A peek inside the world’s most exclusive hotel
Words Mark Hooper
How Ruinart’s Hotel 1729, created by Tom Hingston, proved the surprise hit of the summer…
One of the recent artistic highlights over summer was found in a rather unexpected place. Housed within a residential property in London’s Primrose Hill, Hotel 1729, designed by Tom Hingston Studio for Ruinart, offered an ultra-exclusive, fully immersive one-night-only stay to a few lucky guests.
The design mimicked a journey from the vine to the crayeres – the atmospheric chalk caves that Ruinart used for the first ever champagne cellars (the Maison was founded in 1729; hence the name of the project) – and ending with a meal prepared by Danish chef Bo Lindegaard, presenting a pairing menu with Ruinart maître d’ Olivier Livoir.
‘Ruinart came up with the concept of a one night, one bedroom hotel,’ Hingston explains. ‘We were brought in specifically to design that space, once you cross over the threshold – what you see, what you hear, what you eat and what you drink. It’s a multi-sensory experience, essentially.’ The result is a curated exploration of sound, colour and taste – beginning with an interpretation of the crayeres, capturing the eerie, yellow sodium light (the optimum colour on the spectrum in which to store champagne). Hingston’s team recreated some of the early graffiti found in the chalk caves, and installed a stunning installation of suspended chalk rocks, as if captured mid-explosion.
Ruinart have always had a healthy relationship with art (from their early, Edward Munch-designed labels to their ongoing sponsorship of Frieze Art Fair), which makes such collaborations more natural than one might expect. ‘Historically they’ve always been a very innovative as a brand – that sits at the heart of what they do,’ says Hingston. ‘That’s what I was initially drawn to.’
In many ways, it seems the epitome of a ‘hole-and-corner’ – a secret place, somewhere you go to be inspired, to contemplate and create. Although, when prompted, Hingston nominates his first studio, in London’s Soho, as his own personal ‘hole-and-corner’, where he found his plans finally coming together. Now, having moved to new, bigger premises to accommodate his growing team of designers, filmmakers and creative directors, he admits he is trying to recreate that feeling afresh.
A respected designer and graphic designer in his own right, Hingston is renowned for his cover art and promo video work for bands including Massive Attack, Grace Jones, David Bowie and Nick Cave. It seems no coincidence that all those bands share a similar area of the pop music spectrum: dark, deep, challenging… and always visually literate. ‘It is all quite leftfield,’ says Hingston. ‘It does definitely sit outside of a conventional space, and I suppose I do naturally gravitate towards that. Their work tends to be very layered and complex, with a lot of different references – lyrically, musically, artistically and visually. And I guess part of it is the enjoyment of trying to decode all that. It takes you off on a journey of discovery. And that’s what all those old great sleevenotes on albums used to do.’
With Hotel 1729, that journey of discovery was brilliantly brought to life. But for Hingston, each project, however diverse, has a common thread. ‘It’s all about the process: how you interrogate something and hone it,’ he says. ‘Even if you’re using digital tools, it’s the same thought process…’