Middle Eight, London, UK
Following an extensive building program overseen by Shiva Hotels Group founder, Rishi Sachdev, Middle Eight opened its doors in style. As it approaches its first anniversary Emma Kennedy pays it a visit and discovers what lies behind its success.
Making your way through the hustle and bustle of London’s Covent Garden with ease, is no mean feat on a Saturday afternoon. With its abundance of shops, bars and restaurants spilling out onto the street it’s a vibrant scene and requires some nifty footwork to navigate. But, within a few short strides, the crowds are behind me as I make my way up Long Acre to Great Queen Street, home to Middle Eight hotel, my final destination.
The hotel offers 168 rooms, across five categories – and 12 suites. The latter, being named after pieces of music with a middle eight bridge (which helps a song develop in a natural way). With nature and sustainability at the core of the hotel’s ethos, many of them boast an enclosed indoor garden flooded with natural light whilst two of the suites enjoy secluded outdoor terraces.
London based design practice Tonik Associates are the creative team responsible for the stunning interiors. Reflecting on the inspiration behind the design, Owner and Founder, Gary Marshall explained, “Middle Eight is an urban lifestyle brand and needed to reflect the location that it’s in. Due to its central Covent Garden location, we had several ideas at the start of the project including, theatre, professional, legal etc. We didn’t want it to become too cliché and so we played on the historic element of the hotel’s location and the fact that it was the original Kingsway Hall music venue, hence the focus on music which has inspired the hotel interiors. Alongside the musical emphasis, sustainability and nature also played a huge part in the hotels design inspiration. When you enter the hotel, we wanted it to feel organic, free flowing and natural which we achieved by the use of natural materials such as wood and stone.”
From the off it’s a good-looking hotel. Stone fronted, with a central three-door entrance, its gold framed windows set the tone for the opulence ahead. Arriving in the double height lobby, the sense of space is vast. Looking up to the impossibly high ceilings, large white irregular shaped panels appear to float overhead like space age islands. Underfoot, pale stone tiles glide you to the reception area in the distance. The desk itself is formed of multiple layers of sustainable felled Olive Oak, in varying sizes that gently curve in organic waves. The effect is extraordinarily beautiful. Behind the desk, clean vertical wood lengths create an undulating backdrop, against a wall that’s been textured like bark. As the desk radiates a golden glow underlit from the base, overhead a dozen simple pendant lights watch over guests’ arrivals.
Each area has its own focal point, and making your way across the lobby, the eye is drawn to a huge tree root composition strongly reinforcing the quest for sustainable natural materials. Lit by discreet lighting within a steel frame, it delivers its message with a raw beauty.
As entrances go, the Middle Eight is certainly up there. The natural warmth of the wood and stone, mixed with gold detailing is all lit to perfection creating a feeling of rich opulence in keeping with the original intent of the design.
Taking the lift to the first floor I recall reading that before renovation it had previously been a windowless space, consisting of meeting rooms. Now home to Middle Eights 12 guest suites, I am intrigued to see what lies behind my door. As I am shown into the ‘Changes’ suite (all the suites are named after song titles in keeping with the hotels musical heritage) I am relieved to see the luxurious attention to detail continues. When asked which area of the hotel he was most proud of, Gary Marshall is very clear.
“My favourite design feature of Middle Eight is most definitely the suites. Our task was to utilise the first-floor space, which was previously used as meeting rooms. The meeting rooms were dark and lifeless with no natural daylight. Through careful planning and perseverance, we convinced the owners to invest in installing skylight windows to flood the rooms with natural light and turn the meeting rooms in luxury five-star suites. We couldn’t have taken these spaces any further away from their original state if we tried.’’
The kitchen area is behind you as you enter the suite and takes your breath away. Rich teal walls are the backdrop to a stunning mix of natural colours and textures. Burnt orange and gold accents add warmth to grey marble, natural stone and dark wood. It is both practical and luxurious in equal measures. Oh, and did I mention the living wall?
Off the kitchen is a small but perfectly formed sitting room. A couple of Italian armchairs and a marble coffee table add a layer of sophistication to the comfort. Bookcases filled with books you would actually like to read, a complimentary (and thoughtfully stocked) mini bar, a coffee machine and chocolate brownies complete the experience.
The bedroom is an equally sumptuous affair. A four-poster queen sized bed wrapped in Egyptian cotton sheets with a thread-count that doesn’t bear thinking about, beckons you in and tempts you to stay. The bathroom opens from the bedroom, with a centred free-standing bath. However, if modesty is required, a Japanese screen door can be drawn across to separate the areas. The lines of the bathroom are clean and simple, with Carrara walls, slate floors, contemporary washstand sinks in black and a rain shower. The eco-friendly Anatome products were a delight, and the super soft Boca Terry robes alone warrant booking yourself in at Middle Eight.
Not usually known for my technical prowess when it comes to well… technology, the features here do need a mention, in fact, they almost need their own separate review. The generous sized televisions (with Chromecast) and the Sonos speakers are great – but the real fun starts with the lighting system. Once fathomed the touch-screen lighting poured varying degrees of light upon areas I had barely noticed till then and most importantly, gave a light that was perfect for applying a slick of lipstick before dinner.
Back on the ground floor, the calm ambience of the afternoon had given way to a buzzing party scene, with a definite Saturday-night-in-Covent-Garden vibe. I make may way to the Sycamore Vino Cucina, the hotels bar and restaurant to soak in the atmosphere over a cocktail… or two. Here a large central island bar takes centre stage. Once again, lit to perfection, it is flanked by ‘tree trunk’ columns between which stand contemporary brass and glass shelving. There is a mix of seating, from leather barstools and high tables to Ercol style armchairs and velvet banquets. Overhead, a feature ceiling consisting of thousands of hand pressed burnished sycamore leaves, create a dash of theatrical drama to the double height space.
The restaurant is an inviting space, with muted tones and low ceilings. The open kitchen prepares Northern Italian food of exceptional quality, matched only by the wine list, and if you pick the right seat, it’s fun to watch the bar-party unfold from a distance. For those wanting a much quieter dining experience, and accessible by one of the best-looking staircases I have ever seen, is the Balcony. Situated on the Mezzanine floor above, it serves a globally inspired menu. The design of the space sits somewhere between a club room and a library with bookshelves filled with good coffee table style books on culture and art.
With so much going on above ground, it would be easy to oversee the basement. And that would be a mistake. Nestled downstairs is QT, which with its own entrance is a destination in itself. QT is a venue that turns its jazz hands to myriad events, from a comedy night to a jazz fuelled Speakeasy and everything in between. Design wise it is in keeping with the rest of the hotel. Textured walls, natural wood floors, rich velvet chairs and marble tables, plus a generous bar to keep guests’ thirsts at bay. When it fills, it becomes a fun intimate area, with echoes of a jazz club from a 1950s movie! In a nutshell, it’s a fun space, and whether you’re a guest or not, one well worth keeping your eye on.
I would imagine, Middle Eight will be celebrating their first birthday in well-deserved style. It delivers on so many different levels it’s hard to fault. So many elements left a lasting impression on me, the double height ceilings, the beautiful use of materials and the fact it is all discreetly lit by very clever lighting! Hats off to the lighting designer I’d say. All in all once again it proves sustainable design can be fun, glamorous and very exciting!
Pillows: King of Cotton www.kingofcotton.com
Duvet and Toppers: Gailarde Ltd gailarde.com
Mattresses: Millbrook Beds www.millbrook-beds.co.uk
Wall art, dove, words, jugglers: Indigo Art www.indigoart.co.uk
Sanitaryware: CP Hart www.cphart.co.uk