There is a big old building diagonally opposite Wood Green Station which I must have walked past a thousand times, assuming it was just another derelict. But this one is about to be transformed.
Green Rooms will be the first arts-led independent social enterprise hotel in the country. This completely new concept will stand apart from big chain hotels, since it’s principally designed to attract artists.
“We envisage Green Rooms playing a key role in both the arts and local communities,” says founder Nick Hartwright. “It’s going to be an exciting and creative place, stylish – but not ‘stuck up’ or inaccessible – and it’s going to be fun. It’s also going to be very affordable, since Green Rooms is not-for-profit and part of the funding has come from the GLA and Haringey Council.”
So what’s your thing? “For want of a better phrase, I guess you could call me a social entrepreneur. I run and co-run a number of businesses, all of which are arts based and about bettering communities.”
He isn’t running this alone, however. “Kurt Bredenbeck is the chairman of Green Rooms, and without him, the project wouldn’t have got off the ground. He’s one of Europe’s leading hotel entrepreneurs, best known for founding and creating The Hoxton, which introduced the ‘luxury-budget’ hotel concept.”
As you can see from the pictures, the year-long renovation is extensive but almost complete. “All being well, we’ll open fully to the public on Friday 20 May, although the ground floor lobby and bar area will be open from early May. I’d urge people to come in, have a drink and a good look around.”
Consider yourself invited, everyone. Why that particular building, which had seemed almost invisible?
“About 18 months back, I was having a meeting on the seventh floor of the tall council office block at Wood Green, talking about another site in Tottenham. I just happened to glance out of the window and clocked the striking building opposite. The people I was with told me Haringey Council owned it and it had been vacant since 2009. And that was that, Green Rooms was born.”
What I’d dismissed as a ‘big old building’ is actually a lovely Art Deco design constructed in 1925 for the North Metropolitan Power and Electricity Company, whose roundels still adorn the exterior. “It had been in the back of my head to open a hotel for artists for a long time – it was just about finding the right site. I guess in the end the right site found me.”
“If people have limited funds, Green Rooms will be a great place to stay.”
With a name partly inspired by the traditional ‘green room’ at theatres and studios where performers relax, the hotel is clearly aimed at artists and people in the creative industries. But its rooms are available to the wider public too. And if you’re thinking this all sounds expensive, think again.
“If people have limited funds but are bored of the bland budget hotels – and don’t fancy Airbnb – Green Rooms will be a great place to stay. Prices start at £18 per night for a dormitory bed. Doubles are £45 per night, the bigger corner rooms are £50 and en-suite doubles are £60. We also have two long-stay apartments with kitchen facilities, bathrooms and additional workspace areas for £80 per night.”
“We really want Wood Green locals to come in and enjoy the facilities.”
It’s not just about rooms though, as the communal spaces will be open to everyone. “We really want Wood Green locals to come in and enjoy the facilities,” Nick enthused. “There’ll be a brilliant restaurant on the ground floor and a bustling bar. The top floor has another bar set within a beautiful gallery and exhibition space. It’s open every night of the week and we’ve got a late licence, but it’s also available for private hire too.”
The restaurant is as innovative as the rest of the hotel. A kitchen incubator project is designed to help emerging restaurateurs develop their businesses. Every six months, the food offering will change as new restaurateurs are given the ground floor kitchen and dining space free of charge.
“Our first ‘tenant’ is a guy called Esteban Arboleda,” said Nick. “Esteban lives in Wood Green but actually hails from Medellín in Colombia, and has his own business called Colombian Street Kitchen. Through our programme, he effectively gets to run his own restaurant. His food is absolutely brilliant and I have no doubt it’s going to go down a storm.”
Finally, what sort of impact might Green Rooms have on the local area? “Hopefully a very positive one. It’s going to bring new people to Wood Green, and bring a bit of life to the top end of the high street after dark. At the moment the whole area feels pretty deserted after the sun’s gone down. It’s going to bring newness, something different, and we really can’t wait for the doors to open.”
Interview: David Wailing.