At Sloane, in London’s Chelsea, is a brand new hotel.
You wouldn’t know it, the interiors have been deliberately treated to look and feel established.
It’s an extraordinary achievement, as it looks as if the property has been preserved and cared for, cleaned and polished every day for generations.
The hotel is accommodated within a 19th Century mansion, previously divided into large apartments, which sits at the convergence of Sloane Gardens and Holbein Place overlooking Sloane Square.
Typical of the grand red-brick buildings of the Sloane Square Conservation Area, the property is designated a heritage asset.
However, its condition had latterly declined and, in planning to repurpose the property into a luxury hotel, the architects ReardonSmith also sought to assert its prominence as the “crown” to the terraced buildings along Sloane Gardens.
The property has been reconfigured and meticulously refurbished with great attention to detail.
And whilst modern-day building services have been added, including ventilation, air-conditioning and audio, there is little evidence of this.
Everything, it seems, has been upgraded, improved or replaced but with extreme taste and reverence to the original fabric and age of the building.
Like a restored, beautiful piece of art.
The consented plan gained by ReardonSmith encompassed: a façade retention with new foundations; significant structural strengthening of the building to meet the requirements of a hotel; the replacement and extension of the top sixth floor and roof; the introduction of a new basement level; and façade and parapet renovation to improve the building’s longevity and maintainability.
Key to the architectural design was the addition of a copper-clad cupola at the apex of the building, echoing similar features in the neighbourhood and bringing a sense of completion and gravitas to the façade.
The hotel comprises 30 guestrooms, a top floor restaurant, a lobby lounge and a downstairs speakeasy bar pieced together in a complex internal space plan to ensure that the luxury hotel operation would be fully supported within a relatively small, wedge-shaped footprint.
No space was wasted.
The new cupola houses part of the restaurant, an intimate semi-circular area with a table for four offering panoramic city views, while the basement bar opens onto a pre-existing lightwell now renovated to become an elegant outdoor area where operational plant is secreted away behind decorative bespoke grilles.
In addition to access from the hotel, separate stairs on Holbein Place lead down to the bar.
“It is a joy to see so much of Chelsea’s exquisite architecture and rich artistic heritage reflected and celebrated throughout One Sloane – creating a truly beautiful and unique hotel which will appeal to both discerning visitors and locals alike.”
Hugh Seaborn, Chief Executive, Cadogan (owners)
Despite the unusual building form, the guestrooms, while varying considerably in their layout to optimise space, have been designed to afford the opportunity to combine suites and rooms in various combinations to create larger apartments.
The rooms are residential in feel and have a simple elegance; timber panelling incorporates discreet doorways that reveal luxury features including walk-in wardrobes, generously sized cocktail cabinets and tastefully appointed bathrooms.
Close attention to detail was also required in ensuring the complex designs of elements such as the bespoke floor tiling were realised accurately.
Individual floor tiles were measured down to the last millimetre to achieve a perfect fit within the footprint of each space, including intricate tiled fans around corridor corners.
The extensive use of fixed joinery throughout all areas of the hotel was fundamental to the overall design aesthetic.
This was carefully detailed by ReardonSmith to coordinate precisely with a number of critical building elements including both concealed and feature doors, the majority of which have enhanced performance characteristics.
“At Sloane is unique in London, fusing Chelsea charm, Parisian chic and the exoticism of Asia.” states Bradley Fowler, who led the team at ReardonSmith.
“Even though it is new, the hotel feels truly established in its neighbourhood and I am sure it will prove to be a great asset to this area of London.”
ReardonSmith, whose other work in the capital includes the restoration of The Savoy, The Beaumont in Mayfair and the renovation of The Lanesborough, were the architects, responsible for handling all phases of the project from planning to realisation of the design vision on-site.
An exclusive interview with Bradley Fowler can be found at the end of this article.
The esteemed designer Francois-Joseph Graf was the Artistic Director and Interior Designer for the project.
The hotel, owned by Cadogan, is managed by a joint venture comprising Costes Etudes Projets and Hamilton Pyramid Europe.
Here Bradley Fowler, Associate Director at ReardonSmith Architects, discusses his approach to working on high-end projects like At Sloane
GS: When you take on a repurposing project, such as At Sloane, where do you start?
BF: “This varies depending on the project, but broadly speaking our starting point is twofold. We listen to the client to understand what they want to accomplish, and we take stock of what we have in the existing building – what’s good and what’s not so good and which areas have potential for development as either front or back-of-house spaces. We have to be confident that the property can translate into the hotel the client wants and that we are able to advise accordingly.”
What is the balance between planning the building to work operationally and providing stand-out features that are purely or mainly about style?
“Again, this balance can vary from project to project but we always prefer to add elements that not only stand out visually but which have a purpose. On the At Sloane project, for example, we needed to resolve the existing roofscape and extend the top sixth floor. We decided that the addition of a copper-clad cupola at the apex of the building would help us in this task while bringing a sense of completion and gravitas to the façade. It also picked up on and was complementary to similar features in the neighbourhood, adding to the sense of place. Inside, the At Sloane cupola forms an extraordinary nook in the restaurant with remarkable views over London but the key win for the project team was that the planners enthusiastically backed our proposed roof level addition which has now become a truly special restaurant that is an essential part of the Hotel.”
How do you add value to the designer’s interior concept?
“By joining up the dots between the designer’s concept and what the contractor needs to build it. Designers are not always appointed to provide the level of information that contractors require and, certainly at ReardonSmith, we can spend a lot of time in a technical design role converting the designer’s packages into the detailed information that the contractor needs. In addition, we often find ourselves working with overseas designers who understandably are not conversant with UK regulations so we can add value here as well.”
How do you perceive your role on-site?
“The on-site architectural team has a critical part to play in delivering the design intent, in practical problem-solving, in constructive communications between all parties and, ultimately, in achieving the client’s vision. When you encounter difficult situations, the diplomatic approach always works best. You need to maintain sight of the big picture whilst attending to the myriad of small, medium and large things that constitute the big picture.”
As leader of the architectural team working on At Sloane, how would you summarise your experience?
“At Sloane was a unique project with a unique outcome. It would not have been possible without a great team, which we most certainly had!”
And what are you working on now?
“This time, it is a refurbishment of an existing hotel that is quite large in scale, so in that respect it’s quite different from At Sloane. However, similarly to At Sloane, it is also a very significant and prestigious project.”