MWAI’s Renovation of The Sofitel London St James Honors the Hotel’s Historical Features

The neoclassical building façade has been carefully detailed with external lighting, which had to be approved because of the building’s listed status. Photography by Ming Tang-Evans.

The Sofitel London St James hotel started its life in the 1920s, as the headquarters of a bank. Located just moments away from Buckingham Palace, the neoclassical building is protected as listed, along with over 150 buildings around it. So when the Sofitel London St James embarked on a multimillion-pound renovation last year, the task was handed over to MWAI—a local architecture practice well acquainted with listed-building renovations.

Formerly known as The Balcon, the Wild Honey St James restaurant was redesigned by interior designer Jim Hamilton. Photography courtesy of Ming Tang-Evans.

“Most people don’t realize that ‘listed’ status applies to the internal features of the building, as well as the external,” says Matthew Woodthorpe, founder and director of MWAI. “From an architectural perspective, the task is always to balance the needs of the user with the desire to preserve the listed building.”

The Michelin-starred restaurant boasts deep buttoned banquettes by one of the Regency’s most celebrated furniture designers, George Smith. Photography courtesy of Ming Tang-Evans.

Unsurprisingly, the renovation was an ambitious, multifaceted affair. Working with French designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, MWAI oversaw the refurbishment of the hotel’s 183 luxurious guestrooms, where rich color schemes are punctuated by whimsical pop art pieces. Meanwhile, the restaurant and bar, formerly known as The Balcon, was transformed into a glamorous venue worthy of its new tenant: Michelin-starred restaurant Wild Honey St James. To match the new airy interiors of Wild Honey St James, MWAI also took charge of updating the building’s façade, external lighting, and street furniture—all while the hotel stayed open.     

Dark teal upholstering contrasts with the warm undertones of the bar, the center of which is crowned by a gold-framed painting hung on the ceiling. Photography courtesy of Ming Tang-Evans.
In the hotel’s guestrooms, rich color schemes are punctuated by whimsical pop art pieces. Photography courtesy of Ming Tang-Evans.
All guestrooms feature classic British tartan carpet in varying colors, with matching custom lamps, curtains, and accessories. Photography courtesy of Ming Tang-Evans.
The pop art pieces range from abstract figures to prints from London artist Esbe Design. Photography courtesy of Ming Tang-Evans.

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