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In London, small rooms, big savings and lots of luxury

In London, small rooms, big savings and lots of luxury
The Portobello Hotel features a colorful front desk. (The Portobello Hotel)

Here’s my problem: I want to stay in a centrally located London hotel that combines thoughtful design and attentive service with a touch of luxury — you know, those little details, such as a heated towel rack in a bathroom stocked with big fluffy white towels, maybe some Penhaligon’s or Molton Brown toiletries and a deep soaking tub — but I don’t want to spend more than 220 pounds per night, including tax.

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That may sound like a lot — about $260 a night — but consider this: A late October stay at the Savoy would run about $935 a night. Even the U.S. State Department allows employees traveling to London a per-diem of $299 a night.

I’ve found a solution: Many four- and five-star London townhouse hotels sell their coziest rooms at a relatively affordable price.

These rooms, often on the highest floors, usually offer the same fine bed linens, 24-hour room service and elegant marble-clad bathrooms you would find in the bigger and much more expensive rooms.

Before we continue, two things you need to know:

►Because some of these rooms sleep only one person, make sure to choose “one guest” when searching on websites to ensure the smaller rooms show up.

►Prices listed here include tax and reflect the lowest rates I found for off-peak travel, but rates and rooms are as always subject to availability. Demand often increases prices or, conversely, lowers them.

Draycott Hotel

The five-star, 35-room Draycott Hotel doesn’t mince words: “Single rooms are small,” it says on its website. How small? About 123 square feet, slightly less than the lowest-category cabin on many cruise ships.

Even so, you’ll get a power shower in the bathroom, free Wi-Fi, individual climate control and satellite TV.

With rates starting about $199 a night, the price is hard to beat, especially because your stay includes complimentary afternoon tea and shortbread cookies (baked fresh by the managing director’s wife) and, each evening, a free Champagne happy hour (it’s the real deal, not sparkling white wine) served in the comfy sitting room. Guests also can enjoy the large private garden out back.

Info: 26 Cadogan Gardens, London; draycotthotel.com

Batty Langley’s

Batty Langley’s bills itself as a "most unusual small hotel."
Batty Langley’s bills itself as a "most unusual small hotel." (Batty Langley’s)

In East London’s Spitalfields district is a luxury townhouse establishment called Batty Langley’s. (“An unusual name, we admit, for a most unusual small hotel,” its website says.)

It rents a 107-square-foot “box room,” so called because that’s where they would have stored the boxes in days of yore, for about $199 a night if you choose the right dates.

This snug hideaway is decorated like a ship’s cabin with a sleigh bed built for one and calls to mind the room depicted in pre-Raphaelite painter Henry Wallis’ “The Death of Chatterton,” hanging in the Tate Gallery. (It’s much more luxurious than the lifeless young poet’s garret depicted in the painting.)

Info: 12 Folgate St.; battylangleys.com

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Bloomsbury Hotel

The Bloomsbury Hotel, a short walk from the British Museum, offers “cosy” rooms (173 square feet) decorated in soothing creams and taupes.

Enjoy the bathroom’s heated marble floors, just like those in rooms costing twice as much, along with plush bathrobes, Nespresso coffee makers and luxurious duck down duvets, for about $260.

Even though you’re paying a lot less than other guests, you can still join a free 70-minute walking tour of the storied neighborhood at 11 a.m. Saturdays, led by a licensed Blue Badge Guide.

Info: 16-22 Great Russell St.

Portobello Hotel

A common area at the Portobello Hotel.
A common area at the Portobello Hotel. (The Portobello Hotel)

At the 21-room Portobello Hotel in London’s Notting Hill, steps from the famous Portobello Road Market, “box” rooms offer single beds for solo travelers; “cosy” rooms come with a double bed.

Whatever size you book, you get a free continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, Nespresso machines and bottled mineral water. I found rates as low as $243 for the box rooms (110 square feet); the larger cosy rooms cost about the same or slightly more.

Info: 22 Stanley Gardens, London, portobellohotel.com

Dean Street Townhouse Hotel

The Dean Street Townhouse Hotel offers “tiny” and “cosy” rooms (160-180 square feet). Rates vary widely depending on season, but some nights you can book a room for about $209.

The 39-room hotel, part of the exclusive Soho House group, sits halfway between Oxford Street and Covent Garden.

Info: 69-71 Dean St., deanstreettownhouse.com

Flemings Mayfair

Flemings Mayfair's drawing room offers traditional afternoon tea service daily.
Flemings Mayfair's drawing room offers traditional afternoon tea service daily. (Flemings Mayfair)

With 129 rooms, Flemings Mayfair offers a “tiny single room” (86 square feet) as well as “deluxe single” rooms (129 square feet), in the city’s fancy Mayfair section.

Nightly rates for the tiny singles run about $230; the deluxe singles cost around $26 more per night.

No matter what the rate, you get nightly turn-down service, free Wi-Fi, marble baths and 24-hour room service.

Info: 7-12 Half Moon St., flemings-mayfair.co.uk

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