwych Exterior DOR 2836
One Aldwych Exterior DOR 2836

Despite standing the test of time over the past 21 years, the owners, the Kansagra family, decided that now was the time to introduce a more subtle look to the hotel, relevant for today's guests. A four-month closure allowed a total refurbishment, front and back of house, enabling all technology to be updated alongside an overhaul of the lighting, air-conditioning and power systems, including a refresh of the original vacuum waste disposal system. The costs have not been revealed.

The Lobby Bar
The Lobby Bar
Located on a commanding triangular-shaped site on the edge of Covent Garden and opposite Waterloo Bridge, One Aldwych sits within an Edwardian building, designed by Anglo-French architects Mewès and Davis, in a blend of Louis XVI and Louis XV styles. Its distinctive features include curved corners and a coppered cupola dome. The original four-storey building was expanded in 1928 with the addition of two floors, incorporating steep dormer windows in the mansard roof of Westmorland slate.

The property was home to the Morning Post newspaper from 1907 to 1937 and was granted Grade II-listed status in 1986. It has also housed the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Works, the Prudential Assurance Company, Lloyds Bank and the Aldwych Brasserie before its transformation into a hotel.

Today, One Aldwych is run by general manager Janine Marshall, who was recently appointed to the position after being the hotel's finance director for 12 years. Simon Hirst, who oversaw the reopening of the refurbished hotel in May as managing director, left the business earlier this month. He was the original opening general manager of One Aldwych and remained in the role for 10 years. Until returning to One Aldwych in 2017 he undertook a number of oversees positions, including that of general manager at Raffles hotel in Singapore.

Design details

The entrance
The entrance

or to his departure, Hirst said the redesign of One Aldwych was about "resetting the gauge", enabling the hotel to introduce a new, more subtle branding focused around the triangular shape of the building. "People will find the hotel with its original soul intact, but it is more polished, more detailed and very elegant."

Two design companies were appointed: Fabled Studio, headed by Tom Strother and Steven Saunders, focused on the public spaces; while Robert Angell created a new look for the bedrooms, the number of which has been reduced to 102.

Speaking to The Caterer, Strother and Angell both say that they were honoured to be involved to work on a hotel which was regarded as "trailblazing" when it opened in 1998. "One Aldwych opened the door to other hotel design over the next 20 years," says Strother, while Angell adds: "I am super-proud to have delivered the design".

Where before the look was primarily modernist and white with sharp lines, the new look injects more colour, depth and texture, with a softer feel that reflects the architectural style of the building.

Around 400 pieces of original artworks from the likes of Joost Beerents, Emily Young, Cecilia Vargas and Richard Walker have been retained from the earlier years of the hotel.

The Lobby bar

One Aldwych Lobby BarPH006 ONEALDWYCH 008
One Aldwych Lobby BarPH006 ONEALDWYCH 008

A new enclosed, glazed entrance to the hotel ensures the Lobby bar- the imposing central feature of the hotel - is now draught-free.

The dramatic, double-height space previously had the feel of an art gallery, with minimal furniture and the iconic Boatman with Oars sculpture by André Wallace dominating the space. Relocated to a commanding position on top of the bar, which has been extended with an island, the Boatman now surveys the guests below, who can peruse a new Spirit of Adventure cocktail menu, featuring a global selection of drinks from mixologist Pedro Paulo.

The former open lobby, once the advertisement hall of the Morning Post, has now been delineated to direct new guests arriving at the hotel to bronze 'greeter' desks at reception, while the seating in the bar now has a more defined space. Spencer the papier-mÁ¢ché dog sculpture made from Beano comics - a well-loved piece of art by Justine Smith from the early years of One Aldwych - has now been joined by a younger hound, covered in old one-pound notes, called Lizzie.

