Spitalfields Townhouse is a luxury holiday rental in London. This two-bedroom, historic early 18th century house combines the magic of stepping back in time with modern amenities.
How would you describe 40 Winks in a nutshell?
From the beginning, our mission was always a very simple one - to offer an antidote to the bland uniformity of most hotel chains by creating something deliriously seductive, memorable and enchanting. Staying here is about much more than having a comfortable bed to sleep in or a place to dump your luggage, it is an immersive experience, an invitation to lose yourself in another more fabulous, more magical world. It’s like walking into a dream, going on a journey into the world of somebody else’s imagination. It’s a wonderful piece of theatre.
Please tell us a bit about the history of 40 Winks.
The house was built in 1717, so it’s 302 years old. It’s one of four Queen Anne townhouses that were built for rich merchants and naval officers, and is one of the earliest terraces of its type still left in London. Admiral North, who served with Lord Nelson at Trafalgar, lived next door. There’s even a little plaque across the road where Captain Cook, who discovered Australia, used to live.
I bought the house almost 20 years ago. At that point, it was completely derelict. It didn’t have a roof, floors or ceilings, but it still possessed a certain quiet and mysterious elegance. It took about two years to restore.
40 Winks is a very popular location for film and photo shoots. What was your inspiration to open the guest rooms to the public?
The house has always been a hugely successful location for fashion and celebrity shoots. Although we turn a lot down now, we’ve had Italian Vanity Fair, Japanese Elle, and American Vogue all shooting here in the last few weeks.
It was really because of this that 40 Winks was conceived. So many of the photographers, stylists and models who came to work here really loved the house and kept asking if they could come and stay. East London, where we are based, is very much the creative hub of London now, and has a vibrancy and energy it is difficult to find elsewhere… it tends to be where lots of people in fashion and the arts hang out.
In March 2009, I finally gave in and decided to open ‘40 Winks’, cheekily describing it as the world’s first ‘micro boutique hotel’. Almost immediately, we started getting some amazing press, and it just hasn’t stopped. Because it is so particular, the house seems to attract lots of really interesting guests, including quite a few celebrities, and it has been a fantastic experience.
You are a very successful interior designer or “an illusionist and conjuror” as the World of Interiors described you. What is your approach to interior design?
For me, the test of good interior design is that it is emotionally engaging, not just superficially beautiful. I want to create wonderful and extraordinary spaces that captivate and seduce people, that take them on a journey of the senses. I want people to feel something, which for me is the basis of all art, whether it’s a painting, a book or a movie. It’s that ability to engage with people, to connect with people… that’s what I strive to achieve in all the things that I do.
To you personally, what is it that makes 40 Winks so special?
At the end of the day, I’ve created a beautiful home, which I share with others. It’s a very happy house and I like the fact that other people can come and enjoy the experience.
How would you like your guests to remember their stay?
40 Winks is so particular it does attract a certain kind of person, and we hope they really enjoy the experience and will take away some happy memories of the time they have spent here. For many, it is a little escape, leaving the noisy real world behind, and tumbling, like Alice, into a wonderland of someone else’s imagination, but also lots of lively conversation and some good tea!
What has been the most rewarding thing about running this kind of micro-boutique hotel?
Spending time with some really wonderful people, the warmth, the enthusiasm…