Member Jo East describes our visit to this grand and, er, ‘historic’Art Deco style hotel, not far from Selfridges
The Society’s party was welcomed to the subterranean Lotos Room – a grandly boardroom-style function room – by famed (Wolseley etc) restaurateur and co-owner of this Mayfair hotel, Jeremy King (Corbin and King). The architect of the project, Patrick Reardon (Reardon Smith), who has over 40 years experience of working on luxury hotels, was also in attendance.
The room is adorned with photos of famed ‘20s figures, and Jeremy explained that many if not all of these people had graced The Beaumont when the hotel was first opened by a US ‘refugee’ from Prohibition, the famed Jimmy Beaumont. Patrick explained that the hotel had fallen into the hands of a chain in the 70s, who had covered everything with Formica. Miraculously, when this was stripped away, Patrick was delighted to find many of the original features still intact, providing the basis for a magnificent restoration. By way of historical colour, Jeremy drew particular attention to the vital part The Beaumont had played in being a base for pro-British Americans, who helped Roosevelt to enter WWII.
What? You know your London history well and this episode has passed you by? That could be because Jimmy Beaumont is entirely the creation of Jeremy’s vivid imagination. Given a site that was previously a garage – albeit a resplendent garage from the golden days of motoring – Jeremy eventually hit upon this romantic narrative to inform everything now found in the hotel, providing a depth and a ‘backstory’ that, to this day, guides everything within The Beaumont. “What would Jimmy have done?”.
Keeping only the (listed) fascia, Patrick was given a blank canvas to create this 72-room hotel. The original blueprints of the garage helped inform a design to create, as Westminster Council cryptically asked, “something similar but not the same” – this ultimately involved digging down two basement levels (between two bores of Crossrail), and growing two floors taller. As further demanded by the Council, the new building had to include some public art: Antony Gormley came up with a striking cuboid design of his body to stand on one corner; drawing on Jimmy’s playfulness and patronage of the arts, Jeremy asked for a rethink so that instead of just being “stuck on the outside” the sculpture was an actual hotel room too, which people could stay in. So the extraordinary Scandinavian-style bedroom we later visited was created. (Here the living room opens onto a pure white bathroom and then up some steps, past a drape, into the “stomach” bed room. Centre stage a pure white double bed is surrounded on all sides by dark wooden cladding. Apart from the doorway, the room is punctured only by a single window, designed so those in bed see only sky.)
For the actual tour, we were placed in the hands of Jannes Soerensen the Hotel Manager and given privileged access not only to Gormley’s room (215 if you fancy spending a night), but also to one of the suites, a “standard” (anything but) room, the spa, the guests’ bar and the public areas. Jannes is just as passionate about the Beaumont as Jeremy but, with a schooling at The Bristol in Paris, brings to the project the perspective of a lifelong hotelier.
The photographs best convey the understated Art Deco-inspired style of the hotel but it is the “heft” of all the material that cannot be conveyed. That and the waft of the signature Jo Malone scent – “earthy but with a hint of citrus, which is Jimmy’s aftershave”, as Jannes explained.
So next time you are around Oxford Street I urge you to sidestep down Duke Street to Brown Hart Gardens, and join the many Americans who have adopted The Beaumont as their unofficial club – as they have since its imagined foundation, some time in the 1940s.