Tag Archives: Hotel

London Slant: Come and explore the cool new Mondrian hotel

When it opened in the early 1980s Sea Containers House was one of the most glamorous office buildings in London. I was lucky enough to work there and it was always fun to welcome visitors who’d gasp when they arrived. The river views! The marble loos! The Dynasty-style brass lights and balustrades!

Mondrian Hotel London superior room

The view from my former office—now a Mondrian London hotel room.

Our office team worked late and we regularly saw the sun sink down in a flaming ball, passing dead centre through the London Eye. We often joked that we might as well bed down in our offices for the night. Now, the spaces where we beavered away have been turned into the guest rooms of the chic new Mondrian London hotel—and we actually could sleep there.

Mondrian Hotel London

Sea Containers House: like a liner moored by Blackfriars Bridge on London’s South Bank.

Even as an office block, Sea Containers House had the feel of an ocean liner, drifting grandly along the Thames. Its designer, celebrated US architect Warren Platner, was sometimes spotted striding through, captain-like, checking that we didn’t wreck his concept by sneaking in unauthorised table lamps or blinds. Today, the building has been transformed from workplace to hotel by designer Tom Dixon. It’s fascinating to see how he has maintained the original Platner and nautical aesthetics in an interior that is thoroughly 2014.

Best of all, he has connected the building to the riverfront. Restaurants and watering holes open up onto the Thames walkway, there’s a terraced rooftop bar with splendid views of the City spires and many suites have balconies that hover over the river below. It’s a place to sit and be amazed by the diversity of boats and their activities, rather like being on Venice’s Grand Canal with a backdrop of the dome of St Paul’s instead of the Salute and the pealing bells of St Bride’s replacing those of St Mark’s campanile.

Mondrian Hotel London

The copper reception desk, like a ship’s hull, is part of a structure that starts outside the building and continues within.

But the big drama happens at the main entrance, where’s there’s a desk in textured copper shaped like a ship’s hull. Dixon has also brought back the model boats from the building’s office era and mixed them with giant contemporary sculptures for check-ins with “wow”.

Mondrian Hotel London

Contemporary sculptures contrast with model ships to make the lobby funky and fun.

 

My second intake of breath came in the spa, where a droplet of gold is suspended as if set to splash down into a pool. (I was also intrigued to see that the former office reception desk had reappeared at the spa entrance, its marble surface buffed and perfect for this ethereal space.)

Mondrian Hotel London

The dramatic drip in the spa.

Platner‘s layered brass lamps and maritime mirrors appear all over the hotel. I glimpsed the maestro’s touches everywhere from the screening theatre to the Sea Containers private dining room, where the huge gold S and C that formerly sat on the building’s facade now decorate the walls.

Mondrian Hotel London

Riverview suite with Warren Platner chair (centre).

But what most grabbed my attention were Platner’s iconic 1960s chairs. (If you fancy one, they’re yours for £2, 256.) We had them in our meeting rooms and today they look as contemporary as ever in the Mondrian’s top suites.

Full marks to Dixon for taking a building’s heritage and, without ever resorting to cliché, bringing it bang up to date. Sea Containers House was originally constructed as a hotel, but switched to offices before it could open. Now it feels like it has sailed back into port and come home.

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LONDON SLANT: MY JOB INTERVIEW AT THE CORINTHIA HOTEL GOES AWRY

This week I went for a job interview at the glamorous Corinthia Hotel. As they were short-staffed I had to pitch in and help. No sooner had I put on my uniform than I was taking an order from a couple in the restaurant. Later on I had to deal with paparazzi who were hounding a celebrity guest.

I found myself running all over the hotel, from the spa in the basement to the penthouse at the top. I was put in my place by a bossy housekeeper and got ticked off by the maître d’ when my table settings weren’t up to scratch.

Yet after an hour or so I was summoned by the manager who said “You’re hired”.  I think by now you may have guessed that this “ job interview” wasn’t quite what it seems.

Corinthia Hotel

Cue action: Above and Beyond at London’s Corinthia Hotel.

In fact it was all part of Above and Beyond, a “one-on-one immersive theatre experience” currently being staged at the hotel by Look Left, Look Right.  These types of events, currently all the rage in London, are normally put on in dilapidated warehouses in less salubrious parts of town. The setting for Above and Beyond couldn’t possibly have been more different.

You really have to hand it to the Corinthia. They’ve taken stock of their location close by London’s galleries and theatres to create this daring “Artist in Residence programme” to illuminate what their hotel’s all about. But what a risk to stage it among guests paying upward of around £350 a night.

So, every evening for the past few weeks, 24 lucky participants have had individual time slots with a similar number of actors to experience life “back of house”. One minute you’re “working” with hotel staff, the next you’re plunged into nostalgic vignettes from the building’s earliest days. These include the half century or so leading up to 2010 when it was part of the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

I asked the Corinthia’s elegant Mistress of Ceremonies what guests make of actors and their audience careening along the corridors. Most are really intrigued, she said. And some have even taken part.

But what happens when things go awry, as they inevitably will? For me, it all started to go wrong when I got lost on the fifth floor. I ended up tailing a bona fide room service waiter serving dinner to a guest.  When the waiter disappeared, grumbling he was busy, a housekeeper tried to help me, suggesting I knock on a particular bedroom door. When I did, a surprised guest appeared in his dressing gown and slippers. I made my excuses and left.

Massimo restaurant at Corinthia

Scene of strange goings-on: Massimo Restaurant at the Corinthia Hotel.

Above and Beyond is now at the end of its sell-out run, but I’ll be closely watching as the Corinthia’s Artist in Residence programme evolves. I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with next.