Meeting Tracy Lowy, founder of the Living Rooms group, at The Laslett in Notting Hill feels exactly as if we are being welcomed into her home. Tracy founded her first venture over twenty years ago and has been a leading voice in the movement to create hotel alternatives ever since. The public space downstairs couldn’t be further from a marble-floored soulless hotel lobby – instead, the relatively small area is warm and welcoming. The space has been cleverly zoned, with The Henderson bar, coffee shop, and the Library, where the walls are adorned with artworks from Harland Miller, and the Laura Bartlett gallery, as well as an enviable collection of art books.
The decor is eclecticism at its very best – mid century furniture mixes with contemporary British design and is complemented by the odd Memphis Group-inspired touch. The result is a space that really does achieve what Tracy has been aiming for – a home away from home for business travellers and visitors to the city.
We quickly discovered that the beauty lies in the details as Tracy has taken steps to make the experience of being away from home as painless as possible. Put simply, she has thought of everything. Visits to coffee festivals have ensured that their brew is the best on the market and simplifying their technology means that you’ll never be padding around the room late at night flicking light switches to get that much-needed darkness.
We meet Tracy to talk about her design inspirations, the importance of supporting British industries and her favourite places to stay around the world.
What prompted you to pursue the hotel alternative?
Fountains was my first project and it was a block of apartments on Lancaster Gate. We employed an amazing team of young British designers including the likes of Mark Brazier Jones and Tom Dixon and created something quite special.
We opened in the early ‘90s and it was quite of its time. Fountains was probably the first serviced residences of its time at that level.
I had felt for a while that there was a niche for a hotel alternative – those soulless, sterile environments had had their day and people were looking for something more inviting.
What sets the Living Rooms The Hotel Alternative apart?
Each of our residences has their own distinct design depending on the property itself, but all of them are connected by a home from home feeling. That’s really at the core of our offering.
We house a lot of people from the world of entertainment, who tend to stay with us for quite a while as they like the homely, discreet environment.
British is really important to us as well. We have always gone out of our way to employ British designers and British architects. For this project for example, we worked with architect Tom Bartlett, and Waldo works, and commissioned a lot of furniture pieces from Pinch and Simon Day (Nocturne Workshop) for the lighting – both wonderful and exciting British companies!
How does the design process start at one of your properties?
We had a test room here at The Laslett – the theory was that if you get one room right then you might be onto something with the other rooms! We ripped the room out three times.
The first time the lighting levels weren’t right. It’s that crazy thing when you can’t find the switch to the turn off the lights at night. We went to great lengths to make sure everything was very simple.
In lots of hotels, the technology quota is ridiculous and everything is always so overcomplicated. We’ve kept everything simple and focused on providing user-friendly technology, with super high-speed Wifi as the top priority.
Finally, we put in huge amount of detail into the bathrooms, as these can be bland and sometimes impractical spaces in hotels. We’ve focused on creating spaces that are comfortable, enjoyable and easy.
Does your style at home carry over here?
Yes it is quite similar, I test a lot of pieces in my own home before bringing them into one of the properties – whether thats a chair, a new style of lighting or a sofa.
How would you describe your style at home?
Understated, luxurious, eclectic and comfortable.
What other hotel brands do you like?
Soho House is a really good example of the lifestyle brand that’s really pushing out into all territories. They are all still quite special, despite opening at a very fast rate.
As far as interiors go, I think Ilse Crawford probably designed my favourite hotel, Ett Hem in Stockholm. It’s a beautiful space and that was one of my inspirational hotels. It’s a home, it’s quite exquisite.
The other brand that I think are quite brilliant are the Aman group, as they are meticulously designed and renowned for space and privacy.
You clearly love sourcing one-off pieces and antiques to supplement the contemporary British designers. Did you enjoy this process?
Yes, I worked very closely with Jerome Dodd who’s an antiques dealer with shops ‘Les Couilles du Chien’ on Golborne Road and Church street. He sourced a great deal for us as well as creating the compositions for the 3D art boxes on the walls of some of our rooms.
We’re actually holding a pop-up shop with Jerome starting in October to coincide with our 1st birthday. We’re going to display some of the natural history creations and minerals that he sources here in the lobby until January.
Do you have a favourite preloved furniture piece?
I still have an original Tom Dixon spiral light which I absolutely adore.