Le Méridien Seoul is an interesting amalgam of Parisian glamour, in line with the brand’s own heritage, and Korean design, in both its traditional and contemporary forms.
David Collins Studio has created an interior that is at once grand and residential. From start to finish, the guest journey has been meticulously crafted, ensuring that it is both visually interesting and remains faithful to Le Méridien’s mid-century modern design ethos.
Passing through a porte-cochère with decorative columns, guests enter the lobby, where they are greeted by twin reception and concierge desks in a sculptural stepped design, flanked by decorative woven metal screens and squared-off columns clad in dark timber.
A simple palette of grey stone, dark timber and aged brass has been used throughout the ground floor, creating a perfect backdrop for the reds and greens used within the seating upholstery and other fine detailing.
"The décor and furniture here draws from traditional Korean arts and crafts, incorporating elements of local artisanship and applying them to contemporary furnishings"
The décor and furniture here draws from traditional Korean arts and crafts, incorporating elements of local artisanship and applying them to contemporary furnishings. Decorative woven and knotted thread – an ancient technique known as maedeup – becomes woven metal; hammered metal tableware (Bangjja) becomes hammered metal door handles; and the hand-stitched, intricately-patterned fabrics Korea is famous for are reinterpreted for window treatments and used as trims on the drapery.
Le Méridien Seoul’s remarkable artwork collection also plays a prominent role in the interior. The first thing guests see as they enter the hotel, in fact, is a large-scale piece by a local artist, made from traditional Korean Hanji paper. This acts as a real focal point, imbuing the lobby with colour and drama.
In keeping with the Le Méridien’s trademark mid-century aesthetic – namely its clean simplicity, layering of materials and use of subdivided grid systems to bring balance and proportion – David Collins Studio has devised a completely new layout for the ground floor of the hotel. The team played with and modified the existing structure to create a grand colonnade running the length of the ‘old’ building – the hotel comprises old and new buildings linked by a 12th floor bridge – which aids circulation, while also creating a sense of grandeur and a rhythm to the space.
"The team played with and modified the existing structure to create a grand colonnade running the length of the ‘old’ building"
The colonnade is a nod to the classical enfilade, inviting the visitor to explore the building and – with focal points at either end – creating a strong vista from left to right along the ground floor. Columns have been squared off and clad in fluted timber, slightly glossed to create a strong look. Subtle custom wall sconces, designed by The Studio and realised in antique brass and fluted glass, cast a soft light.
The flooring in the colonnade is arctic white stone, laid in a patchwork of grains to create pattern and texture, with grey stone borders serving to define the grid system. The stepped panels of the recessed ceiling coffers echo the grid-like lines of the flooring, further enhancing the mid-century-inspired geometric feel.
As guests progress through the colonnade, a series of rooms are revealed – restaurants, seating areas, VIP check-in, concession and Latitude 37 (a coffee shop and cocktail bar) – all divided by woven metal and green leather screens. This new floorplan creates a much-needed sense of flow from area to area, while establishing a consistency of mood and style throughout the hotel.
Situated in the rear central section of the hotel, the atrium provides a key orientation point for guests. David Collins Studio repositoned the escalators to allow the continuation of the colonnade, and to create a more ordered, user-friendly and functional space. The atrium now spans five floors, its height accentuated by fluted timber columns, linked by the new grid-pattern fenestration of the atrium, which takes its inspiration from the French mid-century designed element of department store, Le Bon Marche in Paris.
Located adjacent to the entrance lobby, Latitude 37 is the hotel’s combined coffee shop and cocktail bar. David Collins Studio met the challenge of catering for these two very different requirements by creating a space that can be transformed in a short space of time to suit both roles.
Latitude 37’s custom furnishings and lighting are inspired by the mid-century aesthetic with a particular focus on the work of Hans Wegner. Sleek timber cabinets house coffee machines that remain open during the day, and a cabinet for baked goods. At 6pm these cabinets are closed and the lighting is modified as Latitude 37 segues into its night-time mode as a cocktail bar.
The fluted antique brass bar itself has custom decorative lighting in opaque glass to further enhance the evening mood and bring the finishes to life, while the back bar is a patchwork of timber screens and mirrors.
Latitude 37 also functions as a gallery space for more of the hotel’s permanent collection of artworks. Inspired by artists’ studios, paintings are arranged at high level around the ceiling perimeter of the space and pitched at an angle to facilitate viewing from ground level. One wall of the space is glazed, offering ample natural light during the day, and hung with traditional Korean layered blinds. A deep red woven wool rug anchors the furniture.
Located at the far end of the colonnade from the lobby is the hotel’s restaurant, Chef’s Palette. The buffet area here is divided into smaller, more intimate sections, created by a grid arrangement of crackle-glazed white tiles and glass block screens. Key joinery pieces feature deep red crystal quartz tops, while woven paper in the coffers creates texture and depth.
The main colonnade divides the buffet zone and wine cellar area from the all-day dining tables and restaurant bar. The latter zone has basket-weave patterned timber flooring, inspired by local Korean handicrafts, and leaded glass screens. Glazed doors lead out to the generously sized outdoor terrace – itself something of a rarity in Seoul.
On the 12th floor of the property, meanwhile, is Le Méridien Seoul’s exclusive private members’ club. Accessed via a spectacular bridge, the club offers guests who have booked into a suite a more exclusive location for dining, meeting and relaxing. Comprising a buffet area, dining room, lounge and private dining/meeting room, it is finished in dark timber, dark green and navy velvets, with woven leather on the backs of chairs and warm red accents in the soft furnishings.
Those searching for the height of luxury and exclusivity, however, need look no further than the Presidential suite. Comprising six main rooms, each with a distinct feel, the suite is accessed via a grand foyer, which has a rotunda featuring a high-level screen inspired by the work of Pierre Chareau realised in eucalyptus and antique brass trims.
Within the living and dining spaces there is a show kitchen with separate entrance and a terrace with a generously sized outdoor dining area. A spiral staircase leads to the suite’s upper terrace, which features a jacuzzi and cabanas.
"The décor throughout is an impactful blend of green, lavender and blues teamed with dark timber parquet flooring and velvet upholstery"
The décor throughout is an impactful blend of green, lavender and blues teamed with dark timber parquet flooring and velvet upholstery. The study is lined with navy-stained joinery and shagreen details with a textured paper behind it in navy and gold. Walls in the bedroom are an elegant ivory and lime green cracked gesso, while furniture throughout is custom furniture inspired by French designers of the 1950’s and includes a selection of pieces selected from the David Collins Studio for Promemoria “The London Collection”.
A dressing room is realised in grey rippled sycamore, with doors leading out to a private terrace, while the dining room is finished in navy-stained timber.
The hotel’s 253 standard rooms, meanwhile, are simple, refined and functional in style. To make best use of the rooms’ modest 27m2 footprint, David Collins Studio devised the concept of a 50/50 split between bedroom and bathing area.
This equal division allows for a larger and more functional open-plan bathroom and dressing area, with separate vanity area, giving a more luxurious feel to the rooms. Maximising the opening between bedroom and living areas also creates the appearance of a much larger space, while a large sliding screen door can be used to separate the room into two discrete zones when required.
Finishes and furnishings continue to draw inspiration from mid-century style, with timber trimming on architectural details, and lavender and cream leather screens in a pojagi pattern that reference the hotel’s Korean heritage and a custom-designed clothes storage hanging system.
Décor in the bathroom area is a basketweave of white marble with a green accent, and patterned basketweave ceramic mosaic tiling to the walls. In the dressing area, a mirrored elevation enhances the sense of openness and space.