THE DORCHESTER'S DOMESTIC AIR

~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, September 19th 2012

In his piece on bringing the hotel home—from the current issue of Intelligent Life—Matthew Sweet writes that "the boutique hotel now seems to be the principal template for domestic interior design—the ideal that haunts today’s refurbishers and renovators as powerfully as the ocean liner and Edwardian country cottage haunted the 1930s and 1970s". Flat-screen televisions in the bathroom; LED lighting in floors; throws layered like geological strata in the bedroom—all these tropes of the modern high-end home have the same parentage as the mini-bar, his 'n’ hers sinks and the nickable towelling robe.  

The colour-wheel never stops turning, as became clear in London last Thursday, during the launch of the Dorchester’s rather beautiful redesign of its suites. Though thick with luxury—Frey wallpaper, silk Rug Company rugs, old oak panelling "handpainted", according to the professionally charming PR, "to look like new oak panelling"—there was also a peppering of the un-hotel-like. Fabrics were consciously mismatched: a wing chair mostly upholstered in stroke-me brown chenille had a tweed wool seat-pad, and wouldn’t have looked out of place next to a wireless radio and a mug of Ovaltine. Unlike the ersatz revamp at the Savoy, they’d made an effort to get in some real art—well, a few bright abstracts, and a tepid watercolour by Prince Charles. There was a proper, old-style fireplace, which though it couldn't hold a proper, old-style fire was surrounded by a comfortable padded fender, and a proliferation of side tables seasoned with little vases, bowls and other posh knick-knacks. "It feels," I offered, "more homely than you’d expect." "I’m so glad you said that!" beamed the PR. "That’s exactly what Alexandra [Champalimaud, an American interiors whizz] wanted—to make a space that felt like a home!"  

As Matthew points out in his piece, the first luxury Victorian hotels aped the interiors of aristocratic country homes. Then the aspirational middle classes tried to make their homes look like hotels. Now luxury hotels—or this one at least—are copying homes again. Not my home, admittedly (dog hair; odd plumbing). Oliver Messel’s, maybe.  

Though perhaps the circle hasn’t quite closed. The Dorchester’s new beds are tessellated with cushions, feet deep; its curtain-pulls don’t pull the curtains; and yes, there’s a flat-screen TV in the bathroom. Between the his 'n’ hers sinks. 

Isabel Lloyd is deputy editor of Intelligent Life. Her recent posts for the Editors' Blog include Inspiring Women: Your Turn and Gold changes its look