Around the world in 80 clubs
n the novel by Jules Verne, Phileas Fogg wagered his fortune before his acquaintances at the Reform Club in London, claiming that he would be able to go around the world in 80 days. If the bet were repeated today in one of the Soho House clubs, there would be a clause stipulating that there would have to be a film or documentary, a script or a videogame about the journey.
Soho House members are not wealthy aristocrats with stately homes in the country. They are artists, filmmakers, journalists, publicists and technological entrepreneurs. They pay an annual fee (between $1,200 and $2,000) to meet up, work, make new contacts, go to the spa or gym or, above all, to see and be seen in the restaurant or rooftop pool.
Do you want to be a member?
If you would like to join the nearly 60,000 Soho House members from all over the world, or at least be one of the 30,000 applicants on the waiting list, you only need to fill in an application explaining what you do and get references from two members. A committee will assess your application.
Like all clubs, Soho House has its house rules. The most important ones are: business suits are prohibited and no one may use their phone for either making calls or taking photos. To become a member you don’t have to be rich and famous. Actually, Kim Kardashian hasn’t been accepted, although she has applied on several occasions, and a couple of years ago 500 Wall Street bigwigs were expelled from Soho House New York because the management wanted to recapture the creative vibe.
‘In the Soho Houses people need to feel at home, not as if they were in a shareholders’ meeting’, says Nick Jones, the founder. In 1995, the Brit (53) opened the first Soho House at 40 Greek Street, in London. His goal, to modernise the concept of the traditional gentleman’s club and create a home away from home for all kinds of creative people. A club where they could spend the day, and the night if necessary, because some have hotels open to the general public, like the Cecconi’s and Dirty Burger restaurants, and the Cowshed spas.
Ever since then, he has decided to make it easier for Phileas Fogg to find accommodation on his journey around the world, and he has opened Soho Houses in Barcelona, Istanbul, New York, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, Berlin and Los Angeles. There are also Soho Houses for spending the weekend in the country: Soho Farmhouse, in Oxfordshire, and Babington House, a Georgian mansion in Somerset. Besides Amsterdam, future projects include clubs in Asia, specifically in Tokyo, where Tadao Ando is already designing a building, Mumbai and Hong Kong.
Jones is very proud of the fact that the Soho House style, this emotional design that creates emotive links with the places, has become the synonym of wellness that all interior designers hope to achieve. In the hotels, the most important feature is the beds, which have to be big and comfortable.
This might be the reason – or perhaps because it’s possible to have dinner without having to worry about the people at the next table taking photos – why Hollywood stars choose Soho House to celebrate their birthdays. The people staying in the hotels are also allowed to enter the members-only areas, though they have to respect the house rules: Never publish in Instagram what – or who – you see in the club.