LONDON — The first “hotel for artists” in the UK, Green Rooms, opened in Wood Green, North London, last Spring. Designed to attract artists, actors, and musicians, the hotel offers affordable accommodations at a discounted rate (starting at £18 per night) to any creative. Beside dormitories, doubles, and en-suite rooms, Green Rooms also features two studio apartments, a gallery space, and two bars.
The enterprise occupies an Art Deco building constructed in 1925 for the North Metropolitan Power and Electricity Company. It is owned by Haringey Council and was previously used as offices, although it had been vacant since 2009. When renovation works started last year, the site was in a state of disrepair. With the aid of a regeneration grant secured from the Greater London Authority, Green Rooms’ founder Nick Hartwright, a builder-turned-entrepreneur who is well trained in restoring buildings for art and theater groups, oversaw an operation that radically transformed the space, removing temporary walls and false ceilings that had been fitted over the years.
When I first visited Green Rooms early last spring, the hotel was still undergoing its finishing touches. Although it was not completely furnished, with some rooms still works in progress, I was able to have a look around and get a feel for the space. I spotted some of the original architectural features, such as the bathrooms’ mosaic tiling and the industrial iron beam structure that had been left exposed in some rooms, thanks to Hartwright’s thoughtfulness. My interest in the project was enhanced by the hotel’s location: not the over-popular and over-gentrified East London, but Wood Green, possibly the least hipster district in the whole city. Ask any Londoner: Wood Green is certainly not known for being a cool, artsy destination — which is exactly why the project had me immediately intrigued.
A few months later, once the hotel was fully up and running, I was invited to spend a night on the premises.
I arrive on a typical Saturday night. The ground floor lobby, with room to seat 50 in the hotel’s restaurant, is full of chatting people enjoying drinks. In a corner, a DJ mixes Cuban music with Billie Holiday songs.
I have a look around. The lobby is furnished with a mix of authentic vintage and contemporary British craft furniture, featuring original pieces from the 1920s and 1930s manufactured by the historical brand Heal’s. The sofa I sit down on comes from Barry Davison and is the firm’s original classic. Most of the pieces have been sourced by Green Rooms’ chairman Kurt Bredenbeck, the hotel entrepreneur who founded the successful “luxury-budget” hotel chain The Hoxton. While some elements of the clean, modern style that has made The Hoxton fashionable are on view also here, Green Rooms feels less urban. The austere lines of 1930s design are tempered by the glassware, the textiles, and the more playful character of 1970s furniture. Solid oak reigns, giving the room a generally unassuming and cozy quality.
It’s time to order some food. The hotel runs a kitchen incubator program: Every six months, a different up-and-coming restaurateur is given the chance to gain experience and offer their food to the guests. The program has begun with Esteban Arboleda’s Colombian Street Kitchen, and it’s already getting popular. Fame has preceded Esteban’s empanadas, so I have little doubt about what I will order.
The spontaneity and kindness of the waiters make up for the service, which is not always swift. While waiting for dinner, I have a chat with Ashley, a violinist from Sidney visiting London for work. “I discovered the hotel through social media,” he says. “It’s always tricky, as a musician, to stay in hotels when you’re visiting some new place and you have work to get done. I haven’t been making too much noise, but it’s nice to know I’m staying in an artist-friendly environment.”
Indeed, the hotel has a full program of events and concerts (which are always followed by after-parties), and on the third floor, lit by a skylight finished in patterned Flemish glass, is an exhibition space that is easily as good as quite a few galleries downtown.
For the record, the empanadas are excellent.
Even though I don’t get to sleep into one of the four rooms that include special pieces designed by cult UK fashion brand FOLK, my bedroom is decent. As with the downstairs areas, I appreciate the unassuming feel of the room. The atmosphere created by the vintage furniture is shaken up by a bespoke metal coat rail and the bedside tables, which were made by a local North London firm. Altogether it’s is cozy and elegant — and, quite importantly, quiet.
In the morning, I leave the hotel rested and content.
Green Rooms ticks all the boxes to become a hub for artists and creatives in an area of London that would be otherwise very unattractive. The public seems to have responded positively to it. The restaurant is nice and busy, and the interior design, which gives the place a lot of character, is drawing people in. The real challenge now will be to turn the initial buzz into lasting success. This writer’s fingers are crossed.