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LONDON — Clerkenwell, the artsy east London neighborhood, is now home to one of the city’s newest and most unusual hotels, The Zetter Restaurant and Rooms.

The hotel, housed in a Victorian warehouse that was formerly the headquarters of the Zetter soccer betting pools, has been drawing a crowd of young British artists, media types and musicians, including Jarvis Cocker and the bands Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol. Magazines are using its “The Jetsons-meets-The-Brady-Bunch” interiors for fashion shoots.

This story first appeared in the August 23, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“If you’re staying in London, your choice is usually between a cheap chain or an expensive designer hotel,” says co-owner Mark Sainsbury, scion of the British supermarket family. “We wanted to plug the gap with style and personality. The whole idea was to make this place an ‘urban inn’ where we wouldn’t lavish people with service, but instead offer funky rooms and a great restaurant downstairs.”

During the week, prices range from $265 for a guest room to $540 for a rooftop studio deluxe. Weekend rates are about 15 percent less. But don’t expect a minibar, nighttime maid service or sweets on the pillow. Rather, there are coffeepots, kettles and vending machines that sell everything from champagne to toothpaste. “We wanted there to be a sense of humor and hominess,” said Sainsbury. That’s why guests will also find secondhand Penguin books in the rooms and hand-knitted hot water bottle covers in the closets next to the beds.

The interiors, designed on a modest budget, are a mix of past and present. The team from London-based design firm Precious McBane found some Fifties and Sixties Danish chairs in junk shops around Europe, and created their own ‘art’ for the rooms by covering single wooden panels with vintage or original wallpaper patterns. The lobby features a chandelier made from peach-colored Murano glass, and there are limited-edition armchairs by the London fashion design duo Eley Kishimoto, orangey-red lacquered metal occasional tables by the young furniture designer James Harris and a traditional woven carpet from the British company Axminster.

The glass-walled Italian restaurant, on the ground floor, offers such dishes as pea and smoked pancetta risotto, and taleggio cheese, roasted red onion and rocket (arugula) pizza. “The restaurant is not an afterthought like it is in so many hotels. It makes the ground floor a funky place and draws in a local crowd,” said Sainsbury, who lives just around the corner from the hotel. “It was very important for us to create synergy between the hotel and the neighborhood.”

— Samantha Conti

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