Bethnal Green is full of hipster hangouts with a lovely neighbourhood feel and a magnificent melting pot of cultural and culinary hot spots, the coolest vintage shops, markets, charity shops, myriad bookshops, record stores, outstanding street art, and the Brick Lane Market every weekend. The hotel and restauranteur supremo Loh Lik Peng is the founder and CEO of the Unlisted Collection - a lifestyle hospitality brand comprising five unique award-winning hotels that embody an eclectic, cosmopolitan vibe, all rooted in iconic heritage buildings, as well as over twenty design-driven, cutting-edge restaurants conceived to offer a create a memorable guest experience. Loh enthuses, "The Town Hall Hotel was such a transformative project for me. I spent many years totally absorbed by it, and it will always have a special place in my heart. Town Hall Hotel was the first conversion of a landmark town hall into a luxury five star hotel and we did it in East London, which was not what it is today. Many people thought we would fail, so reaching our twelfth year is quite a special feeling. The pandemic offered an opportunity to take on the next chapter in the hotel’s history, and the Jan Hendzel suites were a chance for us to start from ground zero and reimagine the rooms and interiors in a totally different light. Jan’s work is thoughtful, highly crafted and beautifully in the moment for Town Hall’s new direction with design, sustainability, localisation, and hospitality. We hope to do more collaborations in the future with other local craftsmen and artists”. Hendzel adds, “It was a match made in heaven. We had an instant connection”.
Jan Hendzel Studio has created a collection of beautifully crafted wooden furniture for the new Jan Hendzel Studio Suites. Founded in 2015 by self-taught furniture maker Jan Hendzel, it is a London-based design and craft furniture studio that focuses on using natural, local materials and celebrating British craftsmanship. Whether it is using quality British materials, ensuring that its products are made with longevity in mind, or finding ways to make design a circular process, sustainability lies at the heart of the studio and its practices. The studio merges traditional joinery techniques with modern manufacturing processes in order to experiment with texture and function and create the best products possible. Previously the studio has been commissioned to create pieces for a zero-waste restaurant and the recently opened Birch hotel in London. Last year, Jan Hendzel Studio launched its first full collection of furniture, called Bowater. The collection features nine pieces, including a sideboard and decorative objects and is made exclusively with British timber.
For the studio’s first full design project transforming the two apartments in the hotel’s Grade II listed building, the studio sought to create a tactile, gallery-like experience that, “is all about texture”, says Hendzel. “Our work celebrates the honest beauty of natural textures, from the raw, unfinished edges of the marble worktops to the smooth, undulating waves of the kitchen units and bedroom headboards”. All the maker's pieces are crafted exclusively from British timbers. They have sustainably sourced a mix of materials from the London plane tree timber, reclaimed pine, Crinoid marble, Moroccan Zellige tiles, the textured green upholstery to the patterned wool rugs that invite touch, which is an instantly soothing way to interact with a space and connect with a design. There is a softness, and a sensuality in the muted tones of the timber they have used, the richness of the brown oak, the creaminess of ash and the pale pink tint found in London, all sourced locally.
Every piece has the hand of the maker evident, in the texture and the sculptural quality, from the tactile domes used to decorate the suites’ Wharf coffee tables, that have been wire-brushed to expose the intricate graining of the old-growth timber. Unexpected details such as loose-tongue joints, typically used to make tables, distinguish the Mowlavi sofa and armchair, while circular dowels draw attention to the wedge joint holding together their frames. The bedroom dresser has a distinctive undulating exterior which was translated into headboards for the bedrooms and cabinet fronts for the kitchens. Crinoid marble kitchen worktops come from the Mandale quarry in Derby - the roughly-hewn edges offset the perfectly smooth surface that reveals the fossils calcified within. “It's a kajillion years old and it's got all these creatures from many moons ago that have fallen into the mud and died,” Hendzel reveals. To complement his beautifully crafted pieces, Hendzel has worked with a selection of British brands to create harmonious interiors, including Pickleson Paint, to create a range of colours that reflect the design and local area. The suite's natural wood grains and muted hues blend beautifully with maple trees along the facade of the building. East End Clay has been used on the walls in an entirely new shade custom-made for this project, alongside the brand's Drunk Tahini and Tarte Tan shades. The suite's lighting, upholstery and accessories are from British brands, including A Rum Fellow, Yarn Collective, Hand & Eye Studio, Lights & Lamps and Fariceramics.
The gorgeous fossil-filled crinoid marble used for the kitchen countertops is from Mandel quarry in Derby. “I wanted the worktop to look like it had literally just been pulled from the earth. There is incredible attention to the design detail and the local touches add to the unique space and narrative. The suites are incredibly calming and a feast for the eyes and hands. The colours are restful, while the textures are pleasing, they feel very satisfying and restful, and they invite you to linger admiringly,” the designer elaborates. The suites join the exceptionally spacious existing 97 rooms, studios, suites, and apartments all individually designed, with many retaining the grand Edwardian and Art Deco period features. The De Montfort Suite remains the largest suite in London and has a stunning glass loft design with soaring triple-height ceilings and light flooding through substantial arched windows, splashed with colour from stained-glass panels.
With other exciting updates at the Town Hall Hotel, including Elis - the newly unveiled restaurant with two Michelin-starred Da Terra’s head chef at the helm, newly introduced Happiness Agents at the hotel whose goal it is to make all their guests feel happy and much more to come, this space is one to be watched and visited to relish and relax in. Make this your next London must go.