Once a bank – and designed by Edwin 'Ned' Lutyens – The Ned hotel has a wad of quirky features
All Images: The Ned
There’s something very decadent, if a little surreal, about drinking a cocktail in a bank vault-turned-bar or swimming laps in a room that used to house gold bullion. Guests at The Ned, the new hotel created in the former London headquarters of the Midland Banks, appear to take it all in their stride however.
Astonishingly, this imposing, Grade I listed building – designed by Sir Edwin ‘Ned’ Lutyens on Poultry in the City of London – sat empty for five years before its potential was spotted by Nick Jones, the founder of private members’ club Soho House & Co. In a joint venture with hotelier Sydell Group, the building has been turned into a 252-bedroom hotel plus a members’ club and nine restaurants (of which seven are open to the public).
In Millies lounge, original marble-clad pillars and large arched windows link back to the more formal ambience of yesteryear
The Ned designers Alice Lund, Adam Greco and Rebecca King collaborated with the Soho House design team – led by Marcus Barwell – and architecture practice EPR on repurposing the art-deco building for its new life in hospitality. Its design was, says Lund, something of a gift due to the quality of the original banking hall interior that had largely survived, resplendent with 92 green, verdite marble-clad columns.
In the Nickel Bar, the original black and white chequerboard floor was recreated from archive photography
‘We were very lucky with the bones of this building. You couldn’t make it like this now,’ says Lund, adding that the brief from Jones was for vintage glamour that was still luxurious, but maybe a little faded around the edges.
The design team’s task was to turn what was a deliberately formal and rather intimidating 3,000 sq m space into a more cosy and comfortable lobby/restaurant environment while, at the same time, respecting the original fabric and doing nothing to interfere with sightlines across the space.
The former gold bullion hall is now a lap pool
The original columns, joinery, and glass roof were largely sound. However, the black and white linoleum chequerboard floor and prominent uplighters had long been lost and had to be recreated with the aid of archive photography. The walnut bank counters were useful in helping to delineate the different zones of the ground floor, which now contains eight restaurants, each with their own identity of furnishings. Plenty of soft banquette seating was introduced to create comfortable nooks and create a more human-scale interior in contrast with the intimidating and formal nature of the original. An original oculus into the lower ground floor has now been covered over and utilised as a stage for musical entertainment.
The ground floor is abuzz with activity. Quieter and more private areas are found in the lower two areas, which utilise the former strongroom areas of the bank to great effect. The showstopper is the former bank’s main vault, complete with immense 20 tonne circular door, which now houses The Vault bar. The designers retained the 3,800 safe deposit boxes (now empty) that line the walls, and deployed the pull-out shelves that were designed originally to inspect the content of the boxes as handy trays for resting drinks. The shiny nature of the metal walls and ceiling is calmed down with new interventions, such as a parquet floor and bespoke furnishings in Frank Dobson designed vintage prints. ‘The challenge was how to soften a very harsh and shiny surface,’ says Lund.
The hotel has its own nail bar, called Cheeky, in a space formerly used to privately inspect the contents of deposit boxes
A second, inner concrete vault-turned-bar has been lined in pippy oak panelling and fluting. Private viewing rooms for those with safe deposit boxes have been turned to new use as beauty and barber rooms. A staircase lined with bespoke chinoiserie-influenced wallpaper leads down to a spa. The highlight is the conversion of a former bullion room into a pool hall, with the lap pool surrounded by marbleclad columns and walls newly clad in marble. ‘We wanted it to feel like an underwater cavern,’ says Lund.
There are seven floors of bedrooms, ranging from compact ‘crash-pads’ to luxury suites. All topped by the eighth-floor roof terrace with pool, bars and restaurant.
The redesign has taken three and a half years, including extensive redesign of the services to suit the building’s new use.
‘The biggest challenge was creating work that would match the level of craftsmanship and detail that was here already,’ says Lund.