Turn confinement into the ultimate luxury staycation, says Emma Love, by giving your house a hotel makeover, complete with a party-starting cocktail bar and in-room spa
One of the best things about checking into a hotel is that moment when you unlock the door and arrive in the sanctuary of your room. Now that most of us are confined in our homes, it’s the perfect opportunity to work on making them places we really want to be, and recreating that feeling of calm in our own spaces.
“To be cosy and provoke an emotion, interior decoration should tell a story,” says Arnaud Zannier, whose hotels include Phum Baitang in Siem Reap (where the Jolie-Pitt clan stayed for months) and Ghent’s 1898 The Post. “Choose one or two remarkable pieces – whether that’s objets, candles or flowers, anything that brings personality to a room – and put the emphasis on those.”
“I like to compose a few areas of focus – perhaps a painting, a table, a stack of books – but for me, bed linen is the key to making a bedroom look plush,” says Karen Roos, co-owner of The Newt in Somerset among other hotels, and former editor of Elle Decoration in South Africa.
Lighting and the bed are a priority for many interior designers – but even the smallest change, whether it’s repainting the walls, rearranging artworks or ordering new bed linen online, can make a big difference to the ambience. Here are some simple tricks for recreating hotel-level interiors at home.
PIMP YOUR BED
“In a hotel, the first thing you see when you walk into a bedroom is the bed,” says interior designer Robert Angell, who created a new look for One Aldwych, which reopened last June. “The bed is usually positioned to make the most of the view, so if you can, rejig the layout so that it faces the window. At this unprecedented time when we’re all stuck indoors, feeling like you’re connected to the outside is more important than ever.”
To ensure your bed feels inviting, Kit Kemp, co-founder and creative director of Firmdale Hotels, suggests getting out the sewing machine. “We love bringing craft into a room. If you can make a headboard out of your favourite quilt, or collage together scraps of fabric, it’s something completely unique.”
“Great bedding is the ultimate accessory for a bedroom,” says designer Kelly Wearstler, who recently overhauled the Proper Hotel in downtown LA and has just launched a timely series of interior design-focused video lessons for MasterClass – ideal for creative inspiration while we’re cooped up inside. “You spend so much of your time in bed that the sheets should be as luxurious as possible – they’re worth the investment. I am obsessed with SFerra’s ‘Giza 45’ sateen bedding.”
LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE
For Russell Sage, designer of hotels such as the Fife Arms in Scotland and the Goring Hotel in London, lighting always comes first. “At the moment there’s a real desire to make our homes feel cocooning and getting the lighting right really helps with that. From cocktail hour onwards, switch to lamp light and, if you have overhead chandeliers, use the dimmer. Lamp light makes faces and rooms look softer,” he says.
Meanwhile, Robin Hutson of the Pig hotel group believes the secret is ‘“well-planned circuitry mixed with flamboyant vintage lampshades to give that cosy glow”. In his book, The Pig, Tales and Recipes from the Kitchen Garden and Beyond, he writes: “Characterful lampshades made from reclaimed fabrics can really add wow factor to a room. We often use old saris which are translucent and colourful.”
COLOUR AND PATTERN
Calming, tonal palettes work especially well in a bedroom. “For the Goring Hotel, we used a lot of old golds and very pale greys, rather than being too fashionable or loud,” says Sage.
Meanwhile, at The Newt, Roos favours cool hues. “I like colours such as greens and blues in off-tones, not too bright; they should blend into the background rather than make demands on the senses,” she says.
For an easy DIY overhaul, Kemp’s tip is to paint part of a piece of furniture. “Mix and match different woods – mahogany with pine, say – and then just paint the legs or drawers a bright colour. Suddenly it becomes much more interesting,” she says, suggesting using fabric to line walls or wardrobe doors as another way of introducing print. “Often fitted cupboards can take over a bedroom but by covering the doors in fabric so you only see the handles, it makes them feel less obtrusive – something which is especially important if a bedroom doubles as a study.”
Another update worth considering is eye-catching textiles. “Statement cushions and blankets are a great way to experiment with colour and pattern, in a way that doesn’t have to be long-term if you do find yourself changing your mind sooner than you expected. Layered on to a bed or sofa, they create new focal points to a space,” states Siobahn Farley, creative director of Soho Home, the interiors collection from Soho House.
Rugs, too, are a good way to add character. “A rug brings a sense of comfort – it is always nicer to walk barefoot on a rug than on the floor – but it’s also a way of picking up colours elsewhere in the room,” says Zannier.
WHERE THE ART IS
“Art and collectable items effortlessly accessorise a room, whether it’s a large painting above a fireplace, trinkets on a sideboard or a stack of books on a coffee table,’ says Farley. Kate Bryan, head of collections for Soho House, says in an online video: “My top tip if you’re going to create a salon wall is to lay a sheet on the floor and play around with the artworks. Every time you think you’ve got a great formation, stand on a chair and take a photo on your phone, then hold it up to the wall. Don’t experiment on the wall.’
