THE CURTAIN, LONDON
London’s East End is definitively seeing an increase in new and exciting hotels with several openings this year. SPACE’s Tonje Odegard popped into The Curtain in Shoreditch to see what makes it stand out from the crowd…
Having a London hotel as part of your portfolio is a dream come true for any hotelier and it has taken New Yorker Michael Achenbaum a whole decade to finally make that dream a reality. Not only is The Curtain his first London property and first UK property, it’s also Achenbaum’s first venture into Europe, so this is a big deal. Seven of the ten years it took him to find the perfect location for his conceptual London property was specifically focused on the emerging East End. “It’s in our DNA to create hotels in neighbourhoods that are not only ahead of the curve, but also in areas that are growing,” said Achenbaum.
Having opened its doors in May, The Curtain perfectly reflects the cool and creative vibe of its location – Shoreditch – and the sleek and elegant atmosphere of its owner’s home – New York. Bringing inventive new energy to the location by offering not just a place to stay, but a wide range of inspiring dining and drinking options, a live music venue, a co-working space, a members club, excellent wellness and fitness facilities, and meetings and events spaces, The Curtain has been one of this year’s most anticipated hotel openings.
With stylish interiors by international hospitality firm Duncan Miller Ullman that burst of Shoreditch character, the hotel offers a dynamic and fun approach to luxury hospitality. Located on the corner of Curtain Road, it embraces the area’s striking art, design and technology culture.
Dexter Moren Associates were responsible for the building work on behalf of creative development consultancy SUSD Ltd, New York real estate developers Douglaston Development and Hondo Enterprises. Located on the site of a former 1970s office block, the design reinterprets the areas’ 19th century warehouse buildings, reflecting the neighbourhood’s heritage. The façade consists of red brick with large framed crittall-style windows, which serve to complement the urban aesthetic and give the building character and an identity of its own.
The Curtain’s 120 guestrooms are split into four categories ranging from the standard Courtyard and City rooms through to the larger Loft and Loft Terrace rooms. There are also four Shoreditch Suites and one deluxe suite, The Curtain Suite. Each room is eclectically decorated and has taken on a rustic-industrial style, referencing East London’s history of being a factory hub for centuries, featuring bespoke artwork by music photography legend Mick Rock, and minibars with locally sourced goods.
The quirky and warm, yet luxurious rooms have intriguing elements such as exposed brick walls, hardwood flooring and modern lighting that contrast the art. Splashes of colour fit neatly in with the rustic colour palette and the dark, embossed ceiling is a beautiful touch. Natural light is let in through wide, industrial-like windows, which function as a design feature on their own and add heaps of character.
There are a number of retro elements, such as the bedside radio and alarm clock, which nicely contrast the modern aspects of the room, creating a comforting balance. But what really elevates the guestrooms at The Curtain to another level are the small design details that make guests feel special. Little gems here and there that make you feel looked-after – it’s always a joy when design does that.
The Shoreditch suites have taken advantage of their corner windows, which allow streams of natural light in. Beautiful wallpaper, strong Chesterfield sofas, heavy drapes, massive, decorated case goods, and free-standing tubs in the bedroom overlooking the busy street below make up these gorgeous suites.
The bathrooms are clad in white travertine marble on the walls with funky hexagon-patterned tiled floors in tones of grey. Intimate, modern and elegant with a huge shower and lots of light, it’s everything you want from a hotel bathroom.
Drinking and dining
Red Rooster, headed up by acclaimed New York restaurateur and chef Marcus Samuelsson, doubles as The Curtain’s flagship restaurant and live music venue. With musical performances six days a week (each day featuring a different genre), guests can feast on classic American food with the idea of fusing the tastes of London and Harlem together.
The interiors of this basement joint reinforce the marriage between Harlem and Shoreditch – exposed brick, industrial windows, glossy tiles and hardwood floors, stylish lighting, street art, multi-coloured details and a modern flair. The walls are covered in sketches, drawings, colourful paintings, photographs, and posters of iconic music artists. Dimly lit, the warm glow of the restaurant creates a cool and inviting atmosphere, while the brightly lit courtyard with booths covered in funky patterns is breezy, nonchalant and airy.
Other details include old spirit carafes made into ceiling lamps, burlesque-style feathers as décor, red lighting, toile wallpaper, and green velvet sofas. The atmosphere is busy and upbeat, but sophisticated nonetheless.
The private dining area, which has room for up to 14 people, is a cool, sophisticated and relaxed room with bright blue walls and exposed brick. A stern wooden table rests under a giant round chandelier with unique flea-market style chairs, each different to the next one, which truly reflects the young and hip design lifestyle of Shoreditch.
Adjacent to the Red Rooster is Samuelsson’s roadside Tienda Roosteria, an all-day taqueria serving tacos and margaritas in funky surroundings. Tienda Roosteria is clad in black walls, large, industrial windows and colourful flea-market style furniture. As with the rest of the hotel, there are intriguing design elements that make you realise the effort that has gone into the creation of this space to make it stand out; counter lamps made out of shawls and a black & white zigzag pattern on the glossy-tiled bar.
Trash Tiki founders and cocktail specialist Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage are responsible for the drinks at the hotel, taking inspiration from Harlem for the Red Rooster, honouring the artists, musicians and leaders of the Harlem Renaissance.
LIDO on the rooftop is a brasserie with a Moroccan-style pool and lots of plants, set with the stunning London skyline as a backdrop. Exclusive to hotel guests and club members, there are comfy sun loungers during the summer months and a retractable glass roof for rainier and colder days. Breezy, airy and relaxing, the space features details such as lightly sanded hardwood floors, white ceiling beams with a ‘worn’, scratchy-paint effect, and jam jars as lamps.
The pool looks stunning on a sunny day and is complemented by the beach side-looking tables and chairs in the restaurant. Moroccan-styled wooden lanterns keep the area lit after sundown, creating an effortless and cosy ambiance that easily transports you to a Mediterranean seaside village.
Billy’s Bar is the louche late night members-only spot serving classic cocktails. Aiming for a different vibe to the other, more animated venues of the hotel, Billy’s has comfortable lounge seating and open fires that add a distinctively more cosy and seductive atmosphere. Another nice touch is the whiskey lockers for guests to store spirit bottle purchases.
Next-door is Imperial, definitively a more relaxed and informal space. Serving up post-gym breakie, casual lunches, games and afternoon cocktails during the day, the bar turns into a vibrant, low-lit pre-gig den at night.
On their website, Dexter Moren Associate architect Zoë Tallon, who worked on the project, said: “We extensively researched the site, learning of the Curtain theatre – an Elizabethan playhouse located close by, which is the streets and hotel’s namesake. We referenced the local industrial heritage in the façade design, which simultaneously blends the new build hotel seamlessly within its urban streetscape. The roof top terrace, pool and courtyards are a distinct nod to the creative character of contemporary Shoreditch, reflecting the playful and exciting nature of its neighbourhood.”
The hotel’s exterior is perhaps a bit anonymous and blends in with the rest of Shoreditch’s factory-looking buildings. The interiors are far from anonymous though – they boast of character, soul, style and elegance. The Curtain is a true treasure and simply one of the best hotels in East London at the moment.