It is that building that everyone knows on Charlotte Street, the street for wining and dinning in Fitzrovia. The mint green, the brasserie style facade with smart awnings, the potted olive trees and continental style tables all adorn what used to be a dental warehouse. Opened in 2000, with forty-four bedrooms and eight suites, the Oscar Bar and Restaurant, a gym and even a cinema are housed inside. Sounds lavish already. But this is merely scratching the surface.
Everyday, as hundreds of people pass by outside, inside is a calm, collected, warm and carefully curated showcase that would give any art gallery a good run for its money. After all, the founder of Firmdale Hotels Group, the parent organisation that owns Charlotte Street Hotel along with seven others in London and two in New York, is a designer by trade. Kit Kemp decided to open her first hotel to strike a more careful work-life balance with well thought out interiors and service levels to match the most demanding of guests. Kemp runs Firmdale Hotels along with her husband Tim.
In the Oscar bar, a long, impressively colourful mural, was commissioned for artist Alexander Hollweg to recreate an inspirational photograph, of an original mural by Duncan Grant. In one corner, you can see the Kemps sitting – Tim playing chess, alongside other typical London scenes. The mural was commissioned to represent everything the great city has to offer and embodies from the London Eye, people at the cinema or on mobile phones, all in the same style and colour palette of the Bloomsbury Set and what the rest of the hotel has to show.
Before you reach the Oscar bar however, Colombian artist and sculptor Fernando Botero lays a striking and imposing cat right in the entrance. Random it isn’t. In every Firmdale hotel, the cats are the recurring and consistent art piece. Think you may have seen them elsewhere – you probably will have if you have ventured around South America. His work in every hotel is an extension of a South American fun and warm welcome that you would expect in any great hotel.
Beyond the heart-warming sculpture, there is more impressive artwork, a welcoming reception area, a roaring log fireplace and comfy leather chairs. This all leads you to a guests’ only Drawing Room with original portraits from artists Vanessa Bell, Nina Hamnett, Duncan Grant, Alfred Wolmark, et al – all of whom were part of the exclusive Bloomsbury Club. Carefully selected globe lighting made out of sand, more sculptures surround lavish upholstered seating and an honesty bureau, stocked with a good selection of drinks and snacks.
Well stocked and well thought out are common features that spread into the individual rooms. While every room has an ample King size bed, each room is uniquely different, common to its Bloomsbury theme. From headboard to curtains, cushions to lampshade. Kit Kemp and her team design every room and the furnishings, fabrics and even textile covered walls. This is not a cookie cutter hotel by any means. Head boards on each bed are bigger than expected, this is to “showcase the textiles and fabric” I was told, and they do it well.
Solid mahogany and granite bathrooms all have soft night lights, so there is no stumbling around in the dark. And a bespoke range of toiletries have been designed and produced exclusively for the hotel. The range is that good, that “RikRak bathroom products, will be available to buy online soon” due to demand from hotel guests.
The craftsmanship runs through every small touch at the Charlotte Street Hotel to the point that if guests themselves so decide to start designing, painting, drawing or making, every room also boasts its own cloth mannequin / bust – which will come in handy, especially if you have brought your sewing set.
Jumping on the bandwagon, are the in house design team, one of them has designed the wonderful collages that can be found in the lifts and some of the corridors. Want to know what some of the rooms look like inside – you won’t find any cliche photographs around the hotel, but instead, mood and fabric swatch boards along the corridors too. The board outside the Loft Suite (Room 106) does no justice however and offers just a snippet at what is on offer on the other side of the door. Inside, a double height, floor to ceiling original Indian tapestry welcomes guests to their own lounge area. Big lamps, ample table space and comfy seating await for guests to take refuge from the hustle and bustle of London life outside. This had to be my favourite room we visited, as upstairs, still in the same suite, a full library makes well for a spot of bedtime reading, something we love at The Holborn.
Kit and her team of designers have really done justice to this wonderful establishment. Clientele in “the majority are from the UK and then the US” which surprises me. This is London after all, and with rooms starting from £350 per night, I would expect the hotel to be be hosting more international guests who really do love British design, crafts and arts. More surprising, I’m told that “guests range from corporate, to couples, individuals to families.” The last audience being really catered for. Families staying at the hotel can book adjoining rooms that connect through secret doorways and this is a market the hotel group are looking to see grow. I can see why too, what with their fantastic concierge, service, facilities and home from home, but then again, I can’t see why anybody wouldn’t want to stay here, especially if holidaying with the parents is back in fashion (and they’re paying).
Curious? Head to https://www.firmdalehotels.com/hotels/london/charlotte-street-hotel/
Written by Lewis Alexander Hunt