The dominant feature of The Connaught’s hallway is the magnificent staircase – famously admired and copied by Ralph Lauren, who was a regular guest, for his Madison Avenue store. Its original architect specified that it was built to allow two women to walk down it side by side – presumably with wide skirts.
The staircase itself is of solid teak, which was readily available at the time Maple was building it in the 1890s, but every tread was grained to look like mahogany, which was then regarded as smarter. Opening up the staircase made a huge impact on the guests' perception of the hotel. The carpet design was based on a fragment of a 1920s Venetian carpet, which helps to give life to the interior stairwell; the red border is the same as the stair carpet in Buckingham Palace.
You will see that there are systems at work on the wood-panelled walls of the staircase. As you go up, a picture of a hound or dog greets you as you arrive at each of the hotel’s floors – there to give a feeling of homecoming. As you go down the stairs from any given floor of the hotel, you’ll notice a painting of a horse – as if to wish guests ‘Godspeed’ on whatever journey they might make from the hotel. Similarly, you’ll see an 18th-century old dame at the top of the stairs, and the women depicted get more glamorous as you go down – including a portrait by the Hungarian artist Arpad Migl of a stunning young woman in a sheer dress.
The hotel changed its name to The Connaught in 1917. The Duke of Connaught was Queen Victoria's seventh child and favourite son (1840-1932) and we have a number of photographs of him on the stairs – prints taken from glass plates in the royal collection archive, which haven't been printed anywhere else. They were found wrapped in brown paper and we were given permission to print them. We created little silver plaques to describe each occasion being depicted. He gets younger as you go downstairs.
On every landing but one there are 18th and 19th-century long-case clocks, and a genuine gravity clock on the chimneypiece in reception. There are also antique clocks in all the suites.
On the first floor next to the shoe-shine is a painting by Edgar Bundy of Charles II presenting his mistress, Barbara Villiers, to court. It was originally in the Hampstead Public Library, and Maple bought it for the 1897 opening.
The second floor landing has a cluster of Venetian paintings, while on the third floor is a concentration of hunting scenes which came from the original Connaught Grill – many regular guests were very fond of these.
Two grand commodes, copies made by Maple of the commode that Napoleon had at Malmaison, were originally located in one of the suites but subsequently re-sited onto the landings on the first and second floors
There are four particular engravings of anthropomorphic dogs hanging in the main stairwell – they appear to have almost human faces.