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Collage of ME Dubai, including the exterior of the building, the sleek bedrooms and the luxury pool area

Checking in to ME Dubai, the ‘legacy project’ of Zaha Hadid

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to ME Dubai, the ‘legacy project’ of Zaha Hadid

We set renowned furniture designer Rock Galpin a comfortable mission to kickstart the year: to write the exclusive design review of ME Dubai, the brainchild of the late Zaha Hadid, which has become the destination’s latest architectural marvel…

Collage of ME Dubai, including the exterior of the building, the sleek bedrooms and the luxury pool area

Being a designer myself, and familiar with the pioneering and expansive body of work of Zaha Hadid since her very first project, I was very much looking forward to reviewing the recently opened ME Dubai, which is sheltered inside The Opus.

Known as Hadid’s ‘legacy project’, ME Dubai is the only hotel in the world to have both its interiors and exteriors designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) – and its futuristic architecture, characterised by curves, sharp angles and bold materials epitomises the studio’s unique design style.

An exterior shot of the Opus

Image caption: Set in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa district, the Opus is a mixed-use mirrored glass building, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, that shelters ME Hotel’s latest property. | Image credit: ME Dubai

Inside the 93-key hotel you can find lighting, furniture, patterns, bespoke-shaped products, rugs and seamless features and detailing, all of which have been designed by the forward-thinking studio – it really is a celebration of Hadid’s full scope of work and will be remembered, no doubt, for this.

Following Hadid’s passing, Christos Passas, who recently won Architect of the Year at The Brit List Awards 2020, was responsible for the project that aimed to ‘leave its mark’ in the urban space of Dubai. “I think the idea of having a coherent approach, to both interior and exterior design, is very compelling and indeed it requires a whole lot of commitment by the designer,” he told Hotel Designs. “We were given the opportunity to transit intellectually and emotionally from an architectural, large scale project to the finer details of the building that have to do with the user interfaces and the experience of the visitor. Such a context can allow designers to develop more holistic experiences for the user and to express the clients vision in a much more consistent and eloquent way.”

First impressions count

Having recovered in awe from taking in the huge glass cube facade and amorphic structure of the building in person, the entrance into the hotel itself is subtle and aptly plays down your reaction to what is to follow, with its minimal led forecourt dot lights, at night, tracing a suggested route to the door for cars. The proceeding experience, as you head into the reception is simply quite special.

Approaching the lobby, I was not surprised to be suitably impressed by the vast and completely and utterly unique parametric design styling of the four-storey atrium.

An image to show the expansive atrium inside the ME Dubai

Image caption: The expansive atrium inside the ME Dubai, which is a strong first impression. | Image credit: ME Dubai

“Here, all the rules are broken and re-written with inspiring results.”

Sweeping and fluid mezzanine balconies flow in rhythm around all floors, traced by a light channel and a sloped-in continuous glass railing at an impossible angle. There are so many examples of bold innovation and experimentation which demonstrate very advanced design vision and engineering feats indeed. Hadid’s undulating, fluid and visually engaging design typology references, for me, a soft bio mimicry that clearly push the technological boundaries of materials, fabrication and build possibilities. Here the rules are not only being broken they are being re-written with inspiring results.

Whilst the atrium is an addictive dream for any photographer, myself included, it does somehow feel perhaps lacking a little something if it’s aiming to house a ‘warm’ hotel reception. Therefore, I question whether the design in this space is too hard – are softer acoustics and materials absent? Some would argue that as a hotel lobby, the space is too sparse (or too white perhaps).

Close up of furniture in the atrium at ME Dubai

Image caption: ME Dubai is the only hotel in the world only hotel in the world to have both its interiors and exteriors designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA). | Image credit: ME Dubai

The large oval-shaped seating zones carefully positioned around, which feature built-in sweeping curved sofas, provide neat social areas that create necessary micro enclaves of activity. These softer social spaces, within a vastly white atrium, work well but feel almost not enough to create warmth, softness and a welcoming feeling. In fact, it feels a little sterile – a tad cold – but nonetheless, no one can argue against this space being spectacular! When the hotel is up to speed, with a healthy occupancy and the vibrancy and colour of many guests, it may fill that void.

“If you love progressive architecture and interior design that pushes the boundaries, bringing interior typology and technology closer to us, then you will no doubt be impressed with ME Dubai.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hotel Designs: What will you remember most about the hotel?
Rock Galpin: The dynamic and compelling relationship between architecture and interior design and the emotive impact that this parametric based design has when experienced first hand.

HD: What should guests experience when checking in?
RG: DESEO Restaurant, bar and pool complete with Ibiza DJ, and the Wagu steak and Rum sponge. The 18:00 ‘lights on’ till 00:00 where the building’s facade comes to life with LEDs – most notable is the inner ‘hole’ which is more intensely lit.

HK: What could be improved?
RG: The extreme, experimental interior is impressive to say the least, however, there needs to be a further appraisal of how people feel in this space; how they react, how they interact and their needs in order to improve guest engagement. Despite the staff being lovely, the service throughout the hotel was, when I checked in at least, a little erratic.

HK: What was your favourite area of the hotel?
RG: DESEO restaurant and bar and of course the atrium.

HK: Can you describe the hotel in a sentence or two?
RG: This is a unique and inspiring hotel to be experienced first-hand. If you love progressive architecture and interior design that pushes the boundaries, bringing interior typology and technology closer to us, then you will no doubt be impressed with ME Dubai.

Between spaces, an often-forgotten part of the hotel experience

There’s a lovely journey to be had when walking from your room to most parts of the hotel, as you’re pleasurably forced to walk along the atrium mezzanines taking in beautiful elevated views of the upper floors. Aside from the DESEO restaurant and pool area, there is a distinctive lack of outdoor space in the hotel, so you do feel somewhat incubated with some light passing through the atrium roof.

Guestrooms and Suites

I had the opportunity to explore two category rooms; the standard Aura room at 47m squared and the much larger Personality Suite at 92m square. There are two colour schemes. Desert is much more subtle – think spiritual and cool. Meanwhile, the Midnight Blue scheme is deeper and more intimate that also packs a masculine punch. Both are equally as beautiful and any decision for either style will be down to personal preference.

Aura Room

The first impression of the generously sized Aura room was of light – there’s lots of it – from floor-to-ceiling windows which span the width of the whole room. The beds are quite something! Not only are they large, but they are super comfortable, with an angled cushioned Alcantara headrest at 45 degrees, which works really well.

The built-in cantilever bedside tables are a well-considered feature – there are no ugly plug sockets in sight. Instead, these are hidden under the table with a useful, minimal touchtronic operated black light arm sprouting upwards from the tables, with two useful USB ports at the base. The bed base also features flat areas to the frame that extend useful seats, which works well with the complementary, asymmetric matching rug underneath.

“No wall was perpendicular to another.”

As I started to look more at the interior, I was surprised to realised that no wall was perpendicular to another and that many materials are cut on the angle or applied in complex shapes. The full marble bathroom, for example, white in the Aura and black in the Personality Suites, runs on the diagonal in both directions, so the pieces are actually rhombus shaped. These features very much reflect the entire design approach, to experiment and push the limits of what has conventionally been done up until now.

Personality Suite

The Personality Suite, similar to the Passion Suite, is 92m square and is one of the hotels larger mid-level rooms. It’s differentiated by a separate lounge/dining area and two bathrooms, one with bath, double sinks and shower cubicle the other with toilet, bidet and another sink. The Midnight Blue suite felt special. The deep blues and darker colour scheme had more contrast to that of the Desert scheme. The black and white quartz streaked marble throughout the whole bathroom is beautiful, offset by the amorphic ZHA shaped double sink and mirrors, with parametric laser etched patination.

“The technology in the rooms match the design form in being progressive.”

All bathroom fittings are designed by ZHA and follow suit to studio’s typology. The technology in the rooms match the design form in being progressive, with touch plates on many walls for the double-skinned electric curtains and lighting throughout. In fact, download the ME Hotels App and you have full mobile electrical control of the entire suite, including the two large TVs.

The lounge area, complete with the boomerang shaped ZHA sofa and beautifully crafted dark wood desk blended in and, looks aesthetically harmonious. However, the comfort and desire to want to use this space was sorely missing. The sofas are extremely hard, no doubt to retain the sculpted form, but off-putting in terms of comfort and relaxation, where the lounge should be king.

Image caption: A ZHA designed sofa in one of the Midnight Blue themed suites in the hotel.

Image caption: A ZHA designed sofa in one of the Midnight Blue themed suites. | Image credit: ME Dubai

The F&B experience

The F&B journey within the luxury hotel starts on the ground floor. Botanica, described as a gin bar, features an Italian accent throughout and doubles as a lunchtime restaurant. It occupies part of the lobby, where the reception dominates with its music, reverberation and activity that is heard through the pale-slatted wooden walls of the bar. The space is soft, comfortable and pleasant, lending itself more to a relaxed lounge bar/restaurant.

Meanwhile, Central is the designated breakfast restaurant that seems quite lifeless outside of breakfast time, inward looking to the Atrium, which gives you the opportunity to take more of those lovely views in. This would seem a hard, austere place for a morning bite, however, despite the reverberation from lower down, the experience was actually very pleasant being relaxed and quite peaceful.

Where the Botanica, on the ground floor, is perhaps lacking some atmosphere, DESEO makes up for it ten-fold – in fact it is real contrast in most ways and a very welcome part of the hotel experience. This is where the up-tempo vibes lives.

The design of the restaurant uses Downtown skyscrapers as a backdrop and contrasts this with a leafy green design scheme that is simply lovely. With a raised freestanding bar and a wooden pergola adorned by a thousand wind cones, the impression was of movement and energy, mix that with a DJ on an Ibiza-style white podium – his back to a rectangular pool lined by sun loungers one side, slatted cabana’s the other – you realise DESEO has what it takes.

The gym is a generous in size and a pleasant space to work up a good sweat. there is also a sauna, which is an intimate small, pined welcome addition. On the fourth floor, a little bit out the way, but worth a trip just for the quirky space complete with high tech curved glass, as it’s on the cusp of the atrium’s ceiling curving into the vertical inner ‘void’ wall is a specialist massage treatment facility.

An industrial-styled gym in ME Dubai

Image caption: The hotel features a state-of-the-art industrial-style gym. | Image credit: ME Dubai

In addition, and not to be missed, there are two excellent restaurants, which are also part of The Opus building. The Maine is a big favourite of mine, from interior to food quality, and Roka restaurant is also a fantastic new asset to the local area.

Standing out in a city like Dubai, which is no shrinking violet, is one thing. But sheltering an interior design scheme that is equally as impressive as its architecture is an almost impossible task. The interior design scheme inside ME Dubai seamlessly compliments the buildings unique architectural form and meets, I would argue, the ever-changing demands of modern travellers and in-the-know locals alike.

Over and out,

Rock.

Main image credit: ME Dubai

3_Standard King Guest Room_Hotel Carmichael_credit-Coury Hospitality

Miniview: Hotel Carmichael, Autograph Collection strikes a chord

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Miniview: Hotel Carmichael, Autograph Collection strikes a chord

Timeless, neoclassical interiors and intricate details, designed by HBA, salute America’s rich musical legacy inside the recently completed Hotel Carmichael, Autograph Collection. Editor Hamish Kilburn explores…

3_Standard King Guest Room_Hotel Carmichael_credit-Coury Hospitality

Hospitality interior design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) has completed the design of Hotel Carmichael, Autograph Collection. Created to inspire an enduring journey through history and provoke continued revival, the 122-key, six-story hotel is an architectural masterpiece located adjacent to The Palladium—one of the greatest music halls of its time—which houses the Great American Songbook in downtown Carmel, Ind. along the Monon Trail.

Guided by the melody, harmony, rhythm and soul from the Golden Age of American Song, along with the neoclassical style of the great Scottish architect and interior designer Robert Adam, HBA Atlanta designers instilled the interiors of Hotel Carmichael with timeless furnishings, simplicity of form and thoughtful detailing that come together as a symphony of classic elegance with marked personality for a defining experience unlike any other.   

“By using a storyline-based approach, we sought to create a cohesive design concept with a level of attention to detail that invokes the spirited feeling of a time in history where grandeur, scaling, and decadent decoration were celebrated.” – Catherine Josey, Designer, HBA.

“We started with a neoclassical design and brought it forward in time. We integrated historic elements into each of the spaces to give guests a sense of nostalgia as they were transformed into the present,” said HBA Atlanta Senior Designer Catherine Josey. “By using a storyline-based approach, we sought to create a cohesive design concept with a level of attention to detail that invokes the spirited feeling of a time in history where grandeur, scaling, and decadent decoration were celebrated to encourage guests to be fully present and appreciate the moment they enter the lobby.”

Image caption: The elegant lobby balances grandeur design and decadent decoration sensitively. | Image credit: Coury Hospitality

Through the oversized black metal doors adorned with bronze hardware, guests walk into a stately lobby with black and white checkered flooring and Doric columns inspired by magnificent Great Hall designed by Adam at London’s Syon House. An oversized art piece flanked by theatrical drapes on each side sets a dramatic backdrop for a grand reception desk composed of white and black stone with gold gilded medallions. The lobby lounge library exudes the familiarity of an English pub with high wainscoting coated in a dark rich paint, coffered ceiling and comfortable seating. A dual-sided, wood-burning fireplace allows guests to relax with a book in the library or enjoy lively drinks with friends on the lobby side.

“Each space has its purpose in function and form, whether to ignite the imagination, engage or elevate, yet all fit together so perfectly to leave guests with memories they won’t soon forget,” continued Josey. “With purposeful design, Hotel Carmichael is a place where guests can write their own story and return time and again to fill the pages of their book.”

Moving into the meeting and event venues, Baroque-style mirrors line the hallway of the prefunction space outside the elegant Cole Porter Ballroom where patterned carpeting and a ceiling detailed with medallions, crowns and hanging crystal chandeliers create a light, airy space. HBA Atlanta designers created contrasting atmospheres for the two boardrooms, one with dark millwork walls and wood floors for a classic feel and the other, more playful with blue lacquered walls.

5_Cole Porter Ballroom_Hotel Carmichael_credit-Coury Hospitality

Image caption: The elegant Cole Porter Ballroom is where patterned carpeting and a ceiling detailed with medallions, crowns and hanging crystal chandeliers create a light, airy space. | Image credit: Coury Hospitality`

Teal lacquered doors open to Vivante, a culinary experience reminiscent of a French bistro where walls washed in white serve as a canvas for dark wood furniture to make a statement and a built-in dark wood wine cabinet to act as a focal point. Ceilings are simple while the details are thoughtful and impactful. Developed in partnership with legendary musician Michael Feinstein, a frequent performer at The Palladium, Feinstein’s is Hotel Carmichael’s signature cabaret dressed in dark carpeting and furniture with an elaborate bar formed of a mix of metals and mirrors. The refined ambiance encapsulates the music and magic of Carmel City Center.

Journey through the guest corridors and discover a softer palette of blues and greens for a serene moment, punctuated by art in reference to the Great American Songbook with a distinct experience on each floor.

4_Suite Bathroom_Hotel Carmichael_credit-Coury Hospitality

Image caption: Grand bathrooms filter through from the luxurious and comfortable guestrooms and suites. | Image credit: Coury Hospitality

HBA Atlanta designers outfitted guestrooms with blue leather headboards, oversized sectionals for lounging and chandeliers in every room. Bathrooms feature walk-in showers, freestanding tubs and back-lit mirrored vanities that provide ample lighting. In the suites, hardwood flooring upon entry leads to a small powder room, a dining room with hints of teal accents through the rug and dining chairs, and a bright living room with blue drapes and multicolored side chairs. Gilded touches and chandeliers are carried through the property into the suites. 

Main image credit: Coury Hospitality

The Mayfair Townhouse - Garden Suite

Checking in to The Mayfair Townhouse, London’s ‘dandiest’ hotel

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to The Mayfair Townhouse, London’s ‘dandiest’ hotel

“If only these walls could talk, my job would have been so much easier,” admits art curator Minda Dowling to editor Hamish Kilburn as he checks in to explore the design narrative, drawn up by Goddard Littlefair, that spectacularly and effortlessly unfolds inside The Mayfair Townhouse

The Mayfair Townhouse - Garden Suite

Following what must have been the most dramatic build-up to any hotel opening in 2020, The Mayfair Townhouse, which is made up of 15 Georgian townhouses (seven of which are Grade II listed buildings), has officially arrived in London.

Having myself teased our readers to expect a 172-key luxury lifestyle hotel unlike any other in the W1 postcode – think Oscar Wilde meets Alice in Wonderland – I was intrigued to explore how award-winning design firm Goddard Littlefair and the design team at Iconic Luxury Hotels had masterfully layered the flirtatious motif of being completely ‘dandy’ throughout the latest luxury lair to appear in Mayfair.

“One of the challenges with getting the tone of the styling right was to not overplay the themes.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair.

“Determining the direction for the concept took some time as it was clear that the design could have developed into a couple of distinctly different routes,” Jo Littlefair, co-founder of Goddard Littlefair tells Hotel Designs. “We eventually reached the conclusion that we would pursue a contemporary rendering of the style of the ‘Dandy’ to befit the Georgian architecture while feeling bedded in present-day Mayfair. One of the challenges with getting the tone of the styling right was to not overplay the themes so that while the fabric of the design all serve to allude to extravagant dress sense and rich textures and colours we strove to do so in a way that the interior is still comfortable to be in, subtle in it’s story-telling and essentially doesn’t labour a concept to the extent that its charm is lost.”

Soon after walking through the main entrance to what will no-doubt be the warmest of welcomes from the front-of-house team, you have entered a different world; an adventure into the unknown where a 67-inches-tall peacock made out of no less than 25,000 Swarovski is the first indication that this hotel is going to anything but ordinary – and foot trails of a friendly fox will follow your experience from here on in, because why not?

Mayfair Townhouse peacock entrance

Image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

Past the tasteful walkway towards the lift, where a delicate installation depicting gold leaves effortlessly grows on the ceiling, up five floors and along the rabbit-warren corridor, you will come to suite 519 – otherwise known as The Skyline Suite.

“The glass ceiling gives the suite a contemporary, almost James Bond moment.”

In true Goddard Littlefair style, the design and layout of the suite perfectly complements the original architecture of the rooms – it automatically feels like a home-from-home in Mayfair. “We wanted to bring an extra level to this suite,” explains Littlefair. “Put simply, we wanted to bring as much day or moonlight into the suite as possible.” 

To achieve this, the design team have installed a partially glass ceiling that sets it aside from others in the hotel. This gives the suite a contemporary, almost James Bond moment that Littlefair describes as “complementing the opulence of the suite.” This eye-catching feature encourages guests to do what few people in London are able to master: to look up! By night, to avoid distraction, the large window into the above sky can be covered by a ceiling blind, which is conveniently controlled remotely from the wall switches.

On closer inspection, one can’t help but notice the finer details: the leather handles on the drawers, sophisticated paneling throughout and brushed brass light switches, which together create a timeless and balanced feel – not pushing the themes to the point of exploitation, but instead caressing their true meanings.

In the bedroom, which is arguably the most important element within any hotel, the bed is gargantuan! Two chunky, marble-top bedside units sit beside an emperor king size, navy-blue, bed which commands the room and is complete with a plush, oversized headboard. Sleeping on a comfortable Harrison Spinks mattress, there is no compromise on luxury and guests are guaranteed a pleasant night’s sleep.

