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Chelsea Harbour + Chelsea Harbour Hotel London

Suite Success

Chelsea Harbour River Thames London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Over the course of multiple visits – breakfasts and brunches, dates and dinners, walks and weekends – Lavender’s Blue cover and discover and rediscover London’s best Eighties development. Back in the day, Astrid Bray was Director of Sales and Marketing at the Conrad London (as Chelsea Harbour Hotel was originally named). She recalls various Chelsea Harbour restaurants, “There was Ken Lo’s Memories of China and Viscount Linley’s Deals. Marco Pierre White’s The Canteen was owned by Michael Caine, a great friend of ours. Deals was opposite The Canteen on the same side as Ken Lo’s. There was a pool table bar called Fisher’s. We would bring pop groups like Westlife through the loading bay to get to the bar!” A shortage of celebrities was never an issue. “Robbie Williams bought an apartment in The Belvedere opposite the hotel. Take That and Tina Turner stayed in the Conrad. We had a lot of fun there. One night I sat on the grand piano in the bar while Lionel Richie played and sang! There’s nothing in life that isn’t slightly mad!”

Chelsea Harbour Thameside © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour, all seven hectares of it, is a defining development of late 20th century London. Despite its Thameside location, the former industrial site had been poorly connected and blighted by infrastructure proposals. Architect Ray Moxley of Moxley + Jenner won a competition organised by landowner British Railways Property Board to design a mixed use scheme. “It seemed obvious to excavate the old harbour, rebuild the lock, repair the walls and form a new yacht harbour,” Ray remembered. “Harbours are always pleasant to watch and enjoy and property values are higher on the waterfront.” Honfleur provided inspiration. That town in northern France has houses and shops and bars and studios grouped around a lock on the mouth of the River Seine.

Chelsea Harbour River View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The triple level penthouse of The Belvedere merited its own brochure in the original marketing of Chelsea Harbour. Designed by Mary Fox Linton, the “interior of contrasts” included Seguso urns in the entrance hall and Hurel furniture in the reception room. “Fine views of the Thames on one side and upstream towards Richmond on the other” were rightfully recorded. The kitchen was fitted out by Bulthaup and the “warm intimate” guest bedroom had an Alvar Aalto table and 18th century chairs. Apropos to a flagship scheme, Ms Linton’s rejected chintz for eclectic minimalism.

The Belvedere Chelsea Harbour Thames © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Grouping is key to Chelsea Harbour’s aura of containment. The marina is tightly ringed by the hotel, Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and apartment blocks. Ray’s genius was to create a sense of place. The tallest apartment block, the 20 storey Belvedere, next to where the marina flows into the river, is topped by a whimsical witch’s hat roof. A maquette version of this roof tops the security pagoda entrance to Chelsea Harbour. Ray excelled at roofscapes sculpting a cornucopia of pyramids, swan necked pediments and mansards.

Chelsea Harbour Scheme © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Belvedere Chelsea Harbour © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Boats © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Apartments © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Marina © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour London Apartment © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel London © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and Hotel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel and Design Centre © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Offices © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Gatehouse © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre Dome © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Design Centre New Entrance © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel View © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Sign © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The architect was also adept at architectural playfulness, from reinterpreted Trafalgar balconies to oversized industrial metal window frames. The Design Centre is lit by tall glazed domes, ogee roofed conservatories and outsized neo Georgian windows topped by fanlights. Chunky columns and bulky balustrades add to the sense of gargantuan scale. Ray Moxley died in 2014 aged 91. Architectural practice APT is now encasing more of the original mall in glass to form an internal street. Lead architect Robin Partington enthuses, “We have the best jobs in the world. It’s all about curating, whether designing the interiors of an office development or masterplanning a scheme.”

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Bedroom © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour Hotel is shaped like half a butterfly, with two wings hugging the marina in an architectural embrace. The top of the tips of the wings culminate in oriels in the sky. Undulating waves of balconies swirl and curl their way across the elevations. The hotel looks like a grounded ocean liner. Earl Snowdon’s eatery Deals, which he launched in 1988 with his cousin Lord Lichfield, may have long gone but there’s always Chelsea Riverside Brasserie on the raised ground floor of the hotel. And yes, the view lives up to its name. The Canteen is also confined to history and memory. Its à la carte menu for October 1997 priced starters (featuring frivolity of smoked salmon and caviar) from £6.95 to £8.50 and mains (such as escalope of salmon with stir fried Asian greens, ginger and soya dressing) were all £12.95. These days, Chelsea Harbour Hotel room suite service caters for midnight munchies. Hand dived scallop ceviche at 2am? Yes please. Chelsea Harbour Hotel is the only all suite five star hotel in London.

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Piano © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The cruise ship inspiration wasn’t just confined to the exterior: it flowed indoors too. “David Hicks designed the hotel interiors in 1993,” explains Astrid. “It was all about a ship. He believed, ‘Themes are always intriguing.’ The mezzanine stairs were modelled on a cruise liner. The ground floor meeting room was called The Compass Rose. There were lots of blues and light ash wood in the interiors.” It was a real era catcher. One of David’s best known earlier works was his colourful revamp of Baronscourt, the Duke and Duchess of Abercorn’s seat in County Tyrone. Wallpaper by his designer son Ashley Hicks is for sale in Chelsea Harbour Design Centre.

