HAM YARD HOTEL - OUR FAVOURITE FIRMDALE by Maggie O'Sullivan
We’ve got a bit of a girl crush on Kit Kemp. Kit is the supremely talented designer behind the Firmdale group of boutique hotels. She co-owns the hotels (currently eight in London and one in New York) with husband Tim and has won all sorts of awards for her clever townhouse-style designs. In fact, we can never decide which of her interiors we like best: cool Soho Hotel or elegant Dorset Square? Or maybe Haymarket Hotel with its fabulous swimming pool…Then in June, Kit and Tim opened Ham Yard Hotel. Contest over.
Our new favourite Firmdale is, quite simply, gorgeous. It’s tucked away in the heart of Soho, arranged around a little courtyard garden, set with tables and shaded by white parasols. Inside, sunlight pools on the pale wood floors, eclectic artworks cover the walls, colourful lighting hangs from the ceilings and objéts from around the globe are scattered throughout. Yet for all its bright and breezy pizzazz, Ham Yard is pervaded by a feeling of tranquility – you’d never know Piccadilly Circus, not to mention all the cafés and restaurants of Soho, are on the doorstep.
Our favourite spot on the ground floor is the library-sitting room, its walls lined with fabrics from Kit’s collection for Christopher Farr, the hand-embroidered Suzani curtains from her own textiles collection. Oh, but we also love the drawing room, with its hand-painted Scandinavian bureaux and its French fireplace…the restaurant, where the menu features the best of fresh British produce…the hip bar, where you can order small dishes, such as chorizo sausage rolls and barbequed octopus, to go with your Ham Yard Tonic (Portobello Road gin, Campari, St Germain, grapefruit bitters and homemade tonic).
With so many great spaces in which to sit, read or simply hang out with friends, deciding where to have our morning coffee took a while – inside, outside, library, lobby-lounge? In the end, we chose the bar where our cappuccinos came with the best bite-size brownies we’ve ever tasted.
There’s more. Downstairs not only is there a spa and gym (with a hypoxic chamber, if you please) but a 176-seat cinema-theatre and a 1950s bowling alley, available for private hire. Kit apparently found the vintage bowling shoes, displayed in Perspex boxes and hung behind the bowling alley’s reception desk, on eBay…
And then there are the rooms: 91 rooms and suites, plus 24 apartments, all individually decorated and furnished in Kit’s inimitable style, with floor-to-ceiling windows providing masses of natural light and an authentic Soho view (don’t worry about authentic Soho noise – the windows are triple-glazed). Lime green fabric walls teamed with vivid green- and grey-striped upholstery? A disastrous combination in our hands, but in Kit’s, pure genius. And to celebrate the opening of Ham Yard, Kit has created her own collection of bath products, which will be used in all the Firmdale hotels.
We’re not done yet. The pièce de résistance at Ham Yard is its Moroccan-style roof garden, high above the chaotic streets of Soho, complete with a herb garden and an ancient olive tree amid a carpet of lavender. There’s a gold baby grand that functions as an enormous ice bucket. Well, you’re going to need a lot of ice in your Ham Yard Tonic…
Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London W1D 7DT; 020 3642 2000; www.firmdalehotels.com; doubles from £310 per night.