Image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

Around the room, a juxtaposition is apparent in the art, which traditionally frames modern and fashionable prints of glamourous women with vibrant birds cleverly interrupting the mise en scené to present something unapologetically different. This seamless reference of nature is complimented also in the soft furnishings and, in my opinion, is further evidence of a meaningful working relationship between art curator and interior design team.

On the other side of the suite  – past the corridor which features a relaxing workstation and dressing area – is a large marble-tiled bathroom, which naturally evokes a sense of calm and features a deep freestanding bath and a separate shower enclosure. “The layout we could achieve meant we had a fabulous bathing experience with the roll top bath, double vanity and huge walk in shower,” adds Littlefair. With demands elevated around how wellness is offered within hospitality, it is reassuring to see that the design team specified high quality products, such as hansgrohe showers, AXOR fittings, Roca toilets, Geberit flush plates and Kohler his-and-hers vanity sinks.

Although the guestrooms and suites are impressive, in order to capture the full narrative of the hotel, guests need to spend time downstairs in the F&B areas. And nothing is what it first seems.

First of all, the Dandy Bar has all the ingredients to become an iconic destination bar – think Soho House but without the members’ fee (and friendlier staff). With a cocktail menu that amplifies the hotel’s brand, the area when full with guests and locals alike will very much become an extension of the design itself.

Behind the concierge desk in the lobby is a staircase that leads down to the basement, which weaves itself to more F&B areas, event spaces and the gym. Acting as a fitting backdrop for this staircase is large mural entitled: “Peacock Mural”. It displays two peacocks, feathers erect walking towards each other to embrace. The style of this piece, which is acrylic painted with faux gold leaf and varnished on canvas, embraces the Aesthetic Movement. This era, which lasted from 1860 – 1900, aimed to escape the ugliness and materialism of the Industrial Age, by focusing instead on producing art that was beautiful rather than having a deeper meaning – ‘Art for Art’s sake’.

In the basement, the Club Room is where breakfast is served. Impressively, despite being located on the lower ground, the design team have masterfully made this space light and bright with subtle nods to the hotel’s sense of place, such as a mural in the function room entitled ‘Green Park’, which through wedgewood, three-dimensional style reflects an idealised image of Green Park and includes characters from the hotel. It is here where the hotel’s art narrative really comes into its own.

With an endless stream of inspiration from all centuries that the design team could have captured, in a bid to challenge convention in a meaningful way, the decision was made to create their own narrative.“Usually the brief for hotel artwork is to appeal to as many people as possible, to be inoffensive as well as relating to relate to the location and the design concept,” adds Littlefair. “Luckily the developers and Iconic Luxury Hotels, as a hotel brand, were much more open to interesting suggestions and, through working with art consultant Minda Dowling, had the courage of their conviction to pursue a significant amount of portraiture.”

Meet the fictious Renard/Reynolds family, who were cloth and silk merchants in La Rochelle, France, and fled to London in 1688; they were amongst the wealthier Huguenot refugees as Jean Renard had sold all his stock for gold, prior to embarking for England.

In the Club Room, the complex characters of the family are referenced around the walls, such as the ‘Butterfly Hunter’ and ‘Twins’, among others.

Littlefair explains: “For me, I think the art demonstrates that the Mayfair Townhouse accepts that, as human beings, we’re all capable of being imperfect sometimes and this hotel celebrates those fabulous moments that transpire because of that very spirit of adventure.”

Quick-fire Q&A with the designer

Hamish Kilburn: If you could go for dinner with one of the Fictious Renard/Reynolds Family, who would it be with?

Jo Littlefair: I’d have to say the mother, Mum’s know everything don’t they?

HK: What is your favourite cocktail on the menu?

JL: Earl of Mayfair

HK: What will you remember most about this project?

JL: Guarding the Swarovski peacock from builders as we were deciding it’s final positioning in the hotel lobby.

HK: Describe the hotel in a sentence or less?

JL: This is a hotel brimming with personality and stories to tell, it has a glamorous beating heart in the Dandy bar with sumptuous, residential bedrooms that are a real sanctuary in the heart of Mayfair

HK: Favourite piece of art in the hotel?

JL: I love the hand painted mural of the gold peacock, it’s just exquisite.

Images of foxes in The Den at The Mayfair Townhouse

Image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

Also in the basement are several break-off meeting and private dining booths, one of which is named the Oscar Wilde, Oscar’s Study, in which the design cleverly blends together two prominent themes of the hotel: the true definition of dandy and the fox. On the wall, an interpretation of a fragment of a well-known painting of Oscar Wilde reclined on a sofa, which focuses on his jacket, reflects luxury and the laid-back attitude of the smart dandy. Meanwhile, a chandelier by Moooi is (whether it is intentional or not, I do not know) references fox-proof, mesh fencing.

A mesh-like chandelier inside The Mayfair Townhouse

Image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

It’s one thing for a hotel to open in Oscar Wilde’s pre-Soho territory, but it is another thing entirely to focus a hotel’s theme, In Wilde’s old scandalous stomping ground, around Mayfair’s perhaps forgotten characters.

Checking out feeling, well, quite rather dandy, with a spring in my step, I feel as if I have discovered a completely unique London jewel – one that nods to all eras of this iconic neighbourhood. With its own quirky and bushy-tailed attitude, please join me in welcoming The Mayfair Townhouse to its new bachelor quarters.

Main image credit: Iconic Luxury Hotels

Idle Rocks Hotel, St Mawes, Opening Day, June 24th 2013

Checking in: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes, Cornwall

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes, Cornwall

During the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, editor Hamish Kilburn managed to escape briefly to check in to The Idle Rocks, St Mawes in Cornwall – a hotel that knows a thing or two about battling adversity – which shelters an unmatched personality, character and style…

Idle Rocks Hotel, St Mawes, Opening Day, June 24th 2013

Being close to the water’s edge – so close you can hear shrunken waves break on the shoreline – does something to us, mentally. Not only does it send a reflux through our bodies to sharply loosen our shoulders to allow for a deeper exhale from a life that feels constantly left on fast-forward, but it also enables us to find a different perspective (something we could all benefit from, I’m sure, right now).

If like me you grew up by the coast before diving into the deep end of city life, then you would have also felt the magnetic pull, like gravity, that regularly drags me back to the edge of the land. My recent nostalgic fix came when I travelled down to Cornwall, to check in to The Idle Rocks, St Mawes.

Image of exterior of The Idle Rocks St Mawes

Image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

The hotel, which is the brainchild of husband and wife duo Karen Richards and David Richards, was originally opened in 2013. Two years prior, the pair fell in love with the building that now shelters the hotel. It’s position right at the water’s edge of the harbour, inspired the name of the hotel as well as its quirky, contemporary and stripped-back luxury style. “Our aim was to create a hotel that was young, fresh and relaxing,” explained Karen in an interview with Hotel Designs. “We wanted to make it a home-from-home, eliminating formalities and in this way, differentiate ourselves from our more traditional competitors.”

Image of door opening in St Mawes hotel to see the sea

Image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Karen, who lives and breathes design, envisioned the boutique gem with its own identity, when she fell in love with the property. But for David, whose career within motor sport has led to great acclaim in a wide range of disciplines from F1 to Sports Car racing and rallying, hospitality was a new adventure, which (it turns out) shared similar traits to the motor sport industry, such as forming the ‘dream team’ – from housekeeping to chefs, front-of-house staff to savvy marketing – in order to find that sweet spot of personable luxury hospitality.

With the current Covid-19 crisis dominating headlines and sadly bringing hospitality to its knees, it would be easy to forget other storms that The Idle Rocks, St Mawes has weathered over the years – but we must not as it forms an integral chapter in the property’s history. Less than a year after first opening, a 90-mph winds hit St Mawes combined with an extremely high tide. The impact of the storm destroyed the ground floor of the hotel. “The following day, I was on site with the team and we did what we could to board up the smashed windows,” Karen painfully recalls. “Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, that evening another squall came in and caused even more damage.”

It took the team just two months to definitely repair the damage before reopening once more, with more soul and purpose than ever.

Seven years later, following the hotel being the subject of major broadsheets for its unparalleled hospitality offering, I arrive to check in to the boutique legend that is The Idle Rocks St Mawes.

Walking through the front door evokes the same effortless, refreshing coastal vibes as the destination itself has done for centuries, which has allured the likes of writers, artists and even royalty alike. No other hotel can match Karen’s home-from-home style, which in the lobby/lounge area is complete with deep, comfy sofas and furnishings that come in every shade of blue.

“In a coastal hotel, it is all too easy for the design to be predictable and something I worked hard to avoid.” – Karen Richards, co-owner, The Idle Rocks, St Mawes.

The art is a story in itself – framed traditional woollen swimsuits and abstract pieces that depict boats painted in primary colours. “We have very consciously focused on local Cornish Artists throughout the hotel,” explains Karen. “In a coastal hotel, it is all too easy for the design to be predictable and something I worked hard to avoid. I love visiting antique shops and fairs, which is where a lot of pieces within the property came from.”

Although the design inside the F&B areas is impressive, with wooden bucket-like chandeliers and vibrant art that hangs on a rustic wall, it is the view that stretches over the working harbour, seen from all perspectives in the restaurant, that is this hotel’s wildcard and offers guests a window into the community outside.

Colourful and vibrant restaurant

Image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Acting as an ever-changing backdrop as storms come and go, the restaurant, which presents young chef Dorian Janmaat’s locally inspired menu, is the beating heart of the hotel.

Upstairs, each of the 19 guestrooms and suites have been individually designed to sensitively inject a meaningful sense of place. Naturally, the colour scheme is toned down with just a few flashes of colour to allow the view over the water to become part of the hotel experience, which it does very quickly.

Through a translucent sliding door, the bathrooms include a deep, freestanding Victoria + Albert bath that is positioned right next to the window. Quirky nods to the hotel’s coastal location, such as shells that act as soap dishes and distressed wooden framed mirrors above the sink. A Rainfinity shower from hansgrohe with Axor fittings takes this wellness scene to a new level, and is positioned in such as way at the back of the bathroom so that you can see outside through the window but people cannot see in. The bathroom is completed with a quality Villeroy & Boch toilet with Geberit push button panels.

Light and minimalist sea-themed bathroom

Image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Considering Cornwall’s etched reputation in the history books for delivering quality hospitality time and time again, The Idle Rocks St Mawes stands out from the crowd as being something different on the luxury scene in the westcountry. It’s colourful and vibrant personality makes it hard for any guest to check out of what feels very much like a home away from home. And with my tastebuds teased, body rested and state of mind recovered I reluctantly check out of this boutique jewel, taking one last look at the postcard perfect view of St Mawes, a town I will no-doubt be returning to shortly.

Main image credit: The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

Suite inside The Modernist in Athens

The Modernist Athens – designed for the urban explorer

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
The Modernist Athens – designed for the urban explorer

With a statement as grand as that headline, it was only ever a matter of time before Hotel Designs took a sneaky peek inside the latest boutique beauty to arrive in Athens: The Modernist. Sheltering a design that is said to inspire curiosity, we find out how this new 38-key hotel is settling in to its city surroundings…

Suite inside The Modernist in Athens

For many design enthusiasts, including myself, Athens is the etherial Goddess of boutique hotels – and therefore any brand entering this built-up authentic metropolis should do so with caution. In a destination where culture actually rises from the earth – I’m talking about the acropolis, of course – any hotel planning to open without a personality will be exposed and swallowed up by the noise of disobedience that echoes through cobbled streets.

Cue the opening of The Modernist, a 38-key gem that is perched aptly on a street corner. It opens with the aim to authentically connect its guests to the real Athens; to entice its guests to “explore its soul through culture and meaningful connections with the locals.”

The boutique hotel stands as the sister property to the award-winning Modernist Thessaloniki and marks a second chapter in the expanding hospitality brand created by entrepreneur Kostis Karatzas.

Located in the former Canadian embassy in Kolonaki, this new project maintains the same playful juxtaposition of art deco elements, mid-century detailing and Danish design found in its companion Thessaloniki location. Its high-quality offerings are grounded by the interior and exterior’s cool, well-honed character. The result is a relaxed, elegant environment that makes guests feel at home from the moment they set foot in the lobby.

“The Modernist is about contemporary hospitality that inspires curiosity and authentic experiences,” Karatzas says. “Ethics and aesthetics course through everything we do, as an invisible thread that connects us with the world. Following the opening of our first property in Thessaloniki two years ago, Athens was a natural next step for us. And this is only the beginning for our brand.”

Image of the staircase inside The Modernist Athens

Image credit: The Modernist

The building itself commingles the minimalism of post-war 1950s architecture with the nowness of sleek yet subtle contemporary spaces. With clean, symmetrical lines that stay true to the brand’s design philosophy, the exterior of The Modernist Athens is a sight to behold amid the vibrant cityscape.

Inside, guests are greeted by sharp contrasts in colour and shape, which anchor them back in the present day. The raw assertiveness of the marble, plaster, bronze and black glass within the lobby perfectly juxtaposes the softer, more refined nature of the oak wood floors, leather headboards and artful midcentury-inspired furnishings found inside the rooms.

An image showing exposed wardrobe and work area inside suite - The Modernist in Athens

Image credit: The Modernist

“We want its guests to be able to move and thrive in this space.” – Konstantinos Theodoridis and Eleni Papaevangelou, Co-Founders of FORMrelated.

Collaborating architects FORMrelated made use of an eclectic mix of local and international interior design brands, while employing custom builds such as embossed veneer panels and bronze details to articulate the second, equally cool addition to the Modernist name.

“We see The Modernist Athens becoming a compelling value proposition not just in living but in the experience industry as well,” explains Konstantinos Theodoridis and Eleni Papaevangelou, the studio’s co-founders. “We want its guests to be able to move and thrive in this space, in this small and intimate unit that manages to encapsulate contemporary luxuries in such an understated way.”

The 38 rooms are spread across six floors. Designed to be modern living spaces, each guestroom offers an uncomplicated aesthetic that is elevated by custom lighting and made-to-measure furniture, ensuring elegance across the board. Meanwhile, a meaningful sizing nomenclature (S, M, L, XL) makes it easy for guests to select the option that best fits their individual needs.

Image of a guestroom with contemporary interiors inside The Modernist in Athens

Image credit: The Modernist

Elsewhere, the lobby maintains an aura of refinement thanks to its midcentury vibe, with dark tones and bronze details marrying minimalism with opulence. At the same time, true to the brand’s overall intuitive approach to spatial planning, it acts as the hotel’s beating heart, orienting and guiding its patrons organically between different floors and services.

On the ground floor, the breakfast buffet transforms into an all-day cafe bar, ideal for relaxation. Plywood and marble blend together to create a warm atmosphere, while minimalist shelves are filled with a refined selection of modern and limited edition books.

The rooftop garden, which can double up as an open cinema, features verdant greens and frames breath-taking views over Athens and the Acropolis, which serves as the jewel in the crown of this urban oasis.

Image of rooftop garden overlooking Athens

Image credit: The Modernist

The Modernist project began in downtown Thessaloniki as the perfect hub for constant travellers. While ideating its Athenian counterpart, the main challenge lay in staying true to the spirit of the brand, and at the same time expressing the individual spirit of each city.

A respect for the existing exterior architecture has remained one of the brand’s common denominators, as has the propensity towards using natural, reusable materials in the interiors.

Still, by far the most important element of both Modernist hotels is the symbiotic relationship they maintain with their respective creative communities.

Given Athens’ vast cultural heritage, the hotel has a plethora of options to connect its guests to locals through highly curated experiences. The introduction to a refined couleur locale starts from inside the hotel, where various artists have put their stamp on everything, from ceramics and the artwork on walls to tailor-made music playlists, and even a vinyl collection that’s in the works. The hotel also offers itself as an events epicentre, with its rooftop garden doubling as an open cinema and its ground floor as a space for workshops and talks by guest artists.

Aiming to inspire curiosity and meaningful connections with the city’s creatives, The Modernist Athens is an exciting new chapter not only for the brand which celebrates metropolitanism in a collected, understated way but also for the hospitality scene in Athens, which has taken a battering this year due to the on-going Covid-19 crisis.

Main image credit: The Modernist

The Dorchester Terrace Penthouse living room

The Dorchester, where style will always conquer over fashion

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
The Dorchester, where style will always conquer over fashion

The new challenge for traditional luxury hotels in London – aside from navigating the obvious pandemic – is confronting the demand for a new era of contemporary luxury hotels. Editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to one of Mayfair’s finest establishments, The Dorchester, to understand the power of style over fashion in hotel design. Inside the 250-key hotel, he investigates how heritage luxury hotels are sensitively remaining relevant in modern times…

The Dorchester Terrace Penthouse living room

London, which to many is regarded a capital city of worldwide hospitality (at the very least a major hospitality hub), is entering a new era: the luxury lifestyle market is answering to the demand of modern travellers and, as a result, a new wave of contemporary hotels is approaching the city on an unprecedented scale.

According to the data analysts at STR, pre-Covid, 2020 was expected to become the year with the highest number of hotel openings that the city has ever seen, which was fuelled somewhat by the fall in the pound against other currencies in the on-going Brexit saga. Although this can only be seen a positive for the holistic hospitality industry in London, it no doubt puts into question the demand for – and therefore the role of – traditional luxury hotels that are dotted around Mayfair.

If we were to personify these illustrious jewels in a theatrical manner, think of them as the headline acts; their roles so impressive and unique that they have earned the right to a residency following countless standing-ovation and headline-grabbing performances.

Within this cluster of legends is The Dorchester, a 250-key luxury hotel that shelters a distinct classic English residential style, which has stood proud on Park Lane – majestically on the fringe of Hyde Park – for nearly nine decades. Within that time, it has managed to build and retain a legacy while effortlessly leading London’s premium hospitality scene to rank itself time and time again as an award-winning luxury hotel.

To truly understand what sets The Dorchester aside from other luxury addresses in London, I invited our official videographers at CUBE Video along with me to check in and capture luxury hospitality meeting stylish design. Here’s how we got on:

Since first opening in 1931, after being built in record time over just 18 months (which is the equivalent to the speed of completing one floor per week), The Dorchester has been favoured by royalty and celebrities alike. It was here, in the Park Suite, where HRH Prince Phillips famously spent his last night as a bachelor – and down the corridor where Queen Elizabeth II was spotted on the day of her engagement.

> Since you’re here, why not read our ‘In (Lockdown) Conversation With’ Robert Whitfield, The Dorchester Collection’s Regional Director (UK) & General Manager of The Dorchester.

The hotel’s style was originally created by Oliver Ford, who also handled the decoration for the Queen Mother’s residence at the Royal Lodge in Windsor and Clarence House in St James. Ford introduced details such as handmade carpets on each floor in different floral patterns.

One of the most iconic, and most photographed, areas inside The Dorchester is The Promenade, which is adorned with rich coral coloured silk draperies, custom gold-framed mirrors and striking chandeliers. Rumoured to be as long as Nelson’s Column is high, The Promenade is a clever use of space that stretches right down the hotel’s spine and is aptly decorated with sumptuous seating and striking floral displays that feature ‘The Dorchester Rose’, which was dedicated to the hotel by award-winning rose breeders Meijer Roses. The hotel’s in-house designer florist Philip Hammond explains how a small detail like a rose can compliment the hotel’s design scheme. “This specially selected rose is blousy in composition and has a pale blush colouring, with the pink tone gaining more colour as the rose gradually opens up,” Hammond says. “When you see it against the backdrop of The Dorchester, you really appreciate how it complements our timeless interiors.”

