“It’s a bit of a cliché, but Mark’s Club is all about Old World elegance,” explains Tino Zervudachi, the Paris-based designer charged with reviving one of London’s most exclusive private members’ clubs. (Politicos will know that David Cameron is the most recent honorary member.) “It’s luxurious and comfortable—and it has always had impeccable service and comforting food.” Originally built as a private home, until last year the decor in this Mayfair townhouse had barely been touched since the club was first founded in 1973 by the late Mark Birley, the influential tastemaker behind legendary nightspot Annabel’s.
Though members’ clubs have existed in the British capital since the 18th century (aristocrats needed a city retreat when away from their country estates), today it’s an increasingly crowded—and razor-focused—market. London’s latest spots include 67 Pall Mall for wine aficionados and the South Kensington Club for the holistic set. So Mark’s Club’s current proprietor, Richard Caring (whose other noteworthy scene, Sexy Fish, is just across Berkeley Square), was keen to steer this beloved retreat into the 21st century while carefully preserving its aesthetic heritage.
All of which presented something of a balancing act for Zervudachi, who was allocated just five months to renovate the property, essentially gutting it from the ground up. “We installed new kitchens as well as windows, and rewired throughout,” he tells me from a site project in the Bahamas. “Some of the areas were in really poor condition. It had become a wilting flower. We needed to rejuvenate the place and add a bit of pizzazz.”
Calling on his trusted team of artisans, including guilders, specialist painters, and the custom carpet-makers Codimat, Zervudachi set about harmonizing the old with the new. From the start, the consensus was to keep two key components of the original decor: the red Fortuny fabric that covers the walls in the downstairs dining room (which is now artfully color-matched with swishy seating upholstered in Dedar’s Sansone velvet) and the sweep of blue William Morris wallpaper that extends from reception right up the staircase to the top floor.
Elsewhere, Zervudachi had carte blanche to sharpen up the first-floor bar, extend the popular smoking terrace, and generally conjure points of interest in previously neglected spots—such as the once-forlorn second-floor corner that now houses a luxurious Linley backgammon table.
Happily, the classic Birley spirit still resonates throughout, from the assorted English antique furniture that’s dotted around the drawing room to the hand-pleated silk walling fabric and recolored paisley-print carpets in the Indian Room. A surprise awaits members who ascend to the top of the townhouse where Zervudachi has conceived an impeccably chic Circus Room. Here, the bright circus-themed Fernand Léger lithographs that fill the walls give rise to a big top–style ceiling designed by Zervudachi and expertly executed by Parisian artist Laurent Chwast.
“There is a cozy and refined atmosphere in the whole club,” says Zervudachi, who is particularly gratified by the lacquered, inky blue cigar humidor he commissioned for the main dining room. “I wanted to inject some glamour and fun into the place. It should feel stylish without being too formal.”
Since Mark’s reopened late last year, it has lured a modish crowd—both Mary Katrantzou and Isa Arfen will host Fashion Week fetes there this season. Though Vetements fans should take note: The house dress code may have been relaxed in line with the newly refreshed, informal interiors, but hoodies and sneakers are still strictly taboo.