Wearstler has a solution for displaying curios and souvenirs you’ve picked up. “Create a tablescape of collected objects: sculptures, photos, souvenirs from travels. Place them all on a table or a credenza, playing with materials and scale, and it adds a new dynamic to the room.”
There are generally two schools of thought about having a television in the bedroom: the bigger the better or banished altogether. “The good thing about hiding the television away is that you decide when to see it,” says Angell. “It can be disguised in a fold-up table at the end of the bed, or within a two-way mirror that sits in front of the screen so that it’s only seen when it’s switched on.”
MAKE YOUR SPACE WORK FOR YOU
Spare rooms so often remain unused for the majority of the time. The solution, says Graham Green at Linley who is currently refreshing rooms at Claridges, is to utilise them fully. “You could turn it into a dressing area – or, if space is tight and your bedroom is also where you work, choose a multipurpose desk with a lift-up top that contains a mirror so it can be used as a dressing table, too.” Ideally, position it by the window to make the most of natural light.
Beaverbrook’s housekeeper has a few tips for making a hotel-ready bed: “All-white bedding is clean and fresh and calming. At Beaverbrook we use 400 threadcount percale cotton. Wash your linen, and iron it at 200C [390F] straight after removing it from the washing machine, while it’s still damp, to give a smooth, silky feel. We favour flat sheets and super-fluffy duck-feather duvets and pillows, then add cushions in uplifting colours, placed on the bed in rows to give the bedroom a luxury aesthetic.”
SHAKE UP YOUR LIFE
It’s ’tini time! Cocktail connoisseur Tom Sandham reveals how to mix the signature drinks from your favourite hotels and create the home bar of dreams
No reputable hotel is worthy of acclaim unless its bar is up to scratch. To recreate your favourite home-from-home at home, a fully functioning bar is an essential provision that will live long after your isolation.
First, designate a discerning drinks zone. Order in plenty of bar kit, including items you probably don’t need: vintage shakers, pretty glassware, tiki mugs, pineapple bar spoons, lethal ice picks; you’ll find lovely luxury gear at cocktailkingdom.co.uk (plus you’ll be keeping the economy afloat by throwing money at your new hobby before you’ve thrown a single drink). Don a red crushed-velvet jacket and bow tie, channelling Lloyd from The Shining’s Overlook Hotel – your bar might have that “last man standing” barfly vibe – and you’re ready to go.
The Lanesborough, London
All good hotel bar menus start with a martini – it’s a drink that all the best bartenders hone to perfection. It’s a simple mix of cold gin with a little vermouth, but when competently constructed, the subtle balance of ingredients and the temperature make it the king of cocktails. If you’re seeking a twist that justifies sipping on the wrong side of midday, try the Breakfast Martini. The cocktail comes from the mind of mixing maestro Salvatore Calabrese, who originally served it at London’s Lanesborough Hotel in the Nineties. He devised it when his wife asked him to swap his breakfast espresso for marmalade on toast, but forgetting the toast, he bar-spooned a daring dollop of preserve to his gin instead. It proved to be a winning combo.
1 bar spoon marmalade
15ml lemon juice
Stir all the ingredients in a mixing glass to break up the marmalade. Hard shake all the ingredients on ice, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a squirl of orange zest.
The Connaught, London
On to the preprandial. Hotels have made an art form of pre-dinner drinks and filling an early-evening lag is never more pressing than during lengthy spells of lockdown. For something modern, use Ago Perrone as your inspiration. Ago is the director of mixology at the Connaught Hotel, London, where he’s been treating travellers’ taste buds for years. He is a true master of the Negroni, and for an authentic flavour experience, highly recommends Caffè Mulassano in Turin, where he first tried this cocktail. But his twist on the drink, the Yellow Submarine, includes sherry and Galiano, and it is a fine one to add to your hotel home bar.
40ml Plymouth Gin
15ml Galliano L’Autentico
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
Stir ingredients in a mixing glass, strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Squeeze the oil from the lemon zest over the surface of the drink, then discard. Garnish with cucumber slices
Waldorf Astoria, New York
Extend your evening with a nightcap. The Old Fashioned made a name for itself at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York’s Park Avenue during the early 20th century. Like the martini, this classic is simple in its constituent parts, but requires protracted stirring to perfect – and you do have time on your hands. I’d make mine with Wild Turkey 101, a great Kentucky straight bourbon that has a sweet balance with spice to assert itself next to the sugar in the cocktail. It’s a strong drink, but a contemplative conclusion to your day behind your hotel bar.
