LDF15: citizenM’s Secret Garden Retreat

Described by The New York Times as “a cross between a style-conscious boutique and a pod hotel,” citizenM is the hotel industry’s answer to fashion’s ‘diffusion collections.’ Just as stylish as the designer version, but without the price-tag.


Almost a carbon-copy of its Rotterdam counterpart which we’ve written about already, the London outpost is a clever combination of style where you need it – a collaboration with Vitra provides designer furniture for the communal spaces and chairs for the bedrooms – and cost savings where you don’t – the bedrooms are small, but well-appointed with giant beds wedged between the two walls. The idea is very much that you sleep in your room and do everything else in the shared lounges, canteen or co-working spaces downstairs. Even the mini bar is empty, but the bar downstairs is open 24 hours a day.

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Taking its role as official hub of the Bankside Design District seriously, citizenM collaborated with Danish stylist and art director Nathalie Schwer to create a secret garden inspired by the famous Alice in Wonderland quote, “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” Nathalie has divided the space, usually a haven for late night smokers, with brightly colored panels, creating a mini-labyrinth filled with floral displays.


Referencing the surreal quality of Lewis Carroll’s novel, which was published in 1865, the panels frame different views of the courtyard into the hotel that surrounds it, enabling you to people-watch through a veil of flowers.


Visitors can experience Nathalie’s installation while enjoying a range of garden-inspired cocktails from a special menu at the citizenM bar throughout the London Design Festival, the perfect end to an overwhelming day of design.


Local calligrapher Paul Antonio added a typographic element to the space – as well as creating the display for the street-facing window of the hotel and other businesses in the area.


Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.