The New Look of Luxury

Flouting the five-star mentality, Rabih Hage designs a unique
London hotel around the refreshing premise that the best experiences cannot be standardized.

Rabih Hage has a bone to pick with five-star hotel chains. “They say they’re luxurious, but they duplicate their recipe everywhere,” says the London-based arch­itect. “I could be on safari or in Banga­lore, and I’d have the same bathroom.” So when Hage was asked to update a small hotel—a converted 1820s Geor­gian house in his hometown’s sketchy Kings Cross district—he saw a chance to question the definition of luxury. The result, the nine-bedroom Rough Luxe Hotel, favors experience over expensive materials. Guests are steeped in a sense of place, with a decor that celebrates the building’s past and future equally.

The house is landmarked, so Hage made few structural interventions. He converted one of the smaller rooms into an en-suite bathroom, put in two new doors, and took one out. “It was a minimalist job,” he says. For the interiors, he employed a technique he calls “urban archaeology.” While peeling away the layers of wallpaper, for example, Hage was struck by the raw beauty of the plaster beneath—the colors and scars left from dec­ades of painting and patching—and kept this skin exposed, contrasting its coarseness with silk fabrics, contemporary art, and avant-garde furniture. Though some of the original floorboards and door handles remain intact, he installed a wireless Internet system, complete with six Skype phones.

Rough Luxe, which opened in Septem­ber, is the first in an international network of lodgings that Hage and his client are developing. Plans include a cowshed in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and a wine cellar in northern Spain. Voicing the Rough Luxe philosophy, Hage says, “Lux­ury is not ostentation. It’s not accumulation. It’s about being genuine with the provenance of things.”

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