The Promenade at The Dorchester

Image caption: The Promenade at The Dorchester, which features stunning floral displays using the signature Dorchester rose| Image credit: The Dorchester

The Grill has been an integral dining outside within the hotel since it opened. However, with the recent appointment of head chef Tom Booton – who at just 27 years old happens to be the restaurant’s youngest ever head chef – the restaurant has been led into a new chapter (and the critics love it!).

As well as serving up a creative and playful menu that was designed by the man who, in his own words is, “all about fine dining without the formality”, everything about The Grill’s modern personality is surprisingly applauded by the hotel’s luxury status. The lobster thermidor tart, for example, has become somewhat of a signature dish for The Grill: a cheesy cheddar tart with thermidor foam and a rich lobster bisque, topped with a roasted lobster tail.

For dessert, The Grill’s twist on tradition now challenges the very nature of conventional dining, subtly, by introducing The Pudding Bar, which is the perfect way to finish off Booton’s dining experience. By pulling up a stall (quite literally), guests can break away from their tables to watch their sweet treat, such as the rich Double Decker (it is as delicious as it sounds) being prepared. Not only does this create a welcome disruption to a standardised dining formula – not to mention putting apt emphasis on what is, let’s face it, the best part of any meal – but it also tactfully injects a healthy dose of theatre within the experience, with guests able to interact with the chefs.

The Pudding Bar complete with artefacts on a feature wall inside The Grill | Image credit: The Dorchester

Image caption: The Pudding Bar inside The Grill | Image credit: The Dorchester

There is no doubt about it, the public areas and F&B outlets inside The Dorchester are breathtaking, and operate smoothly under awe-inspiring original design features. But public areas aside, what about the private areas within a hotel where guests demand modern flavour; the guestrooms and suites?

With such a bold and distinctive design narrative comes great challenges and enormous responsibility when the time inevitably approaches to renovate; finding the balance to create the right level of contemporary flavour while staying true to the hotel’s traditional leafy design scheme is an ambitious and somewhat arduous task for any designer, regardless of previous credentials.

Image caption: The bedroom inside The Dorchester Suite | Image credit: The Dorchester

In 2002, the hotel underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment with an all-encompassing renovation of guestrooms and suites, including the addition of a custom-built, high-tech entertainment and business console in each guestroom and a remarkably advanced telecommunications system.

In 2007, award-winning design firm Alexandra Champalimaud, design studio that created the interiors for Raffles Singapore, The Carlyle and Monkey Island Estate, was given the responsibility to refurbish a handful of the property’s most prestigious suites: The Audley, Terrace and Harlequin Penthouses. And with the studio’s ability to effortlessly transform these areas to become tech-savvy yet timeless abodes, the design plot for The Dorchester thickened and a new era for the hotel was born. Whilst these suites stayed true to the hotel’s classic English residential style, the design within them fused contemporary comfort with timeless glamour.

In 2012, Champalimaud Design returned to sensitively renovate a further 22 suites. As well as redesigning the bedrooms and living areas, the design team also remodelled the statement marble-flooded bathrooms, which feature a separate stall shower with large drench shower head and what are said to be London’s deepest hotel bathtubs.

An all-marble bathroom inside one of the finest hotels in London

Image caption: The Dorchester bathrooms are said to shelter London’s deepest baths | Image credit: The Dorchester

Having now secured landmark status, The Dorchester’s majestic glow is physically protected from change. In terms of its secret to remaining relevant nine decades since first opening to the world, the answer is perhaps unclear. What is transparent, however, is the hotel’s ability to evolve with meaning into modern times while also retaining and celebrating the building’s history, which has become its legacy.

What’s more, by consistently choosing style over fashion, The Dorchester remains a much-loved and integral part of history in British hospitality, and stands as proud today as it was in 1931 as one of London’s most refined headline acts.

[Cue The Dorchester’s post-lockdown curtain call.]

Main image credit: The Dorchester

Sofitel London St James luxury room with blue tartan carpets and blue modern furniture

Hotel review (in video): checking in to Sofitel London St James

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Hotel review (in video): checking in to Sofitel London St James

17 years after first unveiling the original designs for the Sofitel London St James, Pierre-Yves Rochon returned to London to breathe new life into the 183-key lifestyle luxury hotel. Editor Hamish Kilburn, along with a production team to film his response, checks in find out more…

Sofitel London St James luxury room with blue tartan carpets and blue modern furniture

The ultimate compliment for a hotel designer, aside from a client signing off one stage allowing them to move on to the next, is being asked to return back to a project years later to lead it sensitively into a new era. This scenario, although rare and therefore highly momentous, also comes with certain pressures, considering that each and every decision will be scrutinised by client and critic and compared to the statement design scheme that was originally unveiled and considered a success.

For Sofitel London St James, a flagship for the global hotel brand that is positioned in between Westminster and Mayfair, the decision to invite legendary designer Pierre-Yves Rochon back to redesign the guestrooms and suites was one that came naturally. And it was his ability to combine English décor with refined French elegance that gave this hotel’s interiors a new and somewhat an unexpected personality.

“It was important to preserve the identity of the hotel that was created 17 years ago.” – Pierre-Yves Rochon

To truly capture the essence of this modern hotel sheltered in a heritage building, I checked in with our product team at CUBE Video to explore what makes this hotel special. Here’s how I got on…

“It was important to preserve the identity of the hotel that was created 17 years ago,” Rochon told Hotel Designs. “So, there was a clever mix between the elements of the past that we have kept and the new elements marking the new decoration. For example, we kept the headboards and bedside tables the same, but we created a new concept in the guestrooms and suites, which we refer to as the ‘Media wall library’.”

Sofitel London St James luxury twin room in red

Image credit: Sofitel London St James

Inside the new guestrooms, which are complete with retro furniture and bold colours, it is clear that the aim was to, in Rochon’s words, “give a new life to the hotel.” To prevent each room in either green, red or blue colour schemes from looking ‘tired’, and to refine a modern interior design scheme fit for the flagship status it has been given, Rochon’s bold leap away from convention allowed him to further blur the definition of what a London hotel should look like. The tartan carpets, for example, create a textured layer of detail but also compliment the 1960s – 70s theme explored in the design scheme, as Rochon explains: “The choice of Scottish-inspired carpets in the bedrooms is, of course, linked to the fact that we are in the UK, but another reason we choose these carpets was because of the geometric appearance which corresponds to this particular period of design in the 1960s and 70s.”

Image credit: Sofitel London St James blue guestrooms with tartan carpets and blue walls

Image credit: Sofitel London St James

Throughout the hotel, there is a dominant theme of English Style meeting French elegance. While the guestrooms are trendy with certain nods to British iconic fashion figures of the 60s and 70s, the bathrooms are chic, well-lit and with a black and white colour scheme they are also somewhat timeless. “The bathrooms have always been appreciated by the hotel’s guests, so we simply decided to refurbish them when necessary,” said Rochon. “This included improving the lighting, creating showers and redesigning the floors in black and white graphics, in continuity with the original decoration.”

When asked, Rochon admitted that the most challenging aspect of the renovation was staying within budget, “while also respecting the decorative spirit” of the hotel. Regardless of having to stay between the lines of a budget, it is admirable how one designer’s creativity can lead one hotel into two different eras, and as a result re-unveil a modern masterpiece that lives up to its flagship title.

Main image credit: Sofitel London St James

A messy bed inside The Bull Inn in Totnes

Checking in to The Bull Inn, Totnes – a new standard in eco hospitality

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to The Bull Inn, Totnes – a new standard in eco hospitality

The award-winning indy hotel, The Bull Inn in Totnes, is a bare reminder that hospitality can be fully sustainable in both design and service. Editor Hamish Kilburn checks in…

A messy bed inside The Bull Inn in Totnes

It is time we erase the myth that sustainable hotels are a compromise on luxury. No longer should it be culturally acceptable to greenwash your way into the headlines by simply replacing miniatures and enforcing a ban disposable plastic – this should now be common practice. Instead, hotels and hospitality businesses should be conjuring up new, innovative ways to make a difference, not only environmentally, but also locally within the community.

Cue the arrival of The Bull Inn, an eight-key British bolthole located in Totnes. This deliberately rough round-the-edges pub/hotel is the fourth brainchild of visionary Geetie Singh-Watson, who worked with local architect Jackie Gillespie to ensure that, from concept through to completion, that every nook and cranny – from the pastel-coloured, untouched rooms right down to the innovative heating system – is sustainable.

Image credit: Rachel Hoile Photography

A short stroll uphill from the town’s high street, the boutique jewel is positioned in an ideal location that captures the atmosphere of the town. Locals can claim it as their own while guests visiting can stay in the heart of Totnes, and while doing so are able to discover a comfortable and conscious slice local life.

Downstairs, the stripped back design of the pub – with earthy tones and quirky detailing – celebrates the building’s unique style and design narrative. Mismatched wooden furniture and authentic rugs work were either reclaimed or upcycled. The walls have been stripped back to create a deliberately rustic feel that makes the place feel immediately cosy.

This bare and minimalist design is also apparent in the guestrooms – there are no TVs or radios and each room has its own personality. After climbing the original stairs that are layered with meaningful art, the first thing I notice as I walk into my room is the original, slightly sunken ceilings, which further indicate that this hotel embraces its quirks and imperfections with confidence.

Image credit: Rachel Hoile Photography

The trendy rooms are scattered with antiques that Singh-Watson sourced or upcycled herself, and every supplier specified has been done thoughtfully. The side lamps, for example, were handcrafted by a Dartmoor wood craftsman. The beds, all made up with 100 per cent organic linens from greenfibres, were also sourced locally by Naturalmat, which won ‘Best in British Product Design’ at The Brit List Awards 2019 after earning Hotel Designs‘ stamp of approval for being a sustainable and eco-friendly manufacturer.

A close up of a bed inside The Bull Inn in Totnes

Image credit: Rachel Hoile Photography

The white brick tiled bathrooms with accents of muted gold – two rooms with baths and six with showers – feature quality brands such as Crosswater (fittings and showers), Bette (baths), Duravit (toilets) and Geberit (WC flush button levers). These modern areas are stylish, functional and eco-friendly, complete with organic shampoos and conditioner and sustainable waffle towels which were again sourced locally.

“Singh-Watson’s latest property is a sustainable statement that has certainly made a mark on the hospitality map.”

The roof has been fitted with solar panels, while the hotelier worked with the architect to develop an innovative heat recovery system to be installed in to lock in heat generated by the kitchen. The result is that the hot water from the guestrooms is heated from this new system that is fully sustainable.

The Bull Inn is so much more than an organic pub featuring a few well-dressed guestrooms. Singh-Watson’s latest property is a sustainable statement that has certainly made a mark on the hospitality map – it has just been named Eco Hotel of the Year by The Times and The Sunday Times and was runner up in the National Geographic Big Sleep Awards 2020.

And image of Geetie Singh-Watson standing outside The Bull Inn in Totnes

Image caption: Geetie Singh-Watson outside The Bull Inn in Totnes | Image credit: Rachel Hoile Photography

Standing modestly as a true, consciously driven hospitality gem, The Bull Inn in Totnes was rescued from a tired pub and transformed into a clutter-free, authentic pub and hotel that is timeless in both design and service.

Main image credit: Rachel Hoile Photography

Checking in to a contactless hotel (with touchless tech from TIG)

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to a contactless hotel (with touchless tech from TIG)

Technological Innovations Group (TIG) has played a key role in helping BLOC Hotels develop and implement new ‘touchless’ hotel technology. In an exclusive video review, editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to discover what the contactless hotel experience is all about…

The BLOC hotel at Gatwick Airport is a advanced concept in hospitality that offers a comfortable night’s sleep at a competitive price whilst embracing technology for the easiest and most convenient guest experience possible.

The ‘touchless’ technologies recently installed had the useful side-effect of being ‘Covid friendly’, as guests use their own devices for everything they need to do, from the moment they step through the door to their room right up to checkout.

Here’s Hotel Designs‘ exclusive video review of checking in to Bloc Hotel Gatwick, filmed by CUBE Video, ahead of Hotel Designs LIVE:

There are no keycards required. The guestrooms can be unlocked from a smart device, without even the need to download an app. Once in their room, guests can then control the door entry, lights, climate, blinds and television from their smartphone or tablet, and when it’s time to leave, they can use it to check out too.

Technological Innovations Group (TIG) worked with Symbiot to create this unprecedented hotel experience for BLOC, specifying secure Crestron hardware that eliminate the need for bulky onsite systems architecture.

A bespoke cloud-based room control management system was developed for BLOC by Symbiot that integrates with the hotel’s Property Management System and Point of Sale systems, to control the entire hotel experience and environment, using the class-leading Crestron technology provided by TIG.

Image caption: The new contactless experience is operated via a smartphone, without having to download an app. | Image credit: Symbiot/TIG

The challenge

Olivier Delaunoy, BLOC’s chief technology officer explained the challenges that were involved: “Initially we wanted to develop a completely new hotel stay experience that was seamless for our customers. But the technology we needed to control our rooms was not available as no one had attempted this before in the hotel industry!”

The solution

Delaunoy explains: “We had to adapt existing hardware and create inventive software to realise our vision. We needed the backbone of the control hardware to be resilient and secure. That’s why we chose Crestron hardware supplied by TIG and installed by an approved Crestron Integrator.”

The results

Phillip Pini, Head of Residential Sales UK, TIG is very happy with the outcome and explains: “What makes this ground-breaking is its seamlessness, its ease of use, and how convenient it all is. Guests simply use a web-based control system on their mobile device to control their surroundings, check in and out, and open their door – there is nothing to download, nothing else needed to access this clever system. Guests simply scan a QR code, put in their reference number, and away they go! What’s more, it is inclusive, with an option to cater to those who are still more used to analogue methods. This marks a huge shift at the right time!”

The control system can even be used to operate the elevator within the BLOC hotel and will show the guests to their room. Although Covid-19 was not foreseen when this system was designed, the reduced contact was a fortunate by-product. Olivier comments: “We did not go out initially to reduce the risk of infections, but what we’ve created suits that purpose perfectly and we’re now adapting our technology further to embrace that requirement.”

“In addition to this advantage, cost-savings can be achieved through streamlined housekeeping and maintenance. The Gatwick BLOC’s infrastructure can be accessed by management to provide operational insights, as well as real-time diagnosis of everything from lighting status to leak detection.”

BLOC plans to open more hotels and will install this technology in all its future properties. Symbiot is now selling and implementing the technology to other hotel chains, and it is being rolled out internationally.

Soon, it may be that this touchless, convenient and seamlessly advanced experience developed for BLOC by Symbiot, in partnership with TIG, will be a big part of the future for the hospitality sector.

Technological Innovations Group is the Founding Headline Partner of Hotel Designs LIVE. To find out more about how Technological Innovations Group can help your business develop and deploy pioneering solutions to modern challenges, visit the website.

Main image credit: TIG/BLOC Hotels/Symbiot

Checking In: The Cave Hotel, Canterbury – Kent’s tech-savvy luxury pad

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking In: The Cave Hotel, Canterbury – Kent’s tech-savvy luxury pad

In a sea of standard ‘luxury’ hotel offerings in Kent, The Cave Hotel in Canterbury, which opened late last year, has certainly made a statement. Editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to The Penthouse to discover the warm design scheme inspired by multiple hotels around the world…

Before humans had yet understood the concept of a home – let alone a hotel – we sheltered in caves for warmth, comfort and safety. They were practical and offered natural protection from the harsh elements and predators on the outside. The original hotel, one could argue, and once a fire was lit, these territories became sanctuaries.

Positioned on the outskirts of Canterbury, in Kent, and attached seamlessly to Boughton Golf Club, a new unexpected hotel has emerged. The Cave Hotel is not really like a cave at all. Instead, it is a well-designed luxury hotel that cleverly removes all who check in from the stress of modern life. It shelters an authentic design scheme – from the room layouts right down to the technology that works behind the scenes – that was inspired by owners James Tory and Jonathan Callister’s own experiences during their many years of checking in and out of some of the world’s finest hotels. “We have lived hospitality for years,” Callister told Hotel Designs. “Having travelled the world, we have injected the best design and architecture that we have experienced into this hotel.” The result is a well-rehearsed and well-timed arrival onto the luxury hospitality scene.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

On the outside, the 41-key boutique hotel is an isolated gem, surrounded only by undulating hills in the county that is known as the Garden of England. But inside, the hotel shelters a very different vibe, one that challenges conventional hospitality and hotel design in Kent and beyond.

The arrival experience creates a powerful first impression with a modern take on the nomadic lifestyle (times have evolved since caves were our homes). Walk past the heavy curtained entrance, and the lobby becomes a comfortable den that features a high-vaulted ceiling and dark warm tones – a secluded sanctuary far away from the outside world with an atmosphere that is automatically muted and relaxed. It is complete with low-level furniture and contemporary shelving, which provides textured décor as well as clever boundaries between spaces.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

An exposed elevated walkway above – accessible via lift or stairs – leads to the ‘Firepit’, a sleek bar and restaurant, which serves up a contemporary sharing-plate experience. A burst of flavours of world cuisine meet and fuse together in the fresh, re-imagined menu. The smokey, barbecue aromas of the American west combine with the delicate spiced tastes of the far east to create ambitious dishes that excite.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

Upstairs, the 41 guestrooms and suites are serene havens, and further reveal intuitive design features inspired by the owners’ travels. The lighting, for example, is set simply via moods (chill, romance and blaze), which automatically adjusts the temperature and harshness of the light in the room, allowing guests to simply personalise their own hotel experience from a touch of a button.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

With no expense spared – and leading its market in terms of using 21st century technical innovation – the hotel puts emphasis on guests’ digital needs and demands. Each room is complemented with state of the art Wi-Fi, super-fast internet, bespoke 65″ Smart LED televisions with music, digital art and connectivity for laptops and smart phones. 

Even the function of the bed has been carefully considered from concept through to completion, with there even being an area under its structure where guests can store their luggage. “It was a a big bugbear of mine,” said Callister, “checking in to a hotel where there was no where to put my suitcase after I had unpacked. It was therefore an important element to include when designing the bed, and was it was only achievable by designing everything bespoke.”

“I have never slept in such a comfortable bed and mattress in my life.” – Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs.

In addition to the beds being functional and stylish, the mattresses are also unique to the hotel. They have been designed bespoke by manufacturer Harrison Spinks. The brief from the owners was to create a mattress that guests would sink into but also felt secure on. “This idea came from sleeping on so many hotel mattresses that didn’t offer the right level of support or comfort,” Callister explained. “I was yet to find a mattress that met my two demands [as a modern traveller].”

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

“We provided Johnathan and his team the opportunity to sample a range of hospitality beds, each with its own unique look and feel,” said Stephen Truswell, Hospitality Sales Director at Harrison Spinks. “Once we had established the look and specification, we moved on to feel. Because we have the facility to provide different tensions, our showroom allowed them to select the tension that would deliver their guests the ultimate night’s sleep.”

