Once a month, I stay in London during the week, which allows me to enjoy a bit more of ‘city life’ after client meetings. I usually stay in hotels (and you can read various reviews here on the blog), but this time around, I tried something different. onefinestay, who provide luxury apartment rentals in London, Paris, NYC, Los Angeles and now Rome, invited me to stay at one of their London properties.
If you think onefinestay follows the model of airbnb or something similar – forget about it. Every property on their books is exclusively theirs (and it is someone’s real home) and they offer all the services that make the onefinestay experience come to life – and I will show you what that means exactly in a minute. They are not a ‘platform’ where A and B come together – if you own a luxury home in one of their cities, onefinestay will manage your property for you and market it. The sheets, the towels, the cleaning crews, the concierge services – they are all theirs. And that was absolutely key for me – I really want to know I have someone I can call 24/7 in case something goes wrong.
I chose Marylebone as my London location – an area I know very well and absolutely love. I was sent a selection of available properties on my dates and overnight they were all booked bar 1. James Street II was the one left and the apartment where we stayed.
You book through the website and/or telephone and you receive an email with all the information about your booking. For security reasons, you will need to name any other guests and are also invited to download the onefinestay app where you can manage your booking, find directions, things to do in the area and learn more about the property. I was super impressed with the process, to be honest.
We had organised for a 4pm check-in as I had other appointments later in the evening (coincidentally one of them being a reception organised by onefinestay to celebrate its recent acquisition by Accor Hotels). My check in host texted me to introduce himself and asked me to let him know when I was going to arrive so he would come down to the building door, let me in and also help me with my luggage.
My check-in time was slightly earlier than the onefinestay team had expected (but pre-agreed), so interestingly when I arrived, the cleaners were still on property. I actually found it fascinating to see how the final part was carried out – the supervisor took photos of every detail of the property, namely the security tags (more on those later) which I thought was very reassuring for both sides.
My check-in host walked me around the apartment, showing me where things were, how things worked and explained to me what the tags were – basically, all onefinestay apartments are real people’s homes so part of their personal property stays in the house, in cupboards/wardrobes, of course, which are sealed. If I tried to snoop around, the seal would break. Again, very clever.
I was also given my own iPhone with a local SIM card – which every guest gets and introduced to the onefinestay app, which really was useful. It included the house manual and instructions, one-click access to onefinestay’s team – by phone, text, email, whatever suited me -, and local recommendations which I particularly liked.
My ID was confirmed and verified and I also left a £1,000 security deposit (payment was taken by credit card over the phone during the check-in process).
Our apartment was located on James Street, in Marylebone, across the road from St. Christopher’s Place. It had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a living room/kitchen/dining room. Interestingly, there were some mentions of Mayfair as the neighbourhood, but it absolutely isn’t as it is on the North side of Oxford Street. In all honesty, I did want an apartment in Marylebone, one of the few central London neighbourhoods who really still feels like a (lovely) village and I did not understand why the need to mention Mayfair at all. I love Mayfair, don’t get me wrong – I really do.
James Street is busy and close to many outdoor restaurants and cafes – I was worried about the noise at night, but have nothing to report on that front. Everything shut before 11pm and the double-glazing did its job well.
We had 2 sets of keys and never had a problem.
The apartment was light, bright and spacious, as you can see from the photos below.
This was the most ‘clinical’ room in the house, decor-wise but very functional. We had half of the wardrobe for our own use and access to an en suite bathroom.
It lacked a full-length mirror (which I suspect would be inside the sealed wardrobe doors) and I asked if it would be possible to have one – magically, the next day it appeared while I was out in meetings. The hairdryer (which you can see on the right bedside table) also wasn’t excellent, and would be one of the details I would improve.
The mattress and bed linen were great – no complaints there – but I found the pillows too hard, and so did Mr. O, who is not as picky as me in this department. As a proud owner of Sofitel pillows at home (which are the best ever), I hope this is one of the areas that can be improved – it really would make for an excellent addition to the experience. On a personal note, I did not love having the towels on the bed – I would have preferred for them to be in their place, in the bathroom.
The master bathroom
I loved the bathroom. And what I loved about it the most is that it had the same Hansgrohe taps and ‘Starck for Duravit’ loo we have at home. I know how much these cost (believe me) and the whole apartment really was very well appointed, so to speak.
This bathroom had an unusual layout with a bath tub and then a walk-in shower, which I thought it was a very clever use of space. We had 2 sets of towels and The White Company toiletries which were very nice. We had enough for more than the 3 days of our stay.
The second bedroom and bathroom
The apartment had a twin second bedroom and a separate bathroom which followed the same clean design and high spec. We did not use them during our stay.
The kitchen, dining area and lounge were all in the same room and I thought the space flowed well – the kitchen had everything you could need and more – and I did appreciate the Miele appliances. Obviously it had a coffee maker, a kettle and a variety of cooking appliances (which we did not use). I did like that the pots & pans were the same Le Creuset ones we have at home – but again, we only had wine and used the fridge for drinks. I almost had a ‘seal’ tampering episode once I opened the fridge as I saw a perfume bottle and was going to put it away. But then realised that these items were left intentionally there and obviously did not touch them!
We had a little welcome hamper which included milk, tea, bottled water, popcorn and some other small items. I liked that there were plenty of books and useful guides which I had a look at. I tell no lies!
I ended up spending part of my days here, and found it a very nice place to work – and watch a bit of TV. It offered Sky satellite, so I knew how to work the controls and found it very homely.
WiFi was very fast and there were plugs everywhere for all the devices you could want. There was also a washing machine (which we did not use), ironing board and iron (which we did use).
I had to check out early in the morning, so I was told to leave the iPhone charging (which I did, of course), and the keys on the kitchen table. I later received a text message confirming everything was fine and my deposit was returned quickly.
We had a very comfortable stay at this apartment and bizarrely it did feel like home. I know the area very well and booked all my meetings nearby and kept coming in and out of the apartment and loved having a key.
Things that can be improved:
- Pillows and hairdryer
- Having towels on the towel rack
Things that I loved:
- I loved knowing that I had someone to call at any time not only if something went wrong, but also if I wanted, say, restaurant reservations. I felt there was a real company behind it, and a very professional one at that.
- The app was very clever – and they made it super easy to get in touch with the team. And I loved the ‘Call an Uber’ feature – you didn’t even have to know your address.
- House was spotless and I felt comfortable using everything that was at my disposal
Have you stayed at an apartment during a trip? What were your thoughts?
Disclaimer: I was a guest of onefinestay on this occasion and really enjoyed the service. Opinions are, as always, my own – and I have no problem recommending it to any of my readers. Prices for a one night stay at James Street II start from £240 per night based on two people staying at the flat and including all onefinestay services. To book or for more information visit onefinestay.com or call + 44 207 167 2524.