Every story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The King’s Road has all three, each with its own distinct personality and lure. Think of it like a two-mile-long body: Sloane Square its perfectly groomed face and head; the World’s End its trunk – teeming with pulsing arteries, stomach and heart – and the most excellent craftsmanship at its feet.
Dodo Sloane Square
This isn’t just any old road, you see – it is the King’s Road, paved as a thoroughfare in the 1600s for Charles II to ride through to Hampton Court Palace from Westminster. A century and a half later London’s best light drew the painters Whistler, Turner and Rossetti to nearby Cheyne Walk. They were followed by the free spirits and bohemians, Oscar Wilde, George Eliot and Augustus John and, latterly, Mary Quant, Terence Donovan and the Rolling Stones, the Sixties set who forged Swinging London.
Boggi Milano spring/summer 2016
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It was the arrival of Princess Diana and the Sloane Rangers who ringed the King’s Road and Chelsea’s return to something better resembling their original intent and title within the Royal Borough. Their spiritual stomping ground was Sloane Square, the perfect oval junction with the thoroughfare's only tube station and the Royal Court Theatre as its crown and legendary British department store Peter Jones and head of the King’s Road at its neck. Today you'll find them joined by the sweeping showrooms of DoDo, Hugo Boss, BCBGMaxazria, Tiffany and Boggi.
Rabbit cigars on the King's Road
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To its left is Duke of York Square. The polished plaza is home to the only outpost of Mary Quant – the Sixties pioneer who stitched the style of Swinging London from its King’s Road epicentre, and whose success was later emulated here by Vivienne Westwood. Her first ever store – the slope-floored boutique marked outside by its wonky, backwards-moving clock – is simply called ‘World’s End.’
The Rolling Stones' Exhibitionism, courtesy of the Rolling Stones Archive
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They're not the only London luminaries to have their helms in Chelsea, far from it. At the end of the Square lies London's most acclaimed private gallery. Charles Saatchi's contemporary beauty is set across the gleaming white floors of the perfectly Palladian Duke of York’s headquarters. It has showcased the retrospectives of Chanel, launched Chinese contemporary art to Europe and, this season, exhibits The Rolling Stones' sellout exhibition, Exhibitionism.
Interior of The Botanist, Beaufort House
If the start of the King's Road is all about fashion, fashion, fashion, what you like to see and wear, then its middle is ripe for indulgence. Here restaurantrepreneur Richard Caring is threatening to recreate his renowned ripple effect on this slice of the strip with The Ivy Chelsea Garden, its classic glamour, privileged chatter and sweeping courtyard remindful of The Chateau Marmont. Elsewhere sate your tastebuds on Pan Asian at Eight Over Eight or, next door, Marco Pierre White’s dry-aged steaks. At Bluebird, the sweeping Terence Conran legend, you can drink and dine in the former Art Deco motoring garage, people watch from the courtyard and shop for food, edibles and fashion.
With a concentration of specialist and concept grooming and wellbeing (SP and Co is the state-of-the-art private fitness and wellness centre, Ushvani a super-luxe private spa), and beauty (Liz Earle, Sarah Chapman and a host of others are primed to preen you) outposts, it's no wonder the Chelsea look is so polished, manicured, toned and sleek.
The Chelsea Pensioners at The Royal Hospital courtesy of LondononView
The beauty of the King’s Road goes beyond the skin deep: the clues to the thoroughfare’s foot begin at World’s End, where a bouquet of luxury design stores beckon. For, just when you think its all over, the King's Road delivers its jaw-dropping finale. The green Furniture and Arts Building, a maze of superlative antiques and design showrooms cornering famous Lots Road heralds the start of the spectacular Chelsea Design Quarter. Here, you'll find the largest, finest and most diverse selection of interior design specialists in the UK – from ceramics from Paris to leather chairs from Bath, classic and contemporary, handmade and bespoke. Like the gift that just keeps on giving, the King’s Road unveils luxury, discovery and magic at every turn.