Located centrally in London near Covent Garden the West End, The Savoy has been popular meeting place since opening in 1889. The Savoy was the brainchild of the Gilbert and Sullivan impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte and went on to attract royalty, writers and Hollywood stars.
Now London’s legendary Savoy Hotel opened after a three-year shutdown and reaching £220 million worth of structural upgrades and behind-the-scenes work, as well as plush interiors in the Edwardian and Art Deco style of the 121-year-old hotel (according to the New York Times it was actually quite a bit more, but who’s counting?). Design Contract will offer some tips for commercial architects, interior designers and hoteliers, so enjoy your reading!
Let’s start form the beggining… Savoy’s had been purchased and subsequent renovated by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company in January 2005. Alwaleed purchased the Savoy for an estimated £250 million (US$394.8 million), to be managed by Fairmont Hotels. The Prince have “employed an investment strategy of buying old European hotels in great areas that are rundown” with the aim to “buy the brand, get the earnings up and then trade the real estate”.
“The problem was the name was sustaining the hotel’s reputation—it was an exhausted asset physically. The owners were not willing to make changes to the asset to reposition it and succeed, and as an investor we are always looking for a seller wishing to exit”, purchaser said. His empire was looking to expand outside North America, and if they found the right asset and the right market they would pay big bucks for it. Kingdom Holding Company had a goal: “To make the Savoy new again without losing its character, but at the highest we can reposition this asset in London”.
The age and structure of the hotel was an issue for hotel renovation project. “When the Savoy was built in the late 1800s, it had the best rooms in town, all overlooked the Thames. In the 1800s the rooms were built with no bathrooms. To add modern conveniences meant that bathrooms were built into in the balconies effectively blocking all the great windows. The recent refurbishment stripped out bathrooms and opened up floor-to-ceiling windows, built new bathrooms, added guestrooms, added a new 320-square-meter Royal Suite, and added the new domed rotunda and tea room. The renovation project cost more than £220 million (US$347.4 million), double what was estimated and opened a year later than initially planned. One problem was the work started in 2007 at peak tender pricing. Ancient plumbing, electrics and other building issues resulted in several redesigns.
Despite the astronomical costs involved for hotel renovation project, the hotel has ultimately become a success story. Compared to ADR of other luxury properties in London at their 2007 peak, the Savoy in 2007 was only bringing in a rate of £250 (US$394.77); in 2011 it has an ADR of £470 (US$742.19). The rate aim is £520 (US$820.09) by 2012. Some of the river view rooms, which were selling for £250 (US$394.77) a night, can now charge £1250 (US$1973.77). On top of that the hotel does more F&B business than rooms business. Having already doubled the hotel’s average rate from 2007, Broderick maintained it is well-positioned to achieve close to £500 (US$788.26) rate in the near future.
The hotel renovation project of the Savoy Hotel was executed by French designer Pierre-Yves Rochon who added a glass-enclosed rooftop pool as well as refurbishing the domed winter garden, a popular locale for afternoon tea. More than 1,000 designer’s craftsmen and artists helped bring the building’s Edwardian and Art Deco styles back to life and create interiors in keeping with the hotel’s “original” spirit, according to a Fairmont spokesman.
Guests arrive through the iconic entrance which now boasts a new Lalique fountain and enter into the Front Hall which has been restored its Edwardian grandeur with mahogany paneling, crystal chandeliers, polished black-and-white marble floors and the famous Idylls of a Golden Age frieze.
The 268 guestrooms and suites start at 350 pounds (approximately $550) and have city views of London and the Thames and state-of-the-art technology. Nine “personality” suites are styled in either an Art Deco or Edwardian style with a nod to some of The Savoy’s high profile guests of yore including Winston Churchill, Marlene Deitrich, Claude Monet, Maria Callas and Frank Sinatra, and the 2-bedroom Royal Suite is indeed fit for a king. In the refreshed American Bar, legendary bartender Harry Craddock’s classic cocktails are still served while the new Beaufort Bar offers one of the finest selections of Champagne in the city.
Twitter fans, who stayed the night as part of his role as the hotel’s ‘blogger-in-residence’, said he was ‘impressed’ by the results which showed a sensitivity to its heritage. ‘They have just made sure everything is absolutely of the highest pitch of quality and solidity but without making it a new hotel, without modernising it in a bad way.’ Said one of the the Savoy’s visitors.
Tips for commercial architects, interior designers and hoteliers:
1. With so many hotel renovation projects taking place across the country, quality furniture is in high demand. Finding the right quality furniture pieces in large quantities within a tight timeframe is a huge challenge for hoteliers. Since many suppliers downsized when the recession hit, demand for pieces is spread out among fewer of them, a problem exacerbated by this surge in demand. But there are some ways to get the job done well, on time and on budget. These include getting your quality furniture counts right, the first time. This may seem like a simple suggestion, but avoiding mistakes when determining how much furniture will be needed in a redesign or renovation is critical. A designer may be great with aesthetics, but the books and the execution of a renovation are essential for meeting timelines.
2. Sourcing domestically limited edition furniture (or in our case from Europe) may prove crucial to success. While Thailand or China are often the default markets from which to purchase, sourcing domestically will ensure that limited edition furniture items won’t get stuck in customs en route and shipping costs should be significantly lower. Furthermore, domestic shipping will give you peace of mind when adhering to a tight deadline. Facing these challenges will require a good working relationship between the hotel, contractor, and supplier to ensure a shorter renovation period and allow hotels to improve their revenue available per room more quickly.
Design Contract will continue to share with you fantastic ideas for your office design, interior design, corporate interior design (see article “10 Best hospitality design projects: Restaurant & Bar Design Award Winners” here), commercial interior design, luxury hotel design (see article “Luxury Hotel Design- International Hotel Awards Winner Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow” here), top design events (see article “North America’s Premier Show- Architectural Digest Home Design Show 2014. Best exhibitors”) and best design projects (see article “The 2014 Architectural Digest 100 top talents in architecture and interior design” here). Don’t forget to subscribe this blog and to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest.