The Ned, London
The Ned, London
A hub of accommodation that's more than a hotel, thanks to its size and intentions
Most hotels in big cities have a problem with maximizing space—but what does one do when the building-to-be-renovated is almost too massive? It requires more than one company, in fact. This month, The Ned finally opened its doors in London after four years of work, completing its transformation from Midland Bank headquarters into a gigantic 252-room hotel, with private members' club areas, a spa, public dining and more across 11 floors. (And we haven't even mentioned the boxing gym. Or the two pools. Or the basement bank vault now turned into a multi-room bar, with 3,800 original silver safety deposit boxes lining the walls.) Getting lost is a certainty here, but it's not a bad thing at all.
Teaming up for the project are industry stalwarts Nick Jones of Soho House and Andrew Zobler of Sydell Group (the NoMad, LINE, and hotel+hostel hybrid Freehand). While Soho House originated in London and has since expanded to 18 strongholds for creatives around the world, the Ned actually marks the very American Sydell Group's first foray across the pond. The matchmaker who introduced the two to each other is investor (and Soho House majority shareholder) Ron Burkle—who co-owns the Pittsburgh Penguins and has backed some Weinstein Company films, among other diverse ventures. He should be quite pleased with the results.
No expense has been spared in the restoration of this Grade 1-listed 1920s building, which still has its preserved deep green columns and banking counters. NYC-based Adam Greco (whose last project, interestingly, was the kitschy, playful Salvation Taco within Pod Hotel 39) recalls the "simple brief" that Jones gave to the team: "Make this property look like it was the grandest hotel in London when it was built in 1926 to 1930, and then it had kind of become lived in and faded around the edges." Making up a transatlantic designer trio with London-based Alice Lund and Rebecca King, Greco tells CH over coffee, "I think banks—anybody that was building a bank kind of wanted to overwhelm people, make them feel insignificant. That's really coming from like above down, and making you feel small in this space. So we tried to create a lot of detail and intricacy and comfort on the human-scale in the ground floor. To make people feel cozy and taken care of."
One of the biggest worries was the acoustics on the ground floor. "[We wondered] if it would just be too loud. Because if you can imagine, a bank was not set up for this many people," says Lund. "And it was people whispering, not people shouting and having fun. When this was an empty space, you could be kind of two people walking around site, having a conversation on the ground floor, and the echoing was phenomenal. So it's really great to see it inhabited, and it not be deafening." They tackled the issue by affixing sound panels to the ceiling, and filling up the floor with as much plush upholstery as possible. And it's the furnishings that make the heart flutter—antiques picked up from America, Belgium, France and of course, England—and it's a paradise of chairs.
Although there are eight different restaurants in the former banking hall—the atmosphere isn't overpowering. The intimate pockets flow into one another seamlessly, and if your eyes are on the massive ceiling skylights, you'll walk from your cold-pressed juice at Malibu Kitchen straight into power lunches at modern Italian favorite Cecconi's. "It's actually nice to get to appreciate the scale of the building rather than be sort of cornered off," reflects Lund. The 24-hour brasserie Millie's is a gift for night owls and travelers with painfully early flights, and the city that bemoans the lack of Jewish fare will appreciate having another deli, Zobler's (with the recently opened Monty's Deli, Londoners' wishes are getting granted).
Other design extravagances include a custom hand-painted, scenic wallpaper that wraps through the spa areas in the lower lobbies. The largely gold piece—made by de Gournay—follows Captain Cook's adventures from England to the South Pacific to observe the transit of Venus. "We looked at how banks have existed in this part of London for centuries, and back in the 17th century, 16th century, they were financing a lot of great expeditions around the world, so one of them was Captain Cook," says Greco. "There's loads of paintings showing specific scenes from it, and we wanted a story that could tell itself throughout that huge space. It's got like ships and volcanoes and—he went to Hawaii and he saw people surfing for the first time. Like hundreds of years ago! So there's all sorts of details there for people to stare at."
Above the ground floor are the 252 hotel rooms, and the Ned sets the bar high in accommodating their guests. It brings to mind those who've drank late at the bar and spontaneously decide to book a room for the night. Everything is supplied for (including chargers and international adapters) and we could have arrived with nothing. Ten full-size natural Cowshed products (multiple shower gels, conditioners, shampoos options to fit different moods and hair type) await in the rain shower; hand cream to toothbrushes and Listerine to condoms are lined up by the sink.
Although a night in the Lutyens Suite will cost about £2,000 a night, on the other end of that spectrum the Ned has a unique deal going on for their smallest room size, the Crash Pad: guests under 30 can reserve it at a discounted price of £150. Not only does the Crash Pad have the same exact bath and drink amenities as the larger rooms (we were very satisfied with the Medium)—the only difference is size and decoration—all hotel guests have member access to the club, spa, restaurant and bar.
More so than its lodgings, however, the Ned is already set as the go-to for lunch meetings in the major financial area its situated within, the city. Even if some might cluck at yet another private members' club opening in London, there's nothing like this space within the area. Though the surroundings are quiet at night—when all the bankers have gone home—the Ned makes it terribly hard to leave. Get to Shoreditch in about five minutes by cab when you do need to escape. Reservations can be made online.
Images by Cool Hunting