Tuesday, October 26, 2010
After my press trip to Paris it was a bit of a let-down to come home and sleep in my own bed. But thankfully I didn’t have to wait long until my next hotel stay. As a bonus, this one was much closer to home. In fact, it was right in London. It was at the Hoxton Hotel.
The Hoxton had fascinated me for a long time. The hotel’s trendy East London vibe and great location in Shoreditch, the hipster heart of the city, have made it a destination since it opened over four years ago. When I first moved to London I heard about the hotel and its famous annual £1 room sale, and started recommending it to friends.
Over the next few years I went to The Hoxton for meetings in the spacious lounge area at the front of the hotel and breakfasts in the sleek scarlet booths at the Grill. However, in all of my time in London, I never made it past the lobby. Being a local, I had no real excuse to stay in the rooms.
But recently The Hoxton unleashed three London designers on as many new guest rooms on the top floor of the hotel. Each of Adrian Kilby, Suzy Hoodless, and Project Orange had a mandate to design and decorate a room in whatever way she or he wanted to. From exposed glass showers to faux-antique armoires, the rooms filled up with funky furniture that, according to the mandate, “fused East London edge and urban lodge warmth, creating a welcoming hotel room that maintained that Hoxton cool.”
Since the rooms were completed, journalists and other invitees have been offered a stay in one of the three and asked to give their feedback. The goal of the exercise was to determine which room would be the model for the Hoxton of the future.
I happened to be one of these lucky invitees, and my turn to stay at The Hoxton came on Sunday evening. When I arrived I was given a tour of each of the three new rooms. The first was Project Orange’s. The space featured a large bed with Brit-themed throw pillows and a colorful quilt, an oversized armchair upholstered in plaid, and the aforementioned glass shower. According to the designers, the room was meant to combine the gritty urbanity of Shoreditch with the creature comforts of an authentic abode.
The second new room at The Hoxton was Suzy Hoodless’. A bit more understated than Project Orange’s room, this one had grey walls all around and a focal point on the bed: three bright pillows with the slogans “Sleep in Bed”, “Party in Hoxton”, and “Milk in Fridge” (there really was milk in the fridge…fresh and free every day). My favorite part of the room, though, was the little black dress painted on the wall beneath the peg and hangers.
The third and final room was mine for the night. Adrian Kilby had employed a mix of bright neon colors, neutral grays, and funky brick to make the room unique. From the heaps of pillows in the center of the bed to the “Live East, Die Young” painting on the wall, Kilby’s design was at once edgy and inviting. The best part of the room was the ceiling, on which an amusing quote about sleep was painted in glow-in-the-dark letters.
When I set my bags down and started to explore, I noticed several entertaining details. In the bathroom, for example, there were signs. One encouraged guests to take the bar of soap home with them while another revealed exactly how much money (25p) the hotel saves when guest re-use their towels. The latter was particularly refreshing, as it always annoys me that hotels tout the environmental benefits of re-using linens without ever admitting to the economic benefits.
After settling in, I went for dinner at Song Que, a great Vietnamese place on nearby Kingsland Road. The street is famous for having the best Vietnamese restaurants in London, and my summer rolls, green papaya salad, and steaming bowl of beef pho didn’t disappoint.
Back at the hotel, I was exhausted from nearly two weeks of traveling and called it an early night. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but think that the bed was one of the most comfortable hotel beds I’ve ever slept in. So much so that when my alarm went off in the morning, I came up with more than a few excuses to sleep for an extra fifteen minutes.
But I had to get up, if only to try the hotel’s creative take on breakfast. The previous night I had received a brown paper bag on which I ticked a box for how many breakfasts I would like and what time I would like them. In the morning my breakfast was delivered to to my door in said bag at said time. Because the hotel’s founder was also one of the founders of Pret a Manger, the complimentary banana, yogurt, and orange juice were naturally all from his former company.
After breakfast I tore myself away from the room and took the elevator to the lobby to check out. Before I left the hotel, though, I had a chance to speak to the director of sales. I asked her which of the three rooms was the favorite so far, and she told me that it was too close to call. Each guest had grown so attached to the room they stayed in that there was no clear winner emerging.
When I returned home, I knew immediately that my own room was no winner whatsoever. Bare white walls, plain floors, and a basic wooden wardrobe weren’t exactly on the cutting edge. I suddenly wished that I could commission one of the designers from The Hoxton to make my own room as stylish and comfortable as the ones in the hotel. Until then, I’ll just have to wait for the next £1 room sale and try to get myself back to The Hoxton.