How to design a new London hotel (and make it stand out from the crowd)

Hotel Indigo London - Aldgate

Creating a new hotel that doesn’t get lost in the crowded London cityscape is no easy task. We spoke to design and innovation director Henry Reeve about the challenges of opening Hotel Indigo properties at Leicester Square and Aldgate that reflect the spirit of these dynamic London neighbourhoods.

London is such a crowded market place – how do you create something new and different?

London has a lot of great hotels, so it can be tricky, but Hotel Indigo is all about the neighbourhood and, for us, that might mean just the two or three streets surrounding the hotel itself. London provides such a rich tapestry of characters, architecture and ‘micro-locations’ from which to draw inspiration.

What do the two new Hotel Indigo properties in Leicester Square and Aldgate bring to London that wasn’t there before?

Hotel Indigo London – One Leicester Square is the only hotel on the square with a rooftop restaurant and terrace, which gives our guests an unrivalled vantage point from which to watch the comings and goings of the film premiere red carpets below. And Hotel Indigo London – Aldgate is on the edge of the City and Shoreditch, so we had a wonderful opportunity to combine the hipster aesthetic with a clean-cut City edge – that feels very new.

What was the inspiration behind Leicester Square?

Leicester Square is a truly iconic location, but perhaps lacks our usual ‘in the know’ nuance, so we needed to tread carefully. We were inspired by the forgotten Art Deco heritage of the building. We want guests to feel the glamour and prestige of the surrounding theatreland the moment they step inside, so the interior takes inspiration from the golden age of theatre.

All of our hotels have three room types inspired by a ‘neighbourhood story’ we create for each one. In this hotel, the first room type is for an imagined scriptwriter – the artwork above the bed is made from giant scripts covered in coffee stains, notes and doodles. The second room was inspired by ‘back of house’ – the headboard is made from stage scenery ropes, and there are big stage lights and dressing-room-style mirrors surrounded by light bulbs. The final room represents the performance itself – we have used scalloped floor lamps (once used in front of the stage to up-light actors) to highlight a polished and slightly sparkling concrete wall. This idea of ‘before,’ ‘during’ and ‘after’ a theatre production provides a romantic counter-balance to the brash reality of today’s Leicester Square.

Leicester Square is not the only new Hotel Indigo in London. Tell us about Aldgate East.

The story of Aldgate East is of two worlds colliding – the bearded, tattooed hipsters of Shoreditch and the straight-laced ‘suits’ of City. It is a unique combination, so we wanted to make a space where both could feel comfortable. I am hoping to see hipsters rock up on a bike, grab an almond-milk flat white and sit down next to business people finishing a deal over black coffee. Aldgate has so many amazing sources of inspiration, so we’ve combined the classic industrial aesthetic of rich metals and concrete with premium materials such as terrazzo, marble, velvet and pinstripe.

For the first room, we took inspiration from Huguenot Weavers that are a big part of Aldgate’s heritage – the rug is based on a doodle we found in one of their sketchbooks, and the artwork is made from tapestry hoops. The second room is all about the Whitechapel Bell Foundry that cast everything from Big Ben to the Olympic Bell and sadly closed down last year, so we’ve used bells, stamps and indentations. The final room is inspired by the Delft Pottery warehouses that were once in this area, so the rug represents a close-up of a crackled Delft, and we have glazed Delft tiles in the bathroom. We are also partnering with local publishing firm Hoxton Mini Press to provide books for the rooms. Overall, it feels quite heavy and industrial but also refined.

Which part of the process did you enjoy most?

I loved working with an agency in New York called Revolver to develop the identity for the café­ ­in collaboration with Workshop Coffee. We named it Drum & Press – during the day it will serve freshly roasted coffee, and in the evenings, craft beer. We also have our own bespoke fragrance for the hotel, and our own amenities are made in Herefordshire by a company called Evolve. I really enjoy those details.

What is next for Hotel Indigo?

Both of these hotels open in early 2018. By the end of 2017, we will also have a cute little hotel opening in Antwerp, one in Cardiff, and another one in The Hague which will be amazing. Other new hotels include Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Brighton, Bucharest, Dresden, an amazing one in Dundee, Durham, Frankfurt, Milan, and we just had one open in Warsaw too. There’s nothing else in London that I can talk about yet, but watch this space!

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