Art Deco mirrors, plus desks and tables designed by Queen Elizabeth II’s nephew David Linley, now the Earl of Snowdon. Bespoke furniture, china and lighting. All are up for sale in a series of ground-breaking auctions this August taking place in London (but also online).
Previously, hotels have tended to upgrade quietly, or opted to use storage facilities. However, in early August, the Maybourne group, which owns three of London’s most famous hotels – is selling furniture and restaurant fittings of the Connaught, Claridge’s and the Berkeley hotels. This is emphatically not a fire sale, None of these hotels are closing.
As some of London’s grandest and most expensive hotels, they cannot afford to have furniture that is anything but in perfect condition. Refurbishments are always ongoing. There are also more significant changes. Last year, Claridge’s closed the Davies and Brook restaurant, which has also resulted in a refurbishment. (A new – Claridge’s restaurant, with a British-orientated menu – quietly started this summer, with a full opening to follow in September. It is headed by Coalin Finn.)
On July 31, the Dorchester hotel, another of London’s grand dame hotels, auctioned off some furniture from the 7th floor. Prices included £50 for a luggage rack and £25 for a wastepaper bin. Inroom cocktail cabinets did particularly well; a Chinoiserie-style cocktail cabinet had the hammer price of £1,110. The handmade carpets also did well.
On August 2-3 the contents of Simpson’s in the Strand will come up for sale too. One of the most beloved of traditional British restaurants, it closed in 2020 due to Covid restrictions and has not opened since. The website promises it will reopen but it will probably be without the restaurant’s famous silver-plated carving trolleys since they are for sale, along with artworks, seating designed by Robert Angell, Wedgwood china, glassware and even pianos.
At the Maybourne sale, some of the furniture may be easier to repurpose than others; the desks by David Linley for Claridge’s don’t have the all-important USB slot that today’s visitors require but the wooden shoe benches with leather upholstery are bound to be appreciated in a new home as will his leather Nelson chair and a series of rather beautiful writing tables and bedside tables. As well as Ben Whistler chairs designed for the Blue Bar at the Berkeley and a pair of chairs covered in the famous London Toile fabric from design studio Timorous Beasties, complete with depictions of the Gherkin building.
Choosing to send former furniture and other items to auction allows hotels both to raise revenue and demonstrate that the hospitality industry is determined to ensure that refurbishment is done in the most environmentally effective way possible.
As a spokesperson for Maybourne says: ‘‘As a group with heritage buildings and brands, we have naturally built-up a collection of surplus pieces over the years. We have appointed a leading auction company to ensure this important and sizable collection is sold responsibly and with a sustainable and community-focussed approach.”
The auction house, NCM, has sold one tranche of furniture; but there are two remaining sales, on August 3-4 and August 10-11. At them, Claridge’s fans can pick up a handmade sofa, upholstered in bespoke Claridge’s fabric which echoes the hotel’s art deco style, tea services with the Claridge’s logo but also Rothenthal Junto china. And, of course, allow former guests to buy souvenirs of their stays or buy into the panache of a five star hotel. There are original Art Deco bedside tables plus exuberant mirrors and some enjoyably random items, including this pair of gilded wooden wings.