Over the last few years, London’s legendary Athenaeum Hotel & Residences, located in the heart of Mayfair, opposite Green Park and moments from Buckingham Palace, has been quietly renovating in stages. Under the guidance of celebrated interior designer Martin Hulbert, the hotel’s lobby, bar, 133 guestrooms and 11 suites were finished last year, in modern, luxurious decor mixed with a bit of English whimsy. At the end of last year, the hotel unveiled The View, a private members-style club for guests on the hotel’s top floor with sweeping park views. Now, the completion of the 18 new Townhouse Residences marks the final phase of restoring this Art Deco gem.
London correspondent Emily Goldfischer toured the Residences with new general manager, Joanne Taylor-Stagg, who joined the property earlier this year. Taylor-Stagg, originally from South Africa, began her career working for the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg, where she looked after notable guests, including Nelson Mandela the night he was elected president in 1993. More recently, she transformed London’s Trafalgar St. James into an award-winning, five-star boutique hotel.
Thrilled with her new post at The Athenaeum, she loves the history of the hotel with its connection to Hollywood, past and present, the long-serving staff, like doorman Jim Gardner Burns, who she swears has a photographic memory as he can remember any guest from his 25 years at the hotel, and she’s relishing working with the Michelin-starred chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin on food and beverage throughout the property.
What she’s most excited about, however, are the 18 new apartments. To get there, we exit the hotel and turn the corner onto Down Street, where there are separate entrances to the three Victorian red-brick townhouses on this adjacent block. “Avoiding the lobby is ideal for some of our celebrity guests and those that truly need privacy,” explains Taylor-Stagg “but there’s also a discrete hallway that connects each townhouse to the main hotel. All services, including concierge, 24-hour in-room dining and same-day laundry are available to the Residences.”
We enter Townhouse No. 3, where a colorful original mosaic tiled foyer leads to a compact elevator, whisking us up to Residence No. 18 on the first floor (there’s a central stairwell that surrounds the lift, handy for those taking multiple units and adds to the townhouse feel). Each one-bedroom residence is 510 square feet; designer Martin Hulbert has cleverly continued the jewel tones from the mosaic, bringing shades of deep turquoise, purple, emerald and cooling grey to the thoughtfully laid out unit.
There’s an open-plan kitchen with the works: Stovetop, microwave, oven, fridge, Nespresso maker and is well-stocked with dishes, cutlery and accessories by Joseph Joseph. The main living space is a generous L-shape, with a comfy B&B Italia sofa and flat-screen TV between an oval dining table (set for four but could easily seat six) and the kitchen.
Residence No. 18 happens to be prepared for a family arrival, so the desk area has been swapped out for bunk beds and a trundle to sleep three children, surprisingly well, and each bed had cute Le Petit Prince bath sets. A spread of local English treats and a selection of movies, games and kites were set out by the hotel’s Children’s Concierge. Talylor-Stagg explained, “Families are asked the ages of children, preferences and plans for London in advance and our team takes it from there! We add the kites for everyone—it’s just such a fun thing to do in Green Park across the street.” Other cool amenities for families: Duck food for the pond in St. James’s Park, a selection of bikes and scooters to borrow.
Along a short corridor is a marble bathroom with a large walk-in shower with rainfall and handheld heads, a smart toilet by Roca, underfloor heating, heated towel rails and non-steam mirrors. The bedroom was just beyond with a tufted velvet King bed (which can also be prepared as two twins), a gorgeous mirrored dressing table and bed-side tables by English furniture-maker Julian Chichester.
Residence No. 18 can be combined with an additional 295-square-foot guestroom on the same floor. “We’ve already had some large families staying and occupying residences on several floors,” added Taylor-Sagg, “as well as requests for guests looking to rent an entire townhouse, taking all six of the one-bed residences and eight of the connectable guestrooms, which could actually sleep up to a maximum of 28 adults and 12 children in one townhouse building.” Views are of Down Street from the living rooms and a quiet courtyard from the bedrooms, so this is a trade off from the expansive park views from the main hotel suites.
We loved the laundry closet with washer and dryer and the added techie touches—Bose docking stations for music and video entry for security. Townhouse Residences also come with what you’d expect: Ample closet space, mini-bar, ironing board, hairdryer, safe, 110V and 240V plugs, individually controlled air conditioning and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Insider tip: Residence No.13 has a tub, the rest are equipped with showers.
“You’ve seen this set for a family, which works brilliantly, but we actually expect the Residences to be most popular with executives and celebrities. The Athenaeum was formerly owned by the Rank Organisation, an English entertainment company, so there’s a long history of hosting celebrities—Lauren Bacall, Fred Astair and Elizabeth Taylor were regular guests, directors Geroge Lucas and Steven Spielberg lived here, the latter famously editing 'E.T.' and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' in one of the residences.”
Taylor-Sagg finished off our tour through the hidden hallway into the hotel’s swanky bar area, passing the gym and spa (which she quietly revealed she plans to do some updates to next year), back into the lobby where doorman Jim gives us both a warm greeting and sends me on my way.
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