Photography by Anthony Parkinson
This classic five-star property originally opened in 1961, assuming the mantle of ‘London’s first tower hotel’, as well as its tallest. Naturally the 60s and 70s saw the hotel become a glamorous destination for international stars and Chelsea socialites alike.
Following an 18-month, £100m transformation commencing in September 2019, this important modernist building now boasts a new foyer and reception, 186 new bedrooms and suites, a new health club and spa, restaurant, lobby bar and lounge, ballroom and meeting rooms – restoring it to the glamour of yesteryear.
The property was originally designed by Henry End, who was also responsible for the interiors of the Plaza Hotel in New York. Acclaimed interior and architecture design studio, 1508 London, is responsible for the current iteration, and has drawn from the hotel’s glamorous heritage and locale to create a timeless, refined interior with an unmistakable sense of grandeur. Award-winning construction and interior fit-out company, Beck Interiors, acted as main contractor on the project.
“The 60s and 70s saw the hotel become a glamorous destination for international stars and Chelsea socialites alike”
The design team has preserved and rejuvenated the building’s original, clean modernist aesthetic, layering the eclectic architectural mix of the surrounding mansion blocks and homes, while adding soft, curved edges, pops of bright colour, and organic-inspired forms throughout. Guests’ access to the covetable green space and tennis courts of the nearby Cadogan Gardens was also a key source of inspiration.
The arrival experience has been reimagined with a refurbished porte cochere and main entrance. A new stone façade and soffit of Portland stone combine with bespoke lighting, landscaping and new glazing to create an impactful first impression.
The large external sculpture by Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-93) – commissioned for the hotel’s original opening, when her career was in its infancy – has been retained and restored. This remarkable piece takes pride of place at the porte cochere entranceway, which continues on to the redesigned turntable glass doors.
Passing into the lobby, guests are greeted by a striking double-height space. Echoing the style of a classical British grand hall, the interior incorporates decorative marble flooring in Calacatta Lincoln, and a discreetly positioned reception desk for a private check-in experience.
A bespoke fluted chandelier by Lasvit – connected by 504 strings – channels the hotel’s botanical theme as an abstract interpretation of a blossoming chrysanthemum. This elegant lighting design extends onto the main staircase, where Lasvit has created a cascading chandelier, adorned with gold mica-infused crystal buds.
“A bespoke fluted chandelier by Lasvit – connected by 504 strings – channels the hotel’s botanical theme as an abstract interpretation of a blossoming chrysanthemum”
Accessed from the lobby is The Chinoiserie – the hotel’s much-loved all-day dining area, now transformed with Calacatta Oro marble tabletops, light-stained oak joinery and a selection of sumptuous furniture. This elegant and light design is complemented by a striking bespoke art piece across an entire wall. A collaboration between 1508 London and Rima & McRae, the installation is a dark bronze and pewter relief abstract map of London, and forms a contemporary reference to artist Feliks Topolski’s mural of London, which was part of the original Carlton Tower Lobby design, and depicted the hotel’s prominent location within the city.
The hotel’s destination restaurant, Al Mare, offers a convivial gastronomic experience led by Italian native, Marco Calenzo. A new entrance and terrace is celebrated with Portland stone planters and olive trees, capturing the light, fresh Mediterranean feel to the new signature restaurant.
The bar is the centrepiece of the upper-level lounge, and features rich green woven leather panels and a dramatic veined Rosapino marble top, set against a backdrop of decorative chevron metallic tiles, framed with warm-toned timber to the backbar.
The Theatre Kitchen is the main event in the dining room, however, with a glazed screen offering views into the kitchen and suspended display shelving adding decorative interest and functional storage. The palette in the dining area takes on a more coastal Mediterranean feel, with deep blues and greens offset with warm terracotta tones and oak parquet flooring.
The hotel’s impressive public spaces are rounded off by The Peak Fitness Club & Spa. Set across three floors, the space has been completely redesigned to create new treatment rooms for the Talise Spa on the second floor, as well as a revitalised swimming pool area, complete with poolside cabanas.
“The palette in the dining area takes on a more coastal Mediterranean feel, with deep blues and greens offset with warm terracotta tones and oak parquet flooring”
A blend of striking marbles has been used throughout: Ivory Onyx sourced from Antolini in Italy for the spa reception; Travertine for the pool feature wall and whirlpool; Bottacino for the second-floor changing rooms and treatment rooms; and Tundra for the ninth-floor changing rooms. Grohe has fitted out the spa with its leading range of bathroom fittings.
A gym complete with bespoke Technogym equipment can be found on the ninth floor, overlooking The Peak’s light-filled cafe with breathtaking panoramic views across the capital.
The hotel’s 186 beautifully-appointed guest rooms mirror the impeccible standards and attention to detail seen in the public spaces. Almost 50% of the keys at The Carlton Tower are suites, reflecting the hotel patrons’ historical preference for increased space and longer stays.
A contemporary classic aesthetic combines with modernist-style influences to enhance the feel of light and space within the accommodation. Wall panelling and detailing, light oak joinery manufactured and installed by specialist British joiners, and furnishings with softer forms contribute to this timeless elegance. The warm colour palette, meanwhile, is influenced by British heritage hues of deep blue, green and maroon.
Guest bathrooms have been decked out floor-to-ceiling in Volakas marble sourced from Turkey, with Waterworks brassware in polished nickel, Villeroy & Boch sanitaryware and Grown Alchemist toiletries.
A particular highlight of the accommodation is the newly-created Royal Suite. As the hotel’s most exclusive residence, the suite features three bedrooms, with the option to isolate the entire floor for the utmost security and discretion.