The Kensington, London
The Kensington relaunches after a multi-million pound investment programme. Hamish Kilburn caught up with Chairman of The Doyle Collection, Bernie Gallagher to understand the finer details of the design…
Within the affluent and leafy Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea –where Queen’s Gate meets the Old Brompton Road – a row of traditional white Victorian houses is home to a discreet and stylish hotel, appropriately named The Kensington. Following an extensive refurbishment programme The Kensington now offers a fresh take on modern comfort and luxury and reopens as the first property in the Doyle Collection portfolio to debut this complete a new look and style. The multi-million pound investment programme has seen major renovations across the hotel group’s portfolio, with more projects planned in all eight properties in the UK, Ireland and Washington DC. For now, at least, The Kensington leads the way.
The redesign – as with all Doyle Collection’s properties – has been overseen by Chairman Bernie Gallagher who, while collaborating with a number of talented designers, takes a very personal interest in every detail. The twelve-month renovation saw all areas of the hotel refreshed. Gallagher is enthusiastic and upbeat when talking about the hotel and it’s clear that The Kensington was a significant project to lead. “London is such a great place to work; it is so stimulating and vibrant. I loved working on this project,” she explains. “There has been a lot of change in the area recently, especially along Old Brompton Road, so it was important for us to capture what Kensington is about, and to respond to this in the design of the hotel to appeal to both locals and guests.”
The residential feel is immediately apparent. The lobby is welcoming and well dressed with small details of character, such as Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty on show and a life-sized brass baby elephant that stands in front of the reception desk. “We oversaw the development of The Kensington into what it is today in conjunction my good friend, Architect Denis Looby of Dublin-based Sheehan and Barry Architects,” explains Gallagher. “Denis was key and the decision to take him on was deliberate. He hadn’t worked on a hotel prior to this, but was renowned for his work on the restoration of many fine 18th and 19th century houses in Ireland. I wanted the hotel to compliment the architecture of the building so, without a shadow of a doubt, he was the perfect man for the job.” This measured decision has resulted in The Kensington feeling less like a hotel and more like a modern members’ club where guests can enjoy all the comforts of home in its elegant and well-appointed surroundings.
Alexander Evangelou, of Alexander Waterworth Interiors (AWI) was responsible for the redesign of the three interconnecting ground floor rooms which make up Town House; creating self-contained, flexible dining, meeting and party venue with its own discreet entrance on Manson Place. “These rooms are now very much integrated into the architecture of the building, with good ceiling heights, open fireplaces and period detailing,” says Gallagher. “We worked closely with AWI to achieve the smart, relaxed ambiance here and the result has been a huge success and a great addition to the hotel.” Walk through these bright and elegant rooms; The Library, The White Room and The Study, with their eclectic collection of contemporary art and artifacts (including a collection of elephants, a theme that runs throughout the hotel as a sign of good luck) and you will see what Gallagher means. “We are always collecting art for the hotels and it is great to draw on this resource to complete our interiors,” she adds.
Further down the corridor, the glamorous K Bar is finished with eye-catching Ocre chandeliers and rich blue George Smith sofas. The softly lit bar with its oak panelling and bookcases serves a selection of the finest whiskeys and cognacs along with a menu if carefully-crafted cocktails.
Upstairs, 126 guestrooms and 24 suites have been individually designed with elegant fabrics, custom furnishings and crisp bed linens. “The rooms had to be completely remodelled. Again, it was very important to integrate modern facilities without jarring with the architecture of the building,” explains Gallagher. “For example, air conditioning had to be hidden without compromising ceiling heights and bathroom layouts had to be carefully considered.” Bedrooms now feel more like those in a beautiful private residence. The suites are decorated in heritage shades with sumptuous velvet armchairs alongside lacquered four-poster beds. The latest technology has been integrated, but never detracts from the design. Marble lined bathrooms have heated floors and freestanding roll-top baths, as well as separate showers and double vanities. Technology is discreet, with a television integrated into the mirror of the Knightsbridge Suite; its appearance invisible until it is switched on, for example.
The final piece in the puzzle of the hotel’s renovation is the soon-to-be-completed Brompton Suite, with Emily Williams of Brady Williams Studios making sure it’s the perfect fit for the hotel’s new aesthetic. “Expect English style rooms with a nostalgic 30’s feel” Gallagher says. “There is a lot of natural light so it will have a fresh country atmosphere.”