The Blue Bar at The Berkeley

The Blue Bar at The Berkeley

Out of Memory series No.4: The Blue Bar

Whitney Bromberg Hawkings creates a floral still life interpretation of The Blue Bar by David Collins Studio.

It is such an honour to collaborate with David Collins Studio on a floral interpretation of one of the most iconic London interiors - David Collins’ Blue Bar.

This project is one that is particularly close to my heart, as David was a dear friend of mine and I often think what fun we would have had working together with FLOWERBX in all of his magical interiors.

My starting point for the still life was the circular convex mirror positioned centrally above the bar itself. For me, this was the focal point of the room.

The bar’s original Lutyens' panelling, which David lacquered in blue gesso, features heavily detailed, hand-carved floral motifs.

Taking these two elements, FLOWERBX created an abundant hemisphere of our Sky Blue hydrangeas that is reflected in the mirrored surface to form a dense, blue perfect sphere that captures the beauty and bold design of The Blue Bar.

The composition has added meaning for me as blue hydrangeas were one of David’s favourite flowers.

We have loved working with David Collins Studio and bringing David’s inimitable vision to life with flowers.

Whitney Bromberg Hawkings is the Co-Founder and CEO of FLOWERBX, the online flower delivery service.

Kensington Leverne is a fashion and interiors photographer living in London.

Object of Desire

The sound of a point in time contained within a perfect blue box.

Do you remember that period around the turn of the century when hotel bars in London stopped being somewhere one used primarily to meet business associates or well-to-do aunties and suddenly became hip? A queue to get into a hotel bar? Who’d have thought? The Met Bar on Park Lane started it. Ian Schrager’s St Martin’s Lane and Sanderson Hotel followed suit, going someway to democratising the situation but the undisputed apex of hotel bar chic came in 2001 with The Blue Bar at The Berkeley.

A space that had previously been little more than a hotel corridor became the place to be. Sure, the bar only had 50 seats but the central ones were covered in lilac leather with backs set at the perfect angle for seduction and were suddenly the hottest in London. Arguably, the world. John Galliano threw a party there. Madonna was a regular.

The bar needed a sexy soundtrack that would appeal to its sophisticated, international audience and in 2002 released The Blue Bar Volume 1. To call it a compilation doesn’t do it justice. It comes boxed in solid card, like a gift from Smythson. It contains what appear to be three oversized books of matches. The first is covered in a sort of fibrous cross-hatch pattern, the second a crocodile print and the third, ostrich. Each represents a textile used by David Collins Studio in its original design of the bar. Within each 'book’ sits a CD. The artfully resolved detail of the packaging created by Pentagram, echoes beautifully the obsessive detail of Collins’ design.

The bar only had 50 seats but the central ones were covered in lilac leather with backs set at the perfect angle for seduction.

The Blue Bar Volume 1 is muzak in its very highest form. The first CD opens with a disarming burst of trip hop but is largely filled with hypnotic, gentle beats that have the power to lull even the most frantic human. Rachel’s Song by Vangellis is a musical passage to heaven while Misti Blu sits on the sweet balance point between melancholy and joy. Part Two is jazzier. Chan Chan makes you feel like you’re in Little Havana in Miami, Talamanca evokes memories of Parisian cafés and Channel Suite 1 has drum patterns and melody samples that will finger your soul. The Sensual Woman has a witty, intimate spoken lyric, the likes of which would not be written today. If the first disc is designed to seduce you and the second to get your ankle swinging, the third is surely constructed to get your hips moving. It’s a mix of deep, sophisticated house that wouldn’t be out of place poolside Ibiza. The track Life Rhythms is a prayer-like, soul lifting call to arms. On Up is sexy house music with a disco backbone. The CD climaxes with Groove Armada’s club mix of Madonna’s Music, quite a coup because Madonna is so rarely seen on compilations.

The box set isn’t available on iTunes or Spotify. The digital gods offer us choice beyond our imaginations but this is a good reminder of the value of curation. The exquisite packaging, the refined musical choices, the moment in time it represents and the fact it’s in CD format, make it a collectible object of desire.

Paul Hunwick is a freelance lifestyle, fashion and design jounrnalist living in London.

Luke White is a British interiors and portrait photographer.

Understanding Blue

Nobody, not even Yves Klein, can own a colour. Of all colours perhaps the hardest to own is blue: we work with it and we live in it. We love it because it represents the emotional connection between Picasso and Gene Vincent. Of “blue” movies. The synthetic stun of a Hollywood sky. Duck egg fragility through to the colour of electricity. Memories are filtered by the mind’s blue lens. Linger on, your pale blue eyes. Is the perfect blue that of the unwashed denim of Huston’s film “The Misfits”? A blue smoking jacket by Yves Saint Laurent from 1971? Is there a perfect blue? Are not all blues perfect?

Joni was drunk on the colour when she sang of a million comedowns and breakups. Tim Buckley’s Afternoon and Cohen’s famous raincoat. Madonna’s True. African skin by the light of the Moon. The ink used to write a letter. Kind of Miles. Blue Monday. Blue period. Blue Flowers. Blue pills.

Hockney with his white face and yellow hair, wearing a red jumper and green trousers, splashed it in the LA sunshine making it the colour of languid heat and daydreaming sensuality.

Almost Blue. Blue blood. The boys in Blue. A Blue Bar. Blue Moon of Kentucky. Blue collar pleasures.

Can you imagine a shade of blue that does not exist? Blue is never what it seems, and that is its beauty. If this is the case, how would you anoint the walls of a room with all of the colour’s potential?

Start with a canvas and build up layers of hide glue, chalk and pigment to create gesso. Keep layering on fields of hue and at a point cast red mica dust across the blue. This brings the blue a lavender iridescence, one that shifts in the light. This is the formula that David Collins Studio designed for its “Lutyens Blue”, an ode to Edwin Lutyens.

They say you can never jump into the same river twice; this blue, that blue, only existed in that room. Less painting a wall than submerging a room into pelagic depths.

There is no colour more fragile. There is no colour more easy to get wrong.

Graham Erickson is a freelance editor and writer living in London.

Sam Wood is an illustrator living in London.