Two years ago, the historic Savoy Hotel in London made a grand entrance back into the world after a stunning and much talked about restoration that took three years to complete. The beautiful work paid off—the rooms are filled, the restaurant tables are booked, the bars are buzzing and the Hotel is one of the hottest and most splendid venues England’s capital has to offer right now.
Since reopening, the Hotel has hosted fabulous, star studded events such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Street Party in June 2012 where 100 guests celebrated with street entertainment, traditional British food—and the Savoy Punch, a specially concocted cocktail that flowed freely from the Hotel’s driveway fountain.
The Grand Dame’s New Look
“The hotel had become tired and was in need of updating,” says Charlotte Faith, the Hotel’s press officer. “So it closed in December 2007 for a restoration.” Architects Rearden Smith, renowned for their ability bring out the best in old, luxury hotels and who also worked on the overhauling of Grosvenor House and The Cumberland in London, took on the job.
“Much of the ‘old’ Savoy was retained in the ‘new’ Savoy,” explains Faith. “For example, in the Front Hall the original mahogany panelling was stripped back and repolished to show the natural beauty of the grain, and the details of Bertram Pegram’s frieze, An Idyll of a Golden Age, shine through now that is has been painted white against a celadon background. Throughout the building, original features such as mouldings, fixtures and fittings have been kept and incorporated into the Hotel’s signature Art Deco design. Over 400 pieces of furniture were also taken away, restored and reinstalled.”
Indeed the Art Deco style features strongly at The Savoy, alongside the Hotel’s original Edwardian style. This happy marriage of the two historically consecutive but distinct design and architectural styles is seen throughout the Hotel, and each style is given parts of the Hotel to which it is dedicated. The front entrance, for instance, is distinctively Art Deco, with its trademark Lalique fountain marking the driveway; but as soon as you enter the Front Hall, Edwardian dominated décor takes over, which is carried through to the elegant Upper Thames Foyer where the ornate fine tea store, Savoy Tea is located.
Here, the Hotel’s artistic pastry chefs and chocolatiers work their craft, bringing exquisite cakes and confectioneries to life, mainly for the popular afternoon tea that is taken in the main Thames Foyer—also Edwardian in style—around a charming glass copula. Savoy Tea is a relatively new addition to the Hotel, carries specially blended teas and custom-made tea accessories such as the Hotel’s china tea service and homemade jams and biscuits, and is a charm to browse and shop in.
“The Hotel was built in 1889 in an Edwardian style, and additions were made to the hotel in the 1920’s which were Art Deco in style,” continues Faith. “Our interior designer for the restoration, Pierre-Yves Rochon, kept these two main elements and honoured them in his new design for the hotel. In addition, he also incorporated the history of the building and its location.”
Enter the American Bar and you are again the world of Art Deco. Here the Roaring 20s feed the ambiance, with classic cocktails, jazz every night and a free-spirited elegance in the air. The cultural edge is taken up a notch in the Beaufort Bar, where burlesque and cabaret evenings are put on every month, and guests sip champagne from one of the most delicious and wide-ranging champagne menus in London. An interior of solid black and thousands of pounds worth of burnished gold leaves makes this a decadent lair in which to have a few glamourous drinks.
A Character Has Re-emerged
In the 268 guest rooms and suites, the showcase of the two styles continues. Each room or suite is decorated on one of the styles, has a distinct identity, and, as one would expect, no two rooms are alike. Details like period artwork and photographs, table lamps, ornaments, books add the finishing touches to each room’s unique identity, while broader design elements like the flooring, carpeting, upholstery, wallpaper and paint, furniture create the overall setting for each historical style.
The grandest accommodation at the Hotel, for instance, the Royal Suite, is a glorious example of the Edwardian style. This £10,000-a night two-bedroom apartment that occupies the front stretch of the fifth floor of the Hotel has extensive wood and marble finishes, formal Edwardian furniture and precious artwork also dating from that era. Restored to a tune of £2.5 million, this 3,498 square feet suite also boasts an entrance hall, office, sitting room, dining room for eight, walk-in dressing rooms and a service kitchen for guests who travel with a personal chef.
Interior designer Rochon’s attuned hand and cultural sensitivity really underlies the expression of all this. As he says, “Each hotel has its own distinct identity, based on the building (either new or old), the location, the owner and the guests. I help reveal this. A luxury hotel is an exceptional place, with a vitality that is specific to itself.”
A Look Back in Time
Although The Savoy Hotel was built in the 19th century the history of the site dates back to the 13th century, when Count Peter of Savoy built the Savoy Palace here.
The hotel officially opens on 6 August 1889.
The Strand block opens in 1904 and work continues on the Hotel through the 1930s
In 1930 the American Bar publishes the The Savoy Cocktail Book with 750 recipes and Art Deco illustrations. This classic has become a hotel treasure and remains in print today.
More Ghosts than Most
Who hasn’t stayed, wined or dined at The Savoy? The Hotel’s past guests, whether staying or merely visiting, is a list of luminaries from the worlds of art, entertainment, politics and royalty.
The endless list of The Savoy’s who’s who includes:
Claude Monet, who painted his famous landscapes of the River Thames from his room at The Savoy, and who now has a suite named after him
Oscar Wilde, who conducted his affair with a male lover here, that led to his infamous trial for gross indecency
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
But the Hotel’s most famous guest is—a black cat. Kasper the cat was created in the 1920s, as a key player in an intriguing Hotel myth. It was believed that one must never have 13 guests at a table, and that if one did, misfortune would befall the last guest to leave that table. So the Hotel created a dummy guest—Kaspar, a three-foot tall wooden cat. He would be brought out to join any party of 13 to make up the 14th guest, and would be given a napkin and served food, just like all the other guests. Kaspar still stands in the hotel, although he is rarely used nowadays.
The Savoy: The Old is New Again
Its perfect restoration positions London’s famous hotel for the future.
This article was first published in Tatler Homes