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


La Contessa said...

I loved this" 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. "
How about I take my ITALIAN Husband of 32 years there next SPRING!Than we can JETE to FIRENZE and visit our old HAUNTS..............THE HOTEL IS A MASTER PIECE!

carrps said...

It's a beautiful hotel in a beautiful setting, but I cannot wait for this fascination with grey to end. In every picture, I could see how much better they would look with some color. Just my personal quirk, but I've always disliked grey and found it profoundly depressing.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Your exuberance is wonderful.

You will find the hotel wonderfully fresh and inventive...

it is an adventure...and the lovely setting is exciting as you come and go. Gardens are peaceful and delightful.

London in the you come...bon voyage!!! DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


The effect of pale grey in these rooms is very tranquil and peaceful. I would not say the rooms are depressing...they are soothing and busy rushing and noisy London this is wonderful.

The redbrick exterior and the garden at the back of the hotel...are part of the view...and the grey and ivory and white are a lovely calming atmosphere. I understand your concern...and your opinion is this case color is not needed for effect...with a lot of beautiful materials and details and craftsmanship.

perhaps go there for a drink..the bar is great and you would find it all uplifting--DIANE

Beauty Follower said...

Wonderful place!

My new blog...

columnist said...

Looks glorious, and Egerton Gardens is a fabulous address in London. (No doubt matched by the fabulous price of a room per night!)

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Columnist-

I loved the adventure--and tranquility--of THE FRANKLIN.
It's a fantastic the middle of everything but in its own quiet world, very residential. The hotel is very small...three joined buildings/ residences/ ... and the lobby it feels more like a private house, in a chic way...

The tariff...traveling offseason as I did is always great for tariff...and as you know hotels around the world all have what I call 'PARK AVENUE' and 'PLACE VENDOME' pricing. In is international prices and Bangkok as you know sky high.
Off season is a great response...and I have a friend who is excellent at finding late-night/ last minute bargains...
Still...yes...good hotels today are pricey...I travel off season in response...happy trails to you as always, you are the great traveler--DIANE