François-Joseph Graf brings quiet luxury to London’s Sloane Street

…At Sloane is a cultural exchange in the heart of Chelsea

Intimate and elegant, albeit unassuming from the street, …At Sloane has all the charm and privacy of home and the comforts of a luxury hotel. Conceived by designer François-Joseph Graf in collaboration with the Cadogan Estate, the interiors were informed by the designer’s reverence for English culture, history and craftsmanship, as well as the strengths of the existing building.

In addition to celebrating the architecture, Graf wanted to retain the quiet and comfortable charm typical of an English house. ‘I adore English architecture,’ says Graf. ‘I’ve always seen this building as a private house, and I wish it would remain so.’

Graf’s aim, beyond the preservation of the property’s style and spirit, was authenticity, banning anything he deemed an ostentatious sign of luxury and accentuating only those details that he felt exuded true quality and charm. ‘Entering …At Sloane is like entering a 19th century Victorian British home at the turn of the century.’

With such a strong façade, typical of the Victorian period, Graf wanted the interiors to be equally grand. Only the façades were retained: the inside of the building was totally rebuilt from top to bottom, and all its interior detailing, inspired by the surrounding Victorian architecture, was painstakingly redone. An additional floor was added to house the top-floor restaurant (whose dining room, with its exquisite collection of Chinese porcelain, is a nod to the Peacock room, a masterpiece of interior decorative art created by James Whistler and Thomas Jeckyll for Frederic Richards Leyland in Kensington, in 1877).

But while firmly rooted in London, in this quintessentially English location of Sloane Street in Chelsea, the hotel is a marriage of cultures – a meeting point of French stylistic references and English charm. In the design process, Graf consistently gave precedence to British influences but gave them a French twist – in the axes, symmetry and entrances. ‘I did my best to respect the British art I love and all the richness of their craftsmanship,’ he says. To do this to the highest standard possible, a corps of the most skilled artisans worked on every detail, from the marble floor tiles to the mammoth task of reproducing light fittings.

And lighting was key. ‘I believe the most important element of any project is perfect illumination. We’ve banned any and all harsh commercial spotlights,’ he comments. His minute attention to detail similarly dictated the decisions for all fittings, furniture and fabrics – many coming from French artisans. Regarding furniture, Graf set about assembling significant pieces of British design by renowned studios like Titchmarsh & Goodwin, Mackintosh and Smith Benson lighting. Finding these in far-flung corners of the world was a source of great satisfaction for the designer, but Graf also custom-designed many of the pieces himself (tables, desks, chairs and beds) in tribute to MacKintosh.

‘I think we’ve managed to keep the original charm of this mansion and brought it up to the 21st century in terms of technology and comfort,’ he says. While it looks back for design inspiration and to inform its soul, the practicalities of a stay here are very much rooted in the present. These details (soundproofing, soft, warm lighting conveniently controlled from an iPad, among others) have been cleverly and seamlessly woven into the design and are unobtrusive – even invisible – serving to enhance the experience without detracting from the aesthetic.

The programming also extends the sense of intimacy – the unassuming entrance, cosy downstairs bar, unpretentious French cuisine, and attention to every sensory detail.

Photography courtesy of …At Sloane
Photography courtesy of …At Sloane
A bathroom inside the hotel with square soaking tub
Photography courtesy of …At Sloane

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