Old and new, past and present, classic and contemporary... The London Edition in the heart of the Capital’s Fitzrovia offers a bold juxtaposition of style and aesthetic that is as unexpected as it is successful.
Behind the dramatic reincarnation of the former Berners Hotel is another unique combination: Edition Hotels is a brand conceived by Ian Schrager and Marriott International, confidently marrying the renowned designer’s highly individual, innovative approach with the global brand’s scale, expertise, and reach: this Edition, which opened its doors in 2013, is a shining example of that success.
The original Berners Hotel, created from five Georgian townhouses, was built in 1908 at the height of the Edwardian Era and, famous for its extravagance and grandeur, became a landmark destination for London Society. Over the decades, however, while the architectural lines and intricate details were never lost, the hotel grew tired and overlooked. Not so now. While the exterior retains its reassuring historic countenance, from the moment guests enter the lobby – now via a sleek glass vestibule – an alchemy of both the original and the daringly new provides a dramatic first impression.
The very bones of the building – from the painstakingly restored marble floors and walls to the stucco ceilings, pillars, soaring arches and sweeping staircase – have not only been preserved but enhanced with dynamic 21-century additions that bring the space to dazzling, theatrical life. Indeed, it was Schrager who first devised the ‘lobby as theatre’ concept – taking it far beyond the traditional hotel reception area to a place of buzzing social activity and gatherings.
This idea – which initiated a marked change in the hospitality industry worldwide – has now evolved further: fast-paced mobile lives have eroded traditional working patterns, and The London Edition has readily recognised this constant requirement to connect, offering a place to work during the day with desktop computers (fitted on a Donald Judd-inspired black walnut table), laptop outlets and state-of-the-art wireless internet facilities.
But back to the decor. Presiding over the space – and reinforcing the 21st-century vibe – is a vast polished silver sphere light, designed by Ingo Maurer, that reflects and illuminates its sumptuous surroundings. Deep velvet sofas and slipper chairs combine with Christian Liaigre metal furniture, Salvador Dali-inspired floor lamps, and an antique billiard table, while the blackened steel bar sits in front of four back-lit, antique mirror silver-leaf arches – an exquisite example of the way old and new dramatically combine.
On the opposite side of the lobby is The Berners Tavern – a thoughtful nod to the hotel’s history – presided over by Executive Chef Jason Atherton. Its taupe walls are hung with an impressive collection of artwork, while custom-made bronze chandeliers inspired by New York’s Grand Central Station are suspended from the intricate ceilings, defining the intimate, clubby space.
But when it comes to the art of marrying different styles and design, the biggest surprise comes after leaving the pulsating lobby to retreat to the 173 private rooms and suites beyond. Here, another markedly different aesthetic presides. Pared-back, simple – but no less luxurious – decor reigns with oak floors, wood-panelled walls and neutral palettes in all the rooms, creating a cabin-like feel that is quiet, cocooning and secluded.
This dynamic interpretation of a historic building – tradition blended with innovation, original features set against edgy design, assured hospitality combined with a fresh, friendly approach – has resulted in a hotel that cannot be pigeonholed, but will undoubtedly endure and inspire in the future.