In my editorial opinion, although bed and mattress preference differs from person to person, it was the most comfortable sleep experience I have ever had in a hotel, which is a testament to both the hotel and the manufacturer.

While the guestrooms offer their corner of luxury and unparalleled comfort, the jewel in the crown is the custom-build penthouse, which is located on the fifth floor at the end of the architecturally lit corridor and offers more than a bed for the night – it is an experience; a unique space and an opportunity to explore a cutting-edge smart hotel in style. Framing what are unreservedly the best views of the gold course and surrounding landscape of rolling hills, the expansive suite, at just under 3,000 sq ft, features a unique space that is layered with technology to enhance and enrich the consumer journey.

The living area is flooded in tech – from the Gallo acoustic speakers to the personalised Lutron lighting and blinds. To add personality into the space, a distressed leather bar from Timothy Oulton provides the perfect minibar. Adjacent to it is a large dining table, which filters into the suite’s private kitchen. A separate work area in the lounge plays well into the new ‘workcation’ travel trend that has emerged in recent months. Once the work emails are answered, guests can sink into what the hotel describes as “the most comfortable sofa in the world”, which was imported in from America.

The style of the bedroom within The Penthouse is similar to other rooms within the hotel, but the bathroom is an open-planned area of indulgent luxury. Complete with a freestanding bath, a large shower and dark, moody and textured stone surfaces (giving a nod to the inside of a cave, perhaps), this area further provides laid-back character and seductive design.

Meanwhile, downstairs on the ground floor the spa and wellness area may be small but it is fit for purpose. Complete with a sauna, steam room, hydro-pool and a gym, the wellness facilities are there to cater to modern demands of luxury ‘bleisure’ (business/leisure) travellers.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel & Resort

The hotel recently appointed award-winning hotelier Robert Richardson to take the helm as General Manager, who believes The Cave Hotel’s independent status gives it an advantage in a post-pandemic world. “As an independent hotel we can be boundlessly creative in our approach to providing a memorable guest journey,” he said. “The natural beauty of the stunning Garden of England, our close proximity to London, and the singular vision of the hotel owners has all been combined to create a destination venue never before seen in Kent.”

What makes the hotel that much more interesting – other than it just being a superb luxury countryside hotel with an urban personality – is its expansion plans. It may well be an independent hotel at the moment, but the aim is for The Cave Hotel in Canterbury to be the first of what is said to be many hotels that will open in the portfolio in and outside of the UK.

As I come back down to earth to check out of The Penthouse, I can see how The Cave Hotel’s effortless style and thoughtful design would work in metropolis’ around the world. It’s refreshing to immerse myself in a hotel that answers to the hefty demands of modern luxury travellers. With its luxe contemporary design and laid-back atmosphere throughout, the hotel in many ways erases conventional hospitality and replaces it with a completely new hotel experience that makes a lot of sense in the tech-fuelled ‘new normal’ world we live in today.

Main image credit: The Cave Hotel 

Checking in to Selina Brighton – a room with a view

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Selina Brighton – a room with a view

Following the recent opening of Selina Brighton, we sent travel journalist Sara Darling – who pre-Covid would be travelling to far-flung destinations around the world – to be one of the first to check in to the hotel, which is conveniently located on her doorstep…

Brighton has got the best of everything. And I say that, because I am biased (it’s my home)! It’s hilly, happy and generally quite hippy! It’s also perfect for a staycation – something we have evolved to love since lockdown.

However, with all it’s quirks, the seafront is like a mecca of swish hotels, posh apartments, restaurants and quaint squares – and very rarely do I get to frequent them. However, the opening of the latest hotel to hit the beach was a local affair, and I was happy to shimmy on down, with little more than a toothbrush and a party frock, to check it out.

Selina Hotel is situated in a perfect tourist spot – opposite the i360 and the West Pier; the iconic landmarks have not been forgotten within the design of the redecorated rooms as many have a view of both.

Designed to reflect Brighton’s iconic ocean-front location and the city’s creative spirit, interior designer Tola Ojuolape collaborated closely with Selina’s workshop team, using materials that represent and embrace the community, and each of the rooms has been given a quirky and whimsical twist.

As an international nomadic lifestyle brand, Selina is renowned for its combination of co-working spaces, wellness and recreational experiences; in fact, you can find Selina Hotels in more than 70 urban, beach, jungle and mountain-side locations across 20 countries worldwide. With a plan to develop a global infrastructure for nomads and remote workers who want to make the world their classroom/office/playground Brighton is a great fit.

Image credit: Selina

The modern, on-site restaurant, The Old Pier, offers an uninterrupted vista for people watchers- and the constant enchantment of the bobbing tide and 360 pod will ensure anyone who doesn’t have their sea legs, feels safe cocooned in the shabby-chic, atmospheric, plant-filled bar.

31 uniquely designed private rooms, suites and shared rooms are all tasteful, yet uncluttered; they are designed not to be lived in, as Brighton is there to be explored! I stayed in a delightful king size room, with a damn comfortable bed, and sash windows which let in a refreshing sea breeze. With a small (original natch) school desk and chair, open plan wardrobe and ensuite with quality condiments, the room led off a rickety floorboard corridor, which was miraculously un-squeaky throughout the night.

Image credit: Selina

But perhaps that had something to do with copious amounts of alcohol that came when celebrating the opening of the property. Both residents and non-residents are welcome to take part in the weekly bingo sesh, which is hosted by Party with Ginger and her entourage of incredible performers. If you’ve never seen Grace Jones, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Madonna or Kylie up close, I can only imagine it would be as much fun as this! Bingo is the name of the game, but actually takes second place to these dancers – socially distanced of course, and complemented by house line shots of tequila.

While you’re being entertained, you can scan the menu from the table topped bar code and enjoy table service – I’d highly recommend the signature 48-hour sourdough pizza – they do a vegan one obviously this being Brighton- the Dungeon with vegan mozzarella, grated chilli seitan, red peppers and crushed green chillies, which was insanely delicious! Over the coming months, The Old Pier will also expand the menu further to include salmon sashimi poke bowls, Bajan style fish tacos and beef and vegan burgers, but I loved the sweet corn niblets and cauliflower tempura and fish tacos.

If your first night was unexpected, it’s well worth engaging in the full Brighton experience and signing up for a rejuvenating morning yoga session in the i360. Blow away the cobwebs and set yourself up for the day with sea views from a downward dog position, before tottering back across the prom to the hotel for brunch.

Whether you are keen to get out and explore the city, which is right on your doorstep, hang around the lobby with your laptop or peruse the products from local brands that are on display in reception, Selina is in the heart of the action. Locals will soon be able to snap up a spot in a co-working space, which will no doubt be a creative hot pot – showcasing local artist Amy Isles Freeman, whose work themes around female sexuality, freedom and joy.

Whether you live in Brighton or just fancy a Covid friendly trip to the seaside, I’d highly recommend checking out the range of lofts, suites, family rooms that accommodate up to four, standard and micro-sized double rooms at the Selina. What’s more, the brand has a further 19 opening in 2021 including shared community rooms which fit up to six guests.

Main image credit: Selina Brighton

Checking in to Villa Copenhagen, a new brand of conscious luxury

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Villa Copenhagen, a new brand of conscious luxury

A much-anticipated addition to the Danish capital city, Copenhagen, transforms an iconic architectural landmark into a modern oasis of cool. Writer Collette Swindells explores…

It is not often that a space of more than 25,600 square metres becomes available in the centre of a European capital – least of all in a city like Copenhagen, where it is often considered something of a luxury to have a separate shower and toilet in your downtown apartment.

Instantly recognising the tremendous potential of the site, Nordic Hotels & Resort, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, sought to transform the imposing old-world grandeur of the five-floor, Neo-Baroque former headquarters of the Danish Post and Telegraph into a fresh expression of what it means to be Scandinavian.

Combining an impressive roll-call of talents including award-winning London architecture and interiors firm Universal, award-winning design studio Goddard Littlefair, specialist F&B design studio Epicurean, Danish architect Eva Harlou and Nordic jewellery designers Shamballa Jewels, the reconstruction weaves together three key themes of contrast, conscious luxury and happiness.

The arrival experience

Entering the somewhat unassuming frontage, adjacent to the Copenhagen Central Station, guests are immediately greeted with an expansive, light-filled, glass-roofed atrium lobby – appropriately named The Square – centrally adorned by a tongue-in-cheek ‘Whispering’ sculpture from Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

A large lobby with glass ceiling and modern furniture

Image credit: Stine Christiansen

Cleverly designed to be a multi-functional space that welcomes both locals and foreigners, it artfully mixes classic Danish design elements with contemporary flourishes and finishes that unite the functions of the hotel boutique, lounge area, bar, self-service check-in and reception. It is a space that comes alive at night too, with live music and DJs cementing its vibrant personality, and other day-time pop-ups including a mobile piercing station from jeweller Maria Black.

Direct access to most of the hotel’s F&B and public areas is available from The Courtyard, ensuring it is continually an animated, lively thoroughfare and meeting point for all.

Relaxed public areas for all occasions

To the city side of this, The Playroom acts as a further extension of the lobby lounge space, with even more intimate spaces and cosy pockets that encourage visitors to have fun with friends while playing board games, foosball and other table games on custom-made tops. Part grand parlour part secluded den, the space is also perfect for hosting large groups, with Epicurean ensuring a relaxed, cultivated atmosphere with its Carl Hansen furniture, vintage tiling, antique-style woodwork and panelling and patina mirrored walls.

Image caption: The Playroom | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

On the alternate side of The Courtyard, Kontrast, a contemporary brasserie, offers an equally smart take on mid-century styling, with subtle tributes to its former tenant. Replica carvings and window details from the original posthouse inspire wood panelling details, with reused and recycled materials cleverly woven in where possible.

A diner style F&B area with tiled floors and globe like chandeliers

Image caption: Kontrast | Image credit: Stine Christiansen

Curved booth seats in warm brown leather tones are complimented with custom high chairs in striking hues that fill out the main dining area inside, allowing guests the chance to gaze into the large, open kitchen and bar. Bespoke tables are inlaid with brass, showcasing the level of craftsmanship and attention Epicurean brings to each fit-out, while also adding something new and fun to the traditional Scandinavian styling visitors might come to expect elsewhere in town.

On the terrace, overlooking the main station, more contemporary woven textile furniture sits outside, alongside Tore Gustafsson’s menu of fresh, local and seasonal produce. Taking inspiration from the south of Europe and North Africa, Gustafsson – known for previously steering the helm of Copenhagen Meatpacking favourite Paté Paté – has built an impressive sustainable food profile across all the F&B outlets, with a focus on providing a ‘carbon-free’ experience.

Sustainable hospitality solutions

Part of the overall commitment by the hotel to four of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – Decent Work and Economic Growth; Sustainable Cities and Communities; Responsible Consumption; and Production and Partnerships for the Goals – meat consumption at each outlet has been reduced, alongside overall food waste, with an innovative technology converting this into green energy. Fresh herbs and spices are also handpicked from the hidden rooftop garden, which sits next to a beehive from Bybi and the famed lapping pool.

F&B areas

Designed by Goddard Littlefair to reflect the local community’s relationship with food, drink and socialising, there are a plethora of options when it comes to F&B in the hotel. Breakfast is served daily in the former postage sorting room, Public, located on the lower floor which is accessed via a neon light-filled stairwell off The Courtyard. Descending into what feels like the belly of the grand building, you can hear the hum of the nearby train station, which provides a steady memory of its previous life.

Image caption: Public | Image credit: Stine Christiansen

Indeed Epicurean drew heavily from archival photos of the space in its former glory, invoking its archways, lighting, brickwork and paneling in their redesign. The expansive area, filled with rows of bespoke banquette seating and commanding repurposed copper arches, can also host larger functions and groups and extends onto the sunken garden, containing the entrance to the almost completed Rug Bakery.

The original arrival point for the mail, the impressive terrace space is somewhat of a hidden gem for the hotel – exposed when the roof was removed from the loading dock – and a perfect place to enjoy the freshly baked local pastries Denmark is known for.

The guestrooms and suites

In contrast to the lively public and F&B areas, Universal took their starting point for the design of the guestrooms and suites from the art of Danish master painter Vilhelm Hammershøi – known for his understated composition, elegant lighting, muted palette and study of secluded moments and spaces.

Mapping out the building’s original interior, the studio restored and reinstalled many of the key period features like the impressive windows, herringbone flooring, cornices, architraves and wood paneling. Each room and suite has been treated like a grand Danish residence, housing a sophisticated collection of custom-designed classic and contemporary furniture, alongside original pieces from known Danish designers Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl, Nanna Ditzel, Niels Otto Møller, Ole Wanscher and Borge Morgensen. Warmth and softness is key, with bespoke textiles, lighting and ceramics amplifying the comfort to create a calm refuge with more than a few touches of brilliance. Materials are locally and sustainably sourced where possible, with Kvadrat’s Sahco brand providing natural wool textiles that sit next to other highlights including biodegradable and recyclable linen headboards produced by Scandinavian interior textile studio Astrid.

Image caption: Delux guestroom | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Image caption: Delux guestroom | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Each of the rooms has its own typography – there are 50 in total – with sprawling four metre-high ceilings on the lower levels and near floor-to-ceiling windows that give you various views of the city surrounds. The converted attic, with its exposed timber beams, differs only because of its unique character and obvious height limitations – but its roof-lit views of the city more than compensate for this.

Of course all the usual five-star modern conveniences apply, with keyless entry, remote check-in, virtual check-out, and an optional white glove service available in each of the 381 rooms. In-room facilities are on-point too, with a considered range of local favourites that includes Mikkeller beer and chocolate, Great Dane Rum, Nordic winegums, Harahorn Norwegian gin, and ELG vodka.

Image caption: Guestroom | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Sustainability stays top of mind, with custom in-room guest amenities provided by Skandinavisk in a signature range that pays homage to the smell of wood-laden northern forests. Gone are the plastic-wrapped pairs of slippers, replaced instead by slides that can be bought in the hotel’s boutique store, together with a collection of other local, sustainable and notable designers.

But if you really want to experience something different, then check-in to the ‘Universal Penthouse Suite’ which was designed across two floors with a central walnut and steel spiral staircase connecting the upper master bedroom with the lounge space on the lower floor.

Added to this next-level option is the completely sustainable suite, the Earth Suite, designed by Eva Harlou using eco-friendly furniture and recycled materials and textiles. Denmark’s most expensive suite, the Shamballa Master Suite was designed by Shamballa Jewels and takes in 110sqm that includes the former Postmaster’s office and the best view of the adjoining main station.

Sitting in a collection of seven other Shamballa suites, these exclusive retreats are due to be completed by the end of 2020 – a small casualty of the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Luckily though, if you can’t afford the additional extravagance of the Shamballa suites, the lapping pool, with its centralised cooling system using excess heat from the hotel to keep it at a steady 34 degree, provides a welcome space to relax and unwind. Adjacent to the 24-hour fitness centre, sauna and wellness area, it is a colourful, secluded spot that sits beside the rooftops of Copenhagen and offers a cabana service from its Pool Bar.

a rooftop pool overlooking Copenhagen

Image credit: Stine Christiansen

You might also like to take a walk through the five floors to check out the private collection of artwork – valued at more than US$2 million – that includes local and international artists like Per Kirkeby, Ian McKeever and Bent Stokke. Norwegian Stokke produced 383 unique charcoal artworks to be featured in each room, as well as along the many hallways and restored stairways.

But perhaps the real jewel of the hotel is the Old Boardroom, available to be hired as a private function space for intimate dinners and gatherings, and still proudly displaying the plaque bestowed to the building by both Kings Frederick III and Christian X who both ruled the year it was inaugurated. Its restored tapestry-and-chandelier adorned space, with adjoining bar, sits in stark, refined contrast to the other over 2,000sqm of meeting and event room spaces that are decorated with more than 850 conference chairs produced using 2.75kg of upcycled plastic ocean waste and fishing nets. It is just another example of how the hotel holds dual respect and reverence for the past and the future – carefully balancing respect for each in the present.

And like a home that becomes more of itself every day new memories are created within it, Villa Copenhagen, in all its imposing glory, is sure to become a welcomed part of the city’s new landscape: a reinvigorated icon that stands even taller than its predecessor.

Main image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Miniview: Inside WILDES Chester, a northern boutique jewel

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Miniview: Inside WILDES Chester, a northern boutique jewel

Northern design studio Spaceinvader, with architecture by EDGE Architect, has created a rich, layered and luxurious interiors scheme for the new WILDES Chester boutique hotel…

With interiors by hospitality and workplace designers Spaceinvader and architecture by EDGE Architects, WILDES Chester will be housed in a Grade-II listed building in The Rows, Chester’s famous historical centre.

The hotel property, on the corner of Bridge and Watergate Streets, was originally developed in 1892 by architect Thomas M Lockwood and is made up of three townhouses.

Today, it shelters a hotel that aims to become a go-to destination for business and leisure travellers.”Our focus is to delight our guests’ senses through innovative food and service with a real aim to redefine hospitality within the city’, said Paul Wildes, CEO of the hotel group. ‘Original features include huge fireplaces, stone windows and original beams and the hotel will be sensitively refurbished to retain these period features while introducing an interior design that takes influence from key venues in London and around the world.”

Liverpool-based Edge Architects have been commissioned to extend the building to the rear, as well as creating a new roof terrace with plunge pool, with the proposals currently awaiting planning permission. The new layout of the black-and-white-fronted building, where the existing fabric is partly redbrick Victorian and partly Jacobean, will encompass 16 en suite bedrooms, each featuring a unique design. Free-standing furnishings in the bedrooms allow the original building to breathe, whilst quirky elements, from free-standing bathtubs and skylights for guests to enjoy the night sky to the four-seater cinema in one of the rooms, add character.

“The new hotel will become a fantastic luxury destination for visitors to Chester,” SpaceInvader Senior Interior Designer Izzy Eling said, “embodying a rich, sensual and flamboyantly-decorated immersion in the heart of the city, with a design scheme inspired by a number of historical threads, coupled with contemporary services and styling.”

The interiors concept takes its initial influence from the site’s history, having originally been built for the Duke of Westminster as a base for his country pursuits, including horse racing and deerstalking. References to horse racing saddlery, from leather straps to diamond stitching details, are incorporated throughout, whilst the logo for Benedict’s and the feature layered bulkhead over the bar are inspired by the racecourse tracks, making it the perfect place to visit before or after a trip to Chester races. The new identity work on the scheme is by Natural Selection Creative Studio.

A second inspirational source was Chester’s medieval market heritage, with Bridge Street having played host to a market trading in leather, cotton and wine and the site itself said to have been used as a corvisor (leather works), producing leather harnesses, gloves and riding boots.

The third thread of the concept is the architecture’s mostly Victorian origins, which finds form in opulent styling in the interiors scheme, from the use of decorative tiling and floral patterns to deep rich jewel tones and exaggerated details. The Victorian era also saw a rise in trade with the East and the importation of new exotic materials from India and China, including luxurious, hand-painted silk wallpapers, woven rattan furniture and highly-decorated porcelain. This aspect of the era’s eclectic tastes forms the final styling inspiration, in the form of large, patterned rugs and the jewel tones used for the bedroom design palette, whilst silk wallpapers and patterns influenced by India and China line the corridors.

