Monday, October 16, 2017

Chic New Hotel in London — Reflections on The Franklin, the Exciting New Place to Stay Near Knightsbridge

This week I have an exclusive interview with hotel designer Anouska Hempel, speaking to me about her design for The Franklin. It’s a fascinating small hotel—and an exciting new London experience. Scroll down for images—and to hear what Anouska told me about her design, ideas, and philosophy.

I’m always looking for a small, private well-designed and quiet hotel in London. Recently I stayed at The Franklin. It’s just around the corner from Harrods in a very quiet residential neighborhood. It was designed by the fantastic and legendary Anouska Hempel, founder/owner/designer of Blake’s and The Hempel, and creator of trend-setting décor around the world.

The Franklin is truly original—and it also feels historic, as if it had been there for years. It overlooks the private and enclosed Egerton Gardens, in a very civilized only-in-London setting. Come with me for a visit.

Above, Anouska Hempel, a hotel design pioneer and now the creator of interiors and style for The Franklin hotel in London.

Anouska Hempel, New Zealand-born and long a resident of London, is one of the most influential hotel designers in the world. 

First she created the opulent private hotel Blake’s in South Kensington. It was London’s first boutique hotel. Her bravura curtain-swagged beds and luscious colors sent traveling style seekers into rapture. Everything was opulent, romantic, and boldly romantic.

Then she dreamed up The Hempel, a dream of pristine white interiors. Her ode to minimalism was emulated around the world.

Anouska Hempel recently completed a dramatic design for The Franklin hotel at Egerton Gardens in London. The décor, sparkling with mirrors, and art-directed in subtle and tranquil tones of poetic grey, will once more set trends.

It was Elisabetta Fabri, president and CEO of Starhotels, the Florence-based family company that owns The Franklin who had the brilliant idea to engage Anouska Hempel for the Franklin. Fabri worked closely with Hempel to create a breathtakingly beautiful hotel.

The luxury portfolio of Starhotels Collezione properties also includes Castille Paris, the Splendid Venice, and the recently acquired Hotel d’Inghilterra and Helvetia & Bristol Firenze, as well as 2 other small hotels in London.

The red brick Franklin, positioned in Knightsbridge a few minutes walk from the Brompton Oratory and Hyde Park, is decorated in tones of grey and ivory, with plush velvet upholstery, mirror-framed botanical illustrations, and large windows overlooking the gardens.

The refined grey tones of the interiors turn the focus to the grey and white ikat print cushions perched on charcoal sofas . The pale effect in the 35 rooms and suites is tranquil and calm, and comfortable.

“It was inspired by Venice,” Anouska Hempel said. “Every room makes you dream. Pure romance.”

A Chat with Anouska Hempel About Inspirations and Décor of The Franklin

DDS: Anouska, congratulations on The Franklin’s transcendently beautiful design. Tell us about your concept. 

AH: The vision was a very beautiful girl in a floating pale grey dress wandering through Venice, lost in the mist. She could see the soft watery colors, and an old stone well, and a marble floor pattern, reflections, canals.

DDS: The Franklin is a unique world. It’s petite, but rich with design concepts, craftsmanship, detail, and handsome materials.

AH: Yes, and my color schemes are grey on grey on grey. A little bit of white. I love entertaining people. I like captivating them, showing them something they’ve never seen before. This grey tonality is new for London. I have had the great experience of owning and running luxury hotels. I would like to go back to wearing my hotelier’s hat again and do everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. I know what it takes to look after people. 

DDS: Most successful concepts include the charcoal gray background with mirror, the Venetian gothic shape of mirrors. There’s a very residential feeling. 

AH: That was the client’s request, to make it look like an Italian residence in London. My fantasy is perhaps a nice rich Contessa hopping around in great style in London and flitting back to Florence and Venice in the summer and taking her English boyfriends with her. 

DDS: Every inch of the hotel is new…but it feels historic.

AH: I worked with all the talented decorative artists I know to be able to do this. We layer and layer. I stand there and watch and then I get the right one and I encourage that to be done again and it is all individually done with a lot of very clever artists from my London group of out of work actors.

