House of Gods in Edinburgh has a sinful new addition. Jungmin Seo talks to Mike Baxter about his Garden of Eden-esque bar, complete with lush, earthy colours, opulent furnishings and escapist fantasies
Mike Baxter describes his latest bar, Lilith's Lounge, as a "Garden of Eden gone mad". The venue, which opened on 27 May, marks a devilish addition to Edinburgh's House of Gods hotel, which Baxter founded with his brother, Rob, in September 2019. Inspired by the legend of Lilith, the first wife of Adam and the mother of the ‘damned', his lavish late-night lounge is a rebellion against modesty and modernity.
Swamped in forest green leathers, rosa levanto marble, oak-panelled flooring and serpentine velvet, the bar is a jungle of deeply decadent materials. This celebration of excess is made more prominent by the presence of various ornaments, such as ceramic leopards, gold-foiled snakes and exotic plants. For Baxter, it's a "knotty den" infused with the earthy, spicy notes of Middle-Eastern incense.
Guests are invited to participate in a mock tarot card reading to reveal which beverage they should drink. Although the bar is open until 3am, the dim lighting is designed to cause people to lose track of time. This potential for escapism and immersive fun defines Baxter's ethos when it comes to the design.
He says: "Hotels should be an escape from the norm; it should be a fantasy. I like the idea that when you step into our venues, you fall down the rabbit hole a little bit – it's not what you expect. We really try to create an other-worldly experience."
Baxter explains that his opulent interiors are a reaction against utility. "I think we live in a world of convenience [and] Scandi minimalism. It's a product of mass-travel and Airbnb, where we all go to hotels that look a little bit like our house."
For him, "the magic of travel was very much the period of the Orient Express, when travel was reserved for the wealthy. I want to make that feeling accessible as opposed to [offering it to] the lucky few that can afford it". Fittingly, the rooms in the House of Gods are available in a cabin and classic style. The former is a neon take on the historic train cabin and the latter pays homage to Versailles.
Baxter's influences include Tom Dixon's designs for Shoreditch House and Jacques Garcia's "magical, experiential, intimate" Maison Souquet in Paris. But his most formative encounter with design occurred when he attended the opening of Martin Brudnizki's Annabel's in London's Mayfair four years ago, home to a concoction of baby-pink flowers, rainforest-like carpets and golden palm-tree light-stands.
He says: "I went in and that building is just absolutely incredible. That was the first time I used the term ‘fall down the rabbit hole'. It's the absolute and ultimate decadence and I was emotionally affected by the interior."
From this experience, he was able to craft his own portfolio. The House of Gods style evolved into the hotel's hedonistic night-time party venue, Casablanca Cocktail Club. Now, Baxter sees Lilith's Lounge as a "coming together" of his influences and a "maturing of my design".
Fully embracing his love for adventurous textures, ornate interiors and his tendency to "put our new, contemporary, neon-twisted view" on things, he expresses his excitement for his upcoming House of Gods hotels in Glasgow and Manchester.
He says: "I think that a lot of design is made easier by the fact that you may have seen it done before. With House of Gods, it was so unique what we were building the first time that it was a huge challenge for me. At least with the new ones we've got the benefit of developing [the style] further."
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