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While London may be justifiably proud of its historic charms, it also likes to think of itself as being at the cutting edge of contemporary design. That’s a claim that’s not always substantiated by the fussy and fusty décor of some of the city’s budget hotels.
But it is possible to find more contemporary design on the cheap and, to prove it, here are five places from our London listings that can claim to offer style on a shoestring.
160 Sussex Gardens, Paddington
Doubles from $145
This hotel is far from old-fashioned. In fact it looks far, far, far into the future for its design inspiration. The hotel has a space age-style theme that runs through every aspect of its décor, from the aluminum-paneled doors and the metallic light-box bedside tables, to the futuristic chairs in the breakfast room and the space pod-sized bathrooms.
If that all sounds like it’s a little too out-of-this-world for your tastes, take refuge in the pub over the road, The Sussex Arms, which is also owned by the hotel. The pub wins high praise for its blend of contemporary cool and glamorous vintage, and it does a good line in traditional pints too.
ibis Styles London Southwark Rose
47 Southwark Bridge Road, London Bridge
Double from $146 to $565
By combining the reliability of the ibis chain with some of the flair of more boutique offerings, the “ibis Styles” hotels aim to appeal to the kind of budget travelers with a taste for contemporary style. They seem to have hit on something of successful formula, as London alone is already host to four ibis Styles hotels. Each hotel is decorated in a different manner but the general design principle seems to be bright, bold and colorful and, reassuringly, the chain particularly prides itself on the comfort of its beds.
Housed in a modern building, the Southwark Rose (typically for London) draws some criticism for the size of its bedrooms, but wins extra style points because of its location. Close to Tate Modern and many of the city’s most fashionable restaurants and boutiques, it’s a great base for investigating London’s trend-setting claims.
YHA Oxford Street
14 Noel Street, Soho
Think of YHA Oxford Street and think pink. You might never guess from its seemingly dark back street entrance but this hostel is a hot bed of hot pink. This color has been used throughout the hostel to give it a fresh and contemporary look: hot pink walls in the kitchen complement the chrome fittings; pink walls in the lounge to offset the lime green bedspreads. Even the bathrooms are decorated in – you guessed it – hot pink.
The color scheme aside, there’s other thoughtful design touches that help reinforce this hostel’s strong reputation: each dorm bed gets its own reading light for example. Don’t overlook its excellent location either. If you fancy having a bit of a splurge on style, it’s only a couple of minutes walk from the world-famous shops of Oxford Street.
261–265 Grays Inn Road, King’s Cross
Doubles $65 to $72
Clink261 is a basic backpacker’s hostel that manages to create something of a groovy vibe, thanks due in a large part to its Austin Power-like furnishings. This hostel compensates for complaints about the too-crammed dorms by the wild decoration of its communal areas. The kitchen has glossy red tables and a striking black-and-white check floor, while purple leather sofas and original artworks make the lounge look like an inviting place to hang out.
And if you would rather head out, the surrounding area of King’s Cross is becoming an increasingly stylish destination. The renowned Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design has recently relocated nearby, bringing with it a slew of new and cool bars and cafes to explore.
83 Gower Street, Bloomsbury
It would never be described as a design hotel, but the Arosfa Hotel warrants a honorable mention for showing how traditional family hotels don’t always have to be chintzy. This beautiful old Bloomsbury building is decorated in a way that’s full of personality, mixing the traditional – such as antique clocks – with contemporary touches – like ’60s-style clear plastic chairs.
The lounge is decorated with eye-catching black-and-white imagery of London, and sofas topped with Union Jack cushions, while the well cared for garden is an unexpected delight. It’s the small touches that win the Arosfa praise, a compliment that applies to its welcoming owners every bit as much as it does to the décor.
Would you like more budget hotel options for London? Check out the listings in our London guide, including dozens of “Editor’s Picks” that have been visited, inspected and approved.