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Q&A with Ace Hotel’s Alex Calderwood: A Sneak Peek of Ace Hotel London

Ace Hotel co-founder Alex Calderwood gives AFAR a sneak preview of Ace Hotel London, which opens this September.

The hotelier Alex Calderwood has transformed the American hotel landscape with his innovative and effortlessly hip Ace Hotel properties in Seattle, Palm Springs, Calif., Portland, Oregon, and Manhattan. Now Calderwood takes on Europe with an ambitious reimagination of a 10-year-old Crowne Plaza hotel. Luckily, it’s set in the trendy Shoreditch neighborhood of East London. Here, Calderwood talks about how he’s bringing the design sensibility of his new hotel into harmony with the neighborhood.

Q. What was it that drew you to East London and Shoreditch in particular for your first European hotel?

2013September5AceHotelAlexCalderwoodI’ve been staying in Shoreditch for at least 10 years so I’ve seen how the neighborhood has evolved. Historically this has been a place for making things. During the Industrial Revolution it was the hub of brickmaking, furniture making, and textile manufacturing. Today you see elements of that craftsmanship in the form of artisans popping up in small studios and chefs doing farm-to-table cooking. Just down the street from the Ace you have what’s called the Silicon Roundabout where a lot of tech startups and media companies are based. There’s a great art scene here.

What drew me to this location is the energy and the village feel. Right now the area feels very dynamic, very vital. The hotel is located on a pretty long stretch of Shoreditch High Street and it’s in a building the never really engaged with the neighborhood. My goal is to really try to get the hotel to engage with the street and the community.

Your other Ace Hotel properties have become popular social hubs with their inviting lobbies and artisanal coffee shops. Will Ace Hotel  London have similar spaces?

Definitely. The lobby space will have a long library table and a great selection of vintage2013September5AceHotelGuestroomLondon furniture as well as rotating gallery walls. We want the front of the hotel to feel like a continuation of the shop fronts that are already along Shoreditch High Street. There will be a juice bar from Lovage that will sell medicinal, seasonal juices as well as ice creams and sorbets. James Hoffman of Square Mile Coffee Roasters is conceptualizing a bespoke coffee shop for us. Hattie Fox, the owner of That Flower Shop, is moving from around the corner into our space so you will walk through the flower boutique to get to the hotel restaurant. There will also be a bike lock area in the front of the hotel as well and we’re working with Tokyo Bike to design bikes for our guests to use during their stay.

The hotel sounds like quite a collaboration with local talents. Did you specifically look to partner with artisans and artists from the area?

Yes. I think our partnerships help make the hotel part of the social fabric of Shoreditch. Pablo Flack and David Waddington, the duo behind the neighborhood’s popular Bistrotheque restaurant, are masterminding our restaurant and bar concept. The team at Universal Design Studio is the creative minds behind the look of the hotel. Their studio is two blocks away and nearly their entire team is all East London people. The property will celebrate the area’s history of craftsmanship. We’re using crafts technique but filtered through a contemporary lens and through Universal’s point of view. For example, the brickwork in the entrance façade is a nod to the brick laying craft of the East End. The company that invented the steel and glass window concept is still in business and is just an hour outside of London in Essex. We have them developing bespoke steel and glass windows for us. Much of the furniture will be made by a UK company called Benchmark. The family-run British carpet company Brockway crafted the carpets for the rooms.

Your properties are known for their quirky and thoughtful amenities. Can you share any surprises we’ll find in the rooms at Ace Hotel London?

2013September5AceHotelLondonRoom2The UK brand Revo designed custom radios for the rooms. Each radio will have five channels that will rotate to feature interesting international internet radio stations. We partnered with the British audio company Reva to create custom turntables for a few of the rooms. These will also be available for purchase. Local designer Ally Capellino, whose studio is just around the corner from the Ace, created a custom leather change tray for the shelves of the rooms. I find whenever I go to Europe I always end up with a lot of coins at day’s end so this little coin box was my solution.

A lot of your other properties have been described as embracing a hipster aesthetic. If you had to categorize Ace Hotel London is there a style or vibe it fits under?

I’d say it’s a contemporary collage of craft and handmade objects.

Photos by Andrew Meredith. 100 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JQ, England, + 44/(0) 20-7613-9800, acehotel.com/london