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In London, Perfect at a Price

By Roger Piantadosi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 9, 1998; Page E04

Thanks to its sheer enormity and ancient-crossroads-town status, London is an excellent place in which to never sleep. However, if sleeping's what you had in mind--if maybe you had, as we did, a day to kill between killer flights--there's a small hotel in Chelsea you should probably know about.

It is not cheap--I don't think any place nice to sleep in London is cheap unless you've owned the property for a few centuries--but is, instead, merely perfect. The Sloane Hotel keeps its 12 exceptional rooms hidden away on a narrow two-block street at the northern and mostly residential edge of still trendy, still shop-intensive Chelsea. Its three-story brick town house facade is distinguished from the adjoining town homes only by a small plaque.

I'd never seen a London cabby pause quite so long as when Charmaine, my wife, said to ours: "Draycott Place, please." He drove very slow for about 10 seconds, his head tilted at that precisely human data-processing angle. "Chelsea!" he finally announced. "Off Sloane Square, I believe, just a tiny thing." He was so quietly pleased with himself that we became pleased. We were going someplace tiny!

The Sloane's lobby is tiny, but if you don't count the small front desk and wall case of expensive gifts, you could easily be in the den of some artistic (i.e. rich) friend with a sly and tasteful (i.e. British) sense of humor. That would be Sue Rogers, a London designer who opened the Sloane in 1991, but not before she'd had her way not only with the lobby (a leopard-print sofa sits next to stack of antique trunks and a tailor's bust wearing a Napoleonic uniform) but with the rooms, each done up in felicitous antiques, silks and Designer Guild linens and prints. If you like something in your room, you can buy it. They'll ship it.

Outside it was cold, gray, midmorning. Inside our room it was warm, bright and, even with the windows cracked, quiet. The canopy over our antique four-poster was draped in an oddly soothing green-and-purple plaid. Atop the comforter were about a thousand throw pillows guarded by a stuffed leopard.

We slept. We took advantage of the 24-hour room service, the more than 100 rentable videos, the tiny century-old Thackeray collections stacked about the room, the rooftop patio with a peerless view of Mary Poppins's neighborhood. That evening and next morning, we walked. (Harrods is around the corner; King's Road, Hyde Park and the theater district not far.)

Like a lot of things--doubles at the Sloane, for instance, at about $230 to $370--the stuffed leopard was expensive, but for what it reminds us of nightly (it now guards a certain canopy-less Posturepedic in the States), worth every penny.

The Sloane Hotel is at 29 Draycott Pl., London SW3 2SH, phone 1-800-324-9960. Rates include neither breakfast nor VAT.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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