Citizen M’s affordable luxury

Mobile. That’s what the M in Citizen M stands for. Reflecting the target audience of busy people who don’t want the usual hotel experience but want to get in, somewhere to sleep and a great living area to relax in before bed. A “good shower, good bed, good wi-fi, coffee and some kind of environment, and good location.” That’s how they describe the experience of this affordable luxury hotel group.

I recently co-hosted an event at Citizen M Tower Hill as part of We Blog Design (our little community, a free network that informs, inspires and connects design bloggers), where I stayed in the hotel from 10am through to the next morning, experiencing this affordable luxury first hand.

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What interested me about the hotel group is that living areas are filled to the brim with the bold colours and iconic shapes of Vitra classic furniture, from Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Verner Panton, Jean Prouvé and Isamu Noguchi in every space that you look yet this hotel charges between only £125-£200 per night. Sure, that’s not cheap but try finding a hotel in London that charges less… your options are very limited.

“It’s not necessarily designer furniture, it’s more to create the environment all together.” says CMO Robin Chadha of Citizen M “Of course we have one type of bedroom, we don’t have superior rooms or suits or Kings or Queens.”

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And that appears to be the key to Citizen M, place importance on what matters to busy travellers and not on the unnecessary things which don’t make a difference. Obviously, some stay in hotels for the luxury and decadence but that’s not who the Citizen M customer is and there is a plethora of options for them. And by having compact rooms that are stacked up like pods, but a warm and welcoming reception to relax in you can feel perfectly at home wherever you choose to rest.

“From our own experiences we said ‘ok how do you spend your time at home, how much time do you spend in your bedroom at home?’ I sleep there, maybe I read a book, go and watch a TV show, I live in my living room and my kitchen so why would we do it differently in the hotel? It’s very simple you know, that’s how we came up with the whole concept, we looked first at the traveller, who is this new mobile citizen, we named it after them, we took up our own frustrations and experiences we had with travelling, that’s how we came up with half the things here.”

“What we do is all the room units, those are all the same, instead of trying to build on-site, why not build off-site so they’re all modular units which are created in a factory, basically we build a ground floor, two ground floors, on top of that the rooms are stacked and then we close the façade and close everything up around it.”

This concept excites me greatly. Clever design… and good design doesn’t need to be luxurious. This has been going around my head for some time now as I see great products at the high end, and poorly constructed products at the low end. Efficiency is the key to creating luxury at a price that is more affordable to everyone.

“We don’t cut corners in design, technology, iPads in the rooms, we’ve added more cool stuff you’ll see at Tower Hill but we think that’s all part of the experience. Of course we have ways of saving money…our staffing model of course is quite efficient, we don’t have a restaurant, we don’t have chefs, we don’t have waitresses, great for the guests are also the great for our operations because we don’t need to have this whole front desk area, people can check in and out very quickly.”

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Investing in good quality design for key parts of the home, or in this case hotel, is the best approach to designing an interior that will last, look great but avoid the high costs of having expensive furniture throughout. Focus on what matters at home…comfort. Citizen M have focused on a comfortable bed, a great shower and incredible furniture to relax in making this one of my favourite places in London.

Affordable luxury that I can feel at home in. What more do we need?


Quotes taken from a recent interview by Katie Treggiden of Confessions of a Design Geek, who kindly sent me specific quotes that she knew I’d find interesting for my post.

Farrow & Ball: Decorating with Colour

This post has taken me some time to complete because I was working my way through the amazing book by Farrow & Ball that was recently sent to me by the publishers (thank you for that).

This book follows on from three books ‘Paint and Colour in Decoration’, ‘Living with Colour’ and ‘The Art of Colour’ which dealt with how colour can be used to create atmosphere, character and charm in any home, something which my regular readers will know is a subject I’m quite fond of. (See ‘Colour Theory‘). This book tackles the tricky subject of how to decorate your home with colour.

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For transient renters, such as me, the dull dirty-not-even-magnolia-anymore magnolia that adorns the walls of my apartment fill me with sadness, so I was delighted when our landlady allowed me to decorate one wall in the bedroom with Cook’s Blue from Farrow & Ball. Of course I wanted to go further, but one block of colour is enough to break up the greige.

As the authors state “a book to delight any home decorating enthusiast.” For those of you making assumptions that Farrow & Ball’s traditional paint colours and heritage work primarily in traditional homes will be pleasantly surprised by how many mid-Century and modern homes are represented in the book. I especially like the kitchen with burnt orange walls with white paint drips drawing attention to the height of the room.

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If you’re planning a Spring clean, then freshen those walls with some paint, and pick up this book for some great ideas of how colours work together in different interiors – I promise you will find something you like.

Farrow & Ball: Decorating with Colour
Price: £35

Summer in Another Country

This balmy weather seems to draw my mind towards food; more importantly eating food. So Fabricofmylife’s Kate and I took ourselves down to the Another Country new London store for some table styling and much needed lunch.

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Having amassed a great tableware collection of own-brand and complementary products, Another Country have a very tantalising array of plates, cutlery and decorative objects that tick a lot of boxes for me.

But where would lunch be without my iPhone and new Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ (thanks Lenovo) as I do have a small obsession with constantly checking my phone every two minutes to check how many ‘likes’ my Instagram’s are getting.

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I’m teetering on the edge of moving my current dinner service on to pastures new in order to bring in the pottery series by Ian McIntyre (with embossed ‘ac’ stamp underneath), 31 Chapel Lane napkins, David Mellor’s Provençal cutlery and Simon Donald’s Swan nighlight so that this one-off lunch setting becomes a regular fixture in my home.

