DESIGN London Edition.
Superstar hotelier and co-founder of New York’s mythical Studio 54, Ian Schrager is back with a brand-spanking new and superswanky hotel concept, the London Edition.
The stuff of legends, Ian Shrager first rose to fame (and, many would argue, notoriety) during the 1970s when he created New York’s most talked-about nightclub. Studio 54 was the club to end all clubs, a heavenly disco-balled extravaganza where Diana Ross personally serenaded its clientele, Bianca Jagger rode in on a white horse, Grace Jones perfected her freak show, Andy Warhol held court and the four-ton “glitter drop” inadvertently spread sparkles across the bedsheets of Manhattan. Following claims in the New York press that “only the Mafia made more money”, in 1979 Schrager was convicted of tax evasion and put away for 13 months. Studio 54 was closed and it appeared his twinkly nir vana would be no more.
Thankfully, the world was wrong and in the 1980s Schrager began to focus his relentlessly ambitious creative energy on the world of upscale hotels. The Morgans Hotel Group was born and, with properties including the Delano in Miami and the Mondrian in West Hollywood, “lobby socialising” became derigueur. Combining the best of the luxury set with a personalised concept, the boutique hotel breed was born. London’s Sanderson and St Martins Lane soon followed and, collaborating with design gods like Philippe Starck, the entrepreneurial hotelier could do no wrong.
In 2005, Schrager sold the Morgans Hotel Group and formed the Ian Schrager Company. As Schrager’s international portfolio of glamorous properties grew, it seemed he had all but forgotten the British capital, with the Sanderson and St Martin’s Lane falling into the has-been category. That is, until now with the unveiling of his latest venture, The London Edition.
In a crafty move which sees Schrager buddy-up with hotel big boy Marriott, Edition Hotels are set to unite the best of both worlds: the quirkiness and hip attitude of a boutique brand with the level of service and smooth operational expertise of a hospitality doyen which, let’s face it, has been successfully operating hotels for donkey’s years.
The London Edition is living testament to this theory. Originally built in 1835 as five grand townhouses, these regal Georgian buildings, a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, were first joined in 1908 when the Berners Hotel opened its doors. Imposing, august, but ever so old-hat, Schrager has preserved the Belle Epoque extravagance of this grande dame while simultaneously injecting great swaths of his theatrical, fantasy-like allure. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the property’s lobby, an artfully playful space which, with a bar in one corner and an Apple station in another, encourages social gatherings of all types, large or small, actual or virtual. The aesthetic is flamboyantly show-biz, retaining the splendid stucco ceiling and oak panelling reminiscent of a gentleman’s club, and combining it with bold Hendrik Kersten photographs, mint green leather tub chairs by George Smith and lighting by Patrick Woodroffe.
The sensory overload continues in Berners Tavern, the hotel’s gastronomic gem under the direction of culinary superstar, Executive Chef
Jason Atherton. With banquettes in chestnut mohair and taupe leather beneath distressed, bleached oak tables there is a distinctively Parisian feel to the space. The colour palette – dusty rose upholstery against burnt ochre walls, khaki green leather and mustard velvets – is animating and impressive and shouldn’t work, but somehow does. Tucked away in a quiet corner at the back of the hotel, The Punch Room is a fumed-oak den, an intimate library-like bar in which to hide, seek and play.
Away from the excitingly spectacular social spaces, the bedrooms and suites are more low-key. Panelled in varying shades of oak (think paired-down Swiss chalet), each room is sumptuously but subtly furnished in neutral shades of cream and beige, marrying traditional George Smith slipper chairs with quirky photographs (again by Kersten) and modernist pieces by Christian Liaigre. The theme is warm, inviting and private.
“The definition of luxury has changed,” says Schrager and this is where he has been so clever. Utilising Marriott’s levels of service and coupling it with evocative atmospheres, Schrager has elevated lifestyle hotels to an entirely new standard.
London is only the first stop of this new boutique brand. Edition outposts are soon to debut in Istanbul, Miami and Dubai. However, this jewel glittering in the capital of cosmopolitan cool will undoubtedly form the centrepiece in Hotel King Schrager’s crown.