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The Responsible Host

London, UK

Hospitality done sustainably and mindfully: that’s the ethos of small hotel group Inhabit, which has just opened its second stopover on a leafy square in Bayswater

Many urban hotels would claim to be relaxing sanctuaries away from the hustle and bustle – but Inhabit goes the extra mile by putting wellbeing at the core of everything it does, from the Californian-inspired meat-free restaurant to the yoga and meditation classes.

Inhabit Queen’s Gardens in Bayswater is the second ope for this London-based boutique hotel chain, with the first, in Paddington, opening in 2019. Covid delays meant that it has taken a while for this new outpost to open, but for interior designer Caitlin Henderson (who also designed the Paddington hotel) it meant extra time to craft an even more meaningful approach. “It actually worked to our advantage, because we were really able to flesh out the design,” she says. “We decided that we wanted to bring in warmer, more cheerful colours – I think a lot of that was because of Covid – but it also gave us the chance to differentiate between the two hotels, so that each one felt really unique and special.”

Henderson worked with the project’s Holland Harvey Architects and art curators Culture A to realise the vision of Inhabit’s co-founder Nadira Lalji. The hotel sits across a crescent of stucco 19th-century townhouses on leafy Queen’s Gardens, and houses 158 rooms including 10 handsome suites. “We had double height ceilings – some rooms were over three metres – so it was an opportunity to expand the colour palette, with sage green, denim blue, a really light salmon, sandy beige and forest green. Those colours are so calm, they’re still evocative of nature, but they’re also bright and cheerful,” says Henderson.

That extended time-frame also meant breathing space to research and source sustainable products, such as the Spanish terracotta lights that hang above the bar. Lalji was hands-on when it came to the sourcing side, too: “She is a great networker and really interested in building sustainably, and I think a lot of people had reached out to her after the first hotel,” says Henderson. “She found a Geneva-based company called SEP Jordan, which partners with Syrian refugees to produce these incredible textiles, so we worked with them to develop textiles for a few of the suites and cushions that were all hand embroidered.”

Henderson also worked with west-London-based social enterprise Goldfinger, whose joinery workshop created timber furniture for the guest rooms and public spaces, as well as the reception desk, whose design is influenced by a Zen garden’s balancing stacked stones.

The use of social enterprises brings the feelgood factor, but it’s the palette of natural materials and soothing colours that really give the space its feeling of calm. “We wanted to bring in nature in any way we could,” says Henderson. “We looked to Scandinavia [for inspiration], because, like London, it’s dark and cold a lot of the year, but they’re so good at making these bright, warm, inviting interiors. Our goal was not to recreate a Scandinavian interior, but to reinterpret it in a London setting.” There are Naturalmat organic mattresses on the bed and cork-clad vanities in the bathrooms, in addition to the swathers of natural timber from the Goldfinger furniture. The bar is clad in striking green arabesco marble, with plants tumbling down from shelves above.

Art plays an integral role in enhancing the experience. Henderson had wanted to work with Hugo Dalton on the Paddington hotel, “but by the time we found him, we didn’t have any wall space left. [At Queen’s Gardens] he has made a beautiful light projection, based on a drawing of the foliage of Hyde Park, that takes over the whole private dining room. It’s beautiful.” An installation by textile artist Annmette Beck hangs on the reception wall, and there are botanical drawings by Carlos Peñalver along the corridors.

The principles of conscious consumption fan out to every corner of the hotel, both in its fabric and in its day-to-day running. Morning meditation classes and a well-stocked library feel the mind as well as the soul; single-use disposable miniatures in the bathroom have been eschewed for refillables by B-Corp beauty brand Skandinavisk; and award-winning Devon health retreat Yeotown runs the 70-cover restaurant. Oh, and you can bring your dog – so the ultimate feelgood furry friend can accompany you on your wellness journey, too.