A historic, secretive government building, once home to spies, military officers, and bureaucrats, is opening to the public for the first time. The Old World Building in London begins a new life as a hotel, the Raffles London at the OWO, where travelers can sleep in the rooms that inspired Ian Fleming to write James Bond.
A stay at this historic landmark, designed by architect William Young in 1906, will put you in the shoes of top intelligence officials and masters of war. The Hinduja Group worked with Raffles Hotels and Resorts and EPR Architects to carve out 120 rooms, 85 residences, nine restaurants, and three bars in the massive Edwardian building. Offices previously occupied by the likes of Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, and John Profumo are now luxurious hotel rooms. Turrets, once armed for battle, have been transformed into peaceful suites with sweeping views of Buckingham palace, Whitehall, and The Mall.
“We have worked tirelessly to create a destination which preserves the heritage of this significant address, whilst breathing new life into it,” said Philippe Leboeuf, managing director of Raffles London at The OWO.
EPR Architects retained and restored many of the building’s signature details. Throughout two and a half miles of corridors, pre-war handiwork is showcased through Portland stone columns, neo-baroque flourishes along the ceiling, alabaster balusters along the staircases, and Roman cube mosaic flooring. Along the roof, which gained two new floors to accommodate a restaurant and bars, 57 large ashlar-faced chimney stacks leading to en suite fireplaces for lodgers and residents dot the horizon.
The Raffles London also gives visitors a chance to see one of the last projects of famed architect and designer Thierry Despont, who passed away in August. For his coup de grâce, his interiors indulge the aesthetics of the timeless features while also considering the modernity of the 21st century. Thierry commissioned custom carpets, curtains, and wall coverings to brighten up the moody atmosphere. He tapped into writer Ian Fleming’s connection to the building and filled each corner with posh details fit for a Bond movie. The Haldan, Granville, and Lamb suites—all named after famous spies—have velvety red sofas for cozying up to a Bond girl, sleek, geometric table lamps, marble accents in the bathroom, and ornate oak furniture to hold your martini—just remember to put down a coaster so you don’t leave a ring on these heritage features.
To further balance out the building’s former institutional purpose, the Raffles has excavated five stories underground to add a double-height ballroom and the Guerlain Spa, which stocks the cosmetic company’s products among features nine treatment rooms, a salon, and a perfume boutique.
Elsewhere, interior designer Goddard Littlefair decks out the Pillar Wellbeing spaces, which include a gym and movement studio, cafe, and a 20 kilometer indoor swimming pool. The water glimmers against sandy marble walls, bronze sculptures, and neutral chaise lounges. Even spies need to relax.
You don’t need to be a Bond fan to enjoy the Raffles London at the OWO, but knowing that the building starred in movies like Skyfall, Spectre, and Octopussy just might amplify its appeal. Book a suite while you strategize like Churchill, but resist throwing an adversary out of a stunning floor to ceiling window.