‘Playful, hidden quirks and memorable styling will feature throughout,” Eling added. “This will definitely be an Instagramm-able venue when it completes and opens, with any number of details visitors will notice over multiple visits!”

The lobby

Upon arrival, the lobby’s bespoke new Victorian-style mosaic floor tiles feature the new hotel branding inset at their centre. The concierge area features horse-racing details to the timber reception desk design, including leather straps and branded leather tabs for the room keys. The main stair at the rear has been finished in a bespoke carpet, with dark edging detail and an ornate banister. A seating arrangement, with velvet chairs immediately suggesting the scheme’s opulence, sits directly beneath the stair, whilst a door leading away from reception takes visitors directly into Benedict’s bar and restaurant.

F&B

The 45-person-capacity Benedict’s bar features a rich colour scheme of golds and deep tones, with a design influence taken from horse racing. An opulent gold-coloured bulkhead over the bar, for example, is structured to imitate the form of racetracks, whilst feature tiling wraps around the bar itself, which is edged with gold detailing before it cedes to the main dark timber floor.

The bar has a dark marble front and a lighter marble top with WILDES branding etched into its front face. A bespoke wallpaper, developed with a specialist designer, includes subtle horse-riding illustrations. Furniture is rich and luxurious, upholstered in velvet and leather, with quilted detailing throughout.

Image credit: The WILDES Hotel Group

Two adjacent snug areas are dark and cosy with feature jewel tones of emerald green and ruby pink. The wallpaper here is detailed with wildlife images, including rabbits and deer, with set dressing including faux taxidermy in a nod to the Duke of Westminster’s love of country pursuits. The connecting spaces feature artwork referencing horse-racing and country life, with a quirky, full-sized horse lamp greeting visitors en route to the toilets.

The 30-cover indoor section of Benedict’s restaurant showcases a more feminine, romantic feel, inspired by the Victorian love of floral patterns and motifs and including bright velvet fabrics, patterned wallpaper and petal-shaped lamps. The external terracing has both a 12-person bar area overspill and a 26-cover restaurant seating area, dressed in striking black-and-white-striped wicker furniture, referencing the building’s Jacobean architectural elements, with gold cushion highlights and upholstery.

Private Dining Room

The first floor Benedict’s private dining room is an opulent space, perfect for entertaining, and inspired by traditional Victorian drawing rooms.

Image credit: The WILDES Hotel Group

A bespoke timber table for 16 guests is its central focal point, with design features including striking chandeliers, opulent velvet drapes and a floral ceiling finish.

Restrooms

Taking inspiration from Victorian powder rooms, the ladies’ toilets feature pink Victorian metro tiles and gold swan taps, whilst the men’s are in darker tones, with green tiling and black swan taps. Both are tied together through the use of wallpaper featuring giant fern leaves, referencing a plant that was particularly popular in Victorian times, along with metal-plated cisterns embellished with the Benedict’s logo.

Spa

The Spa area boasts a super-feminine, indulgent scheme. Predominantly pink, its motifs include a feature raised peacock motif against the dove-grey wall panelling and faux cherry blossom dressing, nodding to the Orient and the Victorian taste for Chinoiserie. Plush pink velvet banquette seating sits below pink wall panelling, with neon ‘Blooming Fabulous’ wall signage adding to the space’s indulgent feel.

Guestrooms

Although each room is unique in terms of proportion, layout and views, design treatments broadly follow two paths. The first is fresh, elegant and airy with a British country pursuits influence.  Parquet timber floors and light wall panelling provide a backdrop to green velvet window dressing, large-scale foliage rugs and rattan-style furniture and headboards. Leather detailing, quilted stitching embellishment and gold lighting elements tie the scheme together.

Image credit: The WILDES Hotel Group

The second treatment features a richer and moodier colourway, with dark wall panelling and black rattan headboards. The windows and grand double beds are in ruby velvets, whilst the parquet flooring is layered with a large-scale floral rug.

Both bedroom types have connecting details, such as bespoke bedside tables, which are inspired by horse-racing and particularly The Champion’s Chest, where cups and medals are held, whilst also featuring WILDES branding. Each room type also has a feature coloured sink, marble wall panels and timber panelling as well as freestanding baths engraved with the hotel’s branding.

The upper floor features a number of skylighted ‘Stargazing Rooms’, allowing guests to gaze up into the night sky, whilst one additionally features a mezzanine level, which is accessed by a spiral stair and leads up to a private cinema and bar. This space features green velvet reclining armchairs, gold lighting and burnt orange velvet curtains framing the screen, combining to deliver a cosy-but-luxurious cinematic experience.

Main image credit: The WILDES Hotel Group 

Checking in to No.5 Maddox Street, London

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to No.5 Maddox Street, London

Embracing change – and predicting a rise in demand for luxury apartments post-pandemic – editor Hamish Kilburn checks himself in review No.5 Maddox Street

It was the first time since the start of lockdown I had made the trip into the capital, but certain things were not how I remembered.

For starters, not a single person on the train journey had demanded for me to move my bag on the empty seat next to me. Pre-Covid, not standing on the commute would have been seen as a miracle. Five months after the government put us into a forced hibernation, the empty carriage felt lonely. I disembarked the train at St Pancras International, checked my watch – it was 08:59 on a Wednesday – I could hear the echo of an barren terminal in what was supposed to be ‘rush hour’.

On my walk from the station to Maddox Street in Mayfair, the stark reality hit: most of London’s iconic hotels were closed and lifeless. And yet, while the majority of hotels in the city were shaking up re-opening strategies and not cocktails, other accommodation offerings – like for example No.5 Maddox Street – were able to open fully because of their design scheme being friendly to social distancing.

I launched the Living Rooms concept in 1999 after recognising the modern traveller’s desire for privacy and independence.” – Tracy Lowy, owner, Living Rooms.

Nestled between high-end art galleries and luxury boutiques – conveniently tucked behind Bond Street and metres away from Regent Street – is the discreet entrance to No.5 Maddox Street.

Sheltering just 12 luxury apartments – all of which were renovated last year by the owner herself, Tracy Lowy – No.5 Maddox Street is part of the Living Rooms collection, which also includes The Laslett and Weymouth Mews. Offering what it claims is ‘the best of apartment living and hotel service’, it’s almost as if the collection was unconsciously designed for the post-pandemic world. “I launched the Living Rooms concept in 1999 after recognising the modern traveller’s desire for privacy and independence,” Lowy told Hotel Designs. “From concept through to the finished product, we sought to create the best of both worlds; design-led apartments that combine the services of a luxury hotel, complete with the privacy, space and the comfort of home.”

Image credit: No5. Maddox Street

The arrival experience at No.5 Maddox Street is unlike any hotel I have ever stayed in – there is no lobby, for example, which immediately creates an understated entrance with no room for drama. With no lift, meaning that No.5 Maddox Street is not accessible for everyone, I climbed the industrial-like stairs to check in.

While each apartment sheltered within the building is different, all of them are competitively spacious. In fact, the smallest apartment, at 27 sqm, is almost double the size of a typical London hotel guestroom, which adds to the home-from-home setting that Lowry has created. In addition, and something of a rarity in the city where space is a premium, many of the apartments feature decked terraces, balconies and open fire places.

A luxe masculine bedroom

Image credit: No5. Maddox Street

The property was given a refurbishment last year to mark its 20th anniversary. Impressively, No.5 Maddox Street remained open throughout. “As the refurb was mostly cosmetic, we remained open for guests and blocked apartments out in groups  – it was a bit of a game of Tetris,” explained Lowy.

“We sourced a lot of vintage design pieces which come with their own set of challenges.” – Tracy Lowy, owner, Living Rooms.

Although Living Rooms decided not to hire in a design firm for the project, Lowry carefully selected items that she believed would create an apt homely environment in the centre of the action. “We sourced a lot of vintage design pieces which come with their own set of challenges,” she said. “But we are lucky to have some great partners in that area that we can always count on to help us come up with the goods.” 

The apartments have been refreshed, nipped, tucked and brightened with modernised interiors. As well as vintage rugs by Larusi, the spaces feature one-of-a-kind furnishings from Les Couilles Du Chien and a curated selection of photography and artwork that reflects the rich history of the local area.

With as much emphasis on service as well as design, guests of No.5 are encouraged to ‘live like a local’. Those checking in can explore the city by using the constantly updated neighbourhood guide, as well as tapping up the knowledgable and friendly concierge service.

an open light kitchen

Image credit: No5. Maddox Street

As I checked out of No.5, following a relaxing and comfortable nights sleep, I am intrigued to understand from Lowy’s perspective whether or not the demand for this style of accommodation has increased following the pandemic. “Travellers, both leisure and business, are really seeing the benefit of the personal space we can offer,” she explained. “In this part of London, where hotel rates can be very high, we can often offer an entire apartment for the price of a hotel room.”

In conclusion, I agree with the term ‘hotel alternative’ when describing No.5 Maddox Street. Although I am not fully won over by apart-hotels stealing the limelight in hospitality completely, the apartments at No.5 Maddox Street are smartly designed to offer a discreet urban pad, suitable for one or two nights. They are warm and inviting but, in my opinion, feel more like you are staying in someone else’s home-from-home – similar to a stylish, well-stocked and well-hosted AirBnB, if you like.

Main image credit: No5. Maddox Street

Luxury outdoor area at Sopwell House

MINIVIEW: Designing a ‘bare foot luxury spa’ at Sopwell House

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: Designing a ‘bare foot luxury spa’ at Sopwell House

Design studio Sparcstudio created a relaxed, yet elegant design concept to the recently refurbished £14 million Cottonmill Club spa within Sopwell House in St Albans, Hertfordshire…

Set in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside, on the outskirts of historic St Albans in England, the Club at Cottonmill within Sopwell House was unveiled to the public in August last year.

Luxury outdoor area at Sopwell House

With an eye on the luxury guest market, the £14 million project covered an extensive development period of six years. Owned since 1986 by the family-run AB Hotels, Sopwell House retains its original Georgian grandeur with the main building sheltering the majority of the hotel’s accommodation, its restaurants and the spa, which now has a two-tiered membership that offers a new level of exclusivity in the shape of The Club at Cottonmill.

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio Design

Sparcstudio developed the interiors and architectural design for the project which included a total refurbishment of the existing spa areas and the addition of a large, sleek glazed three-storey extension linking on to a new private spa garden (designed by Ann Marie Powell). Sparcstudio worked with Debi Green to develop the operational details and ISA Architects were appointed to assist with the delivery of the building itself.

Tasked with creating a premium aesthetic throughout the spa, Sparcstudio employed a rich, natural palette of materials, including marble and carved limestone relief tiles in the reception’s column cladding, as well as end-grain timbers to create a tactile feel.

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

Clever space planning with bespoke designed elements and experiences create moments of surprise for the guest as Beverley Bayes, Creative Director, Sparcstudio explains: “The unique feel of Cottonmill is largely down to space-planning and the inclusion of so many bespoke aspects and experiences.

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

“We hope there is an element of surprise in the guest journey, which begins in the spaces carved out of original rooms within the Georgian building, but ends in an amazing contemporary new build over three levels with full-height glazing and direct links to the glamorous spa garden.”

The project features bespoke furniture design and fittings, from the small oval glass, brass and stone tables in the ‘sitting room’, the luxurious bespoke double loungers for the Garden Relaxation and Whisper rooms to bronze privacy screens, as well as the glazed critical screens between reception and the ‘sitting room’ with ‘cotton-reel’ installation.

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

Bayes elaborates: “We are very lucky to have worked with a visionary client who has been involved in every detail. AB Hotels managed the implementation of this huge project themselves and we respect the extra mile they went to ensure the design was beautifully implemented, from the ‘sunray’ veneered doors with their Calacatta-lined architraves to the etched glass doors and bespoke cast metal handles of the heat cabins.”

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

Barefoot luxury

The overall feel of the interiors is über luxurious and is driven by the guest experience and the desire to create a beautiful spa journey that is stimulating as well as ‘Relaxed and Informal’, combining glamour and a sense of ‘Barefoot luxury’ that you might enjoy in a luxury resort outside of the UK. Bayes explains: “The swinging woven suspended seats around the bespoke fireplaces (clad with blocks of end grain willow) provide a playful touch and the social centre piece of each of the main relaxation spaces.

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

“We are particularly proud of the variety of bespoke designed heat cabins that we created which range from the organic sauna which is formed from Aspen, a white timber, and with the natural light flooding in, feels like you are sitting in the garden, to the glamorously lit Quartz lined salt stream room, and the first floor angular Panoramic that provides dramatic views on two sides of the grounds. ‘The jewel in the crown’ is the green slate lined outdoor Hydro-pool which is designed to provide an experience akin to ‘wild swimming’.

Comfort was key in the design of aspects and elements throughout the spa which boasts deep bespoke sofas laden with cushions in grey green and aqua shades crafted from fabrics including washed cotton and linen. Interiors feature a rich and sumptuous, but natural palette of materials, which includes smerelda marble, carved limestone relief tiles (reception column cladding) and end grain timbers to create a tactile feel. Bayes concludes: “We think the overall outcome is luxurious, warm and welcoming, definitely relaxing and conducive to contemplation and wellbeing.”

Sparcstudio is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here

Main image credit: SparcStudio/Sopwell House

Checking in to Hotel Brooklyn, the best of both worlds

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Hotel Brooklyn, the best of both worlds

Two years after Hotel Designs reviewed Hotel Gotham, editor Hamish Kilburn is transported to New York City without having to leave Manchester as he checks in to review Hotel Brooklyn…  

Could checking in to places like Hotel Brooklyn – experiencing the unequivocal flair and flavour of a destination from the safety and comfort of your once hometown – become a new method of travel in the post-pandemic world, I wonder?

Positioned, I’m told, in the exact spot which used to be the main stage for Manchester Pride, on the fringe of the Gay Village, Hotel Brooklyn is anything but closeted. Its playful and at times voyeuristic design scheme reflects the authentic personality of a city that I have grown to love, Manchester.

The hotel’s new-build shell not only sets it apart from other properties in the Bespoke Hotels portfolio, including its big sister in the same neighbourhood, Hotel Gotham, but it also presents a unique opportunity for the building and brand to play a role in rewriting the lifestyle hospitality scene in the north.

A modern lobby with white and black flooring, brick wall and exposed ceiling with 'Brooklyn' in white

Image caption: The welcoming lobby inside Hotel Brooklyn.

“Weaving the lines between Manchester and Brooklyn is a bold and inspirational project that draws many parallels and it was incredibly fun to do, partnering with some of the best local suppliers to create the finished look.” – Olly Redfern, lead interior designer of Squid Inc.

After much anticipation, and two years of sworn secrecy from me, Hotel Brooklyn finally opened in February with the aim to become an epicentre of eclectic substance and a home-away-from-home to the creators and style setters.

The concept for the hotel, which was imagined by design studio Squid Inc., was to create sanctuary for urban explorers – think of a living room away from home and a workplace away from the office.

Image credit: Brooklyn Heights inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image credit: Brooklyn Heights inside Hotel Brooklyn

3,334 miles away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan – the most obvious source of inspiration for hotel’s creation – Hotel Brooklyn is about raw, unpolished creativity, irresistible in its youthful heat. “Weaving the lines between Manchester and Brooklyn is a bold and inspirational project that draws many parallels and it was incredibly fun to do, partnering with some of the best local suppliers to create the finished look,” explained Olly Redfern, lead interior designer of Squid Inc. “It was an honour to work with Bespoke Hotels again on creating another iconic Manchester hotel with a strong identity and character.”

That bold spirit starts in the lobby, often blended together with the sound of live music as guests check in. The walk-in-the-park design scheme, complete with charming park benches under an exposed industrial ceiling, is uncluttered and smartly blends in biophilic design elements while reflecting modern, industrial vibes. Around the corner from the understated check-in desks is a tiered seated cinema, which offers a communal area unlike anywhere else in the city, where guests can relax and unwind.

Runyon’s Bar and Restaurant was named after New York journalist and writer Damon Runyon, who was renowned for his depictions of Brooklyn characters. The F&B area, complete with chandeliers made from upcycled glass bottles, is an energetic and refreshing in its design. The iconic backdrop of a wall mural featuring the hybrid cable-stayed Brooklyn Bridge, which was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States of America, can be seen from all angles of the restaurant and further distorts guests’ sense of place.

Upstairs, while the 189 rooms are impressively designed, it is the 18 fully accessible suites that set the hotel aside from others. With Bespoke Hotels being award-winningly famous for pioneering stylish accessibility in hospitality for all, the group turned to Motionspot, the UK’s leading accessible design company, to help delicately balance style and functionality. “Accessible accommodation at Hotel Brooklyn features subtle details like basins with integrated hand grips, removable matt black grab rails, accessible bedroom storage and a hidden ceiling track hoist”, said Ed Warner, Founder and CEO of Motionspot. “We hope this high level of attention paid to inclusivity will make Hotel Brooklyn one of the most sought-after venues for guests of all abilities.”

Accessible, well-designed large bathroom inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image caption: Hotel Brooklyn shelters 18 accessible design-led suites

The aesthetic of each guestrooms was inspired by Brooklyn’s loft spaces, peppered with immaculate features that favour quality and high-spec finishes. The beds, for example, have brass adornments, while Turkish-inspired carpets by Brintons contrast with the concrete walls. Wooden pink and blue chairs, supplied by TON, compliment black desks, while modern lamps by R&S Robertson and a traditional dial phone from Orbis add to the interior’s overall mise en scene.

Large suite with grey bath and modern furniture inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image caption: A large, modern suite inside Hotel Brooklyn

The modern bathrooms within the rooms feature matt-black fixtures and fittings from Geberit, which stand out against a simple white-tiled backdrop. The majority of bathroom configurations in each room have been cleverly-angled to allow their back walls and semi opaque windows to look out across the bedroom – a nod, I feel, to the city’s voyeuristic and playful side.

On the top floor, the hotel’s meeting and event space has been aptly named, Brooklyn Heights. Complete with hanging baskets and panoramic vistas across the city, Salvation Bar has the swag to become a new destination venue.

Terrace and suite inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image caption: Terrace Suite inside Hotel Brooklyn

Now familiar with its surroundings, Hotel Brooklyn has redefined luxury lifestyle in the city by bringing together the best elements of two vivacious destinations. With another Hotel Brooklyn ‘lair’ in Leicester on the way, and Bespoke Hotels welcoming a new CEO in Thomas Greenall who is taking the helm, the Manchester property is officially re-emerging from the Covid-19 hospitality slumber on August 21, and it is determined not be ignored as a middle sibling. With its comfortable, timeless guestroom interiors layered with vibrant and adaptable public areas, I predict that Hotel Brooklyn will be standing loud and proud, giving guests checking in each time an accurate taste of Brooklyn in Manchester, for many years to come.

Main image credit: Hotel Brooklyn

MINIVIEW: Equinox Hotel, New York – the world’s ‘fittest’ hotel

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: Equinox Hotel, New York – the world’s ‘fittest’ hotel

The luxury fitness and wellbeing brand Equinox opened its debut hotel to sit proudly in the epicentre of New York City’s Hudson Yards, an iconic architectural marvel that reflects a new style of neighbourhood. Editor Hamish Kilburn explores… 

Until recently, the Equinox brand was limited to the cluster of exceptional fitness and wellbeing clubs in major cities dotted around the world.

