Glamour and modernity become the soul of the Sheraton Grand Park Lane in the heart of London.

The Sheraton Grand Park Lane enjoys an illustrious history. Its construction began in 1913, one of London’s first buildings to have a steel structure, although lack of finance during The First World War put a halt to construction and it was not until 1927 that the hotel in all its glory was eventually opened. By then, London was in the heyday of the Art Deco era, when style, glamour and societal progress flourished, influencing culture, art and design. The hotel soon became one of London’s most fashionable addresses where ladies would take tea in the Palm Court, Queen Elizabeth ll learnt to ballroom dance and there were society weddings and parties a-plenty in the exquisite Ballroom, still one of London’s finest Art Deco spaces today. In due course, the Ballroom and its Silver Gallery entrance became stars in their own right, featuring in major international movies such as Golden Eye and Titanic.

No surprise then that the recent refurbishment of the hotel – the most extensive renovation and redesign ever undertaken at the property – demanded sensitivity and certain courage, a deep appreciation of the Art Deco inheritance together with the clarity to understand how to modernise the hotel sympathetically but emphatically. The guestroom floors were almost entirely remodelled and re-built and the ground floor plan was re-organised, putting the Palm Court at the heart from which all other public spaces now gravitate.  However, regular guests returning to the hotel after the refurbishment found the original soul elevated, not diminished, and the connection between reception at the back of the building and Green Park to the front newly stated, while street entrances and pavement terraces to both the restaurant and bar had opened the hotel up to the neighbourhood.

Maria Vafiadis of MKV Design, the interior designers entrusted with this hugely significant project describes their approach to such work: “We start by peeling away layers of history to understand the building’s original construction and how it has been modified over time. From there, we identify which elements can be preserved or restored, what needs to be replaced, and then how modern design interventions can be sensitively integrated with the existing fabric. Inevitably, there are surprises to resolve along the way, but there is also so much to fascinate and delight us in the process.”

At the heart of the creative thinking for the Sheraton Grand was a determination to use design to enhance the overall experience for guests from the moment of check-in, to taking time out in the Palm Court, dining in the restaurant and relaxing in their bedrooms. As a result, although each space is quite different and special in its own right, there is a consistent design language throughout weaving together the design legacy with contemporary design in varying mixes. The 303 guestrooms may essentially be new spaces but they are redolent with Art Deco glamour – a central ceiling cupola is finished in a subtle tone of warm silver replicating the colour of the original in the Silver Gallery, there are silver finishes on the furniture, bevelled mirror panels above the bedheads and deco-inspired wall lights. Period details have also been translated into new features in the Palm Court such as the striking carpet motif, japonaiserie-style wallcovering and polished herringbone travertine floor. In reception, there is glossy Macassar ebony veneer cladding the walls and silver fretwork to the large central ceiling light recalls the magnificent Art Deco features of the function rooms. Nevertheless, the reception lobby is a thoroughly contemporary, international space, complete with a media wall which incorporates a pop-out desk with computer.

The Palm Court now flows through a sequence of subtly zoned areas from the champagne and cocktail bar to a long sharing table equipped with connectivity and a collection of lounge chairs with side tables that can be flexibly arranged. The main lounge is the next space in the enfilade and then a snug area around a new glass fireplace. The fireplace is located where previously there was the entrance door. By replacing this and introducing two new doorways on each side, the designers have introduced two avenues along the edge of the Palm Court rather than the one which previously sliced through the room.  In between, the lounge is now raised and surrounded by an elegant Art Deco style balustrade giving patrons a sense of discreet separation from the trail of guests arriving through the Piccadilly entrance to make their way to reception on the other side of the room. The impressive vaulted ceiling with original stained glass panels and mouldings has been restored and enhanced by the addition of a mirrored surround below; new lighting helps brighten and articulate the space.

In the function areas, all existing details have been restored to their former glory and paintwork and wall finishes refreshed, but other interventions have been kept to the minimum. One significant new feature throughout the function areas is the carpet, in a bespoke design that was created by MKV, drawing on the colours and motifs of the Art Deco period. The decorative features that give the Silver Gallery its name have been revitalised bringing heightened star quality to this impressive hall. Walls have been hand-finished with palladium leaf to complement the warm metallic tones of the striking ornamental artwork, while elaborate balustrading on the grand staircase has been polished to a glorious patinated sheen.

In the function areas, all existing details have been restored to their former glory and paintwork and wall finishes refreshed, but other interventions have been kept to the minimum. One significant new feature throughout the function areas is the carpet, in a bespoke design that was created by MKV, drawing on the colours and motifs of the Art Deco period. The decorative features that give the Silver Gallery its name have been revitalised bringing heightened star quality to this impressive hall. Walls have been hand-finished with palladium leaf to complement the warm metallic tones of the striking ornamental artwork, while elaborate balustrading on the grand staircase has been polished to a glorious patinated sheen.

Mercante brings modern Italian dining to London’s Piccadilly with interiors that beautifully combine originality with the familial, elegance with informality and the air of an authentic trattoria with the rediscovered stylishness of the Sheraton Grand London Park Lane. Taking their inspiration from the ‘market place’, to which the restaurant’s name alludes, the designers have introduced dark timber flooring and joinery combined with warm rustic tones in the furnishings off-set by fresh yellow and green hues throughout. In the original dining area, mouldings have been restored and the dark timber panelling to the walls has been painted in a simple cream tone, transforming the area into a light, uplifting space.

The design of Mercante offers much to intrigue andentertain diners. In the new area, near to the street entrance, a unique ceramic contrast tile has been used on the floor – a modern twist on a traditional Italian folk pattern. Here, vintage black and white framed photographs depicting bygone country life are playfully reminiscent of ‘grandma’s kitchen’ while an ancient trading map has been imaginatively transposed onto the white wall tiles.

Smith & Whistle, the new bar, has a narrative all of its own playing with a fictional Detective Inspector Smith and his nemesis, the infamous scoundrel Mr William Whistle who once partook in clandestine meetings in the hotel. Colours are clubby and masculine, copper pipe friezes at each end add a light industrial air and the bar, while beautifully crafted with layered timber pieces and a lacquered top, has echoes of bars in traditional public houses. A striking black and white timber floor are laid Art Deco fashion and the space is wittily accessorised with bowler hats and gentlemen’s umbrellas.

One final re-design, and the apotheosis of 1920’s glamour reinvented, is the ladies powder room. Mosaics, gilt-embossed peacock feather wallpaper, a tessellated marble floor and mirror shimmer in the soft light.

Project: Sheraton Grand Park Lane
Location: London, United Kingdom
Design Studio: MKV Design
Website: mkvdesign.com