Fine Tuning The Lanesborough

There's something agents should know about Geoffrey Gelardi, the managing director of the five-star Lanesborough Hotel in London: He spent two years trying to figure out how to tastefully install flat-screen TVs in the property's rooms so they wouldn't intrude upon the mid-18th century early Regency style that defines the hotel. "The only way to make a flat screen look good in this type of environment," he says, "is to hide it."

Indeed, the Lanesborough Hotel, originally built in 1719 as a country retreat for the second Viscount Lanesborough, has made its name staying true to its 18th-century roots, trying to recreate the elegance and sophistication of an 18th-century private residence for today's modern client. It has 95 guest rooms, including 43 suites.

The good news is that Gelardi and a team of designers formulated four pieces of furniture—a bookshelf, a bar, a desk and a bureau—where the flat screen only appears at the push of a button. The other is that this near compulsive attention to detail has kept the Lanesborough at the pinnacle of the London hospitality market and a worthy choice for agents and their high-end clients.

The Lanesborough is a St. Regis Hotel

When it first opened 15 years ago, the Lanesborough, a St.RegisHotels & Resorts property on Hyde Park Corner, wowed with subtle touches worthy of its English pedigree. Clients received their own business cards and personalized stationery at check in. The hotel possessed more than 1,000 phone numbers and rotated them for each room each time a client checked in and out. (You didn't have to go through the hotel switchboard, and the number corresponded to that on the personalized business card.)

Recently, the hotel tweaked its internal booking practices to include the Lanesborough Promise, which guarantees travel agents commission for up to a year.

"The rooms were probably seeing a bit too much wear and tear," Gelardi says of the property's recent overhaul, adding that he has settled for a point or two less on the occupancy percentages in order to keep them in tip-top shape. The Lanesborough is also wrapping up a £28,000 renovation that saw the installation of the flat-screen-friendly furniture and other pieces. New lighting and redone public places rounded out the three-year makeover.

The lobby exhibits English refinement

The best rooms to book include room 121, the Apfley suite, unofficially dubbed the honeymoon suite; and the junior suite, room 118, which offers a fantastic view of BuckinghamPalace. The Royal suites consist of rooms 212, 214, 216, 218 and 220 and include such amenities as a personal butler, dressing rooms with walk-in wardrobes and exclusive use of the chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Phantom.

There is a way that decorating should be done, he believes, and compromises are unholy bargains made by less tenacious men. Up next on his to-do list, he says, is pursuit of the perfect chair, a platonic absolute of comfort and form. "Every time I find one that has the comfort level I want, the designer says that I can't put it in the room. Someone," he says, "is going to have to give." Gelardi's unyielding attitude is not the only thing that makes him suitable for the job. If you're staying at a place that caters to English gentry, or at least gives the impression of doing so, you want the man who runs the place to at least look and sound the part.

And Gelardi does just that, as evidenced by his aristocratic description of the superiority of the Lanesborough's butler program. "Butlers are a dime a dozen [in other hotels]," he says. "It will be a head waiter who shines your shoes for you or a housekeeper who will get you a cup of coffee. We have a full housekeeping and kitchen staff and so our butlers are the cream on top." FastFacts

According to Gelardi, the butlers are floor managers who supervise everything.

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