However, in June of 2019, the affluent brand hit a major milestone by opening its first ever hotel –not a surprising move considering the link between wellbeing, fitness and hospitality that has strengthened over the years.

The hotel is sheltered within a 14-storey limestone and glass skyscraper designed by architecture firm SOM, and is situated in the heart of Hudson Yards, a major up-and-coming neighbourhood along Manhatten’s westside that is arguably most known for Thomas Heatherwick’s The Vessel, an elaborate honeycomb-like structure that rises 16 stories. Adjacent to the giant public space, Equinox’s new hub has settled in and is setting standards.

Designed by David Rockwell and Joyce Wang to evoke comfort, creativity and focus, the ‘world’s fittest hotel’, as Hotel Designs labelled it ahead of its opening, is an ideal hub to meet, eat, sleep and connect. Extraordinary environments, such as a co-working community space, and thoughtfully chosen elements come together in order to reimagine how people move, eat, sleep, work, and live.

Sunset pool

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

From the moment guests arrive at the 212-key hotel, and throughout their stay, they are immersed in a world that the brand describes as “infinite possibilities”.

When it come to specifying the luxury elements inside, selecting products and materials that fit perfectly with the Equinox aesthetic was paramount. In addition to Zaha Hadid Design sofas in the public areas, all guestrooms feature the brand’s proprietary sleep system that ensures the best quality sleep. Complete with total soundproofing, a total-blackout window system, the areas also include CocoMat all natural fibre mattresses and Scandinavian-style duvets that allow temperature regulation. In true Equinox fashion, each guestroom and suite comes with a foam roller, yoga mat, blocks and straps, whilst the mini bar contains a juice press and magnesium-based sleep supplements.

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

Elsewhere, in the presidential suites, British brand Lusso Stone was chosen by the nominated interior designer to supply its Vetrina stone bath. With an ergonomic design, smooth contours and matte black finish, the timeless piece complements the hotel’s vision of performance and regeneration. “The Equinox project is something we are incredibly proud to be a part of as it allows us to showcase our designs in a truly unique setting in the beautiful and exclusive project in New York,” said Mike Manders from Lusso Stone. “We’re constantly evolving as a company and we make sure that we know exactly what we want to develop next. Whether it’s a new design, expansion or the latest bathroom collection, we want to be leading the charge in design and innovation.”

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

Fresh, seasonal flavours, market-driven menus and dynamic social spaces work in harmony to create modern and clean F&B areas. On the menu, as well as in the architectural design aesthetic, discipline and decadence merge.

The modern and contemporary bar area

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

Upstairs, the iconic rooftop bar operates in an open-air casual setting, and all activity happens around the dramatic Jaume Plensa sculpture, a startling monolith on the terrace’s infinity-edge water feature.

Large structure that sits on rooftop at the edge of an infinity water feature

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

The hotel’s immersive 27,000 square foot spa area, which was the brainchild of Joyce Wang Studio and spa design and consultancy firm TLEE, maximises the most valuable commodity, time. The luxury wellness facilities include tailored treatments, an indoor salt water pool, hot and cold plunge pools, and our E.scape Pods — private relaxation areas that capture unparalleled views of the Hudson River.

Light and bright pool area in the spa

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

The overall design of the brand’s debut hotel transcends hospitality and elevates the art and science of fitness – it is clear why the hotel has been described as an ideal place to meet, connect, train and sleep, with all four of these elements playing a vital role in the overall performance of the design and service.

The arrival of the Equinox Hotel New York, along with a number of luxury boutiques and high-end restaurants that have opened, has given the Hudson Yards life as the neighbourhood continues to evolve and take shape.

Main image credit: Equinox Hotels

Checking in: Hôtel Chais Monnet, Cognac

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in: Hôtel Chais Monnet, Cognac

Four years after Hotel Designs got the on-the-boards industry sneak peek of Hôtel Chais Monnet, editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to the luxury hotel in the heart of Cognac…

Positioned in close proximity of Cognac’s Charente River, Hôtel Chais Monnet took chief architect Didier Poignant of Paris-based Ertim Architects four years to plan, and a further 26 months to convert into a reality.

Built in the 19th century, the site that was the childhood home of Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union. The building had sat uninhabited since 2004 before the decision was made to transform the trading house into a majestic, five-star getaway, combining traditional architecture with cutting-edge contemporary design.

The luxury spa hotel was described as a “modern take on traditional French luxe” when Hotel Designs first caught wind of the project in 2016. In simple terms, the restoration has given the buildings on site a new lease of life.

I would go one step further, though, to say that it has reopened up the destination’s history books, perhaps to a different chapter. For starters, during the restoration process, the architectural plans included adding a new contemporary structure ­­– a rare find in and around the low-level city of Cognac.

Image caption: The arrival experience allows guests to capture the two original buildings on the site that used to be wine cellars | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

Image caption: The arrival experience allows guests to capture the two original buildings on the site that used to be wine cellars | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

Despite the property being centrally located – only a ten-minute walk down to some of the great cognac houses in the region – the hotel’s space is not sacrificed, nor is it limited in its ambitious design. Guests arrive through a long driveway, past two retro Citroen 2CVs, and enter the hotel via a walkway that cuts through the two original limestone buildings, which used to be wine cellars. Bridging together these structures at the end of the pathway is a magnificent glass-box building. Inside, the lobby, which evokes a strong first impression and proof that architecture styles of different eras can, in fact, work in harmony.

Image caption: The hotel is a classic tale of old and new architecture meeting in harmony | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

Although this was very much a heroic rescue operation to retain the site’s heritage, the layout of the hotel allows for a modern design scheme to filter into all areas. Separated off the side of the lobby, making it ideal for locals as well as guests to enjoy, is the characterful Cognac Bar. As well as serving more than 400 varieties of the spirits (I counted them), the bar features quirky lighting, residential-style furniture and idiosyncratic artefacts for good measure.

Image caption: The Cognac Bar | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

The majority of the hotel’s facilities – the 92 guestrooms, 13 suites, a wellness area and two restaurants – are sheltered in new-build glass structure that is covered with corten steel tendrils. The striking and unrestrained design of the framework compliments the contemporary, light and airy interiors that can be found in each guestroom and suite. With a safe colour scheme of whites, cream and the occasional accent of red in the soft furnishings, the rooms very much channel the spirit of Cognac to evoke a home-from-home, relaxed residential look and feel. Elements such as a rose-gold clocks from Karlsson and arresting chandeliers above the beds add a contemporary layer to the design, while subtle biophilic references in the artwork inject the strong sense of place, far removed from metropolis life.

Image caption: One of the hotel's stylish guestrooms | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

Image caption: One of the hotel’s stylish guestrooms | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

The bathrooms, complete with geometric-patterned surfaces and large bath tubs, are contemporary spaces. Quality brands in these generously sized areas include Kohler and Allia Paris basins, Grohe taps and showers and quality WCs from Ideal Standard.

Beneath the guestrooms and suites, the hotel’s spa wellness facilities include an impressive 25-metre indoor and outdoor pool, which allows guests to soak in the natural landscape while enjoying R&R from exploring the city. In addition, the spa also features a modern jacuzzi, a sauna, a handful of massage therapy rooms and a state-of-the-art gym.

Image caption: The 25-metre indoor and outdoor pool inside the hotel | Image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

In the two restaurants below, the sites heritage – and its connection to wine – is deeply ingrained in the design scheme. In the gourmet brasserie, Le Distillerie, a wooden ceiling and beams evoke a casual dining experience that is aptly centered around seasonal eating and using fresh, locally sourced produce. The hotel’s fine-dining option, meanwhile, is located on the lower level. Les Foudres, provides an unparalleled entrance that welcomes guests to dine amongst ancient Cognac barrels in the building’s historic Chais.

Since opening its doors in 2018, Hôtel Chais Monnet has become rooted into the community that surrounds it. There’s no better example of this than its recent initiative to freshly prepare and deliver 365 cooked meals to the town’s hospital during the COVID–19 pandemic. Cognac-born pastry chef Isabelle Bovy has paired up with the hotel’s very own pastry chef Camille Roché to create a substantial yet balanced menu to sustain and satisfy these health workers.

The two chefs created a delicious menu which included a starter of quinoa salad, followed by a main course of beef and Grenailles potatoes and finishing with a sweet and sticky lemon cake. “We have enough kitchen space to ensure that everyone can cook safely,” commented Hôtel Chais Monnet’s General Manager, Arnaud Bamvems. “If we can help those in need, let’s do it!”

My conclusion of Hôtel Chais Monnet is that looks can often be deceiving. Its compelling old-meets-new architectural style has unlocked the opportunity for a modern luxury hotel to operate seamlessly on a historic site. Its carefully and sensitively curated design scheme allows for an effortless flow between all areas so that guests and locals alike can be part of the renaissance of Cognac.

Main image credit: Hôtel Chais Monnet

MINIVIEW: A story of sustainable design inside Heritance Aarah, Maldives

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: A story of sustainable design inside Heritance Aarah, Maldives

The recently opened Heritance Aarah resort was the first property to be awarded gold for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Hotel Designs takes a peak inside the sustainable masterpiece…

Opened last year in the  Raa Atoll of the Maldives, Heritance Aarah has not sacrificed style or design in its quest to become the most sustainable hotel in the region.

The resort is owned and managed by Aitken Spence Hotels, which currently operates 23 hotels and resorts across Sri Lanka, Maldives, Oman and India, which are reflected under the Heritance, Adaaran and Turyaa brands.

Image credit: Heritance Aarah

Four years in the making, the 150-key Maldivian resort shelters a design scheme that compliments the uninterrupted views that stretch across the horizon. The overall aesthetic, created by architect Mohamed Shafeeq, follows a strict approach of sustainability. With the aim to outshine other luxury hotels in the area, the hotel has implemented components such as fuel-saving generators, energy-saving LED lighting, water-saving fixtures and energy-efficient air conditioning.

Image caption: Beach Villa, complete with energy-saving technology | Image credit: Heritance Aarah

These operational achievements, married with thoughtful design, enabled Heritance Aarah to become the first ever property in the Maldives to be awarded the internationally recognised Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification, which complies with the US Green Building Council rating system and is awarded to properties that save energy, water and resources; generate less waste; and support human health.

“We are honoured that Heritance Aarah has been presented with numerous accolades after just a few months of opening,” said Stasshani Jayawardena, Executive Director of Aitken Spence PLC and Chairperson of Aitken Spence Hotels. “Aitken Spence Hotels are known for distinction in the culinary field and Heritance Aarah’s 11 dining and drinking outlets introduces guests to flavours from across the world.

“Furthermore, our strategies to expand are led by guests’ expectations and design- led refurbishments to enrich the experience at our properties. A key priority is to ensure our resorts contribute positively to protect and preserve the environment and the ecosystems we operate in so we are proud that Heritance Aarah has been named as the first LEED Gold certified property in the Maldives.”

The resort’s 150 villas allow guests to wake up either atop of the turquoise ocean or beside it on the soft, sun-drenched shores – either way, the ocean is never far away. The intimate villas and suites, each with thatched roofs and calming interiors, seamlessly blend indulgent comforts with traditional aesthetics, adding a further layer to the unique sense-of-place.

Scattered around the property are the dynamically designed, contemporary F&B areas. The six restaurants and five bars, which have collectively won a total of 130 medals, house open-air dining options to once again frame the postcard-perfect views.

Image caption: The interiors inside Falhu Bar, one of the 11 F&B options in the resort | Image credit: Heritance Aarah

The Medi Spa, with six treatment rooms, is situated Situated above tranquil lagoon waters. Its scaled-back design not only compliments the laid-back luxury approach of the resort, but also allows nature in to offer a holistic wellness experience.

Image caption: The main pool | Image credit: Image caption: The interiors inside Falhu Bar, one of the 11 F&B options in the resort | Image credit: Heritance Aarah

Image caption: The main pool | Image credit: Image caption: The interiors inside Falhu Bar, one of the 11 F&B options in the resort | Image credit: Heritance Aarah

Like all hotels at the moment (in all sectors), Heritance Aarah is feeling the effects of the COVID–19 pandemic – and recently released a statement on its website on this. In these no-doubt turbulent times, one thing is as clear as the waters that surround Heritance Aarah: the luxury nest, situated in one of the world’s most desired far-flung destinations, is waiting to welcome its next sea plane of luxury travellers (whenever that may be).

Main image credit: Heritance Aarah

MINIVIEW: Escape to nature at Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: Escape to nature at Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort

The architecture and interior design narrative of Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort & Villas has been inspired by its natural surrounding beauty. As the world daydreams about travel, editor Hamish Kilburn writes… 

For luxury travellers already aware of the Anantara brand, they will recognise the brand’s DNA of connecting people to genuine places when checking in to Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort & Villas.

Located on the southeastern coast of Mauritius on Le Chaland Beach, the resort is a tranquil hideaway offering secluded luxury, where design and service work together to providing heartfelt hospitality.

Set around manicured tropical gardens, the new resort shelters 164 guestrooms and suites with eight additional pool villas, as well as a 30-metre ozone-treated infinity pool sits at the heart of the resort, mirroring the iridescent sky and looking out onto the crashing waves beyond the shoreline.

Modern villa overlooking the sea

Image credit: Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort & Villas

The interior design scheme reflects the natural wonders of Mauritius, echoing the sparkling shades of the Indian Ocean, golden beaches, amber sunsets, green sugar cane fields and rare corals.

Bangkok based interior designers, Abacus Design Co. Ltd. referenced Mauritius’ natural tropical colour scheme and landscape in native materials when creating the concept. “By mirroring the sea’s movement of ripples, waves and corals, as well as restoring driftwood and recycling materials, we aimed to showcase nature and sustainability at the core of the resort, whilst blending seamlessly with the stunning beachfront environment,” explained Director Samantha Lightbody.

“The measured decision to build the resort a hundred metres back from the beach was taken to lessen the environmental impact on this stunning rugged coastline.”

Australia-based Grounds Kent Architects were responsible for the architecture in collaboration with the Office of Global Architecture in Mauritius. Renewable energy sources have been incorporated into the design to aid sustainable and environmentally friendly operation management, whilst various green initiatives across the resort reduce waste and promote energy recycling. The measured decision to build the resort a hundred metres back from the beach was taken to lessen the environmental impact on this stunning rugged coastline.

The lobby appears to float around a tranquil water garden, where the boundaries between indoor and outdoor are softened, creating a sanctuary-like feel. Upon arrival, the eye is immediately drawn to the ocean, framed picturesquely beyond the infinity pool through a striking stone window. 

Indigenous materials honour the warmth and detail of local Mauritian architecture. Distinctive antique basalt stone, used throughout the public spaces in a thoughtful manner, has been reclaimed from demolished buildings on the island. Throughout, traditional roofing materials such as corrugated iron, wood shingle and thatch are incorporated with a modern and refreshing touch.  

At the signature restaurant Sea.Fire.Salt, striking driftwood chandeliers draw attention to the high vaulted ceilings in the restaurant and open air bar area, complimented by the gentle sound of waves as backdrop to this refined take on beachfront dining. In addition, the adjacent alfresco courtyard offers an unforgettable feet-in-the-sand dining experience with tables nestled in powdery white sand to root diners in nature as they enjoy flame grilled seafood.

The poolside Karokan bar’s interior design is reminiscent of a traditional sugarcane mill and a replica sugarcane crusher dominates the space behind the bar. Mounted rum barrel heads create decorative walls whilst natural jute soft furnishings and hessian fabrics are illustrative of the materials historically used in such mills, the remains of which are still visible across the island from the rock mills and chimneys that jut out of the Mauritian landscape.

In the all-day dining restaurant, Horizon, exposed wood trusses lend a lofty spaciousness to the eatery, whilst terracotta chenille fabrics pop against its bright ivory wood palette reflecting the ‘beachscape’ below. The restaurant is furnished with teak tables and braided rope chairs whilst ceramic tile mosaics add a splash of colour to the breakfast stations. Indoors, the air-conditioned glass walled wine cellar, 1884, showcases a rich collection of international wines and can house intimate private dinners, whilst the adjoining Zafran can be reserved for larger exclusive private dining events.

Modern, beachside restaurant

Image caption: Horizon Restaurant | Image credit: Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort & Villas

The accommodation buildings feature blade walls to create protected courtyards which define secluded spaces, provide natural lighting and encourage breezy cross ventilation. Spacious balconies frame views of the ocean or surrounding lush tropical gardens. The interior design of the guest rooms has a contemporary feel with silk soft furnishings chosen in colourways that reflect the soothing blue tones of the ocean and the island’s golden sandy beaches, the Jim Thompson fabrics also providing a nod to Anantara’s Thai heritage. Framed artworks from young local Mauritian photographers depict scenery from the authentic South of Mauritius to complement the minimalist décor.  

Modern villa overlooking sea

Image credit: Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort & Villas

A cocooned village of well-being, the Anantara Spa is housed beneath thatch roofs in a secluded tropical garden bordered by a colonnade of trees known as the Almond Allee. The thoughtful design combines tactile elements and comprises of two double treatment rooms and three single treatment rooms, a beauty salon, a traditional Turkish Hammam, two outdoor Thai massage pavilions and a whirlpool. Additional resort recreational facilities include a state-of-the-art fitness centre and a library filled with classic fiction and historical and cultural books of Mauritius. 

The overall design of Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort harmonises with both the natural scenery and the history of its location, combining modernity with indigenous design while retaining a true sense of tranquility and escapism.

Main image credit: Anantara Iko Mauritius Resort

Clean, simple lobby with marble check in desks and dark green walls

MINIVIEW: Inside Kimpton Hotel’s first Spanish boutique gem

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: Inside Kimpton Hotel’s first Spanish boutique gem

The arrival of Kimpton Vividora Hotel marks the brand’s Spanish debut. The 156-key design-led hotel was poised to be the most exciting hotel opening in Barcelona in 2020. But has it delivered on that promise? Hotel Designs checks in to find out… 

IHG’s brand Kimpton has made an early statement in 2020 on the hospitality scene with the opening of Kimpton Vividora Hotel.

Clean, simple lobby with marble check in desks and dark green walls

Located in the heart of Barcelona’s cultural and historical epicentre; the Gothic Quarter, the hotel is attracts the energy from the pedestrian-friendly nature of the neighbourhood.

When it comes to the bold Barcelona-inspired design, the hotel is sensitively inspired by the textures, colours and historic details of the city. Kimpton’s Creative Director and Global SVP of Design, Ave Bradley, collaborated with local design agency El Equipo Creativo to infuse all spaces with an authentic Barcelona feel, contemporary details and local artwork.

The guestrooms and suites, complete with stylish furniture, warm wooden flooring and quirky details such as geometric headboards, look and feel comfortable. The spaces feature a textured interior design scheme that seamlessly works around original features of the building.

Image credit: IHG/Kimpton Hotels & Resorts

With three F&B outlets, the hotel’s answer to creating an authentic culinary experience is in sync with the destination’s reputation for quality and meaningful cuisine. Perched one floor above the lively streets, Fauna restaurant welcomes guests into a warm space reminiscent of an elegant Barcelonian home. Chef Ferran López’s menu is rooted in Mediterranean flavours and family recipes with a creative, Kimpton twist.

