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It had to happen at some point. Having opened his much-anticipated Chiltern Firehouse in London, Andre Balazs seemed intent on keeping its website a blank landing page with a telephone number and email address; whether you wanted to have dinner or spend the night, calling or emailing and hoping to get a response was your only option, unless you had insider access. Even when we finally saw one of the suites, we had all of one photo that we could share from inside the Marylebone firehouse.
Not anymore. We’re not sure exactly when this happened, but there are now plenty of photos on the website, along with – wait for it – the ability to book a room. Yourself. Online. How novel! We suppose the desire/need to fill those rooms night after night, summer or winter, won out in the end.
Above a photo of the Loft Suite that we saw back in October last year, which we described as “Chateau Marmont, with a touch of vintage and a lived-in feel”. You can see the blue/grey banquets running along the wall and just a corner of the rust-colored, chintz-covered, fringe-bottomed armchairs we referred to.
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Six pictures of six London hotels. Which one is the odd one out? Your time starts…. now.
The hotel game is one of patience, confirmed once again for us this week: four years after we first snapped pictures of a dilapidated Marylebone fire station in London, two years after we uncovered a rendering or two, and six months after Andre Balazs finally opened Chiltern Firehouse, we actually made it over the threshold of one of its suites.
The vibe? Think Chateau Marmont, with a touch of vintage and a lived-in feel. Suite number 26 (incidentally the total number of suites in the house) faced Chiltern Street itself and was described to us as one of the larger options. Frustratingly, the only photo we were allowed to take away is the official one above (of a different suite). While each suite differs in size and layout due to the listed building (hallway doors are fire station red and have the original handles, lights are controlled by original black dial switches), furniture and style is consistent throughout.
Number 26 had two banquets with the blue/grey fabric you see in the photo running along the wall, a table with a few chairs and two rust-colored, chintz-covered, fringe-bottomed armchairs. The bed, around the corner in an open-plan L-shape, was dressed in white sheets and had the same wooden headboard as above. Thick carpet, dark blue and with a paisley-like motif, added to the vintage feel. The hallway had a small walk-in closet, a separate powder room, and a bathroom with separate shower and freestanding tub. The shower, big enough to do cartwheels in, had rather interesting pale blue / sea green tiling.
A month ago we thought it looked like it was nearly complete, and so it was: Andre Balazs’ new London hotel, the Chiltern Firehouse, opened a couple of weeks ago. Nearly three and a half years after we first scoped it out, and many a walk-by in between, we were able to do a quick lap through the courtyard, peek into the buzzing restaurant, and peer through the windows into the yet-to-open bar.
We weren’t quite right with our guess of it being called the Chiltern Street Hotel (and actually prefer the Firehouse addition), but we did hit the nail on the head thinking that entry to the hotel is through the courtyard, in the far corner you see above. Those red benches we spotted were in place too, along with a range of other furniture that we trust will be permanently occupied once spring pushes through and those bare shrubs sport some greenery.
Before you rush over with your bags, know that the 26 suites aren’t quite ready yet. The restaurant, pretty much booked solid at the moment, is open daily for dinner and for brunch on the weekend.
At the very least, the exterior of Andre’s fire station-turned-hotel seems to be coming along nicely, and if we’re to believe the talked-about March opening, it better be. All scaffolding is now gone, and we can see how the three fire engine doors have been replaced – in fact, it looks pretty close to the above rendering, which can be found on a website of Chiltern Street itself, of all places.
Way back when we thought that (one of) those fire engine doors would become the hotel’s front entrance, but based on what we saw we guess arriving at the hotel will happen through the courtyard.
We are also going to go out on a limb and say it will be called the Chiltern Street Hotel, since it’s been whispered that this will be an individually-branded hotel and a notice next to one of the doors related to planning permissions named it so.
Almost to the day three years ago did we scout Marylebone’s Chiltern Street based on the juicy gossip that André Balazs had set his sights on an abandoned fire station as the location for his new London hotel. Three years ago! Where does the time go?
On the long and winding road to today, we stumbled upon some delicious renderings of the interior (which didn’t last long on the contractor’s website), learned that it would possibly be a Mercer Hotel Andre was planning here, saw a multistory extension going up at the back of the courtyard, and wondered out loud what progress was being made over the summer. A 2013 opening was always part of the plan, but in case you hadn’t noticed, Christmas is barely two months away. So will we still get inside this year?
