South Kensington Club defines itself as a lifestyle-based members club with a curiosity for exploration and adventure. Hidden behind the facade of a typical West London townhouse, the building’s design draws together rituals and traditions from around the globe to create an urban sanctuary designed to instil wellbeing and kindle the imagination.
Originally built as the Queen’s Gate Music Hall in the Georgian-era, and later, Ronnie Wood’s infamous Harrington Club, the building itself has an eclectic history that is central to the club’s identity. Inspired by the story of space, we speak with the member’s club to discuss how the narratives of history and travel have shaped the creation of this unique establishment.
How has the concept of travel informed the design of SKC?
The interior design of the club was conceived as an ode to exploration and wellbeing. Influenced by founding team’s combined international travels, it is a place where a tapestry of cultures meet, and all sit within a palette of warm Sicilian colours and natural materials.
We wanted to present our members with a classic country club experience with inspiring fitness, social and bathhouse spaces, all in a relaxed and setting. The Club has been designed with its members’ every desire in mind – from the cultural and culinary, to the physical and philosophical. It was really important for us to create a space where our members would feel completely comfortable and relaxed, but also inspired and invigorated.
WHAT OTHER INFLUENCES HAVE BEEN INCORPORATED INTO THE DESIGN OF THE CLUB?
The Club features an eclectic mix of earthy materials such as timber from a 120-year old Montana ranch house, sea water from Sicily and lavastone straight from Etna’s mouth. Tadelakt walls, raw stone and wood pieces, leather accents, terracotta pots and a plethora of Mediterranean plants provide a constant link to nature throughout the club’s social and bathhouse areas. True to its Mediterranean roots, the Club’s airy restaurant is centred around a half-century-old olive tree – from Sicily of course – with a feature copper wood-burning oven set against hand painted lavastone wall tiles in the open kitchen.
HOW DO THE CLUB'S DESIGN ELEMENTS EVOKE THE SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE?
The Club Sitting Room, upstairs, alludes to 1970’s Palm Springs with a mix of mid century treasures and sporty accents, in true country club style with a distinct Slim Aarons vibe. The Paul Evans style bar is inspired by an old hotel bar at the Grand Hotel et des Palmes in Palermo and feels like a comfortable home kitchen island. Other features include a corner piano and a playful Hiroshi Sugmioto portrait of Dali as a magician with a chicken on his shoulder. Mid-century Brazilian Percival Lafer chairs mingle with hand woven textiles by American artist Sam Kasten and eclectic coffee tables books, creating the feeling of one’s dream home lounge.
Can you speak about the history of the Voyager Room?
Christina Franco, Explorer/Director Voyager Program– The Voyager Room is the central hub for the Club’s unique Voyager Program, where we house lectures, talks, screenings and workshops. The Voyager Programme at South Kensington Club is designed to encourage club members to push boundaries, open their minds, do something different with their time, or simply feel inspired. We have designed the room to tap into those emotional responses. Inspiration for the Voyager Room is plentiful; from Geographic editorials to an impressive collection of vintage cameras and antique maps, with light peering in through plantation style shutters. The centrepiece of the room is the impressive wooden table; a huge, unrefined tree trunk seemingly straight from the forest of Aynhoe Park.. not to mention a most fitting Peter Beard entitled “Edge of the World.”
I would suggest you take an atlas to plot your next adventure, or just to dream an adventure from the comfort of the Voyager Room. Your choice of drink can immediately transport you, I would suggest a good whiskey to sip slowly as you listen to an adventure – or plan your own!
Can you describe how SKC is as an urban sanctuary in London?
In one of the world’s busiest cities, SKC is a serene retreat – providing a haven for contemplation and discovery – which aims to inspire for a healthier lifestyle. It is a place to de-stress, to feel good and to look good with a wide range of treatments and therapies for both men and women. The bathhouse encompasses traditional Russian banya, Turkish hammam, relaxation areas, a tea library and watsu pool. Elements abound – stone, wood, copper, water and fire – and the design is very ‘wabi sabi’, a la Axel Vervoodt.