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ROBERT ANGELL: THE DESIGNER BEHIND SOME OF LONDON’S FINEST BARS

Interior designer Robert Angell has been behind the renovation of some of London’s finest hotel drinking establishments – but he’d be happy if you didn’t notice. Angell tells The Resident about his past inspiration and future design prospects

Considering the elbow grease Robert Angell has put into his recent work, The Collins room at The Berkeley, Knightsbridge, what he has to say about his stunning design is perhaps a little surprising.

‘I don’t particularly want people to come in and judge the bar or an interior that we have done. I want people to just come in and have a good time. I want it to be, essentially, quiet design without shouting.’

I have to point out, however, that I can hear him loud and clear from where I’m seated. The Collins Room is a nod to his former mentor, the acclaimed designer David Collins. The place looks stunning, from the concave wall-mounted mirrors to the porcelain white petal chandeliers.

The Collins Room at The Berkeley is an homage to design great David Collins

The Collins Room at The Berkeley is an homage to design great David Collins

‘David was an amazing inspiration to me and an amazing inspiration to London’s scene,’ Angell says. ‘Working with David, and him being such a prolific designer – and me being a part of that era for 15 years – was incredible.

‘It’s named after him due to his association with the Maybourne Group, the Claridge’s bar, the Connaught bar, the Blue Bar [where we are now seated], and he really influenced the way in which these hotels were perceived by the rest of the world.’

Working with David Collins, him being such a prolific designer, was incredible

As our drinks arrive, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a look around me. The Blue Bar, already an iconic location, has been given a gentle makeover. ‘One of the challenges here was recognising what the bar is and maintain that without diluting it,’ Angell says.

‘We paid homage to the Blue Bar, but all the furniture and finishes are new. The previous furniture I felt had a particular disconnect with this room, here in the pavilion, so I wanted more of a luxurious vibe and something more mid-century because I wanted two rooms to connect from what was an Edwardian panelled room – which is blue, contemporary and looks amazing – to something that is 21st century.’

The Blue Bar, already an iconic location, has been given a gentle makeover

The Blue Bar, already an iconic location, has been given a gentle makeover

Completing the set, Angell’s company was also behind a revamp of The Berkeley’s lobby, which connects the Collins Room and Blue Bar. ‘The Berkeley never really needed to shout though,’ he says on the renovation project. ‘Looking at the Maybourne Group, it’s not traditionally English like the Connaught, not Art Deco glamour like Claridge’s, this is contemporary, innovative and cool. We just needed to reinject that freshness and originality back into this hotel.’

Landing the job highlights Angell’s standing in the industry, which has sky rocketed since he launched his eponymous business back in 2010. The timeless and elegant designs he has created have, quite understandably, caught the eye of those behind some of London’s finest hotels.

The Savoy, too, has recently benefitted from the Angell touch, first with their Kaspar’s seafood restaurant (named after the hotel cat, incidentally), to refurbishing the historic American Bar. ‘It was about retaining the iconic nature of the American Bar, but to exceed people’s expectations when people walk in,’ he says. ‘Again it doesn’t need to shout at you, but through the details, materials and textures it’s luxury.’

It’s just over 20 years since the Dorset born and bred designer first came to London, so how has the approach to luxury hospitality here changed? ‘A lot of the old hotel bars used to be completely stuffy. They were all oak panelled rooms, very masculine, dull, boring, full of cigar smoke so you could hardly see… Those things have changed,’ he laughs.

Angell's revamped American Bar retains the classic 1930's elegance

Angell’s revamped American Bar retains the classic 1930’s elegance

‘The whole scene then was that bars were separate from the hotel, but then hotels realised they were missing out. Christina Ong played a big part in that when she did the Met Bar. It didn’t really reference the hotel, it was a bar. You wouldn’t go to the Metropolitan Hotel for a drink you’d be going to the Met Bar. People are using hotels very differently now to what they did then. They are thinking: “What’s going to make our bar cool?”’

That’s something, therefore, that must make Angell’s job a dream. ‘Definitely, London is an insane city,’ he smiles. ‘It’s so exciting and I think the world looks to London. It’s compared to New York, but we are definitely ahead in terms of our bars and restaurants. The energy here is wonderful because the people from all over the world come to London, making it such a cosmopolitan city – and the best in the world.’

The world looks to London. The energy here is wonderful and it’s so cosmopolitan

Our drinks are finished and it’s just about time up. Angell quips that he feels like he’s living at The Berkeley considering the many meetings he still has here after the astonishingly quick turnaround – work began in 4 January and they completed on 31 May – but he’s due around the corner to continue work on a jewellery store, a nod to the fact that Angell also creates resplendent designs in stores and homes too. ‘Retail is a different ball game all together,’ he says standing and offering his hand.

‘It’s all about the client’s personality, understanding their vision and working that into ours too. You go on a journey and you want it to be better than the last project you did.’ He will have to go some way to achieve that.

See more at robertangelldesigninternational.com

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