When it comes to detail, nothing has been left to chance at this luxury hotel – not least, where the design is concerned. From stop-and-stare features that create an immediate sense of drama, to tiny exquisite embellishments which a less-discerning eye might initially miss, every aspect has been executed with thought, skill and precision. The result is a hotel that – quite literally – works on every level, from the seven individual penthouse suites perched at the very top with far-reaching views across the iconic London skyline, down to the hotel depths where the dramatic award-winning spa – located over four floors – offers a cutting-edge retreat.
This is a destination that has come full circle. The building originally opened as the Metropole Hotel in 1885, and was described as ‘dressed for success’ with a wealth of architectural and design features guaranteed to impress its elite Victorian clientele. During both World Wars, however, this glamorous landmark, occupying a key position in political Whitehall, was requisitioned by the government: indeed, it was here that Churchill wrote of hearing Big Ben strike on Armistice Day.
For more than 60 years after peace was declared, it continued to serve as offices for the Ministry of Defence, but in 2007 it was finally decommissioned, and the Corinthia Group successfully bid to develop the building as a hotel once again. An expert team of skilled architects and designers – Seifert International Architecture, GA Design International and David Collins Studio – were engaged to work on the three-year project that saw this redoubtable building shake off its bureaucratic shackles and rise to become a shining star once again.
While much of its original Victorian architecture remains – from the sandstone exterior with its elaborate flourishes, to the window frames, banisters, columns and ceiling decor – a contemporary, though never edgy, design concept has brought the interiors firmly into the 21st century. At the Corinthia’s heart is the central lobby lounge with its sweeping graceful lines, stately colonnades, and domed glass atrium, created especially for the magnificent Full Moon chandelier: designed by Chafik Gasmi and made by Baccarat, each of its 1,001 sparkling crystals catches the light – along with the crystal manufacturer’s signature one red crystal glistening within. From this central space, the mezzanine floor flows effortlessly to other public spaces – from the two elegant restaurants to the intimate Bassoon bar and, not least, the crescent-shaped courtyard beyond the Lobby’s massive windows.
Over 250 specially commissioned pieces of art form yet another intrinsic layer in the overall design aesthetic. Along with a valuable collection of paintings, photographs and illustrations, features such as the metal artwork behind the reception desk depicting the River Thames, and lift door panels created by taking casts of leaves from the neighbouring parks, have been created by design group Based Upon. In the Garden Lounge, mosaics by French artist Mathilde Jonquière, pick up on the circular shapes seen elsewhere – in the pattern of the polished marble floor on the ground level, and of course, the signature chandelier. Not least, the Lobby Lounge depicts artist Claire Brewster’s delicate ‘cut-out’ birds using vintage maps: they soar across a wall, their shadows casting a three-dimensional quality when the light plays on them.
Not surprisingly, the expansive 294 rooms, suites and penthouses are all individually designed, once again with exacting attention to detail. Quality materials – wood, leather, marble – together with luxurious fabrics in rich, warm colours, and interesting objets, provide sumptuous retreats without being overwhelming, all complemented with state-of-the-art technology.
Today, the Corinthia London – lauded with awards since it opened its doors just a few years ago – echoes the intent of its predecessor. Marrying contemporary style with a respect for the past, it too is ‘dressed for success’ – on every level.