Rough Luxe, as the name suggests, melds two opposing concepts: here luxury is 'part of time' rather than an object of consumption, a rich experience rather than luxurious surroundings in the conventional sense.
In some ways, the moniker of the Grade II-listed house feels appropriate, reflecting the changing face of King's Cross — historically known for its brothels and drug problems yet recently, after rapid regeneration, home to a surge of new cafés, bars and international travellers.
In practical terms, the eight rooms at Rough Luxe, designed by Rabih Hage, mix reclaimed aspects of the original building with more modern design. The main staircase is uncarpeted with exposed wood and paint, and original peeling wallpaper and shabby-chic furniture can be found in the rooms.
The bedroom of our suite was dominated by a sofa-cum-double bed, with a battered chandelier hanging above it, a retro TV and a tiny desk tucked into a corner alcove. The walls, again staying true to the original building, are slightly mottled and bruised looking.
Although the room was quirky and I liked it, I couldn't connect with the 'luxury' concept in its redefined sense. The bedroom was cosy, but really a place you'd want to sleep in rather than spend time in relaxing — it's so compact there isn't room to swing a cat and at night was quite warm.
On the flip side, providing touches of familiar luxury are modern artworks, which change on a regular basis, toiletries from Arran Aromatics (fabulous) in the bathroom (which is more spacious than the bedroom) and the breakfast served family-style on the hotel's ground floor. A large wooden table is piled with croissants, boiled eggs, fruit, fresh smoothies and the morning newspapers — it's informal enough for you not to feel obliged to chat to other guests but intimate enough to strike up a conversation over your coffee should you fancy it.
Rough Luxe is a hotel that will divide opinion; some people will understand the concept, view it as artistic and love it, whereas others will find it bemusing and fall asleep dreaming of unfussy décor and fluffy towels.
Will appeal to those who are looking for an unusual, arty vibe.
The location is almost unbeatable in terms of proximity to the Tube and international rail links.
The manager, Antonio, is a hospitable character keen to impart his local knowledge.
The not so good:
One person's treasure is another person's trash — luxury lovers might be disappointed if they arrive expecting 'luxury' in the conventional sense of the word.
Rooms can feel a bit claustrophobic and warm.
A rustic boutique hotel, which leans more towards rough-around-the-edges than luxe, but boasts a great location and a friendly host.
Double rooms start at £179, including breakfast. Rooms must be booked in advance. Rough Luxe Hotel, 1 Birkenhead Street, London, WC1H 8BA (+44(0) 20 7837 5338; roughluxe.co.uk)