Inspiration behind the look of the UK's newest hotels and recent refurbishments… Located in a leafy corner of Chelsea, 11 Cadogan Gardens combines sleek glamour with flamboyant theatrical style. Janet Harmer checks it out
The building was previously a private members' club known as No 11 London. A major refurbishment of the 56-bedroom property, unveiled earlier this year, intends to establish 11 Cadogan Gardens as a hotel that will now compete with the very best in its locality.
General manager Soliman Khaddour explains that the refurbishment had been challenging due to the rich heritage of the property, which was built by Lord Chelsea in the late 19th century. "Time had to be spent on understanding the architectural details, but the intention was always to create something very special, very distinctive, with a unique character and charm," he says.
Khaddour runs the hotel on behalf of the operating company, Luxury Hotel Partners, the management arm of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. He was brought on board when the property was transformed into a hotel in 2012, having previously worked as director of operations at the nearby Cadogan hotel, also owned by the Cadogan Estate. The 54-bedroom Cadogan, which is currently closed while undergoing a £37m renovation, will reopen as a Belmond hotel next year.
Having successfully created the interior of another townhouse hotel, the Arch London, JSJ Design was chosen to steer the refurbishment of 11 Cadogan Gardens. Jason Tan, lead designer on the project, describes the finished product as "a unique blend of traditional and contemporary design, sophisticated and luxurious, yet characterful and practical".
The interior reflects the history of the area, which was once home to the physician Sir Hans Sloane, who paved the way for the foundation of the Cadogan Estate. Sloane studied botany at the Chelsea Physic Garden and the history of that time is mirrored in the floral and plant references throughout the hotel.
The hotel remained open throughout the refurbishment, and a major concern was ensuring there was minimal mess and noise. Equally challenging for the designers was the eclectic nature of the plans. "While most renovation projects of this size may have around 50 specifications, 11 Cadogan Gardens had more than 1,500," says Tan. "This posed challenges in terms of logistics and planning, yet it was the only way to ensure the individuality of each room and preserve the quirkiness that guests know and love."
JSJ Design oversaw all the new interiors throughout the hotel, apart from the Tartufo restaurant, which is operated by Alexis Gauthier with Manuel Oliveri as head chef and James Trevaskis as restaurant manager and sommelier. The lighter space was created by designer Anouska Hempel, one-time founder of Blakes hotel in Kensington, London, in 2013.
On walking into 11 Cadogan Gardens, the first impressions are of an interior that is rather dark and gloomy, due to the extensive black wood panelling and low lighting. But turn a corner and you arrive at the new reception area. Prior to the refurbishment, there was nowhere for guests to sit upon arrival, but now a distinct and luxurious space has been created where guests can check in while sitting in comfy chairs supplied by Nova Interiors and Wychwood Design. The padded wall was designed by Tan, using Alma Leather.
"The entrance area is the only area of hotel that hasn't been touched," explains Khaddour. "People react to the darkness in the same way as they react to Marmite - they either love it or hate it. Some guests are a little uncomfortable with it, but once we show them throughout the hotel, they regard it as part of the quirkiness of the property."
Unsurprisingly, the library, at the front of the hotel, is dominated by a floor to ceiling collection of books, many which date back to the 19th century and which belonged to the original house. The carpet, which reflects the leafy exterior of Cadogan Gardens, was made by Axminster Carpets to a bespoke design by Tan. The simplicity of the curtains from the Carlucci di Chivasso range, created by JAB Anstoetz, ensures that the view over the gardens is enjoyed to the maximum. A key feature is the high-back chair from Pierre Frey, covered in blue velvet from Sunbury Design.
One of the most opulent spaces in the hotel is the bar, with its rich black and gold furnishings providing a glamorous and clubby setting for Chelsea residents and guests to enjoy house cocktails and a menu of light bites. With its dramatic lighting and dark herringbone floor, it is a room that looks best at night.
Above the black and gold panelling, the vinyl wallpaper is from Tektura, while the seating features a variety of rich velvets from Designers Guild, Osborne & Little, Panaz, Elitis, Whistler Leather and Today Interiors.
The drawing room
This much brighter and lighter room is frequently used for afternoon tea. The horticultural concept that has inspired much of the design comes to the fore in the Brian Yates wallpaper and the same carpet which appears in the library. The seating is from Wychwood Design, featuring a variety of fabrics from Osborne & Little, a Sonia Rykiel design from Lelievre, Nobilis, Zimmer + Rohde, Robert Langford and Bernhardt.
Here, as in all the other public spaces, a link to the building's past is provided by original paintings which have been in situ since the very early days of the property.
The drawing room
The hotel renovations have enabled a reconfiguration of what was originally 62 bedrooms and suites into 56 bedrooms, made up of 25 suites and 31 bedrooms. Alongside seven new rooms, the remaining 49 have been updated to compliment the new look.
Each bedroom is different and exudes a distinct personality rarely found in luxury hotels - some are simply sleek and glossy, while others are dramatic and theatrical.
Certainly, a guest walking into the Velasquez Suite may think they have just been transported onto the set of a Spanish costume drama. The room, named after the artist of the same name, is dominated by a sumptuous four-poster bed, with swags of heavy velvet and brocade, and which has been in situ long before the property became a hotel. The walls are painted in Farrow & Ball Rectory Red, matching the deep red and gold furnishings and an impressive Murano glass chandelier create an oppressive environment, which guests either love or loathe. "We have some regular guests who always request this room," says Khaddour.
Equally lavish is the Baroque suite, which, despite its rich gold and cream furnishings, is marginally calmer than Velasquez. The dramatic four-poster bed and accompanying drapes have all been retained from before the refurbishment.
The decor in the other rooms is somewhat more subdued but always luxurious. Nothing is standard about any of them, and each features individually selected items of furniture, such as the sideboard with a mirrored front by Coach House. The fabrics used throughout are all different too - many picking up on the horticultural theme inspired by Sloane, while an equine print from Abbott & Boyd references the stables which were once present in Pavilion Road behind the hotel.
All the bathrooms are generous in size and beautifully fitted out in marble and feature Ormonde Jayne toiletries.
Deluxe double room
Padded reception wall
Chairs in public areas
Wallpaper in drawing room
Osbourne & Little
Zimmer + Rohde