Inside Soho House's new outposts: Nick Jones Q&A
The creative world's favourite members club - Soho House - has undergone a great surge of expansion in the last year, opening a series of new restaurants, the Dean Street Townhouse in London and new outposts in West Hollywood and Berlin (see Wallpaper* 136, out now). Next up is its biggest venture to date, Soho Beach House Miami. Here we take a look inside the newest additions, and catch up with Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House himself.
How was Soho House born?
It was pretty accidental. We ran the restaurant below the first Soho House, called Café Boheme, which we still do today. The film offices above it suddenly became available and the landlord asked us if we'd be interested in taking the space. Because it only had a very small door, it was obvious that it had to be a private members club. Before that point in time, I'd had no wish to open one - it didn't come about because I was some disgruntled Groucho member. I wasn't a member of a club at all.
How has the concept evolved over the past 15 years?
There was no master plan. We have just reacted to members' suggestions, demands and ideas. When London worked, it seemed obvious to try a country version of it [Babington House]. Then came the Electric Cinema and it just grew from there - all quite by chance.
What propelled the recent spate of expansion?
It's been planned for a while. Actually, after Miami, we're going to have a little bit of a breather. Because everything is so individual, the team has been stretched as far as it can be stretched. It would be good to evaluate where we are.
How have you tailored each outpost to fit to its locale?
All our clubs are aimed at the local market - they're not aimed at Brits in new York, for example. Obviously Soho House New York attracts Brits to an extent, but it's really a club for Manhattanites. West Hollywood doesn't have rooms - it's just a club for those who live in LA. They're not primarily hotels.
I hear you've had to cull some of your members recently...
Yes, definitely. I suppose, as you go along, people slip in who shouldn't have slipped in. So we've slipped them out again. And it's worked really well - its reenergised New York.
Which designers do you use?
I am part of all of it, but we also work with Suzy Atkinson a lot. She did Dean Street Townhouse, Soho House Berlin and the refurbishment at Babington House. We've also used Martin Brudnizki. In LA, we used a guy called Waldo Fernandez, who was great, because we needed the LA contacts. Next spring we're also planning to launch a new retail website, but the details of this are still under wraps.
What made you decide to open in Berlin?
A developer persuaded us to come and have a look at the building - a former department store which was later the home of Hitler Youth, before it became the East Germany Communist Party HQ - and within 10 minutes of being there we decided we'd take it. We bought it from the original Jewish family that owned the department store. Berlin is fabulous - it has everything going for it. There's lots of culture, art, great music, great nightlife. Everything is happening there.
Soho House Berlin has all the toys. There's a screening room, spa, rooftop swimming pool, club floor and house kitchen. Berlin has a grey, hardness about it so we added a lot of colour and comfort, which I think Berliners have been dying for. Damien Hirst also painted a picture for us when he was staying there. I just handed him a can of paint and asked him to do something with it.
What can we expect from Soho Beach House Miami?
It will be big. It has got 50 bedrooms, a Cicconi's restaurant, a rooftop plunge pool and a swimming pool. It will be a destination in itself, more than our other places, but there'll also be a lot of local Miami members. It'll be glamorous Art Deco in style, but with more comfort. There'll also be South American influences, because there are a lot of these in Miami.
Do you think you'll continue to expand?
Oh, definitely. There are lots of cities with creative, like-minded people around the world. There's São Paulo, Istanbul and Milan. We've got lots of potential deals in the pipeline - it's just a question of waiting a bit and seeing which would fit best.