The King’s Cross area on London’s busy Euston Road is famous for the soaring Gothic Revival architecture of St Pancras railway station. Directly across from the station is a striking building in the style known as Brutalism. Designed between 1973-78 as local government offices for Camden Council, the building is now home to The Standard Hotel, London. The sympathetic redevelopment includes an external pillar box-red capsule-shaped lift that whisks diners from the ground floor to the top of the building where new floors house the restaurants Decimo and Isla, both of which feature striking handmade tapestries.
Architecture, vintage fibre art, and the performance artistry of Decimo’s cuisine provided inspiration for the designs of the tapestries. The building’s original and unmissable ‘open knit’ precast concrete facade (known as a ‘waffle’ slab) and Decimo’s ‘open fire’ cooking style were twin inspirations for Cristina Colichón’s striking wall tapestries and macrame window shades. In Isla, lush tufted tapestries cloak the restaurant’s walls and add a dimensional richness. Inspired by mid-century fibre art, the tapestries were designed in-house by Shawn Hausman Design (SHD) and made by Alarwool S.L., one of Spain’s oldest custom woven carpet companies and a leading provider of luxury carpet to international luxury hotel groups.
Shawn Hausman and Jessica Kimberley of SHD have designed and consulted on the five US locations of The Standard Hotel group. The King’s Cross hotel is the first location outside the US. Asked by COVER to comment on Isla’s tufted tapestries, Shawn Hausman said, ‘We’re collectors of vintage fibre art and have long appreciated the tactility and warmth they can bring to spaces. We carry out extensive research before beginning any project so for The Standard, London we delved into the archives of late 1960s and early 1970s design. A few of our key reference images for the project featured tufted tapestries so we commissioned some to add an authenticity to the project. In particular, we were very inspired by Sheila Hicks’ tapestries created for Warren Platner interiors.’
Colichón’s weaves are often inspired by architecture, but it seems she also found inspiration in the drama of ‘live fire’ cooking. Michelin-starred Chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’s use of ‘live fire’ at Decimo (Spanish for ’10th’—its location on the hotel’s 10th floor) is mirrored in Colichón’s large-scale tapestry. Handwoven on a floor-based loom, the dense weave of the fiery red and orange central oval is encircled by brown fibers that spin off in four cardinal directions. The lighter brown fibres in the four quadrants are open weave lappets with floating wefts connecting the long, loose lappets. The tapestry creates the sensation of peering into an open pit fire or perhaps a volcano’s molten magma crater, while the open-weave areas references the building’s original waffle slab facade.
SHD are known for their deep knowledge of mid-century art and style and their support of fibre artists. The firm first worked with Colichón for the design of The Standard Hotel, Miami. Commissioned to weave a tapestry for the lobby, her work was augmented by SHD-sourced fibre art dating from circa 1968 in the style of Alice Adams (born 1930) that expressed, says Hausman, ‘the experimental weaving produced during that period with new kinds of knotting, weaving and colour combinations.’