One Aldwych, London
An iconic London landmark, the chic Edwardian building that once housed the print rooms of The Morning Post has had a sophisticated spruce up. Operating as the beautiful 5-star One Aldwych since the late 20th century, the hotel is a beacon for visitors of Covent Garden and the city’s famous West End. Sophie Harper took a trip to the newly-refurbished hotel to discover how its latest look pays homage to the building’s past.
Covent Garden is still one of my favourite areas of London. I remember the first time I visited as a child, all wide-eyed and gawp-mouthed at the street performers and glossy-fronted shops framed by open stalls selling colourful wares and fragrant candles. To this day, it’s my first port of call leading up to Christmas and it’s still as magical now as it was 30 years ago. It’s the backdrop for many iconic buildings, but just over a century ago, Covent Garden became home to a smart looking, unusually triangle-shaped building, constructed in 1907 for The Morning Post Newspaper.
A standalone building designed by Anglo-French architects Mewes & Davis (responsible also for the Ritz London) Inveresk House, as it was known then, was an iconic landmark on London’s cityscape. In 1937 The Morning Post was absorbed by the Telegraph Group and the smart Edwardian building eventually found a new calling as a bank before its Grade II listing in 1986 and resurrection as a luxury hotel, with the new name of One Aldwych, in 1998.
The hotel then, renovated by Jestico + Whiles with interiors by Mary Fox Linton, was quite different to the typical luxe look of fancy hotels dripping in gold and crystal, and became a marker for a new kind of luxury. Staying true to its roots, One Aldwych may have just undergone its first major refurbishment, but it is very much the same animal, albeit a more polished, refined version of its former self.
Drafted in to redesign the 86 guestrooms and 16 suites, leading British designer Robert Angell has chosen a delicate colour palette of coral, celadon green, soft blue and lavender. Pairing soft neutral furniture and accessories with hints of gold detailing and marbled surfaces gives each room a true feel of luxury (even the light sockets are stylishly finished in brushed champagne brass), but subtly so, which makes for a sumptuous but relaxing environment.
The suites take advantage of dual aspect windows, which not only offer spectacular views of the city but fill the interior spaces with natural light. The famous Dome Suite has been reimagined, with amazing vistas over Waterloo Bridge, the Southbank and the City. The bedroom for which sits under the building’s cupola, and makes quite the setting with curved furniture, fireplace, and a glassy falling leaves chandelier above the bed.
From original artworks, of which there are more than 400 pieces on display throughout the hotel from the owners’ personal collection, to books, woollen throws, and handcrafted furniture, the rooms have a distinctly residential feel. Each room has been carefully designed to feel like a familiar space, elegant in appearance with unobtrusive user-friendly technology.
On the ground floor the Lobby Bar, at the heart of the hotel, has been given a striking new look by Tom Strother and Steven Saunders of Fabled Studio. The design duo worked with Jestico + Whiles to reconfigure the hotel entrance, creating a more impactful welcome to guests with clean separation between check-in and lobby areas. Inspired by the Art Nouveau and Parisienne touches throughout the original architecture, the fanlight over the entrance was the touchpoint for the new black and white marble inlay floor and wrought iron screens that help to separate the Lobby Bar.
While the iconic Boatman with Oars sculpture by André Wallace sits overlooking his surroundings at the helm, it’s the grand double-height ceiling, impressive columns, huge arched windows and original panelling that set the tone for the lobby. The space is laid out like a dramatic stage setting with an eccentric floral display as the central focus, and brightly-coloured seating lures guests in to get comfortable and take a better look. The original timber panelling has been extended along the back of the lobby and up into Indigo, the restaurant space set within the mezzanine, connecting the two areas seamlessly. The copper and verdigris cladding of the building’s cupola were the inspiration behind the new colour palette in the lobby – echoed in the eglomisé mirrors and cushion covers. A simple but beautiful nod to the building’s past comes in the form of specially made newsprint block-embossed tabletops in The Morning Post’s own typeface.
The best seats in the house can be found in Indigo. Overlooking the lobby, the restaurant is now a chic space with a new colour scheme that pays homage to its name. Sumptuous new banquettes are graced by beautiful woven fabric, mixed with leather upholstery. The timber panelling is offset with the coppery shimmer of the mirrors and bespoke plaster and bronze lamps.
The latest work builds on other developments, including the Eneko Basque Kitchen & Bar, which was launched in 2016. The restaurant is an alluring but relaxed space, with its statement Basque oak wall, ruby red leather flourishes, and friendly communal dining atmosphere. Elsewhere, the gym has undergone a full renewal with the latest Technogym equipment, including Skillrow, Skillmill and Artis range of cardiovascular machines, as well as a dedicated free weights area. Meeting and private dining rooms offer fabulous contemporary areas for up to 50 seated or receptions of 85, the screening room (or cinema) seats 30 for private screenings and presentations with an adjoining dining room, and in the building’s basement the spa, which offers exclusive Natura Bissé and OSKIA products and treatments, leads on to the 18-metre/56-foot chlorine-free swimming pool with underwater music, steam room
The overall look is one of understated luxury. Its simplicity in styling and gentle colour palette is what makes the interiors so elegant. With inspiration for the hotel’s new look taken from the building’s own history, there’s a relevance to the design that gives guests a sense of place and knowing. One Aldwych’s new look certainly has that British charm about it, and manages to fit just perfectly within its magical Covent Garden setting.