“We think of this space as something of a palate-cleanser,” says Swedish designer Martin Brudnizki, as he casts his eye over a stairwell containing a large hot air balloon from which is suspended a carousel unicorn (having its horn gently gilded as we speak). This comment provokes one or two raised eyebrows, but after a tour of the rest of the new Annabel’s, it’s true that this gleaming white central space is positively minimalist in comparison.
Since Annabel’s was founded by Mark Birley in 1963 and named after his then wife Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the members-only nightclub has drawn in the great and the good of London society. The royal family have been frequent attendees – it hosted Sarah Ferguson’s hen night and is said to be the only nightclub the Queen has visited – along with a roster of celebrities from Kate Moss to President Nixon. House & Garden was one of the lucky few to get an exclusive sneak peek at the new Annabel’s ahead of its opening later this spring.
Brudnizki brings his signature glamorous aesthetic to the redesign, having worked extensively in collaboration with Caprice chairman Richard Caring on other restaurants belonging to the group, including The Ivy and Sexy Fish. Annabel’s is a new level though – “a once in a lifetime project,” as the designer calls it. The new incarnation of the nightclub is opening at 46 Berkeley Square, in a space bigger and airier than its previous home at no.44, providing an all day and night experience, from civilised breakfasts to parties in to the small hours.
Appropriately enough for the scene of five decades of aristocratic debauchery, Brudnizki’s interior design scheme was inspired by a painting depicting the fall of man from the Garden of Eden. Flora and fauna abound, from the intricate white plasterwork panels bulging with fruit and flowers in the entrance hall, to the cheetahs creeping through the nightclub’s carpets. The main bar and dining space on the ground floor feature a hand-painted mural by artist Gary Myatt, while gilded de Gournay wallcoverings of Indian scenes and lush foliage decorate the first floor bars. As the building is listed, all of this exquisite detail has had to be laid over the original plasterwork and moulding, which is still visible beneath the gold.
The detail in the luxurious fabrics and fittings is overwhelmingly beautiful, from the leather-embossed walls of the green cigar room, to the hand-carved pink onyx sinks with gilded swan taps in the glorious ladies’ lavatories. As we stepped over a painter crouched over a pot of the most perfect dusty rose shade on our way into this bathroom, Brudnizki pointed out the fabric peonies which form a carpet of flowers on the ceiling. The floral motif is picked up in the ground floor main bar where droopy glass tulips and perky glass irises spill out from the Murano-made light fittings.
Other highlights include the floor-to-ceiling glass chandeliers in the entrance hall, originally created for the Russian tsar in 1915 and more recently seen in Audrey Hepburn’s 1964 comedy, Paris When It Sizzles; the garden dining room, designed by Cameron Landscapes & Gardens, where a sliding glass roof will allow an al-fresco existence all year round; and the Mexican bar upstairs, with its lacquered copper ceiling and dark walls festooned with artwork. And then of course there is the basement nightclub space, where bronze and glass palms spread their fronds over the ceiling, and a crocodile-skin bar front adds to the atmosphere of steamy jungle decadence.
The new Annabel’s is not quite finished yet, but with the opening set to take place in the spring, we can’t wait to hear what new hedonism this utterly gorgeous space will play host to.