From the outside, the Baglioni is a typical Kensington mansion; white stucco ground floor, red brick above, graceful and elegant and unexceptional, just across the road from Hyde Park.
Inside, though, you’re instantly aware that this is something a bit different.
The reception’s gleaming black glass chandeliers are unusual, there’s a huge eighteenth century painting that might be a Canaletto of Venice (but isn’t) and there’s a cascading water feature and echoing stone pavement. You’re in a drama apparently, not a hotel!
That same flamboyance is carried through in the rest of the hotel – Italian style, as practised in Milan or in the dolce vita of Rome, is inherently theatrical. There’s a lot of black and a lot of gold, and some wonderfully rich colours, as well as lots of space and a definite feeling of being on show. It’s a world away from the shabby-genteel we Brits do so well.
I adore the wonderfully rich colours of the hotel’s rooms – red, purple and orange, with golden vases full of gilded twigs; or red and gold striped upholstery. It’s a world away from the light colours of the Haymarket for example – with the brightness always undercut by black accents (like those black chandeliers) or the black and white geometrical prints found in many of the hotel’s suites (currently subject to a suites special offer).
That gives the décor a sense of gravitas and masculinity, as does the rich patina of the gold – also dominant in the Royal Suite, the most extravagant of the hotel’s London luxury suites. This is an old-money world – colours are either richly saturated or gently faded, giving a feel of ancient wealth, as if you’ve stepped into a villa untouched since the time of Hadrian.
The Baglioni pays great attention to detail. A single large picture will be juxtaposed with three smaller pictures, hung asymmetrically, to offset it. A room with red and gold stripes will have a single piece of flower-patterned tapestry or brocade in those colours to focus it. Throughout, there’s a sense of the bold gesture – no fussiness in the detail.
Where there are carpets, they’re as likely to run up the walls as across the floor. Other rooms have shiny dark wood floors – again darkening the palette, in contrast to the Scandinavian beechwood or stripped pine aesthetic. You’ll see what I mean through our Baglioni London Flickr set.
And there are stripes, stripes, stripes everywhere. Lots of colour but no fiddly patterns – just big bold stripes and the very occasional pinstripe just to set it off.
I sometimes stay in five star hotels where you wonder just what your several hundred pounds a night was spent on. At the Baglioni, you don’t have to wonder. The décor tells you – it’s a palace.
Photo credits: Baglioni Hotel.