The Greenwich Hotel London, a Mercure hotel, is beautiful boutique hotel with rich, sumptuous interiors influenced by Art Nouveau and Art Deco style. Hotelier Lady Delves Broughton tells us the story behind the hotel’s creation
‘I’ve always had a thing against beige. There’s so much beige everywhere,’ says Lady Delves Broughton, as we sit surrounded by rich clarets and platinum greys in the bar of the four-star Greenwich London Hotel. ‘It pulls my spirits down, and I believe that you need to have things around you that lift your spirits up.’
This certainly is a place to visit if your spirits are in need of a lift. The bar is one of those truly opulent hideaways where you could linger day or night over coffee or cocktails. Marble tables, chrome railings and myriad mirrors bounce around light from the carefully curated collection of lamps, lighting features and the contemporary chandelier that cascades down the spiral staircase to the restaurant. The bar and restaurant are both open to non-guests, and the restaurant features a live projector wall screening the likes of David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet or the Greenwich skyline, captured in high resolution by the rooftop camera – a superb place to dine should there be fireworks over the Thames.
‘So many hotels have orange or black or beige, and that’s not to my taste,’ continues Lady Delves Broughton. So I thought, let’s go down the silver and the grey lines, then I could put all the colours that I like with that – the clarets, the blues – but just keep me away from beige. So I’ve ended up with all the colours that I like and we’re all thrilled with it.’
For such a beautiful hotel, it’s surprising to hear that it came into being quite unintentionally, and indeed that it’s thriving as it sails towards its second anniversary. Lady Delves Broughton, it transpires, is an accidental hotelier. A convoluted tale of a loan gone bad led to Rona acquiring a site and then wondering what on earth to do with it.
‘I had originally tried to sell the building,’ she says, ‘but the people who wanted to buy it wanted to turn it into a hostel with 16 people to a room or something dreadful. But this is a nice area with lovely Georgian houses in the Ashburnham Triangle Conservation Area, and I didn’t want to do that to the residents round here.
I’M NOT A DESIGNER, I JUST DO WHAT I LIKE
‘I’d never thought of running a hotel, but I’ve learnt in life that you should never say you’re never going to do anything – my idea of hell has always been running a restaurant – because the good Lord above always makes sure that you do. So, when the planners said they would support our application to add two extra layers to the building if we delivered a good boutique hotel, we put our thinking caps on. I thought to myself, “if you can run a business and you can hold a decent dinner party, why can’t you run a hotel?”
‘It’s amazing how, if you have to do something, you can actually do it,’ she continues. ‘I was never very observant before. I’d go to places and never really notice what was on the floor or the ceiling, but suddenly I was looking everywhere, looking for ideas. I’m not a designer, I just do what I like.’
I’d never thought of running a hotel, I thought to myself, if you can run a business and you can hold a decent dinner party, why can’t you run a hotel?
Maurice Drummond House, as it was originally known, is a former Metropolitan Police Station. The 1940s building was awarded a RIBA Bronze award in 1946, but was derelict when Rona acquired it. She brought in Kent-based project managers Rees Mellish, Fulham architects Asseal and East Sussex-based interior designers DesignLSM (who have also worked with the likes of London’s Waldorf Hilton and Burger & Lobster) to transform the place.
The external shell of the original building has been retained, along with many notable architectural features – like the stone-carved Metropolitan Police coat of arms above the door and restored terrazzo floors – and a two-storey glass extension has been constructed at roof level. The result is a luxury 145-bedroom hotel with a gym that operates under the Mercure brand. It’s also the official preferred hotel supplier to the O2 Arena and won a tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence. The top two glass floors grant killer views across London with floor-to-ceiling windows and an eighth-floor viewing terrace that can be booked for drinks or dinner.
‘It’s chiefly sort of Art Nouveau,’ says Lady Delves Broughton of her eclectic yet classically stylish interior design. ‘I’ve got mirrors everywhere. Not only does it create a great feeling of space and light, I didn’t want to put paintings all over the place because what one person likes another person won’t, even in the rooms. But, I thought, most people like looking at themselves in a mirror!’
Other personal touches of Lady Delves Broughton’s include the alternating colour scheme running up the corridors: ‘I couldn’t make up my mind about what to do with the corridors. Did I want them to be dark and have that warm exciting feeling, or did I want to keep them light? Because I couldn’t make up my mind we’ve painted them in alternate colours, one corridor is silver then the next floor up is dark claret – one silver, one claret, all the way up. And I didn’t want to hang pictures, I wanted colour and light, so you’ll find even more mirrors.’
Other statement design features include a bold Union Jack pod chair by Andrew Martin, which stands proudly in a corner of the bar – a big draw for the Instagrammers. It’s kept company by giant globes and aeroplane models by the same designer. A contemporary black glass chandelier from WBR Interiors on Wandsworth Bridge Road hangs in room 26 – the room with the bathtub in front of the fireplace which is a favourite among regulars. ‘I just fell in love with it,’ she says of the light fitting. ‘If I see something I’ve got to have it, and then I think, “where am I going to put it?”’
The influence of Greenwich’s royal history
The area itself has influenced the design, too – the frosted bathroom doors bear a typographic table of Greenwich’s royal history, inspired by an issue of The Greenwich Visitor that Lady Delves Broughton picked up one day. The newspaper contained a table listing significant local events featuring Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. And now they, along with tales of execution, civil war and Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Naval Hospital, appear in every room.
‘I like to have things that are interesting and things that make people stop and think. We also want to have some traffic lights at the end of the corridor so that when guests arrive, we can say “turn right at the lights!”’
I ask Lady Delves Broughton if she ever worried that her eclectic approach to décor might not suit those who prefer a more subtle colour palette? ‘Whatever you do it can’t be to everybody’s taste. If you’re doing something to everybody’s taste then you’re back to dreary beige. I’m thrilled with the hotel. Having finished it all I thought, why am I living in a house? I’d like to live here!’
The Greenwich Hotel London, Catherine Grove SE10 8FR; 020 8469 4440; thegreenwichlondon.com