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  • Writer's pictureRuth Arad

Hotel Design Blog – Mondrian London Hotel – My English Love Affair, Part III

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Hotel design is a field that has both private and public facets. Its many aspects express commercial, domestic and personal characteristics. The occupation of hotel design allows the creation of a unique story. The guests, the hoteliers and the chain of people involved in the process together create a personal story – an all-encompassing and complete hospitality experience.

This is the seventh blog in a series being written as I travel the world in the wake of hotels that excel because of exceptional design. Hotel and hospitality design has been my discipline and my business for a decade. In my blogs I invite you to come along to wonderful, faraway places. In each blog, we’ll take a short trip together toward extraordinary experiences that will be etched into your memory. Each journey will be accompanied by professional explanations that will add another layer to the hospitality experience.

This is the third article in the series of my English love affair, and it relates to London, my long-time love. My connection to England was born when I was first exposed to the art of William Turner, and became acquainted with the history of the United Kingdom. Both captured my heart and took me to England at the age of 18 on a trip to visit the castles of Wales.

I have chosen to write the last of my series on English hotel to give my impressions of Mondrian London, a contemporary hotel in Britain’s capital, owned by Morgans Hotel Group, which has two other captivating hotels in London – Saint Martins Lane and Sanderson.

Looking at the history of art, we see that the centres of arts migrated over time – Italy was at its centre in the Renaissance Period, France during the Impressionist era, and then on to New York, the centre of Modernism. Nowadays, to my mind, the global centre of art belongs to the English in general, and London in particular. The melting pot of cultures creates a cosmopolitan variety on a wonderful platform of cultures and art forms.

Mondrian London opened in 2014. Its interior design was placed in the hands of renowned designer Tom Dixon. The building itself – the iconic Sea Containers Building – was designed in 1970 as a hotel by the well-known American architect, Warren Platner. However, with the economy in the doldrums at that time, the building became the headquarters of a shipping company named Sea Containers. Platner, the architect, is also known, among others, for the iconic chairs he designed. One of his chairs is still produced by Knoll, the legendary furniture maker, and Dixon has placed one in each of the Hotel’s rooms.

In 2011, the office building was converted into a five-star hotel comprising 359 rooms. Mondrian London is located on the South Bank of the Thames and the unique treatment of the Hotel’s design begins from the street, where use is made of flooring that similarly follows through into the lobby area. A comparable play occurs above us, where the representation of the outer roof is carried inwards to the ceiling, with its light fixtures in the same key.

Exterior | Credit:

A view from the outside in reveals elements belonging to the design of the space, a continuation of the pavement in the bricks that repeat themselves in the lobby, as well as in the interior ceiling and lighting elements, which are identical to those used externally. The blue sculpture seen outside repeats itself in the lobby, as does the impressive wall clad in copper, which resembles the outer casing of a ship.

Interior | Credit: Ruth Arad

The design of the transition between exterior and interior uses a path clad in the same flooring as outside, extending the stroll into the lobby space and creating a sort of playground that includes a metal swing, and takes us onward to the lobby’s seating area, where different types of floor coverings converge.

The blue sculpture and the facade of the exterior of a ship’s hull made in copper . The reception desk forms a part of this facade, and a horizontal window connects guests to hotel personnel. | Credit: Mondrian London

The concept of the interior design is based on the glamour of passenger ships in the 1920s, and the wish to create the experience of a transatlantic liner at anchor. The ship cladding accompanies the guests into the restaurant space. The Hotel’s main restaurant – Sea Containers – is named for the shipping company that previously inhabited the building, and the menu it offers remains true to the seafaring world. Inspired by the golden age of hospitality on a transatlantic voyage, the restaurant combines American and English cuisine, and takes the best from both.

The passageway between the lobby and the restaurant | Credit: Mondrian London

The light reacts to the guest | Credit: Ruth Arad

The light revealed to us in this image adorns the area next to the lifts – it is art that simulates sunlight, responding to the distance or the proximity of the viewer in relation to it.

The lifts themselves are an experiential and exciting event, and while I haven’t as yet divulged all the Hotel’s wonderful facilities, as we are standing at the lifts, we absolutely must peek into them. An element that I particularly like in design is the continuity of treatment, with the different spaces imparting a common atmosphere. Obviously, at times, hotels can be left with areas that remain “untreated” – and these are most often the lifts, the corridors, and the transit areas. When I encounter a project that cleverly treats every one of its spaces, I enjoy it all the more. Such is the experience at the Mondrian, where the lifts are decorated with changing holograms, each lift delighting us with a different surprise that creates interaction between the guest and the staff.

