LONDON — Albemarle Street has traditionally been a low-key sort of place, featuring art galleries, Italian sandwich shops, and the backs of the Asprey, Tiffany, and DKNY stores that line nearby Bond Street. Named for the Duke of Albemarle, the street is also home to the Royal Institution for the promotion of scientific knowledge. It has, however, never been particularly glamorous — until now.
Later this year, the Mayfair street will get an injection of fresh style and energy, thanks to the luxury-goods crowd. David Linley is scheduled to open his second London fine furniture store at number 46 on Saturday, while Sir Paul Smith plans to open a furniture and curiosity shop at number 9 at the end of October.
Max Mara will also open its London showroom, an 8,640-square-foot space that spans five floors on the street next month, and in December, Rocco Forte will reopen the legendary Brown's Hotel, founded in 1837 by James and Sarah Brown, the valet and maid to Lord and Lady Byron. Forte's sister, Olga Polizzi, is redesigning the hotel in her signature contemporary but luxurious style.
"Village life in London is very much alive," said Linley, who opened his first shop on London's Pimlico Road 20 years ago. "I think we can increase our turnover with a whole new clientele." Linley will be housed in a landmark building built in 1955 on a bombed-out site by the acclaimed architect Erno Goldfinger, whose surname Ian Fleming borrowed for the James Bond villain. Linley, who is renting the 2,616-square-foot space, has restored the original features of the building, which include a Portland stone facade, and his store will occupy the ground floor and basement, linked by a signature Goldfinger spiral staircase.
But plum spaces aren't the only pleasures of Albemarle Street. According to Keith Wilson, of the Wilson McHardy commercial property company, rents on the street are 25 to 30 percent less per square foot than Bond Street, and there are more opportunities to buy. "There are some really nice period properties there, and it's attached to Bond Street," he said. "It's also not overloaded with retail stores."
Smith, for his part, purchased his building on the corner of Albemarle and Stafford Street two years ago, and has spent that time renovating it. He plans to fill it with antiques, objects, art and curiosities that he's sourced from around the world. "Mayfair is such an English neighborhood — it's on the Monopoly board!" said Smith. "We bought the building as an investment, and it felt like a good decision." There will be offices and apartments upstairs.The shop, the first of its kind for Smith, will have two rooms, one which will feature reclaimed 18th-century parquet floors, pink walls with paintings and white furniture. The second room will show off such contrasting elements as 17th-century mirrors, Sixties-era jewelry and vintage interiors magazines. "We're hoping to get extremely rich tourists into the store," Smith said. "And why not? We're right near the art dealers and jewelry shops of Bond Street."
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