Spend a night inside Mayfair's only sculpture-cum-bedchamber, if you dare
Antony Gormley is a master of transforming spaces with larger-than-life sculptures. His Angel of the North brought fresh interest to a motor-side hill in Tyne and Wear; Quantum Cloud swarms 30 metres into the sky alongside the Millennium Dome. And then there’s Room, which juts out from The Beaumont hotel’s façade and welcomes guests to spend the night sleeping inside it.
Restaurateurs Corbin & King commissioned the Turner Prize winner to create Room for the hotel’s opening in 2014, and its exterior is classic Gormley: a huge, bright white seated figure of carefully stacked cuboids, like an oversized toy robot. The space within, however, is slightly different.
Every stay in a hotel suite is an experience. But this suite is experiential. Its layout is designed to influence guests to strip back and wind down by cutting off contact with the outside world, preparing for sleep outside the bedroom itself and ultimately leading, like a cul-de-sac, to rest one’s head.
Getting there means first encountering the living area, where a chic sofa set and select creative tomes await, all in line with The Beaumont’s Art Deco aesthetic. Next, a shockingly white marble bathroom acts almost as a connecting passageway, laid out laterally with bathtub on the right and shower on the left (its glass door quite unforgiving), flanking nine equally brilliant white steps that lead up to the bedroom.
Every stay in a hotel suite is an experience. But this suite is experiential
To enter involves pulling aside a set of heavy black curtains, and once inside guests are entirely undisturbed by anything but their own thoughts. Cavernous and tomb-like, the bedroom is clad completely in dark polished wood with only a few tiny dimmed spotlights at the sides, and is filled up to its vast 9.5m ceiling by the same boxy forms as outside.
So what really strikes in this dark 12m sq space (not sombre or oppressive, rather inky and contemplative), is the presence of a crisply made white bed – and little else at all.
There are benches set into either side wall (only good, in reality, for admiring Gormley’s space from different angles, and you’d be hard pressed to attempt bedtime reading there), and a cubby hole at the head of the bed to place one’s watch, phone, glass of water… so small that the room seems to bemoan bringing anything superfluous inside only if you really must.
The word ‘bedchamber’ is apt to describe Room. This is a space dedicated to the act of sleeping, and very much a chamber at that. But before dropping off, cling to the land of the living. As my eyes struggle to adjust to the darkness, the cubes above come to life – I thought I saw a sphinx and a rotary telephone, but much like gazing at clouds, it is all a question of imagination.
In the morning, the shutters of a large window above the bed can be opened wide (casting light from somewhere between the giant figure’s legs outside), although feel no shame if your first reaction to natural light is something quite vampire-like.
Staying for more than one night in this suite would be a challenge, and certainly unadvisable for the claustrophobic. The novelty of such total darkness and being confined to the living area might soon wear thin on travellers seeking a straightforward welcome.
But the Beaumont’s other, more conventional suites can provide just that; as can The Colony Grill Room, where no-frills transatlantic-style dining – think clamato juice, steaks and baked vanilla cheesecake with blueberries, all excellent – serves more than a dash of 1920s pizzazz in smart red leather booths. Yet those looking for a memorable tale to tell will find it in Room. Gormley’s ambition for this special suite was “sculpting darkness”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he has quite succeeded.