When hotel founder Bea Tollman was trying to think of a name for her group of luxury properties, now numbering 17 around the world, she remembered that the first time she met her husband-to-be, Stanley, he was wearing an elegant red carnation boutonniere. Thus was born the Red Carnation Hotels Collection, which includes the Milestone Hotel, a gorgeous little gem of 56 rooms and six residences across from Kensington Palace, done up with astonishingly stunning décor — and red carnations everywhere.
And that includes the lapel buttonholes of the male staff, known at the very English Milestone as “butlers,” all of whom dress in tails.
A 17th Century Victorian, the Milestone has had many lives. It has served as an illustrious private home, a school, a hospital, and, in the words of butler Fran O’Hanlon, a “lunatic asylum.” In 1984, Mrs. Tollman turned it into a boutique hotel, one of London’s finest, filling it — in addition to its red carnations and other floral arrangements — with original art, gorgeous antiques and a friendly staff. The decorating prowess at the Milestone highlights the talents of Mrs. Tollman, who also designs scarves and oversees her Red Carnation Boutique opposite Buckingham Palace. She and her daughter, Toni, who is an interior designer, collaborate in the corporate decorating of the Red Carnation hotel group and, together, have designed each of the 56 rooms to be unique and special.
Raw silk wall coverings, draperies in the guest rooms with elaborate ball tassels, color coordinated fabric braid edging along the moldings and doorways, all present a stunning display of color and design. The original stable of the home has become the bar, filled with equestrian memorabilia. The conservatory is a black-and-white-themed quiet refuge from the busy street outside the front lobby. The grand Cheneston’s Restaurant was probably one of the drawing rooms and the original chapel is now the Oratory, a smaller restaurant for breakfast or afternoon tea. All of these rooms boast lead-paned windows, carved archways, coffered ceilings and detailed antique furniture to enhance the atmosphere, which is cozy and homey albeit similar to few homes most guests have ever owned.
Despite the lush character of the furnishings, which Mrs. Tollman has carefully arranged to emphasize the style and history of this English-heritage-listed property, guest rooms are fitted out with the most up-to-date electrical amenities – almost too many; it took us some searching to find the button that moves the window curtains up and down. (These bedrooms wouldn’t be so common as to require guests to pull on the curtains by hand!) And while your guest room comes equipped with goose down pillows, you can make other choices from the special pillow menu that includes anti-snore and body pillow options.
Prince William and Kate and their three royal children, as well as Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, live just across the street from the Milestone in Kensington Palace. If they ever want to get away to a private room for a getaway, they can check into the Milestone for a night.
Downstairs, the helpful staff will greet them — as they do all guests — to assist with anything and everything they could possibly want on their overnight visit, including personally guided walking tours of the area, limousines, tickets to the London shows, or walking their dog, who is allowed to stay in the hotel with them.
The property is within walking distance of some of London’s most famous museums, including the Victoria and Albert, where the gorgeous fabric and interior design exhibits will remind Milestone guests of the lush fittings right back “home” at their hotel. When enjoying all that this area has to offer, Milestone Hotel makes a perfect place to call “home” during a London getaway.