33 Roland Gardens
SHARE THIS ON FACEBOOK
HOT DEALS AND NEW HOTELS
Interior Design: Anouska Hempel, Martin Goddard, Claire Braybrook
ARCHITECTURE / DESIGN
In 1978, when actress Anouska Hempel converted a collection of Victorian townhouses into an exotic inner-city sanctuary, the idea of a luxury boutique hotel was almost completely unheard of. But Blakes, which occupies a quiet side street in Londonís fashionable South Kensington, has always been an innovator. And now more than 30 years and a multimillion pound refurbishment later, itís still seen as a source of inspiration for hoteliers around the globe.
Central to the hotelís lasting appeal is its elegant, black faÁade, which hides the opulent interiors (and famous guests) from public view. Itís only when you climb the five white stairs to the lobby that youíll become immersed in Hempelís world of exoticism and mystery. Rich eastern tones and textures come together in a blaze of warmth, and there are intriguing artifacts from the designerís travels in Indochina, Africa and the Middle East. Itís undeniably sumptuous, but the effect is soothing, rather than overbearing.
At Blakes, Hempelís central concept focuses on providing well-traveled connoisseurs with three key elements: lavish design, swift service and complete privacy. The thick period walls and lavish furnishings act as a physical cocoon, sheltering guests from unwanted disturbances, but itís even peaceful out in the shared courtyard, where cocktails are sipped among an explosion of lush green plants. Almost everything is made available to guests within the hotel, so unless they get the urge to visit Harrods or Harvey Nichols, both a short taxi ride away, they really neednít leave.
Public areas at Blakes are consistently decadent. Nowhere is this more obvious than at the subterranean Chinese Room restaurant (known among regulars as the Opium Den), where groups of up to 36 can meet among eclectic eastern treasures. Itís a discreet space, with latticed oriental screens separating diners from the rest of the hotel. The adjoining main restaurant is bigger but no less indulgent, with Hempel herself overseeing everything from the furnishings to the content of the dishes.
Exoticism is everywhere at Blakes, but it seems to emanate most strongly from the 47 rooms and suites. Each one is styled differently, with rich cardinal reds or washes of tea rose evoking the vivid colors of far-off places. But certain things are constant from room to room. Each has an iPod dock, TV and telephone by Bang & Olufsen, and the lights are all wirelessly controlled. The designs and concepts are very definitely Hempelís, based on a lifetime of travel, but theyíve been brought to life by a team of highly qualified artisans and craftsmen. At Blakes, comfort and character are both important parts of the experience.