W London – A hotel that dares to be different

03 March 2011 by
W London – A hotel that dares to be different

From the moment it opened - at midnight on Valentine's Day with a party for multi-award-winning film The King's Speech - W London has made its mark on the capital's luxury hotel scene. Janet Harmer checked it out

It's glitzy, bling-bling décor - coupled with a strong celebrity following - is ensuring that W London is attracting the column inches and doing its best to steal a march on the host of other hotel openings planned for London this year.

There is no doubting, that amongst the plethora of new five-star properties, W London is the one that stands out for daring to be different. From your arrival, via a lift, at the first floor reception area, you know you are stepping into a hotel like no other.

Designed by architects Jestico + Whites - previously responsible for the look for the Hempel Hotel and Hakkassan restaurant - W London is encased within a translucent, fritted glass veil. McAleer & Rushe, the developers of the £200m, 10-storey building, which incorporates apartments and retail space, decided to use its façade as a canvas for a public art installation created by Jason Bruges Studio.

The skyline of the immediate location is captured daily via eight cameras mounted on the hotel roof and this image is projected onto the outside of the building using 600 lights diffused through the fritted glass. At night, the resulting artwork records the changing lights and colours of the surrounding area, with special events such as film premieres and Chinese New Year celebrations highlighted. An added bonus of the artwork is that it minimises solar glare and helps to insulate the building.


W London, Leicester Square, entrance
W London, Leicester Square, entrance
Central to the interior design by Concrete Amsterdam, is the duality of the British personality. "It's Savile Row meets Soho," explains the hotel's general manager Kevin Rockey, who joined W London from his previous role as hotel manager of St Martins Lane, London. "There is a formal side, alongside a more edgy element."

Hence the plethora of nightclub-style glitter balls alongside open fires and a traditional style Chesterfield sofa, albeit a double-depth, 37m one which snakes around the edge of the W Lounge Bar.


W London, Leicester Square, glitterball
W London, Leicester Square, glitterball
While every W hotel around the world has its own unique design, there is no doubting that the glitter ball is the signature feature of the London property. There are 660 of them in total, including the largest one in London in the Wyld Bar, measuring 3.5m in diameter and containing 17,000 mirror pieces. It can be spotted through the giant windows from across Leicester Square, where the hotel is located.

Like all W Hotels, there are constant reminders throughout the hotel that you are in the heart of the UK's capital.

For instance, a large divider within the W Lounge is actually a 12 meter long, six meter high Union Jack, created by the careful positioning of ceramic plates commissioned from Dutch photographer Marcel Van Der Vlugt. Reflecting the dual aspect of the interior's design narrative, a typical image is of a female in a smart suit with ripped stockings.

Further nods to the location are found in discreet Union Jacks sewn into the padded walls of the lofts and the not-so discreet Union Jack cushions in the bedrooms.


W London, Leicester Square, bedroom
W London, Leicester Square, bedroom
While the public areas of the hotel represent a fun, vibrant environment, the bedrooms are intended to provide a calming contrast - bringing into play the hotel's dual design once again. "They provide an oasis where you will be happy to relax after the partying," says Rockey. Fine, sheer fabrics and padded walls help create the feel of a cocoon.

A key design feature of all rooms and suites is the deconstruction of the sleeping/bathroom space which makes even the smallest Wonderful room appear larger than it is. Showers and toilet cabins are off this space, where a large, central station, containing the sink, doubles up as the cosmetic area and work station, with power points for lap tops.


Jessica Patman, W London, Leicester Square
Jessica Patman, W London, Leicester Square
It is not just the design, though, that aims to be different: the style of service is also expected to create a talking point. "We aim to provide whatever, whenever, as long as it is legal - something that is very much consistent throughout the W brand, " explains Rockey.

The intention to offer a "can-do" approach to every guest is highlighted by the appointment of Jessica Patman (pictured) as the W Insider. Her role is centred on providing guests with inside knowledge of London, over and above the typical tourist destinations. "She is advising guests on all the latest places to see and be seen, as well as all those special need-to know happenings," said Kevin Rockey, the hotel's general manager.

"Rather than wait to be asked for advice, she seeks out exactly what will enhance the stay of each guest. Her role, therefore, goes one step further than that normally achieved by a concierge."

All 250 staff - recruited via Facebook and ASmallWorld - are encouraged to offer enthusiastic service which allows their individual personalities to shine. "We want our staff to have a buzz, not just functionality," says Rockey. "We encourage a conversational style of service where staff engage with guests on a one to one basis. However, it is also important for employees to be able to judge when a customer wants to be left alone and that is when enormous value is placed on small gestures."

w london leicester square

10 Wardour Street, Leicester Square, London W1D 6QF
Tel: 020 7851 322

General manager Kevin Rockey
Marketing director Simon Warrington
Chef de cuisine Tim Tolley
W Insider Jessica Patman
Bedrooms 192, including 21 suites
Facilities include Spice Market restaurant (Jean-Georges Vongerichten), W Lounge, Wyld Bar (run by the Ignite Group for members only), 38-seat screening room, Away Spa, Sweat fitness suite and two meeting rooms
Staff 250
Target guests 50% UK, 30% European, 20% United States, predominately from the media, music, fashion, entertainment and consulting industries.
Rates from £269 for a Wonderful room up to £5,000 for an Extreme-Wow suite
Location Situated on the edge of Leicester Square, an area once down at heel, the opening of W London marks an important stage of its £18.5m rejuvenation, which will incorporate a garden, seating and open space for arts and cultural events.

the w story

Launched in 1998, W Hotels is one of nine brands operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

The first property - in Times Square, New York - has since been joined by a further 36 hotels, 28 of which are in the United States. Despite initial scepticism about the longevity of a global design-led brand, the unique look of each new hotel has ensured the W concept has remained fresh.

There will be nearly 80 W Hotels open world wide by the end of 2013. As well as the London property, new W Hotels to open this year will include those in Paris, St Petersburg and Bali.

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The Caterer Interview - Jean-Georges Vongerichten >>

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