How could you not relinquish control to a guide which states it's 'a precise, informative insider's checklist of all you need to know about the world's most intoxicating cities'...
Last month we were up in London for the UK Blog Awards and were lucky enough to stay at the luxury serviced home-from-home Orchid Way from Merino Hospitality. Caio met with us at the property just off Russell Square and was so friendly and personable we felt instantly at ease. He explained our Bloomsbury surroundings as our eyes grew wider at the opportunities of being so enviably located in central London (think the tube one street away, rows of independent shops and cafés, the iconic 1970s Brutalist Brunswick centre around the corner… we were starting to feel there wasn’t going to be enough time).
However, it was clear that the mews home was going to provide the R&R we needed after all this excitement. Situated on a quiet street behind the famous Hotel Russell it was private and retreat-like and the home had enough gadgets to render us childlike (handmade beds with integrated lighting, SONOS audio which could link to your mobile, Netflix TV, solar heating system, rain sensor skylights, Wi-fi, a fully-fitted kitchen and a huge selection of Pecksniff and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries). You get the picture!
There’s so much to talk about with Orchid Way but lets begin with something which impressed us from the start. As soon as you walk in from the cobbled mews street the feel is one which is independent, artistic and worldly. There is artwork throughout the house, books displayed in frames, flowers, pretty ceramics, carafes with water, art supplies and huge wall decos – this is not your average pad. Far from it and it’s origins are just as interesting as these now multi-million pound mews houses were originally built as stable blocks back in the 18th century.
The house retains this sense of character and history and the contemporary interiors work to bring out these architectural gems through their use of quality materials. In retaining the stable doors, creating a loft-like open space upstairs and allowing you to open the house up entirely to the cobbled street outside you have the feeling you have your own little slice of London – and in fact the owners went one step further in allowing their guests to design the entire house from scratch… Intrigued by this concept we were excited to see if the notion of ‘design by committee’ is ever a good idea for the resulting design and delved a little deeper into the process they undertook.
When Merino Hospitality took the property on they decided to trust in those who had trusted in them; their guests. They sent a video to over 1,000 of their previous guests from neighbouring mews properties asking for their help in designing Orchid Way.
Guests were provided with a moodboard for the house with around 5 options for every item from cutlery to sofas (and everything in-between!). They were also welcomed to make their own suggestions outside of these options as the owners totally relinquished control to make this a highly unusual and democratic renovation not seen often in the design world. When asked about how they felt about undertaking it Caio said: ‘When we decided to do this we were certainly nervous about the potential outcome of such a leap of faith but luckily enough our guests have great taste so it was actually an incredibly exciting process’.
Guests listed their preferences in order and the most voted items were put in place which, as you can imagine, required considerable work behind the scenes! This belief and dedication to being client-led also extended to the name of the house as guests were encouraged to name the property as an homage to someone or something that was important to them. Even the artwork was chosen by the people in the Merino Hospitality office so everyone had their say! The resulting design is eclectic but really works as the spaces are unified by repetitive materials such as the light ash wooden flooring, minamalist glass balustrades and white walls giving it a restful feel.
So whose up for a little house tour?
The accomodation comprises of two bedrooms and two bathrooms with a large mezzanine and hidden playden but lets start from the ground floor which is open-plan meaning you have a combined living / kitchen area with a large wet room off the hall.
Walking up the stairs you arrive at the first of several split levels. Off this floor is a large bedroom with a coastal airy style with beautiful built in shelving and the master bathroom.
There are then a few further steps to take up which unveils the master bedroom which is full height to the roof and incorporates a large mezzanine and a hidden playroom (through the little door top right).
The master bedroom has a gorgeous autumnal forest scheme and feels cosy despite being full height. The beds are something which slightly blew our minds too. They’re bespoke and handmade and exclusive to the properties Merino Hospitality provide. Layered with Merino wool, white cotton felt, fabric, silk and individually pocketed springs you can imagine how deep and comfy they are to sleep in. The beds themselves are also fitted with sensors so when you step out of bed at night low-level light casts across the floor to help guide you. If we could have packed the bed in our bags we might have…
Light shines through the automatic skylights which have rain sensors and automatic closing functions. They also provide beautiful glimpses of the London rooflines.
Likewise you look out onto beautiful apartments with green zinc detailing from the front windows, the patina of the metal glows according to the level of light outside making them feel part of the artwork in the house and they capture your attention through the glass balustrades.
So what were the details which made this property so special? Aside from the lovely touches such as greeting baskets and flowers it was the attention to detail which made this feel like such a special base. The bath had a tap behind your head so you could instantly control the heat and speed of the water cascading onto your toes. There were automatic low-level lights for nighttime, perspex side tables by the bed, secure Banham locking systems… books you actually wanted to pick up. It felt like home but a spoily home and everything was impeccably clean making it feel like a healthy place to be.
