Visionary hotelier Ian Schrager is back in London with the newest outpost of his buzzy Edition brand.

By Sarah Miller
December 11, 2013
Credit: Simon Watson Inc

No one has ever come up with a more succinct description of the fashion cycle than Victoria and Albert Museum curator James Laver, whose Laver’s Law is as relevant today as it was when he created it in 1937. His theory: something 10 years before its time was “indecent,” one year before its time “outré,” one year after “dowdy,” and so on. The central step on this stepladder is that current fashion is “smart.” If there’s anyone who has hit that mark time and again, it is Ian Schrager, the creative hotelier whose finger has been on the pulse since opening Studio 54, more than 35 years ago. Schrager is the man who invented the boutique hotel and the idea of lobby as theater, with properties such as New York’s Royalton and Paramount. With the London Edition, his latest project in partnership with Marriott International, he is keen to show how much his concepts have evolved.

“This is my best work,” he says at the launch party, in the former Berners Street Hotel—a landmark Georgian building in Fitzrovia that was once the haunt of London society.

“The lobby has evolved,” he continues. “It’s now multiple venues for work and play—a new kind of gathering place.” And the one at the Edition is breathtaking: a Belle Époque extravaganza at its finest, filled with smart-looking guests (satisfying Laver’s central tenet) lingering over cocktails by the impressive fireplace, playing pool, and tapping away on Macs, all under a magnificent polished silver sphere designed by Ingo Maurer.

Each Edition property celebrates the city it’s in, and there is nothing cookie-cutter about it—which speaks to the relationship Schrager has cultivated with Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson and his team.

Fifteen years ago, when Schrager launched the Sanderson hotel just down the road, he says he had the market to himself and could “do things like three-legged chairs.” Back then, joining forces with the corporate may have seemed an impossibility for the maverick. But in 2007, showing Bill Marriott around his Gramercy Park Hotel consummated a whirlwind romance. Thanks to the recession, the partnership took a while to yield results, but the Edition Istanbul opened in 2011 and Miami debuts this fall with private residences designed by John Pawson. Then there is the pipeline of future destinations as diverse as Los Angeles and Wuhan, in China. “They’ll be different but have the same attitude,” Schrager says.

But perhaps none will have quite such a special place in the Edition firmament as London. “This is a hotel for people who want more than just bed and breakfast—this hotel has depth,” Sorenson says.

Working with interior design firm Yabu Pushelberg, Schrager’s eye for detail was spot-on. To the right of the lobby is Berners Tavern, where the walls are covered with a carefully curated collection of photographs by Trunk Archive, and the two custom-made bronze chandeliers were inspired by New York’s Grand Central Terminal. Behind the discreet reception area is the Punch Room, a reservations-only, oak-paneled space redolent of English country house libraries with a jewel of a bar. Upstairs, the intimate theme continues in light oak or dark walnut, sensuous textiles, and simple furniture. The neutral room colors form the ideal backdrop for the dramatic portraits by photographer Hendrik Kerstens. In short, it’s very grown-up. As Schrager says, “Times are changing and Marriott is a company built to last.” This unique melding of two powerful yet distinct names is definitely smart.