Thursday, September 12th marked the opening of Ian Schrager’s latest project, The London EDITION. Returning to London for the first time in 15 years, since Ian introduced Sanderson and St. Martins Lane, the hotel is the latest from EDITION Hotels, the brand he conceived in a partnership with Marriott International. EDITION Hotels combines the personal, intimate, individualized and unique hotel experience that Schrager is known for, with the global reach, operational expertise and scale of Marriott. This delicate balancing act encompasses not only great design and true innovation, but also personal, friendly, modern service as well as outstanding, one-of-a-kind food, beverage and entertainment offerings ‘all under one roof’. The heightened experience, authenticity and originality that Ian Schrager brings to this new brand coupled with the global reach of Marriott results in a truly distinct product that sets itself apart from anything else currently in the marketplace.
As with all EDITION hotels, each one is a cultural epicentre and a microcosm of the best each city has to offer. Each is a portal into the essence of the city. The London EDITION preserves the finest aspects of the historic, landmark building—formerly the Berners Hotel—but reinvents the spaces within to create a dynamic fusion of old and new, past and present. This results in a look and feel that cannot be pigeonholed into a specific time period or look and is incapable of definition or categorization.
The hotel is inspired by the grand traditions of Great Britain: the traditional, aristocratic English country manor and the quintessential London private gentleman’s club with a modern, edgy, urban feel. When these diametrically opposed aesthetics come together, they create an alchemy, a spark, that takes the hotel and the experience to an entirely new level. Although these are two aesthetics that do not usually co-exist, the presence of one will serve to showcase the other. Behind the refined Georgian exterior and majestic public spaces, are two bars, a 24-hour fitness facility and 173 secluded, intimate and luxurious wood paneled rooms and suites akin to cabins on a private yacht.
Originally built in 1835 as five luxurious townhouses, the architecture still showing the Georgian hallmarks that characterize London's finest residences, the buildings were combined to form the Berners Hotel in 1908, at the height of the grandeur of the Edwardian Era. The sumptuous interiors, lavishly decorated with marble and intricate carved ceilings, are superb Grade II-listed examples of Belle Époque extravagance at its very finest. The location, in the very heart of Fitzrovia, is within walking distance to the most coveted areas in London such as Soho, Covent Garden, Oxford Street and the theatre district. Schrager saw the promise of this area 15 years ago when he did Sanderson.
The public spaces embody Schrager’s ‘new kind of gathering place’ and set out to astonish and seduce with an electric energy pulsating throughout: the hotel lobby is an atrium arabesqued with variegated marbles across walls, floor and corner bar, all original to the hotel and painstakingly restored, glittering below those sensational stucco ceilings. Berner's Tavern sits to the right, a gastronomic gem under the direction of London’s own Executive Chef Jason Atherton. Furnished with banquettes in chestnut mohair and taupe leather and round, rift cut bleached oak tables, there is a Parisian feeling to this interior, entirely in line with Edwardian London's adoration of all things French (spearheaded by Francophile King Edward).
The ambience is enticing, and the scale is imposing—everything, from the soaring doorways to the stately gesture of the marble staircase sweeping across one corner, seems borne from another age. Indeed, when one first enters the hotel, you are held, for a moment, in a striking modernist glass vestibule projecting into the sumptuous lobby, like a time capsule or wormhole bearing you into an otherworldly realm. But The London EDITION is no period piece, in fact, it is impossible to date: the twenty-first century is subtly but insistently present in Ingo Mauer’s spaceship-like polished silver sphere light devised to preside over the entrance, the sensual Christian Liaigre black metal furniture, the Salvador Dali inspired floor lamps, and the chandeliers inspired by NYC’s Grand Central Station which are suspended over the tables in Berner's Tavern. It is a potpourri of styles that only a sure hand could pull off. The color palette too, juxtaposes old with new— taking inspiration from the seemingly diametrically-opposed work of Johannes Vermeer and American artist Donald Judd: dusty rose upholstery against burnt ochre walls, khaki, pale green leather and mustard velvets all contrast harmoniously, the color animating the impressive open spaces.
In Ian Schrager's eyes, the lobby has evolved beyond the ideas of ‘hotel as theatre’, ‘Lobby Socializing’ and ‘a new kind of gathering place’—concepts that Schrager himself invented when opening the Royalton in New York back in 1988. Lobbies were the center of social activity and attracted locals in the city as well as guests. It is an idea that has been copied countless times and one that has changed the industry. At the time, it only applied to nighttime. With the instant messaging and social media boom along with our fast paced, high tech lives, our means of communicating have forever changed. Twenty-five years later, the hotel’s public, social areas are now dedicated as much to seriousness and work as to fun and play, making them work for both the day and for the night. A Donald Judd inspired black walnut table is fitted with Apple desktop computers and outlets for laptops, and the entire hotel benefiting from state-of-the-art wireless Internet.
The further you explore the more intimate the spaces become. Nestled at the back of the hotel is The Punch Room, a fumed-oak panelled den inspired by the comfort of English country manor house libraries and nineteenth-century London's private clubs. This is their modern reincarnation: a cocktail bar without a bar, where every drink is served on a silver salver by staff dedicated to the guests, furnished custom tufted banquettes in teal velvet, overstuffed mint green leather tub chairs, and dark brown leather club chairs.
Away from the spectacular social spaces, the hotel is devoted to the personal, the private, the intimate—an individual experience of luxury and a retreat from the street. The hotel's rooms are paneled in either dark walnut or light oak (a choice to suit one’s own taste) subtly lit and furnished with tactile textiles, traditional tufted slipper-chairs by George Smith, a ‘no color’ color palette, and gilt-framed Dutch Masters. Look again: those seemingly traditional images are 'remasters' by photographer Hendrik Kerstens - decidedly modern Masters, symbolizing the hotel's unique and startling combination of old and new. Each of The London EDITION guestrooms is like a warm, inviting bedroom in a private home, geared to individual relaxation and indulgence.
For EDITION, the individual is key - in the words of Ian Schrager, 'the definition of luxury has changed: we'd rather be known for service than anything else.' This is where the expertise of the Marriott group enables EDITION to deliver superlative service, coupled with the evocative aesthetic atmospheres that have become the trademark of Ian Schrager's hotels. This is the new lifestyle hotel where you don’t have to sacrifice anything, whether it be fun or work, to stay in the coolest place in town.
'It's a different reality,' is how Schrager summarizes The London EDITION, whose influences span three centuries, fusing the best of those ages into a multi-faceted jewel of a hotel glittering at the very heart of London town.