In an ultra-competitive tourism hub like London, distinguishing your hotel from the crowd remains a tall order. For owners of the Georgian House, a multi-building boutique hotel just south of Victoria Station, the formula for success appears to be in the pages of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Rolling the dice, owner Serena Von Der Heyde transformed two rooms into Hogwarts style “Wizard Rooms” with 4-poster beds, potion bottles, cauldrons, spell books, battered trunks, and even school desks, and opened them in October 2014 in hopes of casting a summoning spell for tourists.
It worked, in fact, so well that it crashed hotel’s website. Bookings for the rooms went through the roof and reached more than a year ahead and press won the recognition, enough to catch my eye all the way across the Atlantic. So in early March, on a visit to London, I decided to check it out for myself.
With the Wizard Chambers fully booked, I checked into one of the Belgravia Boutique Rooms (starting about $200 per night), which turned out to be in the hotel’s second building, the Bower House, just around the corner from the main building.
What strikes most when stepping inside isn’t the incredible space for a downtown London Hotel, or the comfortable furnishings in sitting and bed area, but the surprisingly playful design (at least in the bed area), especially in the wallpaper—a mottled light blue on most walls, while behind the bed it burst into blue and yellow flowers inside monochrome vases, partly illuminated by two hanging lights resembling crumpled up balled of paper. In the bed linen and curtains, yellow stripes add yet more fun, as do the black-and-white checked tiles in the bathroom and bright orange, and very fragrant, Bramley bath products.
Tour the Victoria Classic Rooms in the main building and you’ll see the same philosophy, with each one unique in layout or ornamentation (so it’s might be good to check the specs are suitable before booking). Expansion is also taking place, as more rooms are undergoing extensive renovation. Happily the beautiful Victorian fireplaces, complete with tilework, discovered under the walls are being incorporated into the overall design.
Also in the main building are the Wizard Chamber rooms, the smaller of the two, I was able to get a brief look at. Actually, the cynical adult in me didn’t see what all the fuss was about, as the the theatricality and cheese somewhat turned me off. But it didn’t take long for the 11-year-old kid in me to pipe up, and I could hear him begging my parents incessantly to stay there until they agreed, just to shut me up. No doubt that’s that similar story for at least a few families staying at the Georgian
Beyond relaxing in your room, there’s little reason to spend much time at the Georgian, which makes its location near Victoria Station all the more useful, as most London sights are within easy striking distance. Just be sure to stay around for breakfast, which ended up being one of the best of the entire trip, not because of any mind blowing culinary skills in the preparation of British classics, but for the attractive presentation, top-notch service, and warm familial atmosphere. Although the room is below street level, it feels light an airy in part to thanks to the sky blue and white walls, but mainly from the glow from the happy guests, including one very happy boy swirling a magic wand over his breakfast.
And indeed, that may be where the real magic the Georgian lies, not in the Harry Potter rooms. Sure, the Georgian House does sometimes feel like a bit of a jumble, resulting in occasional breakdowns in service (like Internet) and episodes of disorganization, but it’s all easily forgivable because of one unifying force: The Georgian Hotel is a labor of love, and it permeates and adds a glow almost every aspect of the stay, including the smile on the boy’s face.
Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest of the Georgian Hotel
All photos by Mike Dunphy, except first Wizard Chamber picture, by the Georgian Hotel