Spencer and Lizzie
Spencer and Lizzie
"The main reference we have used in creating a new look for the Lobby bar has been the building itself and its history," explains Strother, whose work at Fabled Studio has previously involved the Mirror Room at the Rosewood London and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at Mandarin Oriental London Hyde Park. For instance, new wrought ironwork screens, used to provide a clear distinction between the bar and arrival area, are inspired by the art nouveau fanlight over the hotel's entrance. The design of the fanlight has also been carried through into the new Negro Marquina marble inlay floor. Equally, the copper and verdigris cupola determined the hue of the brick-coloured furnishings of the sofas, offset by black-and-white striped cushions and soft grey chairs. Centrally, a dramatic focal point is provided by curved sofas surrounding a round table topped with generous flower displays from in-house florist Mark Siredezuk. !One Aldwych Lobby BarPH006_ONEALDWYCH_007](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/0S1zbIoLSPqu0oyJJQ7d) Original Austrian oak window panelling has been retained and extended along the back of the lobby and up to the Indigo restaurant on the mezzanine, creating a warmth to the space. "The new look is modern and timeless and sits appropriately within the building," says Strother, who, with his partner Saunders, has worked with British craftspeople to celebrate indigenous design. A grand églomisé mirror is from Emma Peascod, newsprint block-embossed tabletops from Manbourne and upholstery is from Noble Russell. Indigo ![One Aldwych IndigoPH006_ONEALDWYCH_010](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/8I1okYS9SmiYfSuL7fFk) A new entrance to Indigo restaurant with a mosaic flooring reminiscent of a Parisian brasserie provides a grander sense of arrival. The restaurant is situated on the mezzanine level, overlooking the Lobby bar, and provides a brilliant people-watching space. "We own the Indigo name, which has been in existence since the opening of the hotel," says Strother. Hence, where there was previously little reference to the deep, rich blue colour, it is now featured in the banquettes upholstered in indigo leather. The new timber panelling, extended from the lobby, is offset by copper églomisé mirrors and plaster and bronze lamps. "The environment is fresher, more tactile and softer than before," says Strother. Indigo is open all day and serves a dairy- and gluten-free menu, including a *Charlie and the Chocolate Factory*-inspired afternoon tea. It provides a distinct counterpoint to Eneko Basque Kitchen & Bar, the Spanish restaurant in the hotel's basement, which opened in 2016 and has been untouched by the refurbishment.
Suffolk pork tenderloin with braised cheek, linzer potatoes and garden peas
Suffolk pork tenderloin with braised cheek, linzer potatoes and garden peas
The bedrooms In creating the new-look bedrooms and suites, Angell wanted to deliver something classic and original which, like the public areas, reflects the Anglo-French nature of the building. He worked with a variety of different-shaped rooms to create a calming, more feminine design than had previously been in place, with the predominately white decor replaced with subtle hints of colour - either coral, celadon green, soft blue or lavender, "reminiscent of English and French landscapes". ![BedroomsPH006_ONEALDWYCH_019](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/RWiypWoQ7bDOpI3ZEtZQ) The carpets have been stripped out and replaced with British limed-oak herringbone floors, topped with rugs or inset carpets from Brintons, while throws from Skye Weavers, a small company on the Isle of Skye that uses Scottish and Kent yarns to create products on its bicycle-powered loom, add an individual touch. French influences are reflected in the rounded wall mouldings, with further mouldings providing a discreet anchor point for the lighting. "We didn't want any spotlights; we wanted the lighting to be soft and indirect, positioned down the shelving as well as within the mouldings and subtle wall shades," says Angell, who has previously worked on designs at the Connaught and Berkeley hotels in London and Lime Wood in Lyndhurst, Hampshire. Overall, the bedrooms and suites exude the feel of an exclusive apartment, heightened by the bespoke library shelving styled with carefully curated British books and cultural objects. It was a happy fluke that the original artwork fitted into the new scheme. ![BedroomsPH006_ONEALDWYCH_029_A](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/OGWkSm8ZTxWhFkwQJL7E) Updated technology includes the introduction of six charging points, Bose bluetooth speakers and Dyson hairdryers, while carbon-filtered water in recycled bottles highlights One Aldwych's continued commitment to sustainability. "I wanted a residential vibe and to have something inspirational in every room - art, books, handmade pieces," concludes Angell. "I am very proud to be part of this project, in one of the most iconic buildings in London."
Contact and details ![BedroomsPH006_ONEALDWYCH_024](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/URwOrNkAQz2lzTosXJM9) One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BZwww.onealdwych.comOwner The Kansagra family General manager Janine Marshall Executive chef Dominic Teague Bedrooms 102 Reopened June 2019 Rates From £323 for a classic room Restaurant covers 58 Average F&B bill for dinner £45
SuppliersLobby bar and IndigoMirrors Emma Peascod www.studiopeascod.com Tables in the bar Manborne www.manborne.co.uk Upholstered furniture and tables in Indigo Noble Russell www.noblerussell.co.uk BedroomsBathroom amenities English Leaf by Mitchell & Peach www.mitchellandpeach.com Carpets and rugs Brintons www.brintons.co.uk Furniture and sofas Ben Whistler www.benwhistler.com Linen Frette https://eu.frette.com/uk Mattresses Hypnos www.hypnosbeds.com/uk Throws Skye Weavers www.skyeweavers.co.uk Wardrobes Forest Joinery www.forest-joinery.co.uk [One Aldwych to fully reopen in June >](/articles/552625/one-aldwych-to-fully-reopen-in-june)> [Eneko Atxa on making his London restaurant debut at One Aldwych >>

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