The first time Sir Terence Conran set foot into what was then The Great Eastern Hotel in London, decades ago, it wasn’t exactly a boutique experience. “I went to book a room, and the girl behind the reception desk asked me, ‘How many hours do you want?’” He tells us the story at the opening of his new suite—created in collaboration with AIDS organization (RED)—at what is now the Andaz Liverpool Street. Despite this dubious introduction to it, Conran ended up buying the run-down Great Eastern in the late ’90s. “I ran Habitat at that time, so I had my finger on the pulse of the consumer market and could see that a good hotel in The City of London (London’s financial district) was a really good opportunity—and if you don’t do things, then nothing happens. It was a risky thing to do, but we were right,” the now 86-year-old says.
Conran returned for the (RED) project at his old space, which Hyatt bought from him in 2007 and turned into the luxury lifestyle Andaz hotel. The collaboration between Conran, Andaz and the AIDS organization will see 30% of the take from the room per night go to the fight against the disease. Sheila Roche, (RED) Creative and Communications Officer, tells us, “Terence is an icon, and having his style and aesthetic working for this issue is important.” She explains that 5 June was the 37th anniversary of the first official reporting of what will become known as the AIDS epidemic, “There is a risk that people feel fatigue about it.”
Conran still has a strong connection to the building—the 267 rooms at Andaz recently underwent a renovation, which was carried out by Conran and Partners after the hotel had unsuccessfully tried working with two other interior designers and decided to approach a company that really knows the hotel. The (RED) Suite is all Conran himself, and represents the way he likes to live. “It was lovely to be asked to do this job, and I thought of how to make a room useful,” he says. The resulting suite (which he didn’t charge a fee for designing) has all the touches you’d expect from Conran, combined with practical features like heated floors in the bathroom. “I have a desire to make hotels modern,” he says. “So many hotels try to make themselves traditional because they think that makes people comfortable, but I believe that today, modern makes people comfortable, and this I think is an example of a modern suite.”
One designer in particular influenced his work on the room: Jony Ive. “You can perhaps see that the rooms in this suite reflect a bit of the Apple aesthetic,” Conran says. The combination of functionality and beautiful design does make the suite feel contemporary, and its playfulness ensures that. Even though it was designed to support a serious cause, visiting it is an enjoyable experience.
Among the features in the suite are ones that relate directly to (RED), like the portraits by Rankin that show mothers and children in Africa who have thrived because of (RED) funds. Conran also describes two circular lights over the dining table as “halos for Bono and Bobby, who founded (RED).” Other features in the suite underline Andaz’s connection to its surroundings, such as the artworks by local artists and Nobuyuki Taguchi’s black-and-white photographs of the Shoreditch area that capture its ever-changing, vibrant streets. Conran’s distaste for TVs means that the bedroom screen is hidden behind a large artwork that slides away, and the coffee table in the living area is a replica of one he designed for his own home. Other pieces he picked up himself from his Conran Shop.
A bit of my heart lives in this hotel
Conran says that it’s still nice for him to show that he’s creative, and it’s evident that he’s happy to once again leave his mark on the space: “A bit of my heart lives in this hotel.”
Bathroom image by Cool Hunting, all others courtesy Andaz