Refreshing an iconic hotel is one of the more dangerous games in travel. Chances are, those who loved it will hate it no matter what you do and the newcomers won’t appreciate the confines you worked within. It’s a challenge recently undertaken by Jacu Strauss, the creative director of Lore Group and the mind behind one of our favorite hotels in recent memory, the Lyle. This time, Strauss took on an icon of London cool, the old Ace Hotel. After the renovation, it’s now One Hundred Shoreditch and its successful overhaul is the latest subject for Room Key.
When I first visited London a decade and a half ago, family friends were all in the west and the city felt to me like a beautiful but sleepy metropolis. But as I visited more in my twenties, friends were living in the east in places like Stepney Green and hanging out at what was then the coolest of the Soho Houses, Shoreditch House. For a visitor, the hotel in the 2010s that embodied all of that East London energy was the Ace. Housed in an unassuming building (ugly, if we’re being honest. It used to be a Crowne Plaza), it was always packed. But over the years it became a little worse for wear, and while laptop wielding locals were always happy to fill its lobby, it was shuttered during the pandemic.
During my visit Strauss came by for a tour not only of the hotel but of his mindset as they set out to renovate the property.
“How can we elevate and refresh without ripping it all out and being wasteful,” he asks by way of explaining his method. And so while the sort of Central European stucco facade remains, a series of multi-story metal oriel bay windows have been added that bring in light but also add more of a London aesthetic to the exterior. Rather than being ripped out, the floors that have seen their fair share of boots have been restored.
While the layout of the public ground floor spaces will be familiar, Strauss has sprinkled his flair all over it with eye-catching artwork and furnishings, many of which he designed. There are wood block statues made in collaboration with Jan Hendzel, a paper sculpture of red leaves from Mio Gallery, tapestries made from elevator pads, cork wall panels, and—in line with Strauss’ penchant for at least one thing to throw you off balance and make you question where exactly you are—a massive log bench from Forest Crafts in Devon smack in the middle of the lobby. My jet lag had me coming and going at the oddest hours, and yet no matter the time the lobby always had guests or locals hanging out in it.
After passing through all the various lounges (and a bar tucked in back) one finds the updated restaurant, now sporting a seafood menu, called Goddard & Gibbs. In this formerly dark, closed off space, Strauss blew out the streetside wall and replaced it with a curtain of steel-frame windows. If yellow truly does make one mellow, then you’ll be virtually sedated here as the walls are now covered in captivating yellow sand paintings, and at the center of the restaurant is a towering yellow geometric sculpture he designed.
But wait! Somehow, there’s more. Downstairs is Seed Library, the latest in the empire from Mr. Lyan who also has the award-winning bars Lyaness and Silver Lyan at sister hotels Sea Containers and Riggs, respectively. Seed Library looks a bit like somebody from the ’60s designed a nuclear fallout bunker on acid—which I loved. And on the roof is a bar that has panoramic views of East London whose pink marble bar seems to be a shot at Gen Z that Millennials and our love of pink isn’t quite over yet.
The 258 rooms and suites have also been given more of a light refresh than massive overhaul. The biggest change is that the rooms streetside have a lot more light courtesy the new bays. There are new beds and bedding, artwork, and light fixtures. (One thing Strauss was not able to solve, however, was getting the plugs for charging moved to the bedside. But they do provide an extension chord.)
The white tile bathrooms are fitted out with D.S. & Durga products. Given how every hotel group seems to be racing to fill their rooms with either Aesop or Le Labo, it almost feels countercultural to stock D.S. & Durga.
While paying fealty to what came before, at One Hundred Shoreditch Strauss has managed to make the hotel feel not only contemporary but comfortable.