London's May Fair hotel experiences modern 'rebirth'

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When people say London's iconic May Fair hotel has been "refurbished," Charles Oak is somewhat taken aback. He uses the word "reborn" to describe the hotel's recent overhaul.

"Refurbishment seems to be a strange word to use, since we have effectively physically touched every inch of the building," said Oak, who is general manager of the 406-room property.

Located in London's Mayfair section amid other icons such as Piccadilly, Bond Street, Knightsbridge, Green Park and Buckingham Palace, the hotel is one of the city's grande dames.

The 80-year-old hotel had started to show its age, but a few years ago its new owners invested $150 million into upgrading virtually every aspect of the property. The May Fair is part of the Radisson Edwardian Hotels luxury chain.

"We had a lot of work to bring it up to date, without really compromising the integrity of the building," Oak said. "We wanted to work effectively towards bringing the May Fair back to what it used to be."

Outwardly, the hotel remains very traditional in appearance.

But inside, the property is stylish and boldly contemporary.

"We've taken every bit of the building and played around a bit and tweaked it to make the best use of the space, while trying to keep the best that the original building had to offer," Oak said.

The original floor plan for the hotel has not changed dramatically, he said. The original Crystal banquet/meeting room, the theater and all of the suites are still there.

"Nothing structural has changed at all," he said. "But we've made fantastic use of the space."

For instance, the hotel's "U shape" inspired the architects to create a new atrium, now used for "very smart cocktail parties, dinners, lunches," Oak said.

Twenty rooms with private balconies were added to one side of the building.

"Private terraces are unique for London [hotels]," Oak said. "When London is basking in beautiful sunshine, all of the guests in those rooms are having their breakfast out on the terrace, which is quite lovely for London."

A modern aesthetic

Along with the new spaces came a modern aesthetic that can be seen throughout the property.

Guests will notice stylish, Fendi-designed sofas and chairs accenting the new lobby, and Baccarat-crafted chandeliers enhance the public spaces.

The hotel's guest rooms also "have been given a very fresh, modern, dynamic face-lift," Oak said. All guest rooms also have Wi-Fi Internet access.

But the most eye-catching addition to the May Fair is the new penthouse suite that occupies the entire ninth floor, which was added to the hotel as part of the renovation.

"It is an enormous, two bedroom penthouse suite," Oak said. "It has a 100-foot-by-8-foot terrace with one of the best views of London."

Other hotel amenities include a spa, restaurants, a 24-hour business center and 15,000 square feet of meetings space.

Not surprisingly, the May Fair has once again become a London hot spot.

"The media has responded to us particularly well," said Linda Plant, the hotel's marketing director.

The positive buzz surrounding the newly reborn hotel even inspired pop singer Pink to film a music video at the property recently.

But while much has changed about the May Fair, one aspect of the hotel hasn't.

"We wanted to retain that intimacy and keep that boutique feeling about it," Oak said. "The feedback that we get from our clients, particularly those that have stayed with us for the past 20 years, is that we haven't lost the intimacy or boutique feel.

"We are very conscious that we have a legendary building here," Oak added. "It was a huge responsibility to get it just right." 

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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