Lifestyle Journalist

M. Astella Saw writes about travel, food, retail, design and trends in the lifestyle sectors. Contact me at m.astella.saw (at)

One Room Hotel

Amid the crush and excitement of London Design Festival last week, a modest storefront-turned-hotel-room on a narrow street in east London gave visitors the chance to see, to touch, to smell – to live a brand.

Part gallery, part room at the inn, the One Room Hotel, created by design studio JAMESPLUMB at menswear retailer Hostem, was an all-encompassing experience that appealed to the senses to invoke an intangible, yet assured, sense of the designers’ brand ethos – one that deals with the refound and the remade in an appealing mix of new and old.

Here, a large bed with a wooden frame dominated the front room, its etched vintage canopy bathing the white sheets in a soft light. Around it, linen curtains fell to the weathered floorboards, while custom-designed lamps nestled next to bespoke items of restored furniture. The muted colours of Jane Campion’s film The Piano played on one wall. A chunk of Norbury Blue cheese sat on a platter, waiting to be nibbled.

‘We wanted people to experience that environment, rather than just coming in and standing next to a piece [of furniture],’ Hannah Plumb, one half of the artist duo, tells LS:N Global.

‘It’s something they’re walking into, not just looking at,’ her partner, James Russell, adds.

To that end, Plumb and Russell envisaged the temporary hotel room in which visitors could apply to stay for free during the design festival. The pair received more than 300 applications, and eventually selected 11 people, including an artist, a bartender and a PR representative, to stay for one night each.

For everyone else, the One Room Hotel was open during the day to welcome intrigued passers-by.

‘People would come through and really explore,’ Russell says. ‘They were turning on the taps to check that they worked, and everyone seemed to want to check that there really was a bathroom.’

The extent to which visitors felt compelled to stay and poke around is testament to the success of the project. ‘We wanted it to be a full, layered experience,’ says Russell – layered, just like the stories and well-worn patinas of the studio’s rediscovered, reloved pieces.

Our top five take-outs

1: Create context. Like Jean-Marc Drut’s Appartement 50 and Right Angle Studio’s Lost & Found hotel room, the One Room Hotel shows its products and what the brand stands for in the best, most meaningful light.

2: Encourage discovery. Besides locating the One Room Hotel in a small street, Plumb and Russell created a domestic interior that invited exploration. A handsome chest of drawers ‘was hidden round the corner,’ Russell says, ‘so people would walk past it and then do a little double-take.’

3: Make sure every element counts. ‘The scent from the candles we burned, and even the food that we had sitting out, all added to the atmosphere that people were coming into,’ Russell says.

4: Work with the best. Menswear retailer Hostem provided the space for the One Room Hotel, luxury linen brand Matteo the bed sheets, and beauty brand Aesop the soaps and skincare products. Local bar Lounge Lover served cocktails to hotel guests. The collaborations came from ‘knowing that there was a limit to how far we could go in offering a true hotel experience’, says Russell.

5: Restrain yourself. Surrounding your customers with the brand doesn’t mean plastering your name everywhere. ‘We couldn’t have a stand with logos everywhere,’ adds Russell. ‘First and foremost, it had to be a believable environment.’

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01 October 2010