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Black and white photography faces the inviting crisp bed

Overstuffed furnishing amidst floral elegance in the Rose Room

The building's original coat of arms provides a striking contrast to the modern designs in the lobby

Décor of a traditional gentlemen’s club in the St James Bar
A palette of restful warm tones in the modern guest bedrooms
A gracious welcoming in the royal suite

By Lisa Bradkin
Photography by Vineet Choudhary

I arrived at the Sofitel St. James London, a stately building sandwiched between Piccadilly Circus and the rolling hills of St. James's Park, full of energy. I had been traveling all night, but I wasn’t about to slow down—I was ready to drop my bags, splash some cold water on my face and hit the shops.

But things were not to go that way. I was seduced, first by the shower—glass-enclosed, with a waterfall head, black marble and chrome fittings, and citrus-scented toiletries from Roger & Gallet. Maybe shopping could wait. But it was after a soothing, fragrant shower that I made the fatal mistake: I sat on the bed. It was that thick, white, fluffy duvet, like a cloud—a heavenly, soft, sweet cloud that I just couldn't help but fall into. I scheduled a wakeup call and gave in.

Opened in April 2002, the five-star Sofitel St. James provides luxe accommodations within walking distance from Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace, shopping destinations Regent and Jermyn Streets, and the theaters of the West End. The grand edifice housing the hotel was originally built in 1923 as the home of the Cox's & King's bank.

In counterpoint to its lovingly preserved original exterior, designer Pierre-Yves Rochon created the Sofitel St. James' interiors as a study in contrasts, both an homage to the history of the building and a testament to sleek, modern design. The black-and-white marble and mahogany lobby, for instance, is anchored at one end by an oversized glass-and-chrome clock, designed by Rochon as a contemporary take on Big Ben; on the opposite wall hangs the original Cox's & King's coat of arms, in honor of the hotel's former existence. Portraits from the walls of the bank hang next to specially commissioned paintings by English and French contemporary artists, accented by a monochromatic flower arrangement by Nikki Tibbles, owner of London's celebrated Wild at Heart flower shop and Sofitel St. James' floral designer-in-residence. Even the uniforms of the hotel's staff contrast old and new: French fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac cut streamlined silhouettes in the charcoal pinstripe worn by the city's businessmen.

The hotel’s 186 rooms include 13 junior suites, six suites and one royal suite; suites and junior suites are located either in the west corner of the building, with views of Waterloo Place and Pall Mall, or overlooking Charles Street on the east side of the building. Bedrooms are decorated in soothing tones of pale green, brown and gray, outfitted with mahogany and lacquer furniture designed by Rochon. Thick wool carpets, velvet curtains and black and white prints of Paris and London—not to mention those luscious duvets—give the rooms their air of simple, comfortable luxury. In a characteristic nod to British tradition, the freestanding closets are fashioned after antique English cabin trunks, lined in red leather and finished with brass tacks. My favorite thing about the room, however, was the Sofitel touch: upon arrival each night I found select lights lit, soothing music emanating from the speakers, slippers laid out by the bed and a memo on the bedside table noting "tomorrow's weather.” As any seasoned traveler can attest, great design alone doesn’t make a great hotel—and the Sofitel St. James staff knows that hospitality is what keeps a client for life.

In Brasserie Roux, accessible through the hotel's lobby or a separate entrance on Pall Mall, Albert Roux acts as consulting chef on the classic French menu. "Our objective is to provide precisely cooked brasserie fare, made from the finest available ingredients, served in a relaxed and comfortable environment," says Roux. "From buying produce to table, our aim is refined simplicity. This is the true essence of the French brasserie in its purest form.” In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Brasserie offers pre- and post-theater prix-fixe menus and 24-hour room service. (Earn that traditional English breakfast in the fitness center, featuring gym equipment, a massage room and steam room.)

The St. James Bar, on the hotel's ground floor, recreates the atmosphere of the traditional gentlemen's clubs that populate nearby Pall Mall. Outfitted with pinstriped wool walls and a granite fireplace, the bar offers a selection of cigars, cognacs, single-malts, and the largest selection of champagnes in any London hotel. In sharp contrast—of course—is the Rose Lounge, a haven of brilliant pink overstuffed chairs and fresh roses. Every Sofitel has a library; and here, one can enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea accompanied by gentle harp music while reading up on French culture or the history of the English rose.

After all that hard work, do as I say: Reward yourself with a brisk walk up Regent Street to do a bit of shopping. Or do as I do, and just take a nap.

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