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According to the Facebook group page, Douche Spotter--which made headlines last week for posting pics of people acting, well, douchey in the Hamptons--a bunch of folks ate at the Sunset Beach restaurant over Fourth of July and racked up a $433 bill but left no tip for their server. Douchey indeed.
Of course, we don't know the full story here. Maybe bad service is not the reason for the lack of tip. Perhaps the group left the server a wad of cash? Or perhaps the diners were Europeans as they often get tripped up by the American tipping policy? (Hmm not likely as the bill clearly says "Gratuity Not Included.")
Or maybe the group was just super pissed the hotel had no rooms open. The spot is pretty much sold-out through the end of its season (September 9th.) If you're interesting in seeing if the place is tip-worthy or not for yourself, you will have to go during the week. Rooms start at $425 a night.
Or isn’t it? Nearly five months after we checked in on the old fire station on Marylebone’s Chiltern Street that hotelier Andre Balazs supposedly is turning into a Mercer hotel, our shots from this past weekend and from February would make good material for a game of ‘spot the difference’. And we’d probably fail that game.
Walking up to the hotel, we were disappointed the huge black façade-covering scaffolding was still there; based on the permits displayed earlier this year, we had hoped it would have been taken down by now. Whether that means the work has been delayed or not, we’ll leave open for the moment, but we certainly would have hoped to see some clearer progress if an opening this year is something we’re meant to buy.
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Will this be the Hudson London?
If you thought London would be taking a break when it comes to hotel openings after a rather frenetic Olympic year, think again: the next few years look to be filled with all sorts of exciting stuff to keep us happy. We’re listing the hotels we have our eyes on for you below, and stay tuned as we will be taking you inside when we can.
- A rebirth rather than a brand new hotel, the former St. John Hotel became One Leicester Street on May 1, including a refurbished restaurant and outdoor terrace
- Over in King’s Cross, the Great Northern Hotel also got a new a lease on life as part of the revitalization of the entire station, with sleeper compartment-inspired rooms called Couchettes
- South Kensington got a new boutique hotel contender this month in the form of the 99-room Xenia Hotel on Cromwell Road, not far from the Ampersand we showed you last year
- Affordable-chic brand base2stay is re-branding itself as Nadler Hotels, and its flagship The Nadler Soho will open on June 1, a stone’s throw from the likes of Dean Street Townhouse and Firmdale’s the Soho Hotel
- This isn't really a new hotel but it is newsworthy--The Waldorf-Astoria Syon Park has now been downgraded to just the Hilton London Syon Park. A Hilton Worldwide spokesperson told Business Insider that, "Having operated the property since March 2011, we've mutually agreed with our owner that the new positioning will be the best fit for the local market."
2013 is a year full of hotel openings (we have a handy Master List for you), and it’s marked in our calendar as the possible time Andre Balazs pulls the curtain from his latest venture, the expected Mercer London.
To find out whether this year is likely to happen, we headed over to the fire station on Chiltern Street in Marylebone this past weekend to look at the construction progress, and things are moving on, if still far from being finished.
But as we were reading through the list of room service, minibar and cigarette charges, we did wonder how this notoriously private hotel--they won't allow any publication to take pictures inside the hotel ever--let this happen. We assumed maybe the hotel was finally fed up with Lohan and leaked the documents to embarrass her.
We also considered the more likely possibility that TMZ greased someone who works in the hotel's back office. But according to the Daily Mail, the hotel (which is owned and run by hotelier Andre Balazs) is absolutely horrified the letters were released and they actually blame someone in Lohan's entourage.
The other day we gave you a sneak peek at the hotel in London that hottie hotelier Andre Balazs has been working on but now we've got another bit of info from a well-connected tipster--it's going to become an outpost of AB's legendary Mercer Hotel in New York. Whee!
This is actually what we suspected would happen way back in December when we found out the old fire station on Marylebone Place would not be a Standard. And considering our man on the street in London said the building was small, we thought it would be prime for a Mercer outpost as the original Mercer is quite an intimate place to stay. In fact, our exact words were:
Back then our spy told us the building was not very big and that if indeed AB turns it into a hotel, it would be a very small one. We agreed it was too small for a Standard outpost but it might be a perfect spot for another sort of Mercer Hotel.