An anecdote to minimalism and soulless futuristic spaces, The Zetter Townhouses are a lesson in curated clutter, rich colour and shameless Victoriana


Walk into either one of the two Zetter Townhouses in London (Marylebone and Clerkenwell) and what greets you upon arrival is a beautifully curated time warp. Entering either of the two boutique hotels, both Georgian townhouses, is like stumbling into a Dickensian novel; front doors opening into rich, atmospheric cocktail lounges adorned with an array of Victoriana and curiosities. A far and welcome cry from current trends of minimalism and modesty.

“We love designing totally modern hotels and we love creating period hotels also. We are constantly rebelling against ourselves which is what gives us such creative energy in the studio.” Says Zetter Townhouse designer Russel Sage. “We always blur the boundaries for the Zetter by creating or own historical story for a building which we then ‘back fill’ using authentic objects and furniture.”

With a brief that referenced the nearby Zetter Hotel, but ‘200 years ago’, designer Russel Sage has created a hotel experience that turns its back on more fashionable minimalist and Scandinavian-influenced styles for a welcome (Oliver) twist on Victoriana. The historical stories for the two townhouses are based around two fictional and eccentric relatives. For Clerkenwell, it’s Great Aunt Wilhelmina; a fabulous, well-travelled spinster, whose love of collecting plays out across the property. Marylebone’s inspiration comes from a similar character – Wicked Uncle Seymour.

 Sage’s love of antiques and reclaim is present throughout. The studio’s collection of period furniture of all ages has become so extensive, it has morphed into its own business. Vintage union jacks, poster beds made from reclaimed carousels and a squadron of taxidermy animals are some of the best examples of Sage’s antiquity magpie credentials. There’s also injections of welcome humour, notably in faux period paintings and ordnance survey map wallpaper.

Colour and fabric enhances the feeling too. Rich boudoir shades of red and green embolden communal areas, whilst lighter, relaxing but nonetheless luxurious pastels punctuate rooms and suites. Quintessential British textiles are rampant through both properties; Gainsborough fabrics for both, with Marylebone also boasting Witney Horse blankets, and bespoke designed carpets made in the
UK by Ulster.

 Asked if there’s anything in particular visitors should watch out for, Sage is cryptic in his response. “There are obsessive collectors details everywhere. Always take the stairs to your room as we’ll tell you a thousand stories on your journey. There are secrets in drawers and wardrobes. Little inspirational stories created by curated objects for guests to find over the building.” EJ


Words by Davey Brett
Image Credits by Darren Chung