Europe

The Langham, London

written by | Posted on October 1st, 2009

Updating any historic property takes a careful touch, but when one of the oldest resorts in one of the most historic cities in the world needs a facelift, the designer’s challenge is almost insurmountable. He must delicately tread the line between the old and the new, incorporating modern design elements and creating a fresh ambiance while preserving the historic and cultural integrity earned through decades of existence. And all too often, something—some essential, authentic feeling—is lost in the process.

That’s why the redesign of The Langham, London is such a marvel. From the moment you pass through its ornate stone entryway and modern glass doors, you know you’ve hit the sweet spot, the place where the past and the present coexist in a peaceful, stylish, and inimitable harmony.

design The most obvious and noticeable aspect of The Langham’s new design is its updated color scheme, a melding of pinks, lilacs and gold and ivory hues that, admittedly, sounds a bit girly for an anchor of London tourism dating from the 1800s that was opened by the future King Edward VII and withstood bomb damage from the Second World War. The elegant and, yes, even masculine result is a testament to the careful eye of the designers who planned its £80 million (just over $130 million) refurbishment. The colors are used sparingly, starting as guests enter into a stately lobby done up in white marble, with plenty of light pouring in from its tall glass doors giving the space a light, airy feel.

The ambiance of its 380 guestrooms is just as airy, with plenty of space for lounging in elegant bespoke furniture; for prepping and primping in its spacious bathrooms, complete with heating panels beneath their marble floors and large, luxurious bathtubs; and resting in Langham’s signature Blissful Bed, seemingly designed for the sole purpose of eliminating jet lag with a single night of rest. Modern touches—a panel of international wall outlets, for example, eliminating the need for travel converters—sit alongside history-invoking pieces of art, specially commissioned by the hotel. The “old meets new” ambiance extends all the way to the view of the city from the rooms, looking out across buildings built centuries ago or just a few decades old.

The ultimate room at The Langham is the Infinity Suite, a real lesson in grandeur. Inside, elements like an extra-deep, constantly overflowing infinity bathtub with jacuzzi jets and chromatherapy capabilities, exemplify the high-end aims of the new design. Comprising a kitchen, two bedrooms, a dressing room, entrance lobby and a lounge looking out to historic All Souls Church just across the street, guests here won’t want for space or style. High-tech light fixtures, a Bose sound system and flat-screen TVs measuring up to 72 inches add high-end modern conveniences to its updated Old World style.

dining The center of The Langham’s history sits just off the lobby, in the restored Palm Court. Part lounge, part parlor and part restaurant, Palm Court is said to be the birthplace of the British tradition of afternoon tea. One hundred forty years later, guests are still gathering at its tables and lounges to take part in Bijoux tea, an updated version of the English favorite. A selection of teas are served alongside pastries inspired by the collections of jewelry designers. Afternoon tea ends at 5 p.m., but stick around until 7 p.m. for a complimentary soupcon of champagne and canapes—likely to inspire guests to sample more of Palm Court’s selection of champagne by the glass, in over 40 varieties.

Just down the hall, The Landau restaurant is an upscale sister to Palm Court, with an entrance through a vaulted hallway lined with tall glass wine cellars and seating in a stately round dining room. In keeping with the theme of the redesign, chefs here prepare new twists on classic dishes, with wine pairings and cocktails at the ready. After an indulgent meal at The Landau, the next step is after-dinner drinks at Artesian Bar, where guests can sample over 100 different types of rum, some of which you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

destination The Langham’s interior is a destination in itself, but the hotel’s surroundings also account for much of its appeal. Set just down the road from Oxford Circus, an easy walk to Regent’s Park, The Langham is literally surrounded by attractions, shopping and more. One of the most colorful nearby attractions is Carnaby Street, a former hippie hangout that today offers diverse and unique shopping in boutiques and art galleries sitting just below historic lofts where, for example, it’s rumored that the plans for the Woodstock festival were first devised. Many of the boutiques sell high-end, designer brands; duck into the Kingly Court enclave, however, to discover three stories of vintage clothing shops, independent jewelry designers, and specialty shops including a collaboration of the Andy Warhol estate and Pepe Jeans London, selling clothing and accessories adorned with the artist’s most famous works.