Malcolm Linforth-Jones, manager of Hotel Indigo London Paddington, InterContinental Hotel Group's first boutique brand property in Europe, traces the arrival of this unusual property in the UK
The inspiration dates back to a 12th century Italian mathematical genius. His real name was Leonardo but he is best known by his nickname Fibonacci. He introduced to Europe the Arabic numerals we use today, replacing the older, more complicated Roman ones.
But Fibonacci also gave his name to a numerical theory of perfect harmony or perfect proportion, seen, devotees say, in the simple elegance of the leaves of a plant or a pine cone. It is this theory that features so strongly in a new and unusual hotel which has just opened in London. On each floor there is some diagram or illustration of this theory, on walls, on staircases, on ceilings.
It is part of the concept of Indigo boutique hotels which InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) launched in America in 2004 and has now brought to Europe.
The new 64-room property is in the heart of the lively, cosmopolitan area of Paddington in west London and is converted from nine elegant Georgian town houses. Malcolm Linforth-Jones, 39, operations director of London Town Hotels which owns the property, as well as the hotel's general manager, has been involved in the project from the start.
Koolesh Shah, managing director of London Town Hotels, bought the property to complement his other two hotels in the area. It was just as conversion got underway that IHG eyed up the property for its first Indigo in Europe.
"It was always going to be a boutique hotel but when the deal was signed, we had to stop our designs and bring in new ones, like solid wooden floors and softer colours in the furnishing," Mr Linforth-Jones said.
But it was a building of character, in a famous part of London and he was determined the hotel would reflect this. "We wanted the design and feel to be more discreet than those in America, more European, more London," he said.
The result is a hotel replete with photographs of West London. "We sent out a photographer to take hundreds of shots and we picked the best ones," Mr Linforth-Jones said. So there are giant photographs of the Serpentine in Hyde Park in many rooms, giving them a wide, spacious feel, pictures of the beautiful Georgian terraces with which Paddington abounds, pictures of Isambard Kingdom Brunel who designed the Great Western Railway which terminates at nearby Paddington Station, and of Little Venice, London's canal-land.
But the biggest change Mr Linforth-Jones insisted on was in food and beverage. The American hotels have a cafe-style concept which, he said, would not work in major UK cities. So his solution is an open plan cafe cum restaurant cum bar.
"I have upscaled it to incorporate a breakfast room, brasserie, drinks. I wanted to give it a warm and attractive feel so that people will be quite happy to walk in from the street for coffee and cakes," said Mr Linforth-Jones, himself a trained patissier.
The Indigo's first guest did actually walk in from the street, said Mr Linforth-Jones with delight.
"But there is also an opportunity for formal dining, to sit down for meals at breakfast, lunchtime or in the evening. But coffee will also be served through to 11pm," he added.
With a strong eye to IHG's business travel market, the Indigo will also be offering 24 hour room service every day as well as now expected benefits like free WiFi in rooms.
Mr Linforth-Jones said the aim was to attract corporate travellers, but not only those from afar who booked with IHG but also those who have local businesses.
To stress its "green" commitment, Mr Linforth-Jones said all the food would be "very British", produced locally where possible. But nothing will be flown in from abroad. The hotel also has its own electricity generator which as a side affect also heats all its water.
Mr Linforth-Jones has spent his whole career in the hospitality since qualifying as a patissier. He followed this with a management training course with De Vere Hotels and then successively he worked with Choice, Hilton, and IHG hotels - the Holiday Inn at Telford - before teaming up with Koolesh Shah and London Town Hotels.
"We created and built this hotel," he said. "I want to look after this one. It is my baby."