Radisson Edwardian chain's 10 property, $150M refit nears end


LONDON -- Radisson Edwardian said a $150 million refurbishment of its nine hotels in London's West End and one at Heathrow Airport is two-thirds complete.

The renovations so far reflect a modern reinterpretation of Edwardian decor popular in England from 1901 until the death of Kind Edward VII in 1910, a decade when London became a world capital of sophistication.

During the Edwardian period, the fashionable and wealthy would show off the extent of their journeys -- as far as China, Persia, Japan and India -- in their home furnishings.

Edwardian style is typically associated with Chinese furniture, Persian carpets, Japanese prints and Indian wall hangings, the most popular artifacts globetrotters would bring home during that brief era.

The new decor is in keeping with the hotel group's effort to redefine its marketing image in the U.S., from the quaint "London's country houses" tagline it ran for years to modern English style -- "like staying in a world traveling Londoner's home," said Kelvin Houchin, executive vice president of Radisson Edwardian.

In the course of renovations over the next two years, Houchin said, "What is very important is that we maintain the 'Englishness' of the hotels. You won't come from Boise, [Idaho,] and feel you have woken up in Boise."

The refurbishment of three Radisson Edwardian hotels, the Kenilworth in Bloomsbury, Mountbatten in Covent Garden and Vanderbilt in South Kensington, already is complete and represents an investment of $61.5 million.

To date, the company invested $9 million into each of its two five-star hotels, the Hampshire, at the southwest corner of Leicester Square, and the Radisson Edwardian at Heathrow.

At the airport property, public areas and half of the guest rooms were spruced up. The balance of its 459 rooms will be redone this year.

At the Hampshire, the full $9 million was invested into its public areas, including the Apex bar and restaurant and the Crescent bar. In the latter, touches such as semiprivate alcoves and leaning beverage glasses -- which appear as if they're about to spill -- create a playfully modern ambience.

These contemporary touches contrast the genteel atmosphere more characteristic of the Hamphire.

The property was built in 1901 as the Royal Dental Hospital, and continued to serve that purpose until 1987. It re-opened as a five-star hotel in 1989, with its original facade, two additional floors and a penthouse overlooking Trafalgar Square.

Guest rooms also will be refurbished, but given the quality I experienced during a recent stay, there is little room for improvement.

Public areas also were renovated at the Grafton on Tottenham Court Road, the Marlborough on Bloomsbury Street and the Berkshire on Oxford Street.

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