LOULOU'S LUXE LAIR: LONDON'S IT SPOT BAR NONE

by Marisa Marcantonio


Taking up an entire block of townhouses in Mayfair, Loulou's is the new darling on the London nightlife scene. The nightlife impresario extraordinaire and heir to the after-hours crown Robin Birley has done it again with Loulou's, his latest night/supper club.  Vanity Fair covered the opening party in their August issue, and interior designer and writer Rita Konig did an in-depth interview in the most recent issue of one of my favorite, hotly anticipated reads, the WSJ Magazine.  After the VF article, I was so taken with the lush decor, I emailed Rita to ask if she knew more about the interiors. Her thorough reporting provided me with every possible detail, giving me more than a glimpse of the layers upon layers of fabulousness.  Following in his late father Mark Birley's footsteps, Annabel's, which was named for his former wife Lady Annabel Goldsmith, the Birley son named his club after his cousin, French style doyenne, the late, YSL muse Loulou de la Falaise.  Like Annabel's, Loulou's, at least the nightclub part of it, is underground, so the dark warren of rooms had to be designed to captivate and sparkle aplenty. That they do, with the help of Turkish fashion designer turned interior stylist Rifat Ozbek.  The members, many of whom travel the world and seen it all, are not easy to impress, so no expense was spared with a staggering $50 million budget. The various spaces each have a distinctly different feeling, capturing a different mood, much like theatre sets. Layering rich jewel toned velvets, ethnic ikats, bold multi-colored stripes and animal prints with precious decorative details within glowing lacquer walls, the rooms are done in a shamelessly anti-prosperity measure, a more is more style.  Four dining rooms provide different sensibilities. Hanging artwork everywhere, a lot of it brought from Birley's home, the club merges the best Old British flourishes with a global handiwork.  Maybe that's the secret formula to the Birley's success- create a home away from home, where the dim lighting, luxe interiors and delicious food make you feel like you are escaping to another world.

Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

 The Mayfair block of Hertford Street where Loulou's lives.

 Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

A tiled courtyard, designed by garden designers Julian and Isabel Bannerman, known for their work at Prince of Wales' garden at Highgrove, with massive English stone architectural facades is a spot to dine outside.

Photo courtesy James Merrill/WSJ

Designer Rifat Ozbek became known in interiors with his silk Turkish ikat pillows from his London shop,

Yastik

.

Photo courtesy James Merrill/WSJ 

Upon entry downstairs, the main sitting area. Deco-inspired painted walls, multi-hued stripes and lush Prelle velvets add to the jewel box effect.

The upstairs entrance, with doors leading to the courtyard beyond. It looks more like a formal London home than a club.

Photo courtesy James Merrill/WSJ

A porcelain leopard keeps a watchful gaze at the corner of the bar.

 Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

Lighting is everything. The grotto-like bar with a back wall of shells and  a surface with thinly veneered back - lit Agate slices.  is African meets Art Deco.

 Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

Double doors lead out into the courtyard. A cozy seating area for hanging out.

 Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

What would a bar be without a little taxidermy for exotic safari appeal?

 Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

Off the courtyard, an airy white walled dining room with red velvet banquets and an elaborate Venetian mirror to nonchalantly capture who is dining nearby.

 Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair 

A striped and patterned curved settee fits into the stairwell corner.  Staggered sconces illuminate the cozy nook in flattering light.

  Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

 Tiny footmen sitting on brackets have extended arms that hold the shades.

 Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair 

A nice spot for lunch, another dining room with plenty of light, and archways that existed when the space was used to store coal during the war. 

  Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

 Gilding the lilly, another dining room with deep red walls, red Baroque sconces, and striped and boldly patterned curved banquets.

  Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

A little tromp loeil goes a long way in the Yves Klein blue and green lacquered dining room with swag border and faux tortoise doorway. Chairs and pillows are upholstered in chartreuse and black silk cheetah velvet.

Photo courtesy James Merrill/WSJ

The screening room, with Michael S. Smith's  Jasper fabric upholstered on a sofa.

  Photo courtesy Jonathan Becker/Vanity Fair

The ladies' loo with an arched ceiling overhead in a vibrant red print.  Chic little sconces provide good "powder my nose" light.