After lunch we tried our hand at a ‘coffee and apple’ (iPhone that is) scene with my Re-Turned bird and Ruth Duff’s cushions making for a comfortable afternoon nap.

Take a look at how Kate interpreted the afternoon in her (Imaginary) Corners of my Home feature.

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Pottery Series Designer: Ian McIntyre
Manufacturer: Another Country
Year: 2011
Price: From £15.00

Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ Designer: Lenovo
Manufacturer: Lenovo
Year: 2014
Price: From £299.99

How to Create an Entertainment Hub for the Children this Winter

Okay, so usually we’re not covering the topics of technology but sitting here with my MacBook, iPad Mini and iPhone 5s, hot-desking next to an iMac and listening to Christmas tunes on Spotify, it seems that technology is all around me. So I’m going to hand over to Kathryn Ward who can tell you all about bringing digital TV into your home this year…

In the recent past, computers and home entertainment systems existed as separate entities. But now, thanks to advances in technology, it is possible to connect your PC with every imaginable form of media, into a single, seamless entertainment setup. Providing you have a decent computer, a good broadband connection and a wired or wireless home network, you can discover and enjoy digital TV and a host of other media from the comfort of your own home.

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‘Tis the season for giving, so why not treat the family to digital TV available from Virgin Media, as well as films, music and games, all of which can be enjoyed from a single screen backed up with a state-of-the-art surround-sound speaker system.

Did you know that it’s now possible to access over 200 channels, including 51 in HD without having an ugly satellite dish tacked onto the outer wall of your house? From Sky channels to 3D films and live pay-per-view events, digital TV can now be in your home, as if by magic, via fibre optic cables. As a result, there’ll be no more cries of boredom from the kids this winter and, if there are family arguments about what to watch, you can record up to three programmes at any one time while you watch another, thanks to a nifty little box. You can monitor what your children watch by making use of parental control settings – lock channels with a PIN, set age restrictions and block access to over-18 services such as games, gambling and adult channels.

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Then add a host of high-end devices to your arsenal – the addition of your PC, digital video recorder, video game system and stereo will enable the family to play high-definition video games, listen to music, use the internet, shop online or chat with friends, taking advantage of superior video and sound.

The setup process is pretty simple. You’ll need to make sure you have a network router because your network is the lynchpin of the operation and if high-definition media is what you’re after, then speed, range and bandwidth are key. A dual-band router provides enough bandwidth for checking email at the same time as streaming high-definition video. If you live in a palace however, you’ll need to extend the range of your network and enhance the wireless signal so that it reaches the remoter areas of the house or garden.

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Once your network is configured, consider the media you’re going to be accessing – it’s probably best to use a network-attached storage (NAS) device to store all your files in one place and avoid clogging up your computer’s hard drive. Finally, to deliver entertainment to the whole family, a simple media player can extract content from your network and the internet straight to your TV screen – just connect the box into your HDTV and configure the wireless access. You can also transfer media to the box by plugging in a USB stick or memory card and access programming streamed from the internet.

Create your home entertainment network today and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to access high-quality audio and video media from any device, anywhere in your house.

All images courtesy VW+BS

How the 1932 Swedish general election changed design forever

It is not unusual to hear that design can change lives and has frequently done so, but recently I was in conversation with Chrystina Schmidt from Skandium and learnt something that had not occurred to me previously that upon discovering more I realise how the design that is so familiar to us can be traced back to a point in time that changed the way in which we live forever.

In 1932, after World War I and Sweden had begun to pick itself back up from a depression, the Swedish Social Democrats won the general election bringing much change to the country. Aside from the usual political changes, Sweden had to rebuild itself fully and to do so looked for inspiration for how to do so.

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Photo Martti Kapanen, Alvar Aalto Museum

“There was a major change to the structure of society” says Chrystina, “Sweden looked to modernism and the Bauhaus for ways to create an identity… Josef Franck single-handedly invented Swedish modernism”.

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Photo courtesy I Like London

Designers such as Alvar Aalto and companies such as Isokon Plus were all experimenting with their craft, learning ways to manufacture products using simple and inexpensive techniques. Sweden was a poor country at the time and steel was too expensive a material to use in quantity, and one thing that Sweden had in abundance was wood so they turned their ideas towards using wood as a material that they could master.

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Learning ways to bend wood in to different shapes but keeping the strength that was expected was the challenge but over time these designers were successful and defined a style that Sweden would become synonymous with.

This “had an impact and changed peoples lives” says Chrystina. This history is what has gone on to define what stores such as Skandium are interested in. It is not about the shapes, or the Scandinavian roots of designers, but a way of thinking that defines what Skandium chooses for their store.

Kartio glass by Kaj Franck
Kartio glass by Kaj Franck

Chrystina talked to me in the store, sipping from iittala Kartio glasses by Kaj Franck that she tells me are “the heart of Skandium”. “We are the farm-bearers of Scandinavian design — it’s not just about any design object from Scandinavia”.

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Photo courtesy Wee Birdy

And now in a recession, companies like Skandium are finding it tough to build their businesses with less money being spent, so it is refreshing to hear Chrystina talk how Skandium is thriving and how we must remember the roots from which design came. A lot of design that we think of as ‘classic’ or ‘innovative’ was borne out of depression, forcing us to think about what really matters and becoming creative with what can be done rather than following what we have done before.

Chrystina adds “people are not stupid — if you make it poorly and sell it for a lot, customers will not buy it”, a point worth remembering as many companies aim to reduce costs and increase profit… sometimes the solution is to rethink from the start with the restrictions that we now find ourselves in and to truly focus on the core values rather than balance of the till.