St Martin’s Lane
As if to underline its uber-coolness, the unflappable hotel staff wore black while the bare lobby wore white.
On one business trip to London, our assistant booked me at the St. Martin’s Lane, an Ian Schrager hotel decorated in his signature minimalist style. I would say it was ahead of its time in terms of eco-friendliness. In the peak of summer, the temperature inside never seemed to drop below 75’F and the lighting in the public areas was practically nil.
The elevators were a particularly strange experience. As you entered, you were bathed in unflattering lighting with a bluish cast. A small video screen flush against one wall flashed images that were alternately sweet and surreal. If you were lucky, you’d be greeted by a sunny daisy set on a background of blue skies; otherwise, you’d be staring into a pair of eyes that looked straight at you, then up, down, left and right, leaving you with the hair on your forearms standing on end.
The hallways to the rooms were a burglar’s dream, barely lit from the lower part of the corridor walls in that same bluish hue as the elevators. Apparently, there was a purpose to this since the room numbers were printed on the carpet as opposed to being displayed at eye level.
Inside the rooms, the furnishings were mostly square and spare. “Plastic chairs!” squealed a colleague of mine in dismay, referring to the Philippe Stark Ghost chair paired with the white laminate desk. She promptly tried to check herself out of the hotel for a more traditional and comfortable suite in far away Marylebone.
With their limestone walls and custom fixtures designed by Philippe Starck, the bathrooms were modern and luxurious; however, I quickly realized that certain things were best admired from afar. The straight cylindrical knobs of the fixtures may have been the ultimate in minimalist design, but they were a bitch to turn open if one didn’t have the grip of Superman. Sadly, in this case, form trumps function.
On the plus side, the hotel had a more-than-decent restaurant, Asia de Cuba, serving excellent Chinese-Cuban fusion food that creatively paired plush ingredients like lobster with plain ones like mashed potatoes. In addition, the hotel’s location was convenient, being so accessible to Covent Garden, the theatre district, and, oh yes, the office.