DDS: Your use of color is magical. 

AH: Grey on grey! Earl Grey, Dorian Gray, very grey, dove grey, off-white, dust, charcoal, the older-you-go grey, any grey you like. Every which way was grey. And it’s blurred and soft. 

DDS: Your use of mirrors throughout is elegant and transformative. Placed beside windows, mirror ‘screens’ add dimension to suites. 

AH: That was the plan. Thank you for noticing. Reflection, reflection! Life cannot be boring. Change the mood, rearrange the mirrored shutters. Just pure magic. Smoke and mirrors.

DDS: The entry is welcoming, with its enormous central table. Guests can sit there, read a book, chat with a friend, and take tea. 

AH: That was the idea, so that it looked like a sort of Italian living in London with all her books in a whimsical splendor. I encourage the staff to do the same, to treat all guests as though they were the guests of a great Contessa. 

DDS: There’s very little pattern. There’s a decorative monogram. Whose is that monogram you use on window shades and on wall decoration and other locations around the hotel?

AH: The monogram is Lord Egerton’s lover, Joseph Hermann. That was in the day of Oscar Wilde and friends. It’s a little bit of heritage, and I thought it belonged very beautifully to the history and culture and story of Egerton Square and the DNA of The Franklin. And Rosalind Elsie Franklin was the name of the scientist who discovered DNA. She was part of the research. She died very young and therefore is largely, sadly, unrecognized.

DDS: Which aspect of the design are you most pleased with? 

AH: I love the use of big tables. I’ve placed an enormous table in he lobby and in meeting rooms. Sitting around a table, talking around a table, eating at a table is energizing. Gathering around a table is always enjoyable.

DDS: Guests love to discover and hide away in the jewel-like study/office/library/gathering place just off the lobby/entry. 

AH: I positioned a large banquette beneath the bay window, and threw in more natural linen with a dash of emerald silk velvet to give it a softer more relaxed feeling. It’s somewhere to meet a friend and have a chat or play a board game after a day of museums and galleries. 

DDS: Everything is very planned and intentional. But the overall feeling is relaxed and inviting. How did you achieve that?

AH: With a very talented international team of designers and artists, fine craftspeople and specialists in flooring, upholstery, framing, decorative painting, and have course a calm, tranquil color scheme of grey-on-grey.

DDS: Anouska, thank you very much. We can’t wait to return to The Franklin.

AH: Diane, it was a pleasure.

Where to Find:

The Franklin
24 Egerton Gardens

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lines of Precision: San Francisco Interior Designer David Todd Oldroyd Creates Classical Modern Rooms with a Light Touch

David has been a modernist since he started his design and architecture career over twenty-five years ago. He’s a partner with Greg Stewart at ODADA, formerly Orlando Diaz-Azcuy Design Associates, the downtown San Francisco studio noted for perfectly planned and rigorously modern interiors. 

David Todd Oldroyd photographed by Stephan Julliard.

As a skilled minimalist, David Todd Oldroyd is also a secret romantic, enhancing his newly completed interiors with handcrafted objects, rare and beautiful furniture, poetic art, and sexy silver and glass pieces.

“I believe in simply detailed interiors and rigorously planned rooms,” said Oldroyd. “And I love the addition of beautiful and eccentric and arresting pieces to captivate the eye,” said the designer, who is in demand in California for residential projects as well as hotels, and ultra-private estates. “I’m not a fan of hard-edge. I like the effect of interiors to be captivating and welcoming, not at all museum-like.”

Classical Modern: Interiors with Style and Grace

Inspired by his rigorous architecture training and a growing number of devoted clients around the world, David Todd Oldroyd works in a broad swathe of elegant designs and interiors, including a bohemian hotel in Santa Cruz, a penthouse in San Francisco and an ambitious new development in Hawaii. 

• Park Lane Ala Moana — Honolulu, Hawaii •

As a minimalist, Oldroyd is also a romantic, composing classical rooms with ethereal fabrics, sensual handcrafted objects, rare sculpture and antique furniture, poetic art, and sexy silver and glass pieces.

Oldroyd noted that color selections in penthouses and new architecture are lighter and fresher, and not as heavy and earthy.

