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The COMO Conversation


Conversation 8 minute read

COMO’s founder Christina Ong and London-based designer Linzi Coppick in conversation about COMO’s original  ‘home from home’

When it first opened in 1991, COMO The Halkin was conceived out of the belief that iterations of luxury were shifting. Instead of over-the-top abundance, was it possible to create something more pared-back, understated, and enduring?

A Glass Table With A Statue On Top Of It



In this COMO Conversation, we catch up with COMO Hotels and Resorts’ founder, Christina Ong, and designer Linzi Coppick, who in a recent refurbishment programme, was tasked with ‘changing it, but not changing it’, says Linzi with a smile.

Linzi has worked with COMO since the company’s earliest days, first as a co-founder of London-based United Designers with Keith Hobbs, and then more recently as a consultant designer for COMO Hotels and Resorts.

A Person With The Arms Crossed

‘Changing it, but not changing it’? What does that even mean?

Christina Ong: “It’s about keeping things simple — although meaningful simplicity can be hard to attain. I’ve always believed that great luxury design is distinct from trend-based, throwaway culture which dazzles but doesn’t last. That’s why I’ve also always liked the description we attached to The Halkin from the moment we briefed the architects back in the 1990s.  A ‘home from home’. Because homes hold memories. They are familiar, and comfortable. They are a sanctuary you can trust. The challenge for Linzi was how to hold on to that heart over 30 years later.

Linzi Coppick: It’s been an enhancement process — always keeping hold of the original ethos. In 1991, the hotel’s interiors were designed by the Milanese firm of architects, Laboratorio Associati, with a Bauhaus-style mural of the elements by painter Valentino Vago dominating the lobby ceiling. I’ve taken the grounding simplicity of those elements as my inspiration, and then pulled the tones of earth, air, fire, water and sky even further into the natural textures and palette, so you feel like you’re still bathed in the things that matter. Too often design is about change for change’s sake, but not with COMO. It was important to retain the original veneer you find in every guest room — a stunning burr timber, with exquisite inlay. The bathrooms are clad in beautiful marble which tonally reflect the original concept of elements and evoke a very luxurious feel. We’ve carefully managed to enhance them repairing damage from years gone by with the help of artisan marble specialists.

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A Person Walking In A Hallway
A Room With A White Ceiling And A Window
A Person Sitting On A Bed

What was your original inspiration?

CO: It started with a feeling that luxury had to mean more than a show of wealth, that’s it’s more intimate than that. I was in Milan for fashion week. I realised I wanted to stay in hotels where I could feel completely at ease while on the road — somewhere with intuitive, compassionate service. And beautiful, contemporary design that made the most of generous volumes and natural light. I was inspired by the Duca di Milano — just a few suites, with an exceptional concierge. I couldn’t find the same in London, so I decided to create The Halkin out of that need. I didn’t think then that it would grow into a company with 15 hotels and resorts worldwide, as COMO Hotels and Resorts is today.

A Room With A Table Chairs And A Couch

Did you find it restrictive, Linzi, to do a refurbishment rather than a full-blown redesign?

LC: No, the opposite, especially when it comes to a hotel like The Halkin. The original design was made to last. Which is why I haven’t just replaced furniture, but re-holstered original furniture where possible and introduced new elsewhere, bringing in those elemental tones relating back to the bathroom marble. My brief was intelligent and sustainable, but also respectful of the guests who regard The Halkin as a familiar place. The 41 rooms and suites occupy a discreet Georgian-styled building with a garden view at the rear. The ground floor has always been a popular, low-key place for guests and Belgravia residents to meet. To keep that feeling, of a neighbourhood retreat from the hustle of the city, was important. Likewise, we have hotel guests who would have been very upset if we’d altered the essence of why they return. All the corridors are dominated by dark timber panelling, with a defined vertical groove. It’s on a curve. It is surprising to find guest room doors hidden into this wall; they feel like entering a secret world. To me, it’s an innovative design feature and feels very contemporary, even after thirty years. It’s something I wish I’d come up with!

A Room With Tables And Chairs

So where have you been able to make your stamp?

LC: Well there’s the part you won’t see, because it’s so seamless, but a lot of work went into updating the in-room technology. Subtly introducing more colour into the underlying neutral tones of the rooms has been especially enjoyable. Each floor of the hotel is inspired by a different tone — that was part of the original scheme, based on the elements. You can see it in the bathroom marbles, which run from dark green for earth, to a beigey-gold, rust, dark-blue and on the top floor, a black and white to evoke the sky. We’ve been able to deepen these basenotes through the room interiors, in headboards and leathers, which is subtle but uplifting. We’ve used natural materials where possible that will continue to age and patina beautifully. Timeless — that’s always been critical working with COMO. It’s a word that should never fall out of fashion.

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A Room With A Bed And A Table
A Bathroom With A Large Window
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To experience COMO The Halkin’s new look, book your stay here.

W. COMO The Halkin   |   E. thehalkin@comohotels.com   |   T. +44 0 20 7333 1000