Hotel of the month: the Sir Paul Smith Suite at Brown’s Hotel

Celebrating Brown’s Hotel’s literary past, the suite aims to inspire guests through Paul Smith’s playfully artistic vision

Brown’s Hotel opened at the dawn of the Victorian period in 1837, making it the oldest hotel in London. Its historic guest list comprises some of the most important royals, politicians, scientists and writers ever to live. Alexander Graham Bell even made London’s first-ever telephone call from the premises.

But from Evelyn Waugh and JRR Tolkien to Jorge Luis Borges and Agatha Christie, the range of literary greats who have walked its halls is, for some, the most impressive part of its heritage.

Mark Twain notably wandered about in his dressing gown and described the hotel as ‘a blessed retreat’. Joseph Conrad and Christopher Hitchens, separated by decades, both sent letters on Brown’s headed paper. And Rudyard Kipling wrote parts of The Jungle Book there.

After Rocco Forte Hotels bought the hotel in 2003, esteemed hotelier Olga Polizzi redesigned its 115 rooms. Though she gave each a unique décor, they all balance elegance with extravagance, and tradition with modernity. 

They also commemorate the hotel’s remarkable heritage, as do its iconic bars and restaurants. While The Drawing Room serves traditional afternoon teas like those Queen Victoria enjoyed during her stays, the Kipling Suite recalls, of course, the writer.

Down the street from Brown’s Hotel is the spectacular iron façade of the Paul Smith flagship store, that Polizzi frequently visits. Inside, there are many intriguing objects and captivating furnishings. Tens of thousands of dominoes line the walls of one room, while selections of art and antique furniture are constantly being curated in the basement.

Polizzi no doubt admires the designer for making unique spaces of all his stores, counterparts of those distinctive rooms she herself devised throughout Brown’s Hotel. So, she recently orchestrated a collaboration in which he designed the Sir Paul Smith Suite. Given the hotel’s history of literary icons, Smith endeavoured to create an inspiring room. 

He explains, ‘Being asked to design a space for such an iconic Mayfair institution is a great privilege – and I’ve had a great deal of fun in the process! Just like Brown’s does with its rooms, we design every Paul Smith shop differently to celebrate the area’s individuality, which is just one of the reasons the project appealed to me. On a more personal level, I’m so pleased we’ve been able to include objects that inspire me personally and I hope, in turn, they’ll inspire the suite’s guests.’

Smith has succeeded, for the suite appears as exciting and inspiring as the street of bustling boutiques it overlooks. 

Allusions to his Albemarle Street flagship populate it, with Paul Smith x The Rug Company rugs and a Maharam headboard adorned with geometric patterns inspired by its iron façade.  

Custom and vintage furniture is, meanwhile, decorated with the rich cushions released with Paul Smith’s debut homeware collection last year. The brand’s Signature Stripe makes several more appearances throughout. There’s a library of art and design books chosen by Smith. And a gallery wall – of the kind every Paul Smith shop features – displays an assortment of the designer’s hand-picked artworks. Together, these reflect Smith’s eclectic tastes from which he derives ideas for his sartorial universe. 

Being the work of Smith – who is famous for his love of “classic with a twist” – you’ll also find quirky novelties scattered about. A bronze banana door handle greets you before you’ve even set foot in the place. And dogs carved to instantiate Homer, Smith’s first canine shopkeeper, prop up logs for the suite’s stripy, tiled fireplace.

Polizzi says, ‘It is exciting to have a Sir Paul Smith Suite at Brown’s Hotel. It is elegant, bright and happy, and has a lovely sense of fun. The sitting room is full of interest with its wall of pictures, smart sofas and flamboyant cushions. The bedroom is strikingly different, with its sense of calm and space. He has caught the feeling of Brown’s Hotel, but with a Paul Smith twist.’

The Paul Smith Suite starts at £5,395 per night; to book, visit roccofortehotels.com/sir-paul-smith-suite

By Nicholas Ross. Nic is a traveller, writer and lover of literature

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