Last week was London Design Festival – an annual celebration of design, where the capital comes alive with exhibitions, installations and events. My favourite thing about the festival is that almost anyone can gain access into the city’s coolest interior spaces and have a peek inside beautiful buildings and architectural treasures.
A highlight this year was a set of two hotel suites designed by furniture designer Jan Hendzel Studio for the Town Hall Hotel in East London. The design-led aparthotel is aiming to invite a different London-based designer or creative to design a suite each year, with sustainability and locality at the forefront of the agenda. The idea is to have a series of diverse suites that each tell their own particular story, making the former town hall a truly unique place to stay in the city.
In transforming these two apartments in the hotel’s Grade II listed building, Jan Hendzel Studio sought to create a ‘tactile, gallery-like experience’. It’s ‘all about texture,’ he said at the launch. His design celebrates the honest beauty of natural textures, from the raw, unfinished edges of the marble worktops to the smooth, undulating waves of the kitchen units and bedroom headboards.
All images Cate St Hill
Walking into the tactile apartment, it’s like escaping the city altogether. The feeling is one of calm and quiet, a world away from the rush and buzz of nearby Bethnal Green. While some hotel rooms might feel impersonal and purely functional, this space feels like a home away from home. So much so, I wanted to move in and never leave!
The mix of materials – London plane timber, reclaimed pine, Crinoid marble, Moroccan Zellige tiles, with textured green upholstery and patterned wool rugs – invites touch, which in itself is an instantly soothing way to interact with a space and connect with a design.
For Jan Hendzel, it is the contrast of textures that appeals and lends an element of the unexpected. Imperfection is celebrated, from the crack in a green wood side table to the rough hewn edge of the marble worktops. Previously used to delivering levels of perfection and polish, it was the first time the Derby quarry had been asked to leave an edge raw and unfinished. Hendzel wanted the worktop to look like it had literally just been pulled from the earth.
Another tactile example is the retro olive green upholstery with the smooth, rounded arms of the sofa. All of Jan Hendzel Studio’s work is finished by hand, and indeed they want to show the mark of the hand – whether that’s with exaggerated, exposed joints on the ends of the sofa, the hand-carved dents in a mirror, or in the different woods used in the dining chairs that give a slightly varied sheen depending which direction you look at them from. The round mounds on the coffee table are also designed so you might rub your feet on them, adding another surprise element of touch.
Keeping things local was also a strong theme, even down to the ceramics on display. The London plane timber for the kitchen fronts was taken from a fallen tree in Denmark Hill near Hendzel’s studio in Woolwich. The paint colours in the space are all by new paint brand Pickleson Paint, who are based just around the corner from the Town House Hotel. An entirely new shade called East End Clay was created for the project, and used alongside the brand’s excellently named Drunk Tahini and Tarte Tan shades.
As well as pieces from Jan Hendzel Studio’s latest furniture collection, there’s also textiles by A Rum Fellow, upholstery by Yarn Collective, lighting by Hand & Eye Studio and Lights&Lamps, and pottery by Fariceramics.
The tactile apartment is comprised of two connecting suites. You can rent one on its own or both together. The first, shown in the beginning of this post, is a little moodier, with muted greys and greens. The second, shown above, is a bit more feminine in feel, with plaster pink and beige tones. Both are cosy and relaxing, bringing the outside in and fusing the natural with the urban.