In 2012, London-based Soho House & Co and New York’s Sydell Group joined forces to create The Ned in the heart of the City of London. Having discovered the former Midland Bank building, designed by architect Sir Edwin ‘Ned’ Lutyens in 1924, founder Nick Jones immediately fell in love with the 29,450 square meter space. The Ned houses ten restaurants, 252 bedrooms and ‘Ned’s Club’ – where members can access a rooftop pool, gym, spa, and Vault bar. Faded glamour and 1930’s were the starting point for the interior design. The brief was to do justice to Lutyen’s incredible vision but to bring warmth, atmosphere, and luxury to the grand building. The design was inspired by the attention to detail of the great ships and trains of the era, such as the SS Normandie and The Orient Express. It was important for the interiors to feel naturally layered and like a hazy memory of the past and not a re-creation.
The design team started the development of the public areas with the space that was to become Millie’s, developing a visual language that acted as a benchmark for all the other public areas. The rose, dirt-mint and raisin colour scheme of Millie’s was developed exclusively to work with the beautiful 30-foot verdite, marquetried columns that puncture the space. Inspired by the main lounge of the SS Normandie to create seating groups that emphasize intimacy in a grand space. All new joinery within the ground floor would intersect with Lutyen’s masterful columns, walnut screens and stone panelling and had to be designed and fabricated with enough detail and heft to sit adjacent to such impressive architecture. Soho House Design had to fill in layers of texture and furniture at the human scale to make the space hospitable, welcoming, and comfortable.
Throughout all stages of the design process, great care was taken that any new interventions and additions were sympathetic to the existing building. The designers trawled the bank’s archives to find out what the bank looked like in the 1930’s heyday. New furniture and joinery were created in the spirit of the era in which the original bank headquarters were constructed, but not rigidly so, with a mind to creating plush yet welcoming spaces. An emphasis on guest comfort was paramount.
In the ground floor, Soho House Design were mindful that the space was originally designed as a place to inspire awe, not for invoking a spirit of frivolity and merriment. The designers wanted to create spaces that felt intimate, whilst still being able to appreciate the scale of the banking hall. The original banking hall counters were a great mechanism for this, as created natural divides for each of the restaurants and bars. The design is altogether different from other hotels, in that it offers an experience in a historic building that extends to the guest rooms. Many urban hotel conversions do not extend the look of the exterior or historic interiors to the new build areas. Guests can check in for the weekend and feel like they’re living in film shot somewhere between the 1890’s and the 1930’s.