First impressions count, especially when it comes to our homes. Whether you’re buying or selling a home or welcoming guests to a beautiful hotel, there is something tone-setting about a lobby or hallway. At home, you can achieve a sense of calmness and decompression as you pass through a front door into a soothing, cocoon-like space, signalling the end of the working day. In hotels, restaurants, bars, and even design-led developments, many designers have achieved a filmic quality in their lobby spaces, giving the process of entering the building a sense of occasion. This week, I’ve rounded up some of London’s most exquisite lobbies, which you can go and see for yourself as the city begins to reopen. They may even provide a little first impression inspiration for your own home.
First up is the most awe-inspiring lobby in London, Westminster Central Lobby. At the heart of the House of Parliament, between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the Central Lobby has been undergoing a major restoration that has taken 14 years to complete. One of the most fascinating elements of the conservation of the lobby, the building of which commenced in 1840, is the floor. After 150 years of use, the encaustic floor tiles, the vibrant colours of which extend two millimetres into the tile to ensure longevity and durability, were deteriorating. The full restoration of the encaustic tiled floor was unveiled in May this year after almost 60,000 tiles were either conserved or reproduced to ensure the iconic lobby was preserved in its original form. The company behind the sensitive treatment of this iconic floor, which has carried the footsteps of Churchill, Gladstone, Thatcher, and countless other political figures, is Craven Dunnill Jackfield, the UK’s leading handcrafted tile manufacturer that specialises in colour matching and restoring tiles in historic public, commercial and residential properties. The company is also responsible for a growing portfolio of other high-profile restoration projects in London, including work for Harrods Food Hall, Kew Gardens, and The Garrick Club.
Although you may not have the luxury of the scale of the Westminster Central Lobby in your own home, encaustic floor tiles do provide a stylish and pragmatic flooring option for hallways. The colours and patterns available make a real statement and add a heritage feel to even the most modern spaces. If you choose to install this kind of flooring, ensure that any metal furniture is fitted with pads on any legs that come into contact with the floor, as this will help to prevent rust marks.
Another fine figure of a lobby can be found at the historic Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel, a luxury hotel overlooking Russell Square. Originally designed by Charles Fitzroy Doll in 1898, the architect behind the Titanic’s iconic dining room, the 334-room hotel is defined by its late-Victorian heritage, including a Grade II Heritage Listed ballroom. Against the odds, it is the lobby that piques my interest. The space is a fusion of marble and mosaic, complete with a mysterious tiled zodiac design on the floor, the inspiration for which has been lost amongst the archives. The flooring was actually rediscovered by restorers, lying in wait underneath a fitted carpet. Along with the rest of the hotel, the lobby fell into the safe hands of interior designer Tara Bernerd, who specified contemporary furniture to offset and soften the dramatic, soaring ventricle of the historic building.
Channelling some hotel glamour into your own home in the style of Bernerd’s rich, dramatic lobby at the Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel involves scaling up your furniture picks for a luxurious, decadent feel. Think tall, painted settles, tub chairs in deep colours, low lighting and artfully styled objet d’art on floor-to-ceiling shelves.
Moving on to a more modern, conceptual space, the lobby at Ian Schrager’s London Edition, which doubles up as a bar, provides ample inspiration for a design scheme at home that combines modernity and classical style. The lobby of this hotel, which was originally established in 1835 as five conjoining townhouses, before its conversion to Berners Hotel in 1909, is dressed with a sense of controlled chaos and quirky elegance. It features Donald Judd-inspired sofas in pale green velvet, modern wingback chairs, black metal furniture and 24-karat gold Salvador Dali-inspired floor lamps. A reproduction Louis XV Gobelin tapestry hangs behind the reception desk, clashing with punkish irreverence against a 3D digital artwork, Portal, created by the Korean artist Chul Hyun Ahn. The star of the show is the 2m-tall, egg-like pendant light by German artist Ingo Maurer that reflects and warps the classical surroundings, giving the astute, corniced space an eerie, somehow satirical quality.
The take-home from Schrager’s dreamlike lobby is not to be afraid of contrasting old against new, classical with contemporary, and traditional with outright quirky. Why not pair those traditional encaustic floor tiles with a pendant light straight out of the future? The most important thing to remember is that this, your humble hallway, is the sight that will welcome you home at the end of each working day, signalling the return to your own space away from the bustle of life, as we begin to embrace our freedom again.