You’d think the most interesting aspect of London’s Chateau Denmark would be its legendary rock and roll history, or maybe the art left behind by Johnny Rotten. Not quite.
The story of Chateau Denmark is rooted in rock and roll. From the ’50s to the ’80s this site was ground zero for the the music industry in England, the home of record companies, recording studios, and publishing houses. Nearly every star of the period left their mark in these buildings. But the most interesting aspect of the hotel isn’t the rock stars, it’s the buildings — sixteen Victorian townhouses to be exact.
The dispersed hotel concept is one of our favorites. Usually the buildings are spread throughout a small town in the countryside (like Sextantio in Italy, or Castigno in France). Here, they’re in Central London, set around Denmark Street, long since abandoned by the establishments that made it a magnet for every striving soul in music. A young David Bowie camped out in a converted ambulance just for a sniff of the industry. Hendrix got noise complaints for riffs ringing out of the studio. Paul Simon sat in an office while record execs trashed Sound of Silence. Elton and Bernie collaborated on their first hits.
Then there’s the Sex Pistols. Johnny Rotten’s scrawled caricatures of his bandmates (Nancy too, of course) still line the walls of their old apartment. Today, his twisted interpretations of Sid and the gang adorn the living space in Chateau Denmark’s I Am Anarchy suite. It’s the most outrageous artifact among the 55 grand rooms, but the hotel is bold in every sense. Especially in its form, the result of a painstaking effort to preserve some of Denmark Street’s story in the midst of a metropolis where development can change a neighborhood without mercy.
Each design choice at Chateau Denmark is the result of putting Victorian, gothic, psychedelic, and punk influences in a blender without a top — and taking them room to room. Session Rooms feature rich burgundy and orange velvet, or beds in black and gold with white graffiti signatures over the headboards. Apartments, set in buildings where the Stones and the Who recorded, reflect the same Victorian influences as the exteriors, or drop in straight-backed chairs spray-painted with “god save the queen.”
“It’s very much like a trip through the history of Denmark Street,” says Imran Hussein, marketing director for the hotel. “The psychedelia is the sixties and the seventies. The punk is the Pistols and Vivian Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. And gothic is, you know, rock and goth go together like shoes and socks.”
Chateau Denmark is its own entity — but it’s also part of a new complex of buildings and entertainment venues in the neighborhood dubbed “Outernet London.” This brand new “entertainment district” wasn’t without controversy. The Now Building, which hosts some of the Chateau’s rooms, is a giant exhibition space with digital screens inside and out, meant for events and advertisements. But the beauty of the Outernet concept is that music will still reign. Here at Outernet is their new, underground, 2,000-capacity music venue. The Lower Third holds space for smaller shows. Spots for buskers and affordable leases for the music shops were always part of Outernet’s plans. And Chateau Denmark, dispersed throughout it all, is the piece that grounds this place explicitly in its decades of music history.
And what holds the hotel together? Not music, surprisingly, but design. Psychedelic, punk, Victorian and goth, yes, but under the basic umbrella of grandeur and sumptuousness, all tended to by butler service that’s only ever a text away. So far, it’s all working. “I don’t think we’ve ever had an opening where more people have come and asked if they can extend their stay,” says Hussein. “We had one guest that came for a weekend in June. He didn’t check out for two months.”
Nuts & Bolts
A bite-sized breakdown of your most frequently asked questions about Chateau Denmark.
Who comes here?
This is Central London, and everyone’s invited. Expect entrepreneurs and artists, producers and directors. The hotel’s flippant answer is anyone looking for “good times with bad company.” We’d say anyone who wants a visual smorgasbord at the center of the city.
When’s the best time to visit?
We think London’s at its best in spring, but again, this is London. Chateau Denmark’s here whenever you are. Check out what’s playing at Outernet London.
What else is there to do in the area?
On the edge of Soho, you’re a ten-minute walk from the London Museum, the National Gallery, and Piccadilly Circus. Take the Tube to anywhere in London. Do you play? Take a walk down Denmark Street for about a dozen iconic guitar shops.
Best room for a solo traveler? A couple? A family?
Between the rooms, apartments, and signature suites, there’s a space for you, whoever you are. The Sessions Rooms (Superior Room, Luxury Room, Deluxe Room) in the Now Building make the most sense for solo travelers and couples, while larger parties or anyone looking for an upgrade should consider the apartments — particularly the two bedroom Lofthouse or Deluxe. The suites, I Am Anarchy and Flitcroft, are lavish apartments in Chateau Denmark’s typically rich design style.
What’s a design feature I would miss if you didn’t tell me about it?
If the pomp and ceremony of Chateau Denmark has yet to come across, consider: the leather floors, obsidian headboards, and skulls indented into Chesterfield sofas. And the disco balls.
What’s there to eat?
Thirteen is the cocktail bar with small plates for lunch and dinner, Tattu is the contemporary Chinese restaurant at the top of the Now Building, the Lower Third is the performance space and cocktail venue, and Dial8 offers food and drink in as lush a setting as any in London.
Anything to say about sustainability?
Green rooftops on several locations throughout the site, environmentally minded cleaning solutions, and energy-saving operations factor into the sustainability mission here. But so too did the careful restoration of Chateau Denmark’s listed townhouses and non-listed buildings, including sensitive historic restorations to extend the buildings’ lifespans and upgrade their efficiency.
What’s the final word?
On an iconic street undergoing a high-profile rebirth, Chateau Denmark is the unapologetic, design-led vantage from which to take in the coolest part of London.
Book Chateau Denmark on Tablet Hotels.