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Restaurant © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Chelsea Harbour is the private members’ club of the marina world with a record breaking six year minimum waiting list. The luckily berthed include: Achill Sound; Ariadne; Christanian II: Ella Rose; Esperance; Honey Rider; and (guess which actor’s?) The Italian Job. A four bedroom Lamoure yacht is currently for sale at £249,000. Back on dry land, the range of properties on the 2020 market include: a two bedroom duplex penthouse (92 square metres) in Carlyle Court for £1,000,000 | a two bedroom third floor apartment (90 square metres) in King’s Quay for £1,200,000 |  a two bedroom duplex penthouse (112 square metres) in Carlyle Court for £1,250,000 | a three bedroom 14th floor apartment (194 square metres) in The Belvedere for £3,200,000 | a four bedroom ninth floor apartment (186 square metres) in The Belvedere for £3,300,000. Splashing the cash is one sure way to make a visit permanent.

Chelsea Harbour Hotel Corridor © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

Design Luxury People

Savoir Beds London + Alistair Hughes

To Know Is To Love

1 Savoir Beds copyright

When Linda Evangelista uttered the immortal words that she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 she probably was draped across a Savoir bed. “It would be easier to think of famous people who don’t sleep on one of our beds!” says Savoir Beds’ chief executive Alistair Hughes. “After all, our raison d’être is to be the best beds in the world.” Nowadays you are more likely to be holding a laptop than court in bed but Savoir continues to instil a sense of majesty in the piece of furniture on which you spend one third of your life.

3 Savoir Beds copyright

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, Savoir has launched a limited edition of the Royal State Bed. Designer Mandeep Dillon looked to Hampton Court Palace for inspiration. The result is a half tester, a reinterpretation of the palace’s Angel Bed. Its side curtains are flat, not gathered, and padded to give a tailored finish which accentuates the five metre height of the bed. A high base and mattress maintain the regal proportions. It takes craftsmen over 600 hours to make the Royal State Bed – 70 hours alone go into the crest embroidery. Taking account of the workmanship, the visible materials (silk damask drapes) and the hidden (blond Latin American horse tail and Mongolian cashmere wool in the mattress), little wonder it costs six figures, a king’s ransom, to buy.

Alistair started working life as a management consultant before deciding he “wanted to do something different”. We are on a tour of the “bedworks”, surely London’s most pristine workshop. Craftsmen are tidily engaged in intricate tasks, box springs and toppers under construction resembling abstract artworks. “A workshop should be clean,” he believes. “How can you produce something great if the environment is cluttered? It would reduce efficiency, otherwise. Besides, we still get clients coming to visit us here. People like to see us at work.” For those who don’t make it to the bedworks, there are showrooms on Wigmore Street and on the King’s Road plus a concession at Harrods. The company which was first started in 1905 to produce beds for the Savoy Hotel has gone worldwide. “We’re opening our third Chinese showroom this year,” Alistair confirms.

He bought the company in 1997 when ownership of the Savoy Hotel was being broken up and has gradually rebuilt the brand, opening a further bedworks in Treforest, south Wales. “Heritage, quality and craftsmanship” are what make Savoir tick – and ticking. “Our beds are fitted to clients’ needs, just like a Savile Row suit. Every bed is ‘bench made’.” In the UK mattresses tend to be zipped and linked for double beds, each side different. Americans apparently prefer whole mattresses. The Trellis Ticking, woven from linen and cotton, was designed by the founder’s wife Lady D’Oyly Carte and is still used. “It’s a fantastic industrial design,” enthuses Alistair. “The grid pattern enforces symmetry and provides a structured guide for where to stitch on other parts like the handles.” She clearly wasn’t just a pretty name.

“We’re not wedded to the past though. We exploit what’s best, embracing advances in technology where appropriate, while using natural materials.” Headboards are totally bespoke and unusual requests range from designs in the shape of burlesque dresses to airplane wings. “However most people opt for the house style they see in our showrooms,” he says. “I like very simple things myself. In St Petersburg, gold claw feet are popular. Horses for courses – the sky’s the limit!” Many of the supremely high quality fabrics used are from John Boyd Textiles mill in Somerset. Savoir has worked with most top designers. Nina Campbell and Mary Fox Linton are just two of them. Check the mattress label the next time you’re in a top hotel and there’s a good chance it will be Savoir. Chewton Glen and Home House are just two of them.

The business model is that, again like a Savile Row suit, work only begins when an order is received. “We don’t keep stock,” says Alistair. At completion of each stage of manufacturing a double check is made. The bed is then fully assembled, checked a final time and photographed as a reference for setting it up. If its onward journey is far, a wooden carrying case is made. “There are 700 springs in a single bed,” explains Alistair. “Three sizes of wire are used depending on the firmness of mattress required: 1.6 millimetres in diameter for a firm mattress; 1.4 millimetres for medium and 1.25 for soft. That’s only 0.35 millimetres difference between the two extremes and yet it makes such an amazing difference.” Spooky, Alistair’s Boston Terrier, has her own bed in the bedworks. Savoir, of course.