From the street you wouldn’t know it’s there. Only a tiny sign underneath the doorbell, on which the words “40 Winks” are written in swirling letters, gives any clue as to what lies beyond the door of this terraced Georgian townhouse in East London. But step over the threshold, and you’ll enter another world. There to greet you in the wood-panelled hall is a life-size antique carving of Jesus – sporting a top hat. Such flourishes of personality and humour are typical of the style of David Carter, the acclaimed interior designer whose home doubles as the world’s smallest (and almost certainly most memorable) boutique hotel. I am here, on Mr Carter’s invitation, to attend a Bedtime Story Evening, one of many such events that take place on a regular basis in the sumptuous surroundings of boutique hotel 40 Winks.
I am ushered in, past the statue of Jesus and the large teardrop shaped mirror that graces the far wall, and, this being a no-shoe house due to the delicate nature of some of the wooden floors, my shoes are replaced with a sumptuous pair of fluffy slippers. And so, suitably booted, I am led upstairs to the ‘Undressing Room’, where I change into my vintage nightgown and silk dressing gown. The dress code for such evenings is strictly pyjamas only, and since there will be a prize for the most glamorous bedroom attire, I felt it best to bring something more suitable than my usual t-shirt-and-shorts combination. Downstairs in the kitchen (whose design has a distinctly Classical feel and was partly inspired, so Mr Carter tells me, by the Palazzo Sacchetti in Rome) I am introduced to the other guests – also in their pyjamas – over a gin cocktail and wait for Bedroom Stories to start.
Quite apart from the enchanting stories and the glamorous guests, it is really the surroundings of 40 Winks that makes it a magical evening. Mr Carter’s impeccable taste and wry sense of humour is evident in each individual room, and he plays successfully with notions of scale and of light and dark. ‘A home is like an autobiography,’ he tells me, ‘it evolves with you and is a reflection of who you are.’ There is also a touch of gothic in the décor – for example, in the drawing room cushions, which are embroidered with skulls and in the whitewashed hands of mannequins to be found in almost every shadowy corner.
The bedrooms are also sumptuously decorated and intimate – perfect for a romantic break or a jaunt to London with a difference. The hotel opened two years ago and operates on an informal basis, considering that the house is also Mr Carter’s private home. For this reason it’s perhaps not best suited to those guests who prefer to have every modern amenity and convenience at their fingertips, but for those with a sense of adventure and a willingness to try something new it certainly provides a haven of style and elegance in the heart of the vibrant East End. And if you don’t fancy staying for a whole night, then I would certainly recommend the Bedtime Story evenings as a relaxed and heart-warming alternative to the usual London nightlife.
Bedtime Story evenings are back at 40 Winks in September 2011. Anyone interested in attending should email 40 Winks to get a copy of the new programme. For more information on 40 Winks visit the site here www.40winks.org
Emanuelle Degli Esposti is a freelance journalist currently living and working in London. She has written for the New Statesman, the Sunday Express, the Daily Telegraph and the Economist online.
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