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Words: Harry McKinley
There’s been much talk of the ‘Paris inspired’ Twenty Two; the description nodding to a velveted, tassel-festooned, rampantly pattered interior that is a little more festive than one might typically find in otherwise starched Mayfair. The new boutique hotel and members’ club on Grosvenor Square was once an imposing manor, a listed Edwardian building rich with playful architectural flourishes. Its current guise sees 31 guestrooms stacked atop a destination restaurant and the private club; the type where the cocktails are beautiful to behold but where photography is not only passe, it’s forbidden.
The project is the vision of former Blakes owner Navid Mirtorabi, and his business partner Jamie Reuben, a property scion whose family owns much of the neighbourhood – including Burlington Arcade. In a rare interview with The Times in 2020, Reuben described Mayfair as getting a bit ‘stale’ and espoused his mission to attract a younger, more creative crowd. The Twenty Two then is part of that pursuit, not only a swish place to stay and socialise but one component in an orchestrated shift in the character of this pricey pocket of the capital.
For the design, Mirtorabi tapped Natalia Miyar, a name more traditionally associated with residential interiors than commercial ones. In fact, the Twenty Two is Miyar’s first hotel, but having worked with Mirtorabi five years ago on another project, he trusted in her ability to deliver.
“I’ve actually never worked with a client that has such a deep knowledge and appreciation for decoration and design,” she explains. “So to be able to harness this creative vision, and to help make the most beautiful expression of what Navid first imagined, was a real pleasure. It’s his vision that is very much as the centre of this project, but I feel that I was able to let my creativity run wild. We create beautiful homes for our clients that are often never published or seen, so I’m very happy to have the opportunity to design interiors that will be used and enjoyed by many people. Rather than being a home for a lifetime, these spaces will be inhabited for moments, not years, so we had the opportunity to be more provocative.”
Indeed at a time when ‘homely’ is becoming something of a dirty word in some hotel design circles (if only for its ubiquity), there’s something deliciously maximalist in Miyar’s approach. Guestrooms are unashamedly extrovert, with some featuring colourful, ultra-ornate patterns that extend up walls and across ceilings –repeated on sofas and cushions in Pierre Frey fabrics for the ultimate aesthetic wallop. Even in rooms where print isn’t the design driver, the air of whimsy and confidence is no less forceful, with velvet four-posters, theatrical chandeliers and scarlet curtains that tumble from double-height ceilings in palatial fashion.
“We wanted a sense of luxurious informality and did this largely with the material choices and textures, which then set the tone for the hotel’s mood. With the hotel carrying 19th century and Napoleonic influences throughout, materials were an essential part of showcasing the characteristics of classic French décor, with a modern Mayfair twist,” Miyar explains. “Then there’s the 19th Century panelling – a classic detail that we chose to use widely to help reflect the grand nature of the hotel’s exterior. Design signatures, such as pouffes and club chairs, reappear in different spaces and help to continue that sense of cohesion between the private and public areas.”
And the private and public do speak to each other in one well-defined language: the appealingly polite blue seen on guestroom walls echoed in the restaurant; the glossy monochrome tiles from guest bathrooms nodded to in the elegant lobby. The members club meanwhile, spread over several rooms and an outdoor terrace, carries the same sumptuousness, but here eccentricity is allowed to run riot – with turtle light fixtures by Marie Christoff, handpainted wallpaper by Fromental and a leopard print carpet leading down to the Music Room, an ambiently lit space intended for wee-hours shenanigans.
“We viewed the project as a whole experience rather than separate pieces. Some areas of the members’ club are designed for nighttime only, so while they serve a different purpose, it didn’t make sense to change the style or material palette. We wanted the experience at The Twenty Two to be universal for guests and members, and to allow everyone to benefit from the same level of bespoke detailing, quality and style,” Miyar says. “Ultimately we felt strongly that we wanted to create something fresh that would add to the Mayfair club scene, rather than replacing something else. The iconic Mayfair clubs have a place in history of course, and their own audience, but we are aiming to draw a new creative audience to the area.”
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