3D holography on a human scale | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

Although the images diverge from the nautical concept, they are in fact images of members of Dixon’s team or individuals that have a special significance for him. Tom Dixon’s design is wonderful and his style shows the hand of a confident, mature artist. His lighting fixtures greet us from every corner as does his furniture. His choice of finishing materials projects drama and tension between materials. We had afternoon tea in the seating area between the bar and the restaurant, where we enjoyed the intimacy of the setting – furniture of Dixon’s design alongside a collection of ancient nautical objects – and a private view of the Thames promenade.

The seating area facing onto the Thames | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

Next door is the Dandelyan Bar, which in 2016 was chosen as the bar with the best drinks menu in the world!

The Dandelyan Bar offers exotic cocktails in a mix of unexpected flavours | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

For anyone familiar with the world of bars, the Dandelyan Bar was established by Ryan Chetiyawardana a.k.a. MrLyan, the 2015 winner of the World’s Best Bartender title. A combination of beverages and plants is the focal point of the drinks served here, a mix that is clearly evident in the design of the space and used in its visual communications, such as the magnificent botanical illustrations used in the menus. I chose one of the designs and had it framed as an artwork to hang in my flat.

The iconic bar | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

The level of detail in the furnishings is evident in Dixon’s brass tables, designed for the Hotel, the colour scheme that he chose for the different spaces works wonderfully well – the combination of green, pink and brass, while the division of one large expanse into separate intimate seating areas has been carefully thought out.

We continued on to get an impression of other parts of the Hotel and went up to the guest bedrooms. The guest rooms are the most functional space in any hotel and it is here that the design needs to switch to something more functional, to meet all the needs of guests. It is here that Dixon’s touch is most palpable in terms of furniture, the matching of fabrics to the colour palette, and even in the creation of personal art that is repeated in different variations in every room.

A guest bedroom with the iconic chair honouring architect Warren Platner | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

The bedrooms are a delight to the eye. The wardrobes are of classic design and incorporate traditional carpentry in a light grey finish, but a surprise awaits the guest when they open the door, as the wardrobe’s interior is painted in a bracing shade of fuchsia pink.

Artwork created by Dixon in acrylic paint corresponds with the bright hues of the fabrics used for the bedspread and cushion covers | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

The bathrooms are clean-cut and minimalist | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

The clean-cut, minimalist bathrooms are finished in pristine white Carrara marble, imparting a strong aesthetic sense. The shower surround and the door are of milky opaque glass, while the metal elements are of shiny nickel.

We saw two others spaces as part of the tour, and I recommend that every guest experience these areas. The Agua Spa and Bathhouse, located in the basement, is branded to correspond with the abstract art that Dixon created for the guest rooms. The spa is decorated in shades of white.

The highpoint of the area for resting between treatments is the specially commissioned floor-to-ceiling copper ‘teardrop’ centrepiece. Dixon is known for his frequent use of metal; he excels in creating unique shapes and visually stunning finishes that showcase the breadth of knowhow and expertise used in their creation. This use of materials is equally expressed in his lighting fixtures and in the detail in his furniture, showing off yet another dimension of his virtuosity.

The magnificent copper centrepiece at the heart of the Spa | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

The Spa’s entrance lobby | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

The entrance lobby to the Spa offers a seating area decorated in a light colour palette – white walls and fawn furnishings, juxtaposed against the brass finish on the emergency exit doors required in a basement, and adding to the overall look.

For ‘dessert’, we’ll head up to the roof level, which can be reached in one of two ways – one is directly from the lobby for party-goers arriving specifically for a celebration, and the second is for Hotel guests via the main lifts. The design of the rooftop bar, called the Rumpus Room, was inspired by The Bright Young Things – the decadent British aristocratic and upper middle-class party set of the 1920s, who were regularly featured in the tabloid press.

St Paul’s and the City’s skyline from the Rumpus Room | Credit: Morgans Hotel Group

The Rumpus Room is designed to inspire the spirit of a time when a party was a way of life, and the spark of a glittering moment passed even before it was felt. I recommend going with a group of friends and ordering champagne towards sunset as this rooftop venue offers a wonderful view of London and the banks of the Thames.

Champagne on ice to greet the sunset | Credit: Ruth Arad

Mondrian London offers other experiences, but I shall leave these for you to discover for yourself.

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