LONDON // In a discreet side room of the genteel Lanesborough hotel at London’s Hyde Park Corner, fixtures, fittings and furnishings are being sold at a pace of 600 or more lots a day.
The interiors of the hotel owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority are being auctioned ahead of its temporary closure for a complete refurbishment of the building.
The Lanesborough is a masterpiece of Regency-era London and a landmark that begins Park Lane’s parade of upmarket hotels.
It has also been the embodiment of discretion, its customers – celebrities, royalty and wealthy Arabs and Russians – have cherished the strict no-cameras policy and 24-hour butler service.
As the faux-Regency furniture, silken drapes and splendid chandeliers are sold, only those guests who have peeked curiously into the auction room have any idea of the immense changes about to be made to their favourite London bolthole.
Like the lots on sale, the auction attendees are a mixed bag, though most have a rather gentlemanly air – certainly not the hard-eyed second-hand dealers one might expect at a sale of hotel furniture. There are a good number of Barbour jackets and cashmere scarves on this cold day.
That’s because this is not just any hotel furniture. The 93 guest rooms include 43 extravagant suites, private dining rooms and public rooms such as The Library Bar and the Michelin-starred Apsley’s Restaurant. Among the standard hotel fittings – digital room safes, umbrella stands and luggage racks – are some real treasures.
The William IV and Empire-style furniture, though reproduced, was handcrafted and the immense carpets and rugs were custom-woven.
The oil paintings that were dotted around the hotel included some beautiful original works dating from the 17th century. There was also a mural by Simon Casson.
In Apsley’s, the crystal chandeliers are spectacular artefacts of Art Deco design.
The refurbishment is not to be a wholesale removal of original features in this grand building. The Lanesborough was built in 1822 as a hospital and, although it is now one of London’s most established hotels, it was only opened as such in 1991. It is operated by St Regis hotels.
Replacing the elegant but slightly fusty Regency look will be a design scheme by the late interior designer Alberto Pinto, who died in 2012 at the age of 69.
The Casablanca-born and Paris-based Pinto’s plans for the Lanesborough honoured the historical architecture but were to introduce the technological innovations expected as standard in five-star establishments.
Geoffrey Gelardi, the managing director of the Lanesborough, welcomed the refurbishment.
“Through Alberto Pinto’s talent and vision combined with the latest innovations, we will undoubtedly reaffirm ourselves as one of the most distinguished and luxurious hotels in the world. We look forward to unveiling a new era for the Lanesborough,” he said.
The sale of the 3,000 lots concludes on Friday and the hotel is to close its doors on December 20, after which all the purchases can be taken away.
The all-new Lanesborough is expected to reopen in the final quarter of 2014.
For information on the sale, visit www.thelanesboroughsale.com