Living Rooms' latest hip offering to hospitality was recently named Outstanding New Hotel of the Year at the Independent Hotel Show. So what makes this Notting Hill venue rock? Rosalind Mullen finds out
By the time the Laslett opened in autumn 2015, anticipation was high. The hotel is the latest creation from London-based Living Rooms, which offers a twist on boutique, luxury hotels.
The company was founded in the 1990s by Tracy Lowy, with the launch of No 5 Maddox Street, a 12-suite boutique hotel in Mayfair. In 2008, she took over the serviced apartment business Europa House in Little Venice and in 2013 opened extended-stay apartments at 56 Welbeck Street.
The Laslett, which had a soft opening in August 2015, was converted from 59 studios to 51 bedrooms and suites, arranged over five Grade II-listed Victorian townhouses in Pembridge Gardens. Living Rooms leases the property.
"Notting Hill is surprisingly short of decent places to stay, and I felt there was a need for a townhouse hotel to breathe some life back into the area," says Lowy. "More home than hotel, it's inspired by local culture and British style."
The hotel is named after Rhaune Laslett, a community activist and organiser of the original Notting Hill Carnival. To create the quintessentially British hotel, Lowy employed local designers, artists and suppliers to create the overall effect of understated luxury.
"I wanted the hotel to feel as though you're staying in a friend's fabulous townhouse residence, and for it to feel personal and intimate, while celebrating the neighbourhood's authentic cultural heritage," adds Lowy.
It took five months to obtain planning permission for the project and then 10 months on site to complete the works.
The man behind the "hip and homely" design is Tom Bartlett, founder of architectural and interior designer Waldo Works: "The restoration of the building and integration of services, particularly the creation of public spaces, turned out to be a considerable task," he says. "Especially in terms of co-ordinating all these elements within an existing building, while trying to retain character and satisfying the conservation officer."
n particular, the team had trouble getting an air-conditioning scheme approved and ensuring the ground-floor lobby spaces respected the conservation restrictions.
"We had to retain the format of the original rooms while providing a space large enough to house the many aspects of service provision that Living Rooms needed to integrate into a project of this nature," says Bartlett.
Lowy's vision was to combine the service of a hotel with the comfort and space of a residential home. A key feature is the lobby, which has a bar-kitchen, library and shop selling work by local photographers and artists.
y took an active role in the design and commissioned Waldo Works to source as much as possible from the UK. Both she and Bartlett delved into their memories of growing up in and around Notting Hill.
"We looked at the fashion of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and tried to integrate some of the idiosyncrasies of the interiors of Notting Hill houses at that time," explains Bartlett. "Our aim was to create a hotel that was personal and original, that spoke about traditional and modern London all at once."
Although the rooms are designed to be super-efficient, they also wanted them to feel un-designed - as if they hold lovely finds from nearby Portobello Market. Clean-lined modern furniture is complemented by cosy touches such as books, blankets and antiques.
Bartlett and his team sourced the furniture from small, mainly UK-based suppliers. Walnut benches and side tables were specially made by award-winning British designer-maker Russell Pinch, while a family of 'Gil' lamps were custom-made by Nocturne Workshop.
"We kept lighting out of the ceiling using LED light bleeds and lamps throughout to give a residential feel and to try to keep the traditional appeal of these well-proportioned rooms," says Bartlett.
Most of the fabrics are from Romo, including all the curtains and valances. Throws on the bed are by Zuzunga, a British-Spanish textile designer, and they chose Ernest Race BA chairs to complement the desks.
e quirk was making sure the joinery was not fitted. Instead, it was custom-designed by Waldo Works and made by Opus Magnum in London, which also made the headboards.
The scheme is monochrome with pops of strong colour. Bartlett describes the look: "The colours are taken from black and white photography with shocks of red and blue and white. The smoked dark eucalyptus headboard with a strapped padded chocolate leather panel sets off the crisp white sheets."
Artwork includes that of local artists Barry Kamen and Toby Mott, with illustrations by Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki. The antiques and curiosities were provided by local antiques dealer Jerome Dodd of Les Couilles du Chien.
The original bathrooms were too small, so they had to be replaced. A palette of grey, black and white was used to create a seamless blend through from the bedrooms. They specified separate hot and cold taps and used freestanding basin consoles.
"The look is traditional, but not stuffy," says Bartlett. "We have porcelain checkerboard floors and a pendant fitting from Atelier Areti in the corner, throwing flattering light across the custom-made mirrors."
Organic bathroom amenities are supplied by Neal's Yard Remedies.
The public areas
The lobby area is loosely split into a shop, library, restaurant and bar, and are all arranged around a brass and terrazzo desk made by Opus Magnum and a top from Mass Concrete.
"The desk cleverly integrates many functions and technologies, but looks pretty seamless from the front," says Bartlett. "We custom-designed a swooping linear ribbon light fitting fabricated by Matt Stanwix, which helped to break the rigidity of the long desk below."
e rooms around this bold centrepoint are furnished in contrasting textures, including mohair velvets, leather and wools, in navy blue, greys and corals. Bartlett describes the lighting and smaller furniture as including some "Memphis pops of colour", which reference Notting Hill's cultural heyday. The artwork is from Laura Bartlett gallery and Harland Miller.
Eating and drinking
The Henderson bar and coffee shop is named after Russell Henderson, one of the founding fathers of the Notting Hill Carnival. The menu - offering simple, seasonal British dishes, with baked goods and pastries by Sally Clarke Bakery - is created by a team of chefs working together as equals, with no head chef. The average dinner bill is £35 a head.
The hotel has been open for just over 12 months and average daily rate year-to-date is £235, with occupancy at 85% and a strong following among the arty crowd.
"The design has been integral to the success of the hotel," says Lowy. "The clientele is mostly from the world of film, fashion, music and advertising."
The Laslett, Pembridge Gardens, Notting Hill, London
Operator Living Rooms
Owner Tracy Lowy
Resident manager Judith Wagenschwanz
Architect and interior design Tom Bartlett, Waldo Works (www.waldoworks.com)
Suites and apartments No 5 Maddox Street, Mayfair; Europa House, Little Venice; and 56 Welbeck Street, Marylebone - all in London
Opened Soft opening August 2015; fully open October 2015
Number of bedrooms 51
Number of seats in the Henderson bar and library 40
Number of staff 36
Starting room rate £199 for a double room
Average bill for dinner £35
Ground floor, reception, Henderson bar and lobby
Laura Bartlett Gallery
Custom wall pieces for rooms
Les Couilles du Chien
Neal's Yard Remedies