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Rosewood Hotel - Best design hotels in London
Durston Saylor

The best design hotels in London

They're chic, innovative, artsy and inventive - London's best design hotels push the envelope, going that extra mile in the name of style

By Ruth Jarvis and James Manning

Ah, the glamour of travel. ‘Priority boarding’ queues, sad sarnies and hand-luggage Nazis – it surely doesn’t come from flying anymore. Fortunately, London’s best design hotels have stepped up to the mark. As we tire of cookie-cutter guest rooms (often pre-fabricated, natch), no self-respecting newcomer to the scene opens without the services of a designer or two to bring some style and individuality to your stay. It’s no longer enough to deploy a Le Corbusier copy or a glass wall or two: for real designer bang, look for innovative new-builds, refurbs of historic buildings, artsy goings-on and digs in private members’ clubs. The shock of the new is (mainly) out; a more subtle interplay with the past is the designer order of the day, with a pleasingly luxe, louche vibe. Let our list of the best design hotels in London help you sort the chic from the sheep.

Looking for more options? Check out London’s best Airbnbs

The best design hotels in London

A double room in The Standard London hotel
A double room in The Standard London hotel
Photograph: David Cleveland

1. The Standard London

Hotels King’s Cross

How do you turn an outdated brutalist council building unfondly nicknamed ‘The Egg Box’ into an ultra-hip hotel? Book designer Shawn Hausman, who has reimagined the former Camden Town Hall Annexe as a ’70s futurist fever dream (fans of JG Ballard’s ‘High Rise’ will feel right at home here). The ground-floor lounge is a surreal recreation of a public library, packed with pot plants and sofas. Psychedelic opulence gives way to Scandi mid-mod in the bedrooms. And if you don’t like brutalism, book a room with a balcony bathtub from which to admire the Victorian grandeur of George Gilbert Scott’s St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

2. Ace Hotel London Shoreditch

Hotels Boutique hotels Shoreditch

Not that Shoreditch needed any confirmation of its hipness, but that’s what it got in 2013 when the Ace mini-chain decided to bestow on it the first out-of-the-USA exemplar of its Seattle slacker-chic. Hey, guys, weren’t we doing this yonks ago? We forgive you, though: what’s not to like about vintage furniture, cute room radios, a basement club and the world’s coolest climbing wall not actually made of ice? Especially since they use local designers and host some neat free events.


3. The Beaumont

Hotels Mayfair

Jeremy King and Chris Corbin have brought the stardust they effortlessly sprinkle on their restaurants (Le Caprice etc) into the hotel trade with the Beaumont. It’s a loving and lavish tribute to Art Deco, all Prohibition chic and Hollywood hush, delightful in its detail and low-key glamour. But wait, what’s this? That tumble of cubes projecting from the frontage rewrites all the rules. It’s an Antony Gormley sculpture, externally a meditation on the artist’s body and internally – a bedroom. Guests inhabit the artwork by climbing nine marble steps from the bathroom and withdrawing into sculpted darkness. 

4. The Green Rooms

Hotels Boutique hotels Wood Green

Green Rooms is a winning new social enterprise that supports art and design through such innovative touches as offering visiting creative types a reduction on the already modest room, apartment and dorm rates (and yes, they check!). Furnishings are simple but stylish, with some items by fashion label Folk, and there’s a vibey café/bar plus regular out-there arts events. It’s in a converted Art Deco office building near Wood Green tube for a speedy journey into central London.  


5. Ham Yard Hotel

Hotels Soho

Kit Kemp and her Firmdale Hotels group invented urban-country chic, but don’t be deceived: the fact that her style is comfortable doesn’t mean it isn’t also radical. She created Ham Yard from the ground up, and as well as this sumptuous hotel, it contains 13 shops, a bowling alley, a theatre and a garden - with a Tony Cragg sculpture - and a clutch of winched-in oak trees. Indoors, the style treads a capricious line between classic and quirky, rich with Kemp’s ebullient fabrics. 

6. The Hospital Club

Hotels Boutique hotels Covent Garden
Book one of the 15 guest rooms at this buzzy members’ club and you’ll also get access to its bars, restaurant, gallery, gig space and TV studios – visiting creatives will feel right at home. Rooms are individually and rather cosily designed with some eye-catching recycling art (a door made of leather belts, for example) and each functions as a mini-gallery, showing a headline artist from the club’s community (writer Ben Okri, for example). Make sure you’re home for the turndown cocktail trolley service.

7. The London Edition Hotel

Hotels Boutique hotels Fitzrovia
This is the London outpost of a new international collection from Ian Schrager, who pretty much invented the design hotel 30 years or so ago (his Sanderson and St Martin’s Lane ventures are still going strong here). There’s more substance alongside his style these days: his suave study-style decor gets along swimmingly with the high ceilings and ornate mouldings of the grandiose 1835 building, particularly in the Jason Atherton restaurant Berners Tavern. 

8. Mondrian at Sea Containers

Hotels Luxury hotels South Bank
It’s no accident that this Thames-side hotel looks like a cruise liner moored on the South Bank. The US owners, the Morgans Group, wanted its transatlantic collaboration to look like one, and installed Tom Dixon, former creative director of Habitat, at the helm (pun intended) to work up the idea of a 1920s liner. There’s no shortage of wow factor, starting with a copper-clad hull crashing through the lobby, but if you by any chance tire of the maritime interiors, most rooms offer great views of the Thames. 
Rosewood London - Best Design Hotels in London
Rosewood London - Best Design Hotels in London
Durston Saylor/Rosewood London

9. Rosewood London

Music Music venues Holborn
So opulent are Rosewood’s history, architecture and decoration, that calling it a mere design hotel seems trifling. Built as the headquarters of an insurance company from 1912, it trumpeted its wealth and status to the empire with its carriage entrance and seven-storey marble staircase, and continues to speak to wealth and privilege through its fine interiors, finely restored. What is truly stunning though is the interior design of Martin Brudnizki, which brings a vibrant visual panache to what could have just been showing off.  

10. Sanderson

Hotels Fitzrovia
The Sanderson gets our vote for its uncompromising design stance. Where most style hotels offer cosmetic spins on traditional comforts, the Sanderson was imagined by the legendary Philippe Starck as ‘a surreal, Cocteau-like dream world’, and if the Perspex armchairs aren’t terribly comfortable, hell, then just pop down to the lobby and sit on Mae West’s lips instead. We like that the building’s blocks of design, light and space, are respected in the rectangular rooms of the original 1950s wallpaper showroom, with bathrooms separated only by glass and gauze curtains. 

11. Town Hall Hotel

Hotels Boutique hotels Bethnal Green

The Town Hall Hotel had design aspirations way before it welcomed its first guests. The original Edwardian building was a showcase of civic pride, and architectural tastemaker Nikolaus Pevsner praised its 1930s extension for its ‘subtle but expensive Deco style’. Today, it’s a visual feast of sweeping corridors and clerkly masculinity enlivened by striking modern touches (not least the in-room goldfish). Rates are less sky high than at its more central competitors, but the east London location is an asset for style seekers, and a hip vibe pervades. 

The 100 best hotels in London

Ham Yard hotel
© Simon Brown

The 100 best hotels in London

The research is done, the results are in. From five-star to budget, we've made our definitive list of the best hotels in London with something for everyone.

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