Staycation > The Kit Kemp designed Ham Yard Hotel, London > From Bomb Site to Bombshell
London has some of the most impressive hotels in the world, Claridges, The Berkeley, The Lanesborough is undergoing complete renovation, and the Mondrian Group is soon to open their latest destination, designed by Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio at Sea Containers House on the Thames. Chiltern Firehouse is causing quite the stir; The Standard is on its way, and the Ace in East London is a wonderful place to base yourself as a freelancer.
I love finding a quite corner of a hotel to get on with some work for a few hours. As I travel more and more there is something about a hotel library or living room where you will just be left to your own devices. The contemporary hotel culture that we find ourselves enjoying now, has a lot to do with Tim and Kit Kemp. Back in the 90s they opened the Covent Garden Hotel, movie stars, musicians and artists all flocked to this new breed of design hotel. This was town house boutique chic, and the brand has just kept growing.
The Firmdale Hotel group is privately owned by Tim and Kit Kemp. Comprising of seven award winning luxury properties in central London and one in New York, Crosby Street Hotel, you may know the London hotels, Soho Hotel, Covent Garden Hotel, Charlotte Street, Haymarket Hotel, Dorset Square in Marylebone, Knightsbridge Hotel and Number Sixteen in South Kensington. Ham Yard is the group’s eighth London property opening in June this year, and all have been designed by Kit Kemp.
So let me move on with my recent weekend spent at their new hotel, Ham Yard. Each of the 91 bedrooms have been individually designed, there are 24 residential apartments, and 12 individual specialist boutiques on the ground level, with an indoor/outdoor restaurant at the entrance.
Set on a ¾ acre site in the heart of central London, you wonder how they even found let alone secured such a plot just behind Piccadilly Circus between Great Windmill Street and Denman Street. You’re just moments from Piccadilly Tube.
The hotel owes its name to an early 18th Century public house, called The Ham. In 1756 it was amalgamated with The Windmill over the road when in 1892, the name was changed to The Lyric Tavern which still exists today. In an area synonymous with entertainment, the site and surrounding areas used to be filled with photographers, artists, musicians, film makers and writers. Not much has changed then, and our generation of these creatives all choose to stay in a Firmdale hotel over a Four Seasons or perhaps more classically designed hotel. The Firmdale Hotels have the fun vibe, the relaxed, home away from home environment.
The hotel features a beautiful indoor/outdoor restaurant, bar, an orangery, a 188 seat theatre, multiple individually designed private dining rooms, Firmdale’s first spa, Soholistic, a gym (with an altitude controlled private training room which is incredible!) a 1950s style bowling alley and leafy roof garden with a beautiful raised bed vegetable garden. There are two individually designed living rooms with fully stocked kitchen style honesty bars for the guests to enjoy.
I was lucky enough to check in last month for a mother daughter staycation. As an interior designer, I couldn’t wait to see all the spaces and learn to see how Kit Kemp developed this former bomb site, which has stayed hidden to the public for decades into such a bombshell of a hotel.
The upholstery prints in The Library
As you arrive into the hotel lobby past the restaurant courtyard your eye immediately falls into the library, reserved just for guests, each book has been carefully picked by literary expert Philip Blackwell to inspire, engage or humour. Think history, cookery, global issues, biographies and literary novels. A place to curl up in the evening, the room is transformed once the embroidered curtains are drawn. Layers of print and pattern are effortlessly upholstered onto the giant scroll arm sofas and armchairs, accessorised lovingly with a whole host of wonderful objects and artefacts.
The hotel lobby features original works by Sandra Blow on the back wall, and an ever moving clock that creates pretty patterns before centring itself to tell the exact time every minute.
Walk past the guest lift and you arrive at the Orangery and Conservatory. My favourite spot in the hotel in the morning. A great place to have breakfast if you don’t want to sit in the restaurant. I arrived early on the Saturday morning to make the most of my weekend. So I found a spot here and settled down with my laptop and a breakfast smoothie whilst mum made her way into London from the West Country. Embracing the bustle of the neighbouring streets, Kit has absorbed the energy and vitality and created series of unique spaces using her distinctive design style. With layers of multi coloured and embroidered upholsteries, vibrant colours, and handcrafted custom designs, you know you’re in a Firmdale here.
