Set within the vibrancy and drama of London’s West End, Middle Eight Covent Garden is aptly named after the section of a song that develops naturally with a contrasting melody. Hospitality Interiors editor Sophie Harper was invited to stay and find out more about the musical inspiration behind the design of the new hotel.
A new addition to the Shiva Hotels portfolio, Middle Eight opened its doors to the public last year amid tentative lockdown easing – a brave time to open a new hospitality business in London. The management team knew it was bad timing but, after three years and a £40 million overhaul, the hotel was more than ready to welcome visitors in. Thankfully, 2021 brought about the last of the London lockdowns and a slow but steady recovery since, and Middle Eight is becoming a firm favourite among locals and out-of-towners alike.
Assigned the task of complete reconfiguration and interior design of the building, Tonik Associates came on board in 2017 and suggested some bold ideas to utilise every square foot of space. “Middle Eight was an existing building and we had to repurpose a number of the areas, which included knocking some spaces down and starting again,” says Gary Marshall, founder and MD, Tonik Associates. “We needed to increase the ground floor footprint, which meant turning outdoor space into indoor space.”
On the first floor, the designers wanted to repurpose the former meeting room spaces to use as luxury suites but had to resolve a number of issues to make the idea feasible. “The meeting rooms were dark and lifeless with no natural daylight,” says Gary. “Through careful planning and perseverance, we convinced the owners to invest in skylight windows in order to flood the rooms with natural light and turn the meeting rooms into luxury five-star suites.”
A few ideas were cast when Gary and his team were jotting down initial inspiration for the hotel’s redesign. Given the property’s location in Covent Garden, it was natural the team would be drawn to theatrical and legal themes, but without wanting the design to become too cliché they settled on a reinterpretation of the building’s former use as the Kingsway Hall music venue. The guest rooms have been given a subtle injection of music theme, while the suites are all named after pieces of music with a middle eight bridge and feature a carefully curated collection of music literature and memorabilia.
the musical emphasis, sustainability and nature also played a huge focus for the hotel design inspiration. This can be seen from the huge tree root composition displayed in the lobby – emphasising the quest for sustainable natural materials – to the thousands of hand-pressed burnished sycamore leaves, that create a bit of seasonal drama in the double-height space in the bar area, and living walls bathed in daylight from the cleverly placed suite skylights. Natural materials such as stone and wood have been used throughout the hotel as well, and offer a feeling of tactility and warmth in a contemporary setting.
The impact as you walk into the double-height reception space is one of natural grandeur and openness. From the arrival space you can see the welcome area, reception, bars, restaurant and lift lobby, so orientation of the key hospitality elements of the hotel are immediately obvious.
At reception, a huge bespoke hand-crafted desk constructed from sustainably felled olive oak greets guests checking-in. Soft lighting and a repeating form of flickering fires follows a bronzed curvy lounge space in which to relax or meet with friends.
On the left-hand-side of the building’s ground floor, the space opens up into an impressive bar area where the double-height ceiling features the seemingly floating sycamore leaves. On the walls, lighting has been used to create subtle geometric ambience while huge floor-to-ceiling windows create a wonderful people-watching frame for onlookers both inside and out.
the back of the ground floor, an open-plan space from the bar area leads directly to Sycamore Vino Cucina, where bright blues and mustard yellows are surrounded by light, natural stone, and the stage is set for chefs creating authentic Italian cuisine via the open kitchen space.
Above the restaurant, on mezzanine level, The Balcony offers a sophisticated retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. Acting as a kind of fancy library with bar area and light bites available, the space is chic in appearance and laidback in feel. A continuation of natural materials follows form here, while more mellow, earthy tones have been used in the furnishings. Low-level lighting gives the space a more intimate vibe as day turns to night with the air of exclusive members club.
A feature staircase takes visitors from mezzanine level down to the lower ground floor where the hotel’s on-site club, QT, resides. Previously used for operational and back of house ancillary space, QT is a cabaret bar that has been conceived in the style of a discovered speakeasy using base materials as finishes and core steel lighting features to give a slightly brutal feel to the space – as though it has just been discovered.
guest rooms and 12 suites occupy the first floor and above. Suites are an impressive labyrinth of connecting spaces where custom cabinetry and chic mid-century style furniture sets the tone for luxury lounging. Larger than a lot of London apartments, some of the suites feature separate seating and dining areas, water features, and outdoor terraces. Skylights allow light to flood down onto kitchenette and dining spaces giving the suites a bit of a ‘wow’ factor. Living walls and gently burning feature fireplaces create a sense of home. Contemporary four-poster beds are delightfully indulgent, as are the marbled bathrooms with huge freestanding soft-touch tubs with accent brushed gold brassware and polished black vanity units.
“The main design principles developed for the client as a whole revolve around the mantra of ‘luxury with purpose’ beautiful design and luxurious natural finishes sourced with conscience,” says Gary. “Great care was taken to allow the individuality of each area to shine through so they can stand alone but work cohesively together.”
The hotel’s layout and design is an absolute triumph with enough atmosphere and intrigue to keep the most avid traveller interested. The building’s storied past is a lovely theme to continue into its new iteration and gives the hotel its soul. Award winning for its restaurant design already, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to hear of more accolades for this property in the coming years.