Designs on Bethnal Green: the hip hotel making E2 hot property

Once poverty stricken and a true East End haunt for gangsters, Bethnal Green has undergone significant regeneration in recent years with new apartment blocks, work places and restaurants cropping up alongside the ugly council blocks, dirty pubs and kebab shops that still pepper the area. For first-time buyers priced out of Islington and Shoreditch, and those seeking more for their money, the area is starting to look increasingly attractive - and with a new design hotel recently opened in the neighbourhood, its fortunes can only grow from here.

Search for the perfect furniture with The Independent house and home database, powered by mydeco. 

The Town Hall Hotel and Apartments is the brain-child of thirty-something entrepreneur and hotelier, Peng Loh, who bought the imposing Bethnal Green Town Hotel, a presence in London's East End since Edwardian times, as a derelict building with no planning permission.

The building had been empty for over 15 years when Peng bought it from the council, earning its keep as a backdrop to films, including Atonement, Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. After gaining retrospective permission to extend and restore the Grade II listed building, Peng chose Rare Architecture to oversea what was to become a four year, £20 million make-over - all in an area still far from gentrified.

It was a risk by anyone's standards, but for Peng, the chance to breathe new life into the historic town hall was irresistible. "Basically, I fell in love with the building," he explains. "Once I viewed it I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to restore and convert her. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."

That the area is not the most salubrious of neighbourhoods "didn't bother me," says Peng, pointing out that weekend markets, art galleries and restaurants such as Bistrotheque and Les Trois Garcons all help to make this part of town a really "vibrant" and characterful place to be.

And while it might seem a bit grimy from the outside, it's worth remembering that Bethnal Green is just one stop from the City and 20 minutes from Bond Street on the Central Line. For city workers on a business trip to London or visitors to the nearby Olympic Stadium in 2012, one of the hotel's 98 apartment rooms, each one different to the last, but all with fully integrated kitchens, architect-designed bathrooms, vintage Scandinavian-style furniture and lighting by Viabizzuno, will no doubt prove a tempting and accessible place to lay one’s head.

Those visiting the hotel can enjoy a happy cohesion between old and new: the 1930s building with Edwardian frontage and New-Classical fine stone frontage has been restored to much of its former glory, with original elements of the building, such as sculptures commissioned from Henry Poole, wide marble halls, dramatic staircases, traditional council chamber and original council meeting rooms all retained. Meanwhile, a modern extension, set back discreetly from the original frontage, forms a new and unusual rear façade covered in a metal "skin", which has been laser-cut in a pattern inspired by the Art Deco metal ornamentation still evident in the remaining Council Chamber. Throughout the building, beautifully restored elements of the past such as maple oak panelling, sash windows and old clocks, combine with modern elements such as glass partitioning, secret cupboards and contemporary artwork from local artists.

For Peng, engaging the local community has been an essential part of creating a viable business. "We want our neighbours to be proud to say they have such a property on their doorstep," he says. "In fact, on a few occasions a year, we are going to let our council chambers and other grand public rooms over to the council and local residents gratis so that they can once again use the town hall facilities for its intended community use."

The contemporary artworks – installations such as the tapestry moose head by Debbie Lawson or tiny wood figures engraved in risqué poses on a panel outside one of the bedrooms by Claire Morgan – were created by artists who each have a working studio in East London, and who were picked to contribute art to the hotel after an open commission scheme run last year by Artsadmin, an Arts Council funded organisation. Says Peng: "Our criteria of working with artists that live or work in the area made sure that we engaged with local residents and young local artists and ensured this landmark building had relevance to the locality."

Local residents can enjoy the hotel bar – a cosy place with more Scandinavian style furniture and a comprehensive cocktail menu – or treat themselves to the dinner at VIAJANTE, the restaurant headed up by leading chef, Nuno Mendes.

Meanwhile they can look forward to a fresh injection of money into this part of town. As Peng says, "We are bringing well over a hundred well-paying jobs into the area, as well as guests who are affluent enough to spend substantial sums in the local shops. I think this bodes well for the neighbourhood."

Emily Jenkinson is interiors writer for furniture and interior design website mydeco.com.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Application Developer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in the centre of Glasgow,...

Recruitment Genius: Production Engineering Manager

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Joinery Shop Foreman

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Joinery Shop Foreman is required to join a p...

Recruitment Genius: Bench Joiner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Bench Joiner is required to join a privately...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada