Modernisation in the metropolis: interiors, gender and luxury in the Regent Palace Hotel (1888-1935)

Holcombe, Lyanne (2013) Modernisation in the metropolis: interiors, gender and luxury in the Regent Palace Hotel (1888-1935). (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis explores the catering firm J. Lyons & Co as contributors of hotel expansion in the West End of London between 1888 and 1935. Introducing the development of the steel-framed building type, it aims to provide a design historical explanation for the advance of hotels in location, design and interior decoration. The spatial layout of the West End and Piccadilly provide a specific focus for the Regent Palace Hotel, as a building proposed upon the redevelopment of the Regent Street quadrant in 1915. A central argument includes an emergence of the economy hotel in the public space of Edwardian urban reconstruction, as a consequence of material, technological and social processes of the early twentieth century. Removing the imperialist connotations represented by the previous grand Victorian hotels, this study uses design history to investigate the history of interior design and architecture in new luxury hotels. Specifying site location, building facades and urban geographies in Piccadilly as extended architectural frameworks from thoroughfares to thresholds. The main objectives are to reveal how new hotels were built in the late Victorian and Edwardian period, by examining interiors, gender and luxury in relation to one hotel. Analysing the public and private rooms on three levels: lower ground, ground, and upper floors, the thesis examines these as socio-spatial layouts. The large public rooms in the Regent Palace Hotel adapted to incorporate new modes of interior decoration, which established how the new luxury hotel attracted a broader clientele in the modernisation of the West End. The Regent Street quadrant had originated on empire and spectacle in a period of economic transformation, yet in the Edwardian period this space witnessed increased patterns of consumption and a new commodity culture. The study emphasises the capitalist enterprise in hotels, new services and industries, by placing J. Lyons & Co into the urban history of the West End.

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