“For residences, bold contemporary art and sculpture play an essential role in interior design, and are now more than ever necessary to make a room feel of the moment,” said Oldroyd. 
My clients want art and all the latest music and electronic systems, and security systems. And the pace of new technology will continue to accelerate. As designers, we rise to the challenge to stay ahead. It’s exciting.”

Russian Hill residence by John Maniscalco, M/Architecture, San Francisco

David, who grew up in Utah, avoids design and fashion trends and aims for timeless rooms that will not date.

“I tend not to trend, so I select beautiful furniture and objects because excellent design always stay excellent,” said the designer.

He believes that open eyes and a teachable mind are essential to good design to assure that we learn from the past and are ready to embrace new ideas and design for the future.

“Architecture, especially modern architecture, is having a great influence on interiors today,” said Oldroyd. “It is no longer necessary to have a room full of traditional furniture or art to create a feeling of warmth, comfort and luxury. We are now using beautiful marble, sofas with sculptural shapes, warm colors, and texture to add a romantic and inviting feeling.” 

“I’m continually fascinated by interiors that are inviting, even intoxicating without the use of strong color combinations,” said the designer, who is admired for his deft use of palest grey or warm white colors in California rooms.

For a new penthouse in San Francisco, Oldroyd created meticulously custom-detailed interiors that look entirely effortless. The color palette hovers from cloud white to foggy pale taupe to palest sky blue, and the rooms seem to float in the air.

As a counterpoint to the monochromatic palette, he set a triangular gallery wall, sculptural and monolithic, crafted of rich African mahogany with a subtle rippling gleam. Silk carpets, choreographed with abstract swirls, shimmer in the afternoon light.

It’s quiet luxury, with an ethereal gold-painted verre eglomisé screen between a bedroom and a bathroom, silk pillows, and a small effortless kitchen.

Oldroyd likes to inhabit a world of tranquil tonalities. He recently created a room using a subtle palette of pale gray/green/silver/blue/gold. 

“Paled-down tones feel fresh and uplifting and let you “feel” the room rather than just “see” it,” said the designer. “The walls are painted in a chameleon shade of pale gray mist in a matt finish that is both warm and cool. The ceiling is a gently contrasting off-white to lift the eye. The wood floors are clear and stained a light walnut with a hint of green to anchor the room. It’s a very peaceful and harmonious interior.”

• Hotel Paradox — Santa Cruz, California •

Oldroyd has closely observed Northern California interiors over the last three decades and admires the way they have become much more cosmopolitan and contemporary.

“Design on the Peninsula and in San Francisco has become more urban and modern,” he said. “The influence of the relaxed, boldly scaled elegant style that Michael Taylor championed is still felt, and has a timeless quality. The contrasts that he became famous for still feel current today. But this is a much more “vertical” highrise region than it was, and we are responding to that. Floor-to-ceiling glass has become normal and even expected. The influence of the “sky” and the “views’ from condo towers has changed the way we bring the natural world into our rooms.”

Oldroyd’s clients, well-traveled and worldly, are always looking for fresh ways of seeing.

“I love the idea of using no tile in a bathroom, so I’m constantly looking for new materials to use on the wet walls of a shower that will provide the necessary function. My current favorite is exterior plaster, smooth-troweled. It’s practical and it looks very poetic. The hand-crafted texture feels luxurious.”

Oldroyd said it is time to rethink the cluttered garage.

“Most people enter their homes through the garage so it should be an integrated space, elegant and welcoming,” he designer said. “I have artwork on the walls in mine…and I’d have a window with a view if I could afford it.”

Credits and Where to Find

David Todd Oldroyd
ODADA, San Francisco 
Phone 415-362-4500

David Todd Oldroyd graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Brigham Young University in 1986. He joined Orlando Diaz-Azcuy at ODADA in 1990 and became a principal of the firm in 2000. He lives in San Francisco and often travels to Hawaii.

All images courtesy ODADA.

Stephan Julliard, Phillip Harvey, Matthew Millman, Nathan Kirkman, John Merkl and Shaun Sullivan.