The pewter topped bar separates the bar from the restaurant area. Floor to ceiling windows at the front look over onto the terrace and the vast Tony Cragg sculpture. The bar food is for mixing and sharing, gorgeous little plates of scallops and ham hock, mini salads and cheese plates. I popped in a few weeks ago prior to my stay and the place was heaving. This is a fab centrally located bar, and somewhere i’ll be visiting often this year after work.
The stairs at the entrance to the hotel lead you down to the basement floors, the theatre, gym, spa, private dining rooms and The Croc Bowling Alley.
The Basement Bar with the incredible 30m winding working orange juicer.
One of the hidden gems of the hotel, is this original 1950’s imported bowling alley from Texas. The bowling alley space includes it’s own bar, dance floor and lounge area, so you can have a party and lock yourselves away all night.
The backlit bowling balls, vintage shoes and bowling pins below sit alongside 2 original Howard Hodgkin artworks.
The three metre long crocodiles scour the wall at the back of the dance floor giving the alley its name.
A detail above of a commissioned piece for the guest lift.
Finally we made it up to our room. Winding round the U shaped building past Kit’s own designed wallpaper Racine (inspired by 50s botanical posters), we made it to The Courtyard Suite. Cue gasps of astonishment when we opened the door.
What a space. Light and airy with floor to ceiling warehouse style windows overlooking the hotel’s tree-filled garden, it’s the longest suite I think I have ever stayed in. Where’s the skateboard to answer the door? There is a separate living room with beautiful oak floors, a dining area and separate powder room and cloakroom. With a king size double bedroom and marble bathroom with double basins, walk-in shower, bathtub and TV with floating remote. The suite is defined by its impressive book-lined entrance hallway with its carefully curated library which includes fiction, biographies, history and travel books. Incredible.
Do you love the rug? Its from The Rug Company.
Wanting to take full advantage of the space we ordered afternoon tea to our room and had a wonderfully relaxing afternoon with my baby nephew and brother. The beautiful table service will soon be available to purchase directly from Wedgwood.
Later in the afternoon we ventured up to the roof on the 4th floor. What an amazing thing to see all the surrounding rooftops, chimney stacks and theatre roofs. You can see for miles. In amongst the outdoor seating areas and Whitman benches, a grand piano acts as a giant drinks cooler, and behind the picket fencing you’ll find a fruit and vegetable garden made of railway sleepers where you can sample the growing strawberries and herbs that I spotted in the spa.
Can you believe this is up here?! I couldn’t….
As we headed back down to our room and our turndown service had been and gone (misting our pillows with Kit’s own brand room spray Rik Rak) our room was instantly lifted with botanical fragrances, gardenia, lilies, amber and vanilla. Definitely something to buy and take back home.
Dinner time at Ham Yard. The walls of the restaurant are lined with Kits owns collection of fabrics from Christopher Farr, blending saffron tones on the dining chairs with the grey timber flooring. We opted for a banquette table along the back wall.
Offering seasonal food, British where possible, the 102 seat dining room opens on to the vast courtyard. You really notice the unique details such as the Perspex box room dividers filled with antique fabrics and Martha Freud (a fellow Kingston Furniture Grad) has designed an illuminated wall installation at the back of the room. Kit’s signature style takes over in this room.
We shared a handful of starters including:
Maple-glazed heritage carrots, ricotta and broad beans (£7)
Seared scallops, cauliflower, apple, truffle and sea purslane (£9)
Burrata, heritage tomatoes, Kalamata olives and basil (£8)
I had the special of the day, Rabbit Ragu (£14)
I also tried the poached cod, parsley risotto and Pancetta (£16)
Vanilla crème brulee
Strawberry baked Alaska
All at £5 each
& so to bed…..
Taking complete advantage of our dining room we ordered room service the following morning…
Waking up to the Sunday Times and breakfast brought to our door, absolute bliss.
We ended our morning here, in the second library room, which would be my room of choice if I was coming here for afternoon tea.
Our only disappointment was having to check out…
Ham Yard is the ultimate Kit Kemp hotel, and this time a sample of her style may be finally translated in to your own home following her recent design collaborations with Christopher Farr, and Chelsea Textiles. If you’re looking for a place for brunch with your friends or a bustling restaurant for a Saturday night dinner, Ham Yard is 100% your place. Now to get myself to the bowling alley for a party!
My stay was courtesy of Firmdale Hotels. With thanks also to Jodie Tice.
Ham Yard Hotel, One Ham Yard, London, W1D 7DT www.hamyardhotel.com