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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 December 2007, 22:54 GMT
Savoy closes for 16-month refit
Savoy Hotel
Chandeliers in the Thames Foyer of the Savoy will be sold at auction
The Savoy, one of London's best-known hotels, has closed for a 100m refit that will take 16 months.

The 263-room landmark hotel, which overlooks the River Thames, first opened its doors to guests in 1889.

Now the building with its distinct Art Deco style is to be restored to combine its former glory with modern amenities.

Some 3,000 pieces of hotel history, including beds, chandeliers and an oak dance floor, are to be sold off during a three-day auction next week.

As part of the refurbishment programme, rooms, suites, corridors and public areas will be renovated and the River Restaurant reopened.

Marilyn Monroe

The hotel's general manager Kiaran MacDonald said the work is very much a restoration that will respect the hotel's rich history.

The original Edwardian style was largely updated in the 1930s to reflect the Art Deco fashion of the day and the end result is a compromise of both eras.

Under the new plans, he said, the hotel will be divided into Art Deco and Edwardian areas and the style in each will be distinct.

He said the 1910 move to enclose the external balconies overlooking the Thames in order to add bathrooms to each room was an afterthought that short-changed many of the best views in the building.

Glamorous backdrop

A staff member in the Savoy's Monet suite
The Monet Suite will undergo renovation work

Throughout the 20th Century, the Savoy has been a glamorous backdrop for lavish parties and scandalous affairs as well as a temporary home to the rich and famous.

French artist Claude Monet, Sir Winston Churchill, the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe and Sir Richard Harris all lived there.

The dry martini is thought by some to have been invented in the American Bar and a murder took place in the Savoy's corridors back in 1923.

The hotel's history and romance are conservatively expected to bring in anywhere from 600,000 to 1m next week when Bonhams conducts its three-day sale of thousands of items.

The lots due to go under the hammer include 200 beds - complete with linen and mattresses, curtains, a large oak parquet dance floor and an early 20th Century mahogany and gilt metal bureau from the Monet suite.

There are no reserve prices on items, which include the signature pink and white Savoy crockery and interest in the sale is running high with requests for catalogues coming from around the world.

In recent weeks white lot tags have been attached to furniture throughout the hotel in anticipation of the sale.

It's so dear to people's heart, the spirit of the auction gives them an opportunity to own a piece of the Savoy and bring it into one's home
Kiaran MacDonald,
Savoy general manager

Mr MacDonald said: "Because it's the Savoy and I think because above any other hotel that I know of, it's so dear to people's heart, the spirit of the auction gives them an opportunity to own a piece of the Savoy and bring it into one's home."

He said pieces of the dance floor were expected to be a favourite among bidders.

"It's just in the imagination of everybody that one reflects on who could have danced on these dance floor pieces," he added.

The hotel's owners have carefully chosen to keep key pieces that are intrinsic to its history and they will be restored and replaced when the building reopens in 2009.

Some of your memories and comments:

When we were just 18 (many years ago!) I arranged as a surprise to take my best friend to the Savoy. The joy of getting out of the train at Waterloo, getting in a taxi, and saying, "The Savoy please!" is something I will never forget even all these many years later.
Julie, Stockport

My parents both lived and worked in London. When they starting dating my Dad would frequently take Mum to The Savoy for dinner. It's such a shame that all of the history - the things they would have seen, felt etc are all being taken away.

I just pray they'll keep some of the history of the place and not allow it to become to modern. I consider The Savoy part of British culture/history. Such a shame...
Adam Shaw, Cheltenham, UK

My mother told the story that during the war my father, in the RAF was due to be on leave but only for 24 hours. This meant meeting him in London as time was so short. They had a lovely day but my father had to leave quite early the next morning.

My parents were young but had been married for about 4 years at the time. My father being practical told my mother to have a lie in and then said he would leave her some extra housekeeping and some money "for a bit of a shop" while in London. He then ordered room service for breakfast for her before leaving.

When the breakfast arrived the elderly and rather haughty member of staff went to put down the tray, spotted the money left by my father and gave my Mother such a withering look of disdain she almost hid under the covers. Torn between explaining that her husband had left the money and saying nothing....she said nothing!
Robert Jones, Derby, England

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