5ml sugar syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
75ml Wild Turkey whiskey
Orange zest to garnish
Place the sugar syrup and bitters in a rocks glass, add one large piece of ice and stir. Add some of the bourbon and continue stirring, then keep adding bourbon slowly while stirring. Squeeze the oil from the orange zest twist over the drink, drop in the zest and continue stirring, tasting as you go to avoid over-dilution.
The Sandcastle, BVI
Travelling presents the only acceptable time to take risks with fashion, so dig out your Hawaiian shirt from the loft while you take on some tiki drinks. Now imagine you’re sailing a yacht around the British Virgin Islands, dropping anchor off Jost Van Dyke island, and swimming ashore to discover the Soggy Dollar Bar at the Sandcastle Hotel. Here the signature cocktail is the Painkiller, a twist on the piña colada and a mix of rum, pineapple and orange juice and coconut cream. Serve this up in a tiki mug, play By the Sleepy Lagoon and you’re almost there. Almost. That you’d need to be killing any pain if you were drinking this on location is questionable, but it seems a little more pertinent in isolation.
50ml Pusser’s Rum
120ml pineapple juice
25ml orange juice
25ml cream of coconut
Add liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into a Collins glass, goblet or tiki mug filled with ice. Garnish with fresh nutmeg grated on top and pineapple wedge.
St Regis Hotel, New York
The perfect brunch cocktail, even before you’re out of your jimjams. The Bloody Mary became fashionable at the St Regis Hotel’s King Cole Bar in New York and was conceived by Fernand Petiot. He originally mused on this mix at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris back in 1920, but it was during his spell in post-Prohibition Manhattan that it made its mark. The beauty of the Bloody Mary is that it will bend to your every whim. If you want something spicy, add more dashes of Tabasco. Craving something salty? Stir it in with a stick of celery.
50ml Ketel One Vodka
90ml tomato juice
20ml dry sherry
8 drops of Tabasco
4 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
2 pinches of salt
2 pinches black pepper
Pour and stir the ingredients over ice in a Collins glass
MAKE YOUR HOME A SANCTUARY
Suzanne Duckett gathers insider tips from the best spas in the world so you can turn your abode into a wellness retreat of your own
WE CAN WORK IT OUT
Take your morning exercise up a level with trainer-to-the-stars Dan Roberts, who works with Shangri-La hotels. Join his Methodology X online workout, combining Pilates, yoga, athletics, ballet, commercial dance and strength training. From £6.49 a week (danrobertsgroup.com).
STRIKE A POSE
Devonshire retreat Yeotown (yeotown.com) has launched a self-isolating wellness series for the whole family, with yoga videos for couples and for kids, plus daily meditations. Similarly, Belmond (belmond.com) has launched a virtual series to nourish the soul: uplifting poetry readings and music performances, calming mindfulness rituals and meditations, plus recipes for home-made spa therapies inspired by their hotel destinations worldwide.
GET GLOWING WITH A DIY CRYO FACIAL
Turn your bathroom into a spa-throom with delicious candles and hotel spa products. Alternatively, create your own products from the contents of your kitchen cupboards. Jessica Sproson, who designs spa treatments for Cowshed (cowshed.com), suggests these DIY cryo facials to rejuvenate complexions and reduce puffiness: “Blend a cucumber with 300ml [10.5 fl oz] of water, or steep two green tea bags in a large mug and let it cool. Transfer to an ice tray and freeze. Then put it in a soft cloth (or run under hot water) to prevent ice burns and gently glide across your face, under your eyes and along your jawline.”
She also suggests an alternative caffeine hit: a coffee body scrub to wake up circulation: “Mix three tablespoons of sea salt, two tablespoons of oil (avocado oil is ideal, or olive oil works fine) and a tablespoon of fresh coffee grounds. Apply to dry or damp skin; then wash off in the shower.”
Mauli Rituals’ ayurvedic products, used at Bulgari London and Milan, are inspired by traditional Indian home-spa recipes. To make a soothing face and neck mask, mix two tablespoons of yoghurt and one of honey, an egg and a pinch of turmeric, and let the mixture set on dry skin for up to 15 minutes, then rinse well. Add oats to create a natural exfoliant – massage gently before you rinse.
AYE, THERE”S THE RUB
“Massage is a powerful, playful way to connect with your loved ones, and now is a great opportunity to put it into practice,” says Beata Aleksandrowicz, whose Pure Massage spa method is used at spas from Dormy House in the Cotswolds to Amilla Fushi in the Maldives. “A hands and feet bedtime massage is an easy and fun way to unwind with children – take it in turn to massage theirs and yours. And scalp massages are an instant tension-buster to ease the stresses of working and schooling at home. Take it in turns to sit in a chair. Spread your fingers wide and very slowly, deeply, caringly, massage your loved one’s scalp using circular motions.”