The name Soho house is definitely no coincidence. It refers to the founding location of the first Soho House in the Soho neighbourhood of London, more precisely on 40 Greek Street, in a vacant space above founder Nick Jones’s French Restaurant “Boheme”. When the premises became vacant in 1995, Jones seized the opportunity to start a unique project. His vision was to create a vibrant meeting spot for the many young actors and artists who would frequently come to dine at his restaurant. In an interview with the magazine Eater, Jones explains: “We wanted it to be creative and like-minded, and for people who were at ease with themselves”. Attracting a young and creative audience, the overall atmosphere in the Soho House was thus very different to the rather old-fashioned private members’ clubs in London at the time.
After an initial expansion in the UK countryside by building Babington House in Somerset, Jones decided to take on the United States, launching a Soho House in New York’s Meatpacking District in 2003. The New York House was the first with a rooftop swimming pool, a feature that later became a trademark for consecutive city locations. Two more openings in the London area followed between 2006 and 2007, in Chiswick and Shoreditch, before commencing the venture into Europe with the construction of a House in Berlin in 2010. Finally, in 2019, after various projects in many more vibrant locations, the group entered Asia with two Houses in Mumbai and Hong Kong. As of now, there are 27 Soho houses in 10 countries, with many more openings on the horizon, including but not limited to Tel Aviv, Paris, and Austin. The most recent openings include the Soho House in Rome, which is supposed to be followed by one in Milan — we shall stay tuned!
The group did not only expand in its hospitality branch but also decided to include restaurants in its portfolio early on. Soho House acquired London’s beloved Italian restaurant Cecconi’s in 2003, intending to redesign its concept by creating a more laid-back vibe along with an all-day menu and excellent bar service. Today there are twelve Cecconi’s restaurants worldwide in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Next to various renowned restaurants within the London area such as Dean Street Townhouse, Maya, and High Road Brasserie, Soho House has added the Mykonos beach restaurant Scorpios to its repertoire. It was founded by two members of the Soho House in Berlin and situated just next to the Mykonos Soho Roc House. Scorpios serves its young crowd with a “holistic beach experience”, creating a “lifestyle and a community that people feel a part of”.
Maintaining the desired vibe and audience, Soho House has implemented strict rules of conduct combined with a tough admission policy. Unlike other members-only clubs, where admission is primarily based on wealth and status, Soho House favors people who can enrich the community through their creative vocation. In the case of undesirable behavioral tendencies, intervention is immediate. For example, after an influx of stiff Wall Street businessmen following the opening of the New York House, according to Jones, the House “didn’t have the right feel anymore”, leading him to kick out around 400 unwanted members and establish a ban on suits within the premises. In general, quality is more important to him than quantity; an admission committee decides on which of the 140,000 plus hopefuls on the waiting list to grant membership, requiring with the application form a recommendation letter from a current Soho House member.
Another aspect that has undoubtedly played an integral role in the international establishment of the Soho House brand is the curated design of its spaces. The thriving in-house team of around 60 designers and architects works with a consistent design language. In an interview with Dezeen, Nick Jones explains: “I think that, above all, it’s got to be comfortable”. Accordingly, the typical Soho House style is
characterized by a cosy and lived-in atmosphere, created through a particular mix of materials, textures, and style references. Much of the furniture has a certain vintage feel as if it was locally sourced. While maintaining its signature style, the design team also incorporates local elements in line with the project’s context and setting. In an interview with Forbes, Luca Mazzullo, Head of Membership for the new Soho House in Rome, points out, “You can feel straightaway that this is Soho House, but […] you can also feel the local touch.” He explains that the team “took inspiration from the local area for the façade and interiors and worked with a number of Italian craftspeople to create a unique space.”
Over the years, Soho House has turned more and more into a lifestyle brand, fostering various innovations. Members and non-members can bring the Soho House aesthetic to their homes through the launch of the e-commerce platform Soho Home in 2016, where each collection is designed according to the pieces seen in the current Houses. Jones and his team also observed a growing use of the Soho House amenities for home office purposes, leading him to open 2020 the first co-working space Soho Work.
Through expanding the Soho House brand and exploiting the exclusivity created by the subscription-based model, Jones and his team are optimistic regarding future profitability. In June 2021, Soho House went public in New York under the name Membership Collective Group with a valuation of $2.8 bn after raising $240m in an initial public offering. Jones told the Financial Times that by adopting an aggressive growth strategy, the Group aims to be net profitable by 2022.