There are lots of architectural tricks to take from living (albeit temporarily) in such a thoughtfully created space. It has added meaning when you know that this space was conceived with the input from 1,000 people worldwide. So maybe when we’re renovating our own homes we should open ourselves up a little more to the opinions of friends and family to end up with a space which is much more than the sum of its parts.
We were guests of Orchid Way but all thoughts and photographs our own. We will be back!
Founded in 2014 by Katy Goutefangea, Ola creates traditionally crafted stationery collections, featuring original prints of such zingy energising patterns. ‘Made in the UK’ adorns their wares which is a refreshing statement in a time when we’re often told ‘costs have forced us elsewhere’…
The quality of the cards is something which is immediate to see with heavy thick set card and foil blocked designs – this sits well with the principle behind the designs: ‘each item is a quiet celebration of pattern, influenced by architecture, abstract geometry and artists such as Sol LeWitt, Anni Albers and Donald Judd’. There is a quiet brilliance to this brand and we were lucky enough to sit down with Katy to ask a few questions about the inspirations and design processes behind Ola.
What is it about architecture that you find so inspiring?
I’m often drawn to the ornament found in architecture. There’s an interesting interaction between the size of buildings and their smaller human scale detailing. The period we research will often change depending on the collection we’re working on – at the moment there are lots of postmodern buildings on the pinboard!
These architectural references make for a really refreshing offering. Ola products are crafted in small quantities with a dedication to detail – stitching in place of gluing, inks laid with a roller instead of digitally – traditional craftsmanship which just shines with quality. Take for instance the patterned spine notebooks which are designed so that the spines will match when shelved for display and ease of organisation.
Do you dream in geometry and pattern? What impact do you think colour and pattern plays in our lives?
Pattern is, and always has been, a huge part of human life. Some of the earliest items in known history are decorated – it’s something we’ve been doing since the beginning of time. The prints on each of our notepads have been developed to balance pattern and subtlety. It’s important that the prints enhance the notebooks aesthetically and inspire the user, without distracting from what is essentially a blank space to record thoughts and ideas. The patterns are intended to be almost meditative, somewhere you can rest your gaze while thinking of something else.
Katy, when so many are going digital why have you focused on going ‘analogue’ with paper and traditional craftsmanship / manufacturing?
There is something very different about writing in a notepad to taking notes digitally. They definitely both have their place. Paper can be used to sketch and write simultaneously, it can be rotated and torn. It doesn’t need to be switched on to record a passing thought. It can be carried anywhere, crumpled and dropped without much worry. It can be flicked through at a later date and stored on a shelf. The same cannot be said for any digital device.
This detail matters. Despite the technologically dominated age we’re living in stationery design continues to grow in the UK – we still all feel a connection with writing, with posting, with making. The tactile nature of these beautiful products will only continue to strengthen this bond and play their part in attracting new generations of paper addicts for all the right reasons; to help people tell their own story.
We will be trialling out some origami techniques with paper from the current range ‘Dash Print in Klein Blue’ and ‘Victor Print in Turquoise Blue’ using this lovely book ‘Folding Techniques for Designers’. These pattern papers are traditionally printed in England, using vegetable based inks and soft white uncoated paper stocks and is a lovely quality for craft (or wrapping for that special person). We love the bold geometric inspired patterns so we’re excited to see the results… watch this space on our Instagram feed for progress!
Please note we were sent products to photograph for the purpose of this interview. All photographs ecomodernstudios
We were honoured to be shortlisted as a Top 10 Finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2016 (thank you to everyone who voted and got involved!). Before we knew it the day was upon us and we were hurtling towards London by train to begin the adventure…
There were over 74,000 votes this year and 600 brands and bloggers spent the night celebrating the blogging industry in Westminster. There was a really celebratory mood and short talks were given by industry leaders on the way in which we have this unique platform on our hands in which to share journeys, experiences and our being.
The evening was sponsored by many companies but the primary sponsor was Odeon Cinemas and their talks focused on the way in which storytelling has become more democratic in the digital age. They had the BFG roaming free and bubble magicians with lit-up blossom trees and candles hanging through the branches. It was magical set design..
We didn’t win our category (Make Wealth History rightly won) but it was amazing to see the blog up in lights!
After the ceremony we mulled about at the odeon pop up cinema, watched the bubble man create unfathomable shapes and drank cocktails of which we couldn’t tell the ingredients.
We then walked back alongside the Thames. The London Eye was lit up as were the blossom trees and there was a really lovely jovial environment to soak in as we made our way to catch the last tube of the night.
Before we knew it we were back at the amazing Orchid Way (our accommodation for the mini-break). It’s amazing to open the door to your own mews house just off Russell Square. More on that soon…
If you’d like to see more photos from the journey then come follow us on Instagram!