On the hotel’s ground floor, floor to ceiling windows offer a look at Cafè Got, which offers locally-roasted artisan coffee and light bites by day, and natural wines, artisanal vermouth and cocktails by night.

Relaxing cafe area with low-level furniture

Image credit: IHG/Kimpton Hotels & Resorts

The rooftop bar, Terraza de Vivi, features a striking pool with sun loungers, elegant lighting, pergolas and lush greenery and offers clever cocktails paired with creative small plates and expansive views of the city centre.

Born in San Francisco from an idea to anchor one-of-a-kind experiences, Kimpton now operates more than 65 hotels and 80 restaurants, bars and lounges across urban locations, resort destinations and up-and-coming markets in the United States, Canada, Europe, Caribbean and Greater China. Kimpton spaces and experiences centre on its guests, offering inspiring design that evokes curiosity to forward-thinking flavours that feed the soul. And the brand’s new Spanish hotel is no exception.

Main image credit: IHG/Kimpton Hotels & Resorts

Yello and blue contemporary arm chairs in light chalet-style room

Checking in to review Hotel Le Coucou, Meribel

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to review Hotel Le Coucou, Meribel

15 years after first discovering the magic of Meribel in the French Alps, editor Hamish Kilburn is back – this time to review the destination’s latest ski-in/ski-out luxury hotel

In-between snow-blanketed fir trees, more than 1,400 metres above sea level in the French Alps, Hotel Le Coucou is Meribel’s latest luxury ski-in/ski-out hotel.

Yello and blue contemporary arm chairs in light chalet-style room

Award-winning French designer/architect Pierre Yovanovitch, who was last year crowned Wallpaper*’s Designer of the Year, was presented with a blank-canvas brief with his latest hotel project. Within just three years, he managed to create a sensitive architectural shell and fill it with his signature couture approach to interior design, including more than 140 bespoke furniture and lighting pieces – think abstract, animal-like armchairs and ice-inspired chandeliers. “There was so much pressure, because three years is not long for a project on this scale,” says Yovanovitch, “but it was a good challenge and the time restraint spurred me on to create something unique for the area.”

“We were familiar of Pierre’s work and knew instantly that he was perfect for what we had in mind for this hotel.”  – Kimberley Cohen, Artistic Director of Maisons Pariente.

Image from balcony looking out onto the mountains

Image credit: Hotel Le Coucou

With a list of strict local architectural planning constraints to abide by, in regards to using only local materials and regionally-integrated styles, the 55-key boutique hotel quickly became one the of designer’s most ambitious projects to date. “Previously, hotels that opened in ski resorts made a lot of mistakes, especially new-build properties that opened in the ‘70s,” Yovanovitch adds. “It was impossible to create a striking architectural structure because of the town’s uncompromising architecture regulations.”

“We had to lose a bedroom in the design stages in order to open up space for the oval-shaped lobby.” – Pierre Yovanovitch.

Despite the hotel seamlessly blending in to the natural winter wonderland location from the exterior (literally positioned on what was previously a piste ski route), inside, Yovanovitch paints a contrasting picture. Through the blonde, wooden-framed automatic doors, an understated check-in desk sits under a large painted oval ceiling. “Originally, the ceiling in the lobby was too low,” the designer explains. “As a result, we had to lose a bedroom in the design stages in order to open up space for the oval-shaped lobby.” The now intricately painted ceiling that forms a backdrop for a chandelier that looks like a melting ice cube is also guests’ first introduction to a loose motif, which continues throughout the hotel: the theme of owls – think of it as the designer’s contemporary flair, or a well-placed obsession.

intricate dome in the ceiling shelters seating underneith

Image caption/credit: The quirky, understated hotel lobby/Hotel Le Coucou

For the owners of the hotel, Maisons Pariente, there was only ever one designer for the job. “We were familiar of Pierre’s work and knew instantly that he was perfect for what we had in mind for this hotel,” said Kimberley Cohen, Artistic Director of Maisons Pariente. Thanks to the designer’s idiosyncratic take on slope-side luxury, Hotel Le Coucou has made it onto the radar of winter luxury travellers.

As well as the property remaining sensitive to its location in order to not lose the charm and personality of the local architecture, the public areas are also a nod to Yovanovitch’s stamp in the world of interior design. Several iconic Bear Chairs from his recent collaboration with R&Company, for example, are meaningfully scattered around the public areas, which adds the designer’s signature playful and contemporary style inside the shell of what on the outside looks to be a traditional alpine hotel.

“I was inspired to ensure that every room had an amazing view.” – Pierre Yovanovitch.

Capturing what you could strongly argue, from a hotels perspective at least, to be the most striking panoramic vistas in all of the French Alps, each of the boutique jewel’s guestrooms and suites have been designed to frame postcard-perfect views of undulating mountains. “I was inspired to ensure that every room had an amazing view, that was the most important thing when I came to design these areas,” explains Yovanovitch. “Sometimes, the view itself is more important than the décor.”

The 39 suites and 16 rooms are adorned with rich, warm colours and more than 160 contemporary art pieces as well as modern technology. The snow-inspired carpets inject sense-of-place and add a new layer of character into the lodge-like spaces. Although each guestroom and suite share the same motif, each shelter individual elements and somehow still maintain a traditional alpine style.

Bear chair next to lamp and on snow-inspired carpet

Image credit: Hotel Le Coucou/Jérôme Galland

The plush en-suite bathrooms, which are layered in marble, feature quality supplier labels and are complete with Italian faucets from Stella, Duravit W/Cs with Geberit operation panels and Beurer vanity mirrors as well as discreet wash-room style shower that is simple to operate. Character is injected into these spaces with imperfect oval-shaped mirrors and Yovanovitch’s bulb lighting.

Hidden downstairs, away from the public eye, are the hotel’s two four-bedroom chalets; worlds of their own. Both expansive two-floor chalets showcase Yovanovitch’s mastery of volume and architectural angles and continue to combine five-star luxury amenities with the detailed craftsmanship found in a traditional alpine home. Each are fully equipped with en-suite bedrooms, spacious living area and a games area as well as a private ski room, pool and spa.

For the main hotel guests, the hotel’s indoor and outdoor pool also feature private moments, such as relaxation areas that are nestled poolside underneath sculpted arches. The pool areas, divided by a bay window, create a stunning, trompe-l’oeil effect with views of the postcard-perfect vista outdoors. Down the corridor, six massage treatment rooms with specialist treatments from Tata Harper and a sauna area offer a deeply relaxing experience, and above this area is a state-of-the-art fitness studio and gym.

While there are three F&B areas in the hotel, the Beefbar restaurant and the adjacent bar create equal statement, as they frame the most spectacular views through unobtrusive floor-to-ceiling windows and are deliberately placed on the ground floor to create a dramatic first impression.

The Beefbar restaurant is full of thoughtful nods to the hotel’s name, location and character of its owners. A wall of cuckoo clocks above the tables, for example, reflects the traditional decor of the region, and emoji-themed plates create humour in all the right places. In the bar, low-level furniture that, when not sat on, abstrusely depicts an owl sitting on a textured geometric carpet. Together with a pastel pink, blue and mustard palate in the walls and furniture makes this area an exciting instagrammable space that feels warm, inviting and far from stuffy. Meanwhile, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, Bianca Neve, is located on a lower floor and is ideal for an evening meal, once the sun has disappeared over the horizon and guests’ attention can focus inwards. Yovanovitch’s artistic mark continues with a strong choice of bold colors, rich materials and an intricate ceiling fresco for good measure.

Light and bright restaurant

Image caption/credit: Bianca Neve restaurant/Hotel Le Coucou

Hotel Le Coucou is the third opening for Maisons Pariente in 2019, following closely behind the opening of Hotel Lou Pinet, Saint Tropez in June 2019 and the reopening of the refurbished Hotel Crillon le Brave in Provence on May 1, 2019. The Pariente family have their sights set on Paris, in le Marais, for a fourth addition to the collection in 2021.

Exterior shot of the hotel

Image credit: Hotel Le Coucou

A destination as precious as Meribel, in my humble opinion, requires a meaningful design eye when it comes to redevelopment. Yovanovitch has proven that rigid architectural boundaries do not automatically limit the level of creativity. Instead, it is clear that his studio’s eccentric style was everything and more the destination was crying out for.

Image of man standing with back to camera overlooking snow-capped mountains

Image caption/Credit: Editor Hamish Kilburn saying goodbye to Meribel once more from his slope-side luxury suite at Hotel Le Coucou/hotel_design_editor

If anyone was in doubt of Yovanovitch’s credentials of being one of the great modern designers of our era, then they have only to check in to a place truly like no other, Hotel Le Coucou is open for business.

Suppliers
Bathroom: Duravit, Geberit, Stella | Furniture: Pierre Yovanovitch Studio, R&Company, Ethimo| Lighting: Pierre Yovanovitch| In-room technology: Samsung

Main image credit: Hotel Le Coucou

MINIVIEW: Inside London’s hotel designed by kids

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: Inside London’s hotel designed by kids

Supervised by a qualified bunch of adult designers, kids were part of the design team and inspiration behind Park Plaza London Riverbank’s latest renovation… 

After reading a survey by Room To Grow showing that a staggering 40 per cent of children are ‘bored’ on holiday, Park Plaza decided to create a design team that involved children when renovating Park Plaza London Riverbank

Complete with suites that include chalk-board walls, neon lights and personalised experiences, the hotel has opened in response to 71 per cent of adults believing that hotel rooms are designed with grown-ups in mind, rather than children. 

With research revealing families’ main concerns are ensuring their children are entertained, as well as the entire family feeling relaxed, the suite has been designed so that everyone is catered for. The suite pairs ‘child-approved’ design elements with a modern and relaxed lifestyle vibe that will make adults feel equally at home, alongside services such as a family concierge to create the ultimate experience for guests.

Guests enter the two-bedroom suite to the warm, neutral tones of the master bedroom, which features sophisticated splashes of yellow and gold, mixed with earthy tones and textures that breathe life into the space. Soft and stylish cushions and throws make the room feel just like home, as striking art and books to inspire guests’ stay in London providing the finishing touches that will make it easy to relax from the moment they arrive.

Image credit: Park Plaza London Riverbank

Full to the brim with bright and bold colours and adorned with design elements that will stimulate both their senses and creativity, it’s the perfect place for them to call home during their break to London. After deciding who’s sleeping on the bunk or single bed provided, they will be instantly excited as they discover trunks full of treasures that include interactive games, and a projector that will illuminate the room come bedtime. 

Following the design consultations, Park Plaza London Riverbank has also launched a new concierge service, exclusive for guests of the Ultimate Family Suite, who will help plan their trip from the moment they make their reservation. By sharing their family’s interests, the hotel will carefully tailor a personalised itinerary for their trip, pairing their interests with places to see and things to do within the capital. 

The younger guests will also be able to personalise their stay, by choosing one of four themes for their soft furnishings: superhero, princess, sport and enchanted forest, as selected by the youngest members of the design team. Welcome treats and a ‘night cap’ for the adults can also be ordered in advance, so that every guest can arrive in the knowledge that everything is catered for.

Main image credit: Park Plaza London Riverbank

MINIVIEW: The Spa at South Lodge

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: The Spa at South Lodge

Following a thread of rave consumer reviews, Hotel Designs travels to the scenic countryside of West Sussex to take a dip inside the nature-inspired spa at South Lodge…

Opened in the Spring 2019 to become a contemporary wellness extension for the luxury hotel, The Spa at South Lodge was designed sensitively by Sparcstudio in partnership with architecture studio Felce and Guy.

Situated within the grounds of the hotel, The Spa at South Lodge follows the natural contours of the land and provides a haven away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Surrounded by wildlife, nature and peace, and perched above the rolling hills of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. the 44,000 sq. ft. spa champions the estate’s landscape.

The natural theme continues throughout the Spa’s interior, with a colour palette of beige, white, pale blues and greens across the walls, floors and soft furnishings. Natural light floods into the wide, open spaces and carefully placed lighting guides guests down the stairs and through to the workout areas, 14 nature-themed treatment rooms and changing rooms. Luxurious brushed-brass hardware and plush chairs give the expansive changing areas a personable touch, complemented with the very best in grooming equipment, including premium brands such as Dyson Supersonic hairdryers and Paul Mitchell hair straighteners.

Image credit: South Lodge Hotel

Relaxation is at its best in The Spa’s treatment rooms encourage deep relaxation, with heat, light and sound mood pods. A variety of thermal experiences include a private mud room and infused sauna, as well as marble-lined salt steam and jasmine herbal steam rooms.

Outside, lounge chairs lead the way to a vitality hydrotherapy pool and beyond, the spa boasts a serene heated wild swimming pool, with an attractive wooden bathing platform inviting guests to take a revitalising dip. In colder months, the 22m x 10m indoor infinity swimming pool is the place to swim against the dramatic Sussex landscape.

New-York style gym area with punch bag and weights area

Image credit: South Lodge Hotel

A New York loft-style fitness gym slots right into the West Sussex countryside, where beaten-leather punch bags, retro-inspired boxing gloves and state-of-the-art Technogym equipment compliment all kinds of fitness programmes. An adjoining terrace provides space for alfresco training and first-class fitness instructors are on hand to ensure workout goals are met.

Outdoor hydrotherapy pool on wooden decking

Image credit: South Lodge Hotel

The hotel’s spa has been meaningfully designed to combine the best of luxe interiors with the natural, untouched geology of the surrey countryside. What really sets it aside from others, though, is its answer to the rise and evolving demands of modern travellers in regards to wellness and wellbeing. For that reason, The Spa at South Lodge is a timeless gem, perfectly placed in England’s pleasant land.

Main image credit: South Lodge Hotel 

Checking in: Heckfield Place

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in: Heckfield Place

Former senior stylist for House & Garden and The Brit List Awards 2019 judge, Florence Rolfe, checks in to the award-winning Heckfield Place to discover how the hotel is anything but ‘greenwashing’ in both its design and operation…

I recently received a dream invitation to the highly acclaimed country manor hotel Heckfield Place. Naturally, I obliged.

The Georgian Manor House, which is set within a 438-acre estate, is now a hotel that holds a substantial reputation in the market for its extremely elegant and sophisticated interior style.

Cleverly designed by Ben Thompson (a protégé of Ilse Crawford), a surveillance and understanding of the natural surroundings seem to have inspired a subtle colour palette. Not much pattern to be seen here (which I love), but instead a clever use of varying textures that combine to create a relaxing and peaceful environment for guests.

Located only one hour outside of London, I couldn’t wait to get there. As I approached the spectacular Georgian Manor House I was welcomed by the concierge dressed in a plain, rather cool looking linen pinafore and shirt (designed by cutting edge London based label Egg) who took our bags and offered to park our car for us. We were greeted again in the grand hallway by a member of staff offering a delicious welcome refresher.

Wooden staircase

Image credit: Heckfield Place

No sign of a traditional desk check-in. Instead, we were immediately given a choice of an initial tour of the building or to go straight to our room. Tempted by the sound of murmuring voices at the bar and the smell of a roaring fire, I decided to opt for the latter after arriving in darkness. Corridor walls are lined with carefully curated art works from the owner’s private collection. Windows along the corridor are decorated with delightful white lace sheers for added privacy. Over-sized decorative pots on the window-sills force you to notice their eye-catching shapes and interesting textures.

Every single design element has been so carefully considered. On the approach to our room, the concierge pulled the room key from a small envelope that had my name embossed on it. If that isn’t considered luxury attention to detail,  I don’t know what is! Whilst on the subject of details, the electronic door lock (often very unattractive) has been beautifully disguised behind a plain white linen hoop.

Mustard walls in guest room looking through into bathroom

Image credit: Heckfield Place

As our guide opened the door, an immediate warmth overwhelmed me. I was not only confronted with a few of my favourite interior design comforts, but any amenities that were waiting for us had been so carefully thought about and beautifully styled – a tray of apples and a bag of chestnuts became a work of art. A clear intention to steer away from plastics was consistent throughout the room. Any homemade treats left for us in the minibar were presented in jars (home-made Ribena) or paper bags (containing salted almonds or coconut macaroons).

This was no ordinary minibar: a dark and mysterious, rather chic looking kettle sat on the top with a secret drawer beneath. It cleverly pulls out of the minibar with a connector to hold the kettle.

Coat hooks have been styled with woven baskets that hang ready and waiting for you take to the spa (or to collect any items that you might have foraged from around the grounds). Vases of dried flowers (grown and dried on site) are dotted around the room amongst carefully considered clientele coffee table books – ready for you to fall into a large, comfortable sofa and indulge.

Soft pastel colours on bed and on armchair

Image credit: Heckfield Place

The addition of the Fiddle leaf fig plants are something that I don’t always see in hotel rooms. Effective, as it is now considered that house plants are thought to be a calming influence in a space. A contemporary natural rush woven headboard runs across the width of the bed, creating a back drop that highlights the antique bedside tables on either side. Overall, the bedrooms feel stylish and homely. Everything from the furniture to the lighting to the styling has been carefully thought about with detailed consideration and most importantly with the guest in mind. I really didn’t want leave!

After an extremely peaceful nights sleep, breakfast was only a short walk away. An impressive dining room with full panoramic views of the grounds means that you can sit, relax and enjoy your eggs (collected fresh from the farm earlier) just the way you like them!

After breakfast I took a walk around the ground floor as I was intrigued to explore during the day. Daylight floods in through the main hall and along the corridors bouncing off the grand interior architecture throughout. Two enormous airy yet cosy drawing rooms still adhere to the muted colour palette. Thompson has stuck to linens in soft greys and neutrals on both the curtains and chairs, adding punch here and there with pastel coloured velvet cushions. Fires are lit throughout the day during the winter, making this an ideal spot to sit and enjoy a cuppa after a long country walk.

A wood panelled private dining room with a grand marble fireplace also has full views of the estate. It also hosts an array of beautifully arranged floral arrangements by florist Kitten Grayson, including a stand out dried floral wreath that hangs over an enormous oak dinning table.

I jumped at the chance when I was offered to go on a tour of the farm. Heckfield Place has become well known for its contribution to sustainability and the farm follows biodynamic principles. Guests are advised to wear willies, which are provided for by the hotel –  downstairs you are spoilt for choice with black Hunter wellies laid out for you, in every size possible.

In my opinion good hotel interior design is about creating a home away from home: to feel that you can walk in somewhere and simply fall into bed or onto an extremely comfortable sofa – a peaceful retreat. Heckfield Place seems to have got it just right. The aspirational photography featured on its website and Instagram account is only a hint of the true inspirational experience this place so effortlessly shelters.

Main image credit: Heckfield Place

MINIVIEW: The Biltmore Mayfair, London

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: The Biltmore Mayfair, London

In the heart of London’s leafy neighbourhood, The Biltmore Mayfair, London has had a £60 million renovation – and it is unrecognisable…

The red-brick facade of The Biltmore Mayfair reopened its doors in September of this year as Europe’s first LXR Hotels & Resorts property. The 307-key hotel’s recent renovation has resulted in the building – and its interiors sheltered inside – becoming a new jewel in the prestigious neighbourhood, uniting 20th century grandeur with modern architectural details throughout.

The hotel combines exquisite contemporary accommodation, stunning views across the gardens of Grosvenor Square, and innovative culinary concepts by Michelin Star restaurateur, Jason Atherton, creating the ultimate urban sanctuary in the heart of Mayfair.

Red-bricked exterior of the hotel

Image credit: The Biltmore Mayfair

Guests looking for an elegant escape can book into one of the 57 quintessentially British suites. Designed to reflect the iconic area, each suite’s panelled walls and distressed mirrored headboards feature references of leafs and nature. As well as referencing a timeless location, the hotel guestrooms also feature modern touches, such as Ruark audio systems that sit on the bedside tables. The dark furniture of red and blue creates a deep luxe scene, while accents of colour in the soft furnishings adds a sensitive layer. The layout of each room has been sensitively designed so that guests can take in the vistas of Grosvenor Square.

Quintessentially British suite

Image credit: The Biltmore Mayfair

The bathrooms, specified by Utopia Projects, continue the luxury theme with marble surfaces complimenting muted gold towel rails. Clever spot lighting has been added either side of the twin vanity basins to create meaningful statement as guests demand for wellness evolves.

Luxe bathroom with marble and large bath tub

Image credit: The Biltmore Mayfair

The Biltmore Mayfair is also home to the capital’s most sought-after new restaurant concepts from world-renowned restaurateur Jason Atherton:

  • The Betterment features a seasonally driven menu, from locally-sourced fish and meats that are wood-fired, to signature salads and plant-based dishes.
  • The Pine Bar operates as a sophisticated bar with classic cocktails, exceptional wines and delicious bar snacks, including home-cured charcuterie.
  • The Tea Lounge, located within the hotel lobby, is ideal to enjoy one of London’s finest afternoon teas, and indulge in a selection of homemade sandwiches.  Guests can also enjoy sweet delicacies including a Dorset spice apple cake and lemon and lavender macarons, in the Writer’s Corner.
  • Finally, within the heart of the hotel is The Terrace. Open all year round, the relaxed, alfresco area is surrounded by stunning floral arrangements, sweeping greenery and glimmering fairy lights, making it the perfect spot to drink and dine under the stars.

“We are delighted to be opening The Biltmore Mayfair, Europe’s first LXR Hotels & Resorts property, on London’s prestigious Grosvenor Square,” said Simon Vincent, President, EMEA, Hilton when the hotel opened in September. “Bringing contemporary luxury to Mayfair, guests will experience outstanding hospitality, including dining by Chef Jason Atherton, in remarkable surroundings that truly capture the spirit of London and British luxury.”

With a host of iconic landmarks and neighbourhoods on its doorstep, including the home of bespoke tailoring, Savile Row, and exclusive retailers on Bond Street – the hotel is a decadent retreat to experience the best that London has to offer.

Main image credit: The Biltmore Mayfair

Checking in: Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain, Saint Lucia

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in: Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain, Saint Lucia

With his aim fixed on understanding how one jaw-dropping location can harbour two very different – but no doubt both luxury escapes – editor Hamish Kilburn travelled to Saint Lucia to review the wonders of Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain…

On the western stretch of Saint Lucia, an island that last year welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors, two incredible design gem stones can be found. While the two hotels are very different in style, the experience of Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain comes as one.

Not only are the hotels two of the region’s most sought-after places to check in to, but they also stand as a permanent reminder of an unforgettable journey, which is full of discovery, challenges and sustainable solutions that is still ongoing for husband-and-wife team Nick and Karolin Troubetzkoy.

“I’m a man that looks for logic,” says the critically acclaimed architect Nick Troubetzkoy as he peers over the evening’s dinner menu to take in the sweeping views of the sun disappearing over the edge of the horizon. The last of the day’s light reflects off the luscious jade-green mountains, which are commonly referred to as The Pitons. Jade Club literally takes the concept of fine-dining to new heights, as it is perched majestically on the hotel’s top floor. It doesn’t matter where you sit, you somehow always manage to catch the postcard perfect perspective of the twin mountains. Nothing here has been designed by coincidence, which is refreshing. “Designing a hotel requires logical and thoughtful steps throughout the entire process,” Troubetzkoy smirks as he leaves a pause in the air for effect. “The game rugby on the hand is not a logical game – you pass the ball backwards for starters” And just like, as England prepares to execute its World Cup campaign, I catch my first glimpse of the legendary architect’s sense of humour, and his dislike for design without purpose.

Image credit: Jade Mountain

For guests checking in, the adventure of both Anse Chasanet and Jade Mountain starts shortly after the plane touches down on the island’s soil. For the Troubetzkoys, though, the adventure started in the ‘70s, when the couple visited the tropical destination and fell in love with the island’s pristine, Caribbean Sea-facing, west coast.

Drivers in Saint Lucia don’t lie. When warned that you’re going to endure a bumpy ride, that’s a cue to buckle up. The exact location of both hotels is the first indication that these magnificent properties have been designed meaningfully, from concept through to completion, in order shelter ultimate and unquestionable privacy and luxury. That kind of treasure comes at a cost, which in this case is an uneven road and a toe-curling drive over a cliff-edge. It’s the only road that has access to the hotels and it’s a thread that connects them from the heart of Soure Friee, a charming and friendly town, which is home to many of the staff – and prevents trespassers.

Anse Chastanet

Anse Chastanet sits at the foot of the mountain and is, in part, hidden within the surrounding forest that covers a staggering 77 per cent of the island. The hotel’s open-air design in both the public and private areas invites nature in at every opportunity. This is where the Troubetzkoy’s quest began, to create and develop the luxury hotel experience. Purchased in the ‘70s, the 49-key hotel was the Troubetzkoy’s debut luxury resort. Their plans to redevelop the hotel was in order make room for a new level of premium accommodation in Saint Lucia, the Caribbean, and indeed the world.

Image credit: Anse Chastanet

B.T. (Before Troubetzkoys), the Anse Chastanet was a collection of a few huts scattered along the beach, reflecting a conventional and arguably unmemorable Caribbean hotel. Years later, the Troubetzkoy family transformed it into a thriving multi-award-winning resort that operates as one of the Caribbean’s most premium destinations – and for good reason. “As far back as when we first opened, I remember asking our guests why we didn’t see very much of them outside their one-with-nature rooms,” says the architect. “I was told by them, that they were simply relaxing, breathing in the air, basking in the surroundings and enjoying a wonderful sense of calm and peace. When you compare that experience to being boxed into a traditional glass enclosed hotel room, breathing recirculated, machine-processed air, the difference is enormous.”

There is no doubt about it, the resort is of its time, but that’s also its charm; a space that feels lived-in with a warming home-from-home character that is amplified further by the caring and considerate staff. A home that has no boundaries between interiors and exterior, designed to reflect the topography of the land. A home that celebrates literally the very definition of nature in design. Anse Chastanet is a wonderful, colourful, playful and unpretentiously luxurious hotel – and it was here where the idea for Troubetzkoy’s next project, Jade Mountain, was born.

Image credit: Anse Chastanet

There are references of the same design ethos in the foundations of both Anse Chasanet and Jade Mountain. The Royal Palm, Anse Chasanet’s most premium suite, is an excellent example of this, and is located half way up the mountain where the two hotels almost meet. The open-air concept carves out an understated premium scene, very much opening up the space to allow for the 260-degree views to do the hard work, while the Caribbean-infused interiors frame nature and sense of place in all its majesty. Famous art pieces by both local and international artists add personality into the space. The walls in the are covered with vibrant paintings by postmodernist German painter, Elvira Bach. But what is most impressive, in my opinion, is how the structure of the suite, including the bathroom, has been carved out in such a way, with a logical eye, so that, just like Jade Club, guests can almost always see The Pitons from each and every corner, which adds scrutiny and challenges to the standard cookie-cutter approach when it comes to designing luxury suites.

“One day, while the plans for the hotel were still in early development, he looked at his collection, turned towards me and commented that ‘Jade Mountain’ had a nice ring to it.” – Karolin Troubetzkoy

Jade Mountain

“Do you know why we called it Jade Mountain?” asks Karolin Troubetzkoy who, as well as being the co-owner of the resort and is very much the brains behind its incredible initiatives, is also the current President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism. “Everyone always gets it wrong. They think it was simply the views of The Pitons. But actually, for years my husband created and collected these amazing miniature mountains, which were a luscious shade of jade. One day, while the plans for the hotel were still in early development, he looked at his collection, turned towards me and commented that ‘Jade Mountain’ had a nice ring to it.”

Image credit: Jade Mountain

What makes the hotel unique to any other design story – or any other hotel around the world for that matter – is how decisions were made, and quickly changed. “I wanted to create individualised spatial environments that would enable guests to forget about the furniture or the fact that they’re in a hotel room,” explains Nick Troubetzkoy. “In essence, I want our guests to forget about everything but experiencing the psychology of the space on an emotional almost spiritual level.”

Image credit: Jade Mountain

The term ‘jewel of the crown’ feels appropriate when describing its position on site. The magnificent structure of rough concrete imbued with locally quarried stoneappears once guests make it up the stairway to heaven by either foot or complimentary shuttle bus, and walk across the long, suspended private bridges that lead to what the hotel describes as ‘sanctuaries’.

Editor Hamish Kilburn soaking in the views from JD1 Galaxy Suite at Jade Mountain

All 29 sanctuaries frame the unparalleled vistas of The Pitons. While each area has been individually designed, they all share a few common themes. The lack of right angles in the design, for example, removing the fourth wall and creating an open-air concept helps keep the relationship between guest and nature together, while the interior walls are finished in a crushed blush toned coral plaster quarried in Barbados. Because of these indoor and outdoor moments working in harmony, there is a natural rhythm to guests’ stay without the need for clocks or televisions. Almost all sanctuaries feature infinity pools – and, by far, the most impressive spaces are the Galaxy Sanctuaries. JD1, which became my luxe home-from-home (and my handstand hangout) felt like an oversized luxurious penhouse apartment. Following my move up the mountain from Anse Chasenet, it’s the first time during my trip where I recognised luxury manufacturers and suppliers, such as Duravit W/Cs and premium seating by Janus et Cie and Dedon.

And that’s not all. At Jade Mountain, unlike many other luxury hotels that claim to be eco-friendly, sustainability is a core value and not greenwashed simply as a marketing tool. While Anse Chasanet shares the same ethos, the living areas of each sanctuary in Jade Mountain are finished with more than 20 different species of tropical hardwood flooring and trims harvested in an environmentally meaningful way. The resort’s technicians actually visited the Rain Forest of Guyana and personally chose which trees to be used. A multitude of hardwoods have been used including Purpleheart, Greenheart, Locust, Kabukali, Snakewood, Bloodwood, Etikburabali, Futukbali, Taurino, Mora and Cabbage Wood.

The consciousness of the resorts stretches beyond the design. 30 per cent of all produce at both Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain is grown on site, just a few miles away from the hotels. It’s also here where the resort grows its own coco beans, so that both properties can make their own mouth-watering chocolate for guests to enjoy.

While hotel designers continue striving to cater to the heavy demands of the modern traveller, perhaps there is something to be said in stripping away unnecessary technology and opening up interiors to nature to ultimately allow the natural experience of a pocket of paradise to stand the test of time.. After all, luxury will never go out of style.

Main image credit: Jade Mountain/Anse Chastanet

Checking in to Inhabit Hotel, sheltering a new level of eco design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Inhabit Hotel, sheltering a new level of eco design

During the London hotel’s soft launch period, editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to discover Inhabit’s debut property, which in the process earns his eco stamp of approval…

Last year, an insightful study revealed that the city of London had the eighth highest level of pollution in the world, making the sky 67 times brighter than it would be without the contribution of humans. In the same study, it was highlighted that a staggering 84 per cent of Brits spend less than 10 minutes a day enjoying peace and quiet.

Armed with these statistics, it came with great delight reading about a new hospitality concept of a fresh urban hotel perspective, where wellbeing and sustainable design was at the core of everything. Where the aim is for guests to leave feeling lighter, more free and inspired by taking the pace of life down a gear or two. Where time is luxury. Where Inhabit Hotel becomes a home-from-home.

After a chaotic experience navigating the London Underground, which I politely consider to be ‘the pits’ of all public transport with it being the most polluted place in the city, I arrived at Paddington’s new boutique hotel in the same state of mind as I imagine most guests do; slightly stressed showing early symptoms of rush-hour rage. Juxtaposing the hustle and bustle of the city’s zone 1, the hotel’s understated is guests’ first indication of a new kind of hotel.

The sixth-floor urban sanctuary is the brainchild of Nadira and Rihim Lalji, and is the cousins’ first hotel within the portfolio. Created by architecture firm Holland Harvey Architects and Caitlin Henderson Design, the 90-key hotel is designed with busy travellers in mind. My arrival experience feels more as if I am staying with warm hosts rather than a hotel. The lobby sits in perfect harmony between the F&B area, named Yeotown, and book-filled library.

The check-in desk is down-played, and marries nicely into the laid-back luxury design concept. While checking in, my eyes are drawn to a timetable that I am not familiar with; a yoga and mediation schedule, which I am told launched only this week but was very much part of the core plan for the hotel. “Wellness is at the heart of our brand,” says Nadira Lalji. “Every aspect of our hotel is aligned with what being well means to us. We think of wellness as more than a physical state, but a way of being. Our brand pillars, which stand for social connectedness, intellectual expansion and environmental responsibility, reinforce this belief.”

The ground-floor library is Inhabit’s answer to the rise in demand for public areas designed with bleisure in mind. The space encourages residents and members of the public to unwind, work and be inspired. The noise-free corner is complete with LED bulbs, which are 80 per cent more efficient in terms of energy used than traditional lighting. Occupancy sensors ensure that no energy is lost and guests are seen in their best light when they require it.

Image credit: Inhabit Hotel

Yeotown, is an innovative and thoughtful F&B area, perfect for guests on the move or as a venue for casual meetings. By partnering with food-wastage apps Karma and Too Good to Go, the area allows non-guests to pick up perfectly edible bargains which would otherwise be put into waste. The tables and chairs, made also by Holland and Harvey, have been created using materials honestly and in their natural state. “At Inhabit, we have specified oak flooring and joinery, all finished with a natural sealant to show off their natural colouring and tones,” said architect Richard Holland. “The floor is a natural stone from Fired Earth, which has beautiful variations and tonal differences.”

Upstairs, the sustainability story continues, which is most impressive when considering that the hotel is sheltered within a Grade II listed building. From Casper eco-friendly mattresses to the REN amenities that are made from recycled plastic – even the soft toilet paper is 100 per cent recycled – the guestrooms and bathrooms are quite obviously designed with conscious guests in mind. But on close inspection, it becomes apparent just how high up on the agenda sustainability is for the hotel. Taking the concept of ‘escapism’, one step further, each room comes complete with Studio ND phone charge and stowaway boxes, made from scrap materials, so that guests can break away from their devices.

Perhaps it was my perfectly timed stay to sit in-between speaking about this very topic on stage at the Independent Hotel Show – more likely it’s simply the sheer statement of an urban hotel having such an eco-focused message – that has put on a smile on my face when checking out following one of the best night’s sleep I have had in London for a while. I can’t help but feel totally relaxed and reassured that the bottom line of profit is not the only value when it comes to successfully operating a hotel. And it was this that inspired my latest Editor Checks In online column, where I argue that consciousness could very well become the new luxury.

Main image credit: InHabit London

MINIVIEW: Balancing heritage and playful design inside Maximilian Hotel

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: Balancing heritage and playful design inside Maximilian Hotel

Known locally as one of Prague’s most established boutique hotels, redesigning the 71-key Maximilian Hotel called upon experienced minds and skilful to sensitively reimagine and redesign the hotel’s interiors. Editor Hamish Kilburn checks in for a sneak peek…

Situated on Haštalská Street facing the Haštal Church – close to Prague’s Old Town Square, Maximilian Hotel was first opened in 1995, and was last last renovated by Czech architect Eva Jiřičná in 2005.

Since then, an evolving demand among international savvy travellers has called for a new kind of F&B areas. Combine this with the rise of the urban ‘hometel’ hotel, the hotel was in drastic need of tender, love and meaningful care.

Commissioned by the owners, Christian and Rudolf Ploberger, Conran and Partners was given the task to sensitively restore the hotel to its former glory, adding a modern mix of personality and character without diluting its charm – something that, considering the architectural shells of the hotel, was easier said than done.  “Maximilian presented us with interesting challenges,” says Tina Norden, Partner, Conran and Partners. “It consists of two different buildings with different architectural styles, which are connected on the ground floor by a linear series of previously underutilised public areas. Our challenge was to open up and unify these spaces to create a coherent and engaging journey for guests and visitors.”

Previously, only a limited food and beverage offer existed in the front-of-house areas. The design team have added a café and bar at the main entrance, which animates the building’s façade and engages with the adjacent streetscape, including a small tree-lined paved area directly in front of the church opposite.

In addition, the ground floor spaces were re-worked to include a brasserie within the new living room hub at the heart of the hotel, providing social spaces for guests and visitors. The Plobergers have teamed up with innovative Austrian restauranteur Marco Simonis to create the F&B concepts for the hotel.

Martina Honcikova, Maximilian’s Creative Director, adds: “The new brasserie is a wonderful additon to the Prague gourmet scene and the reconfigured spaces within the hotel will allow us to host a range of private and public events. The design approach is highly creative – yet practical – and has helped to confirm Maximilian’s position as one of Prague’s leading hotels.”

Conran and Partners’ design approach for the 71-key hotel reflects the cultural and architectural heritage of its urban context, referencing Czech modernism and the progressive art movement influenced by famous avant-garde artist and architectural writer, Karel Teige. Teige developed a version of the modernist principle that was based on much softer elements than many of his peers; his poetic modernism embraced elements such as texture and colour as well as more playful elements also represented in his many surreal collage works.

The design team wanted to retain a strong element of Teige’s poetic modernism while creating sense of place rooted in the city and the neighbourhood. This involved drawing upon the iconic pastel colour palette of Prague’s architecture and local crafts – including weaving and glass-making – for the materiality of the design.

“By respecting the heritage of the original building and through an inspiring collaboration with Conran and Partners, we have created a chic, contemporary urban dwelling that brings together the best of Czech tradition, culture and design with brasserie-style food,” says Rudolf Ploberger, co-owner of Maximilian. “The new design will allow us to focus on the needs of our guests to ensure that they experience a truly memorable time while in Prague.”

“Each area of the hotel is highlighted in a different pastel tone.”

Bold use of colour is the defining element of the design approach. Each area of the hotel is highlighted in a different pastel tone, referencing the colourful architecture of Prague’s inner city. This ranges from light green tones on entry, to pinks in the historic stairwells and a deep blue for the guestrooms. Overlaid on this are elements of local craft, made bespoke for the hotel, and a carefully curated selection of contemporary and classic furniture pieces in similar soft and colourful shades.

Bespoke lighting elements designed by Conran and Partners, and made by Czech manufacturer Sans Souci, feature throughout the public areas and a contemporary chandelier crafted from handmade Czech glass was created for the living room and library spaces. The popular basement spa has been optimised and refreshed throughout using gentle pastel paint colours, bespoke artwork murals by local design company Lavmi and warm ambient lighting to promote relaxation.

“The bespoke headboards reference the local craft of basket weaving.” Tina Norden, Partner, Conran and Partners

“We have created an approach which is playful, provocative but also functional,” says Norden. “Colour features very strongly in the rooms as well, combining a deep blue with softer highlights and warm oak joinery, textured glass, mirