Hospitality is enabled by its surrondings, by the light spilling in across worn wooden floors, or bouncing off polished, sleek surfaces. Those rich red wines taste warmer when sipped in intimate corners, nestled into plush velvet armchairs. Luxurious food is only worth the money when eaten off weighty silverware with thick napkins to catch the crumbs. Design may not be the first thing that springs to mind when stepping into a bar, but it's there, in every dimly-lit basement and each ornate hotel.
With this thought in mind we went off to the Portobello Road on a Friday morning to breakfast with luxury design consultant Lucy Freedman.
Lucy's London is a more beautiful, well-put-together city than the rest of us know. She sees the small touches, the purposefully aged woods and tarnished glass, the exact angles of furnishings, curated shades of pink and soaring ceilings. Her favoruite places are mostly designed by the David Collins agency - including The Wolseley, The Connaught Bar, Claridge's Bar, Artesian and Bassoon among many other five-star London hospitality spots.
The Connaught Bar - created in 2008 for the Maybourne Hotel Group. The Connaught Bar comprises three rooms featuring hand-dyed degrade leathers, metal studded black leather tables, and silver leaf mirror artwork created by David Collins Studio.
She speaks of the rooms we imbibe and digest in as snapshots of pure luxury, enablers of a perfect evening. And once you pause to consider it, this makes perfect sense.
"When designing, I put myself in the place of a guest. What view would they like to see? You shouldn't ever find yourself staring at the entrance to the loos as you sip on Champagne," she says.
But it's not all about sleek luxury. Lucy loves to sit in environments which look like they’ve been here forever, and be surrounded by materials which look aged. She documents the places that inspire her on a design blog - lucywillshowyou - which has become a virtual scrapbook of her travels around the world as she seeks out the beauty in details.
"The blog was a place to catalogue ideas and then it became a showcase for new clients. It’s my hobby."
"My favourite space in London is the Coburg Bar in The Connaught. I love discrete, beautiful, glamorous, cosy bars. I wish I had had the chance to design some of London's older hotels, like the Lanesborough, they have so many intricate layers of chic sophistication. I tend to do more sleek stuff."
It isn't just older venues which Lucy points out as being beautifully designed however. Opening earlier this year, the Ivy Chelsea Garden on Kings Road had the same glamour without the antique birth year.
"The Grade II-listed building on the King’s Road dates back from the 18th century and following it’s complete renovation from the former home of Henry J Beans, you’ll now find yourself in a suitably glamorous setting without having to traipse up to the Wolseley. The Ivy Chelsea Garden’s marble and parquet interiors are the work of Martin Brudnizki, designer of the Holborn Dining Room, Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood Hotel London, Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood Hotel, and Soho Beach House in Miami to name a few," she wrote.
And then there's the engaging Mr Fogg's in Mayfair which she says is so brilliantly put together that there isn't a bad seat in the whole bar, each offering a different vantage point of the eclectic decor.
"I always notice the little details in a space, cutlery, glassware, lighting. I like to go down to Kempton Market for antiques budget shopping and trawl through the junk for stunning gems. The most important detail of a bar though is that locals should feel they can enjoy an evening there. That's the element of comfort alongside beauty."
While Lucy expresses a wish to do more work in central London, she's also busy around the world - exemplified by a recent project in Antiga with an old plantation-style home.
Lately she's been busy working on a hotel in Hampshire, travelling to Paris, and working with new modern studio BWT based in west London.
"Projects never feel finished - just like opening a bar - it's satisfying, and there's a sense of pride on opening day but with each revisit I'm still looking for how the space fits together, how it feels and how it works," says Lucy.