Opened in 1837, Brown’s Hotel in the heart of Mayfair is London’s oldest hotel. Named after James Brown – no, not the soul singer, but the butler to the Romantic poet Lord Byron – its guests over the years have included many stellar names.
It was here that Alexander Graham Bell made the first ever UK telephone call, US President Theodore and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt spent their honeymoon (after which she remarked: “We were given the royal suite with a sitting room so large that I could not find anything that I put down”), Mark Twain startled his fellow guests clad only in bathrobe and slippers, Agatha Christie and Rudyard Kipling penned many of their novels, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassi took refuge from Mussolini’s incursions into his country and Stephen King began the story which would become Misery.
Surrounded by elite international galleries and a short walk from the Royal Academy, Brown’s is a perfect base for the hotel’s Saturday Art Walks led by art curator and BBC Art Correspondent Maeve Doyle.
Open to both residents and non-residents, the cost of £85 per person includes tea or coffee in the Drawing Room upon arrival, a tour of up to four galleries, a glass of champagne back at the hotel and a three-course lunch at Charlie’s restaurant (headed by Michelin-starred chef Adam Byatt) with a glass of sommelier’s choice wine. Advance booking is recommended.
Browns is also the exclusive hotel partner of the Mayfair Art Weekend (Sep 25-27, www.mayfairartweekend.com), when around 50 galleries join forces for an extensive programme of free exhibitions, events, performances and talks. www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/browns-hotel
The Cheval Gloucester Park is one of a collection of luxury apartment residences across London. Spread over 10 floors, the fully-equipped apartments can be booked for any length of stay from one night to one year or more and include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments as well as three spectacular, five-bedroom penthouses with sweeping views over the London cityscape.
Art consultants Verdigris Art commissioned original artwork to feature throughout the residence, which together form a private collection to rival many contemporary art galleries. Artists include: Sophie Derrick (UK), who paints onto her own skin, photographs it, then paints onto the photographs, thus blurring the lines between the two media, losing the ‘self’ beneath the paint and questioning the very notion of portraiture; equine photographer Astrid Harrisson, who “grew up infatuated with all things cowboy” and whose work appears in the photographic book The Majesty of the Horse; and Elisabeth Lecourt (France), who uses maps to form clothes in her series Les Robes Geographiques and whose framed Tube Map dress hangs in the living room. www.chevalcollection.com/cheval-gloucester-park
In the heart of bustling Soho, the Ham Yard Hotel signals its commitment to art before you even step inside the door, with a large, specially commissioned bronze sculpture by Tony Cragg entitled Group standing in the courtyard.
One of eight London properties operated by Firmdale Hotels, Ham Yard’s interior is alive with colour, pattern and texture put together under the supervision of co-owner Kit Kemp, herself an interior designer with her own line of original fabrics throughout the property.
The many beautiful touches include: a neon silk thread installation by RCA graduate Hermione Skye O’Hea hanging above the reception desk; bespoke rugs by Christina van der Hurd; framed fabrics in the bedrooms designed by the young Australian artist Shilo Engelbrecht; works by the British abstract painters Sandra Blow (1925-2006) and Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017) and one by Joanna Carrington (1931-2003) in her distinctive naive/primitive style; and a wall of illuminated pots by ceramicist Martha Freud. www.firmdalehotels.com/hotels/london/ham-yard-hotel
The designer William Morris, a pioneer of the British Arts and Crafts movement, was an avid ‘twitcher’ and his keen observations of birds found their way into his wallpapers. Rather than using realistic depictions, he abstracted their form to give the patterns structure, his Strawberry Thief thrush design being one of his most popular. Conveniently located for some of London’s top attractions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall, the Melia Kensington has Morris-patterned wallpapers in the bedrooms and other delightful design touches inspired by him right down to the cocktail menu. The dinner menu is excellent for a boutique hotel. www.melia.com
This article appears in Artmag’s digital edition, 4th September.