Velvet, UK

February 1, 2023

David Collins Studio worked with appointed lighting designers dpa lighting consultants to revamp Corinthia London’s bar, now known as Velvet, into a decadent destination in the heart of London.

Velvet is a new bar that replaces Bassoon at Corinthia London, UK. The bar was reimagined by interior design firm David Collins Studio, transforming the space into a luxurious venue gowned in rich velvets and new artwork by Robson Stannard, which was curated by Creative Director of David Collins Studio, Simon Rawlings.

dpa lighting consultants collaborated closely with David Collins Studio and the hotel to develop a new lighting scheme for the hospitality venue. The aim was to highlight new features as well as upgrade existing fixtures. The team successfully re-lamped all lighting, beam angles were reconsidered, re-aimed and scene-set to create focus and drama throughout the bar. A new stage area is dressed with Par Can theatre-style lighting, creating a focus area and drawing guests into an atmosphere of opulence from the roaring twenties.

Stephanie Harris, Associate at dpa lighting consultants, says of the team’s involvement in the project: “dpa has a previous history collaborating with both Corinthia London and David Collins Studio after being appointed by the hotel to work on the design for Kerridges Bar and Grill in 2018, among other projects. So, dpa was delighted with the opportunity to join this prestigious team again on the refurbishment of Bassoon Bar – now known as Velvet. dpa was first commissioned on the project in early 2022 with the doors reopening on 1 November 2022, approximately nine months from start to finish.

“The brief for the lighting was minimal intervention due to the fast-paced project, utilising the existing lighting, upgrading existing fixtures through re-lamping, and changing beam angles to aid in enhancing the interventions proposed by David Collins Studio.”

David Collins Studio returned to the project via invitation from Corinthia’s General Manager Thomas Kochs, after originally designing Bassoon bar back in 2011.

“The brief was clear from the beginning, and we made sure to keep the strong narrative all the way from implementation through to completion,” explains Rawlings. “Our new design was respectful of the existing interior architecture while creating a distinctly bold and new guest experience that the client was so seduced by.”

Lighting played a key role in creating the dramatic and luxurious atmosphere the brief demanded. “Key decorative lighting considerations ensured the aesthetics of luminaires were in line with the roaring 1920s feel that the David Collins Studio interiors were oozing,” says Harris. “The addition of new shades with fringing and rewiring to all the existing table and floor lights transformed the fixtures to look completely different. As with all projects, dpa has a strong consideration for the circular economy and reusing, refurbishing, and rewiring where possible.      

“The addition of candles to each table along with added decorative elements throughout provides that seductive intimate atmosphere that complements the magic and theatre of the bar.”

A vintage chandelier was also sourced by David Collins Studio to animate the back area and “give it a more inviting, inhabited feel”. This piece was selected for its style, adding to the overall theme of the space.

“Decorative lighting played a big role in our redesign of the space,” continues Rawlings. “As a night-time venue with no natural light, decorative lighting was key to creating the desired vision for the bar as an intimate and exclusive space. The decorative lighting provided key opportunities to update the interiors and emulate a chic late-night cocktail bar atmosphere, highlighting the opulent textiles and adding a layer of sparkle, reflecting off the new material palette.

“The existing architectural lighting was refocused, rebalanced and in certain instances repositioned to work best with the new design intent. Some of the existing decorative lighting was removed to reduce the lighting levels and create the desired ambience.

“Part of the brief was to keep the existing ceiling architectural lighting and inbuilt banquette floor lighting. We updated these with new custom shades and installed a statement vintage chandelier. Movable candle-lit lamps and glass hurricanes sit on every surface, providing an easy way to inject light and create intimacy outside of structural constraints.”

Harris adds: “The decorative lighting and architectural lighting have very different purposes on a project like this. The decorative lighting is there to provide style and visual purpose, it really enhances and complements the 1920s ambience of the interiors. This combination with subtle architectural lighting enhancing elements such as the impressive new artwork by Robson Stannard, the back bar, the stage, and the rich drapery.

“While the purpose of each is very different, the combination complements the space and provides the backdrop to enable renowned bartender Salvatore Calabrese to provide the theatre and drama through his carefully curated cocktail menu.

“As Velvet is purely a night-time venue, it differed from a lot of the projects we work on where we need to consider the daytime view of the space,” she continues. “This enabled us to fully concentrate on the sumptuous, moody atmosphere that can be felt as soon as you step into the room. The interior styling, atmospheric light levels and candlelight provide a very dramatic venue. The aspiration was always to be the destination bar in London, and we feel this is successfully achieved.”

Turning the project around in such a short time positively forced the design direction and execution of this project. The teams relied on their well-established network of suppliers in order to complete the fit-out in time. Rawlings summarises: “As the hotel remained open during the refurbishment, there was a time pressure to get the project complete. We are used to working to tight deadlines and working for an existing client like Corinthia and in London makes it easier! We have excellent suppliers and manufacturers who know how we work and that is a huge help. Efficient communication and close collaboration with consultants and suppliers made the project possible in such a short time.

“For me, Velvet captures the essence of a mood. It’s about a feeling, the discreet excitement through the pleasure of music and cocktails. Velvet embodies a bygone era. It captures the spirit of intimacy, extravagance, and secluded indulgence. Gentle lighting and twinkling surfaces exude quality and informal glamour. Strong, iconic, nostalgic, and charming. A bar like no other in London; a palette carefully curated to contrast and harmonise with dramatic swooshes of colour adorning the walls, and pattern, reflection, and depth throughout. A Velvet backdrop to the ultimate cocktails, true personal service, and the celebrated Corinthia attention to detail.”

Iain Watson, Chief Executive Officer at David Collins Studio, says in agreement: “We are delighted to return to work with the Corinthia team and create the jewel-like Velvet bar in London that adds to our timeless signature bar portfolio. The project celebrates the Studio’s passion for the blending of periods and layering of materials to redefine modern elegance.”

Harris concludes on the lighting team’s success: “We are absolutely delighted with the finished result. Normally, on most projects, we can always find something we would consider doing differently but we are so pleased with the end result and wouldn’t change anything.”

Images: Alex Upton Photography