London is home to a dizzying array of private members clubs, but none can rival Home House. The undisputed grande dame of the capital’s social scene, the club is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, with a whole host of hedonistic events to mark the occasion. But it’s not just over the last quarter-century that the Georgian townhouse has been delighting the capital with its riotous soirées – the building itself dates back to the 18th century, when it was built by the Countess of Home, who earned herself the nickname ‘the Queen of Hell’ for her madcap antics.
In London society, anyone who’s anyone has spent a debauched night at Home House. Madonna chose the club’s Lady Islington suite to be her home while her London house was being renovated, and this is where Annie Lennox held her fairy-tale wedding. Famed for its discretion, young royals have come here to party until the early hours, and you’re likely to bump into anyone from George Clooney to Paul McCartney in the bar. But while over the last 25 years Home House has become a place where the great and the glamorous can go to let their hair down, its history dates back much further, to when it was founded by a particularly spirited aristocrat.
It was originally built in 1773 for the Countess of Home, a grand and incredibly wealthy woman, known for being one of the richest ladies in all of London. She commissioned James Wyatt and Robert Adam, one of the most celebrated architects of his day, to design the Grade I-listed building as a sophisticated palace designed purely for enjoyment, a place where she could entertain London’s high society. Today, it’s acknowledged as Robert Adam’s finest surviving London townhouse.
A young widower, the Countess of Home soon made a name for herself as a notorious bon vivant, with contemporaries referring to her “irascible behaviour and lavish parties”. In society, she earned herself a nickname: ‘the Queen of Hell’. She was known for holding debauched soirées, and was often seen disappearing into her chambers with young men while well into her sixties. All her most louche and scandalous evenings were held in the Georgian townhouse at 20 Portman Square, which would become one of the most notorious addresses in London.
It became affectionately known as Home House, and would later become the residence of the Duke of Newcastle and Anthony Blunt, who both now have opulent suites named after them at the club. This is also where Earl Grey tea first became popular, after Charles, 2nd Earl Grey occupied the property from 1812 – 1819 and Lady Grey used it to entertain the political establishment of the time. But it is Home House’s original inhabitant that continues to course through the veins of this hedonistic establishment.
After being vacant for nearly a decade, the building was meticulously restored to its former glory and opened as a private members’ club in 1998. In a bid to mark themselves out from their stuffy competitors on Pall Mall, the club decided to launch with an ‘anything goes’ approach, creating the first club of its kind that didn’t have any rules at all (except that nudity was “discouraged”). Now spread across three buildings on Marylebone’s chic Portman Square, it continues to attract free-spirited members, who average 20,000 bottles of champagne a year between them.
Today, Home House seamlessly manages to blend 18th century splendour with 21st century style. There’s a brasserie-style restaurant overlooking Portman Square, which serves up dishes made with the finest British seasonal produce, and five glamorous bars to choose from, each of which was tailor made for decadent soirées. In the summer, the club’s sun-filled garden is the place to be, while in the colder months it houses a winter lounge, complete with mulled wine served from a samovar and day-beds for lounging on. There’s also a boutique spa and gym on-site, featuring state-of-the-art equipment as well as a sauna, steam room and relaxation room.
For those who can’t quite face making the journey home at the end of the night, the club also has 23 luxuriously appointed bedrooms, which are also open to non-members. Each one has a story to tell, with hand-painted silk wallpaper and shimmering gold ceilings, but it’s the suites that really impress. Most are bigger than the average London flat and feature staggering period details. The deep red marble in the Lady Islington suite’s bathroom comes from the same stone used in the floor of the dome in St. Paul’s Cathedral, while a bath made for His Highness Say Aji Rao III, Maharajah Gaekwad of Baroda is now in the Duke of Atholl’s suite on the third floor.
The most recent addition to the club is House 21, which opened in 2010 after the Home House investors purchased the adjacent No. 21 Portman Square with the vision of fusing the old with the new. The grandeur and glamour of the existing buildings at 19 and 20 were merged with the dazzlingly modern and newly refurbished House 21. Legendary architect Zaha Hadid was drafted in for the project, creating a series of futuristic sculptural islands for the space, while Candy and Candy completed the refurbishment. With its flamboyantly colourful décor, it remains a favourite spot for members to let loose and have a good time.
To celebrate the club’s milestone birthday, Home House has recently been holding a series of spectacularly glamorous events. First up was a special dinner last month, which saw the likes of Lennon Gallagher, Amber Le Bon and Freddy Knatchbull, the great-grandson of Earl Mountbatten, descend upon the club in their finery. Then came their hotly anticipated annual Halloween extravaganza, which saw the club transformed with eerie entertainment and show-stopping performances. Finally, their 25th Anniversary New Year’s Eve Ball is set to take place on 31 December, as the piece de resistance. We can’t think of anywhere better to usher in 2024 with a bang.
Bedroom rates for non-members start from £275 per night for a Club Room, and social membership starts from £1,100 per annum with full membership priced at £2,250 per annum.
Home House, 20 Portman Square, Marylebone, London W1H 6LW