The Spirit of The Dorchester
The Dorchester is one of the world’s most famous hotels, a much loved London landmark and a destination in itself.
London has its share of fabulous hotels but there is something extra special and unique about The Dorchester that sets it apart.
Unlike most hotels, in any category, The Dorchester has a real life character; a welcoming, hospitable spirit.
Anyone who has visited the hotel more than once will recognise this.
As soon as you walk through the main entrance and lobby, into and along the interior Promenade, you are struck by a sense of friendly familiarity.
As if you’re returning to an area that you’re particularly fond of; familiar sounds, scents and sights.
The feeling is real, almost palpable, it’s a homecoming.
This experience is not uncommon with local restaurants or bars, but it is rare for a major city hotel.
When the Dorchester announced that it was to undergo a significant refurbishment there was much concern.
Many worried that the spirit of the hotel would be lost.
Garden art at The Dorchester, by Justin De Souza
A similar thing happened with the Savoy hotel during its refurbishment, many were anxious to see how much of its identity would be lost.
Of course, in that instance, they need not have worried.
The ‘new look’ Savoy was an homage to the original, just better equipped to face the 21st century.
Phase One of The Dorchester’s refurbishment, which includes an upgrade of all public areas, an improved forecourt and garden, and a new-look bar is now complete.
To oversee this work the hotel’s owners (The Dorchester Collection) placed their trust in the experience of architects, Reardon Smith, appointed as lead designer and architects, and interior designer, Pierre-Yves Rochon to deliver a new look that would satisfy its guests, old and new.
For the bar, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, was appointed.
It makes a lot of sense to turn to the best in the business when you’re looking for the best results.
Respectively Reardon Smith and Pierre-Yves Rochon are amongst the world’s best hotel architects and designers.
They have worked together on several high profile projects in recent years, including The Savoy and the Four Seasons Hotel, Park Lane.
In the main lobby, the removal of the mezzanine floor has created a light-filled space of grandeur with a beautiful ornate ceiling supporting a sparkling chandelier centrepiece.
There are significant new artworks in the lobby, placed within the two new alcoves that house the reception and concierge desks.
These are stand-out pieces that truly enhance the arrival experience.
Lobby artwork by Sophie Coryndon (main image) and Christian Furr (bottom right)
Off the lobby is The Dorchester’s famous Promenade that runs through the heart of the building and is perhaps the one area that the hotel’s hordes of devotees have cherished the most over the years.
Thankfully, the structure is unchanged although it has been enhanced with better lighting, black marbled columns, a new and sophisticated colour palette, modern artwork and a fabulous new island bar.
Adorning this space is one of just six pianos once owned by Liberace, now meticulously restored by Markson Pianos of London.
The Artist’s Bar on The Promenade
Vesper bar (above) by Martin Brudnizki
The legendary Bar at The Dorchester (Vesper) has been refurbished and enlarged with a new outdoor terrace and a dedicated Park Lane entrance; the interior style, by Martin Brudnizki, is inspired by the 1930s.
Oil on canvas (above) by Amy Judd
Art has become a real focus for the hotel and along the entire length of the Promenade are some exceptional pieces; a mixture of modern, abstract and classic, it’s an inspiring collection curated by art consultancy, Visto.
Art (clockwise from left), Helen Ballardie, Jake Frame, Helen Sear
Most of the works here share a country garden or meadow theme, a theme enhanced by floral prints on the furniture, upholstery and scatter cushions, freshly cut flowers in abundance and oversized potted plants.
Much improved lighting reflects in the mirror-clad walls and mirrored ceiling panels to give the Promenade a wider, more open appearance than before.
The Dorchester’s famous exterior
Externally, newly landscaped and hardscaping areas to the forecourt have been levelled for improved access and clad in a green granite, sourced from Scotland.
A honed black granite adorns the steps at the front entrance. New plantings and low-level railings to The Dorchester’s garden enhances the area, making it a verdant focal point for guests arriving and departing from the hotel.
The façade entrance has undergone a major renovation which includes the rebuilding of the canopy that is respectful of the listed status of the hotel.
Replacement of the existing windows throughout has significantly improved acoustic and thermal performance, with the new windows sourced to match the existing.
The familiar yellow and white striped awnings to the upper floors at the front of the building are retained, in keeping with The Dorchester’s earlier designs, to ensure that valued continuity is maintained.
Side of Artist’s bar with wall art opposite by Melanie Goemans
The refurbishment of The Dorchester is a vast visual improvement that has allowed for much needed MEP repair and replacement.
The upgrades, led by engineers, PSH Consulting, included new fan coil units, pipework distribution, electrical services, including lighting, and improvements to the existing audio visual/information technology facilities.
In addition, significant investment and upgrade has also been made to much of the main plant including the main LV switchgear replacement, chiller replacements and air handling unit replacements.
The project has also taken the opportunity to improve the existing fire strategy within a new standby generator and smoke ventilated escape stairs.
Art clockwise from top left, Eleanor Watson, Maria Rivens, Oliver Clare
The hotel is and has remained operational during construction, with sequencing carefully managed to avoid disruption for guests.
The first phase of the renovation includes 58 guestrooms on levels one and two, where selected rooms and suites have been enlarged and the bathrooms refurbished.
With 193 guestrooms remaining, the second phase works will include levels three to eight, scheduled for completion in Quarter 2 of 2024, and the final phase will include level nine, an exciting new concept that is yet to be announced by the Dorchester Collection.
We may well be a year or two away from the completed project but, so far so good.
The overall look and feel of The Dorchester has been respectfully retained.
The hotel is still the delightful, eccentric and rare property that it always was.
Aficionados will doubtless approve and new guests will be equally enthralled.
The spirit of The Dorchester is still very much alive.
Credit: detail from Maria Rivens artwork (Elizabeth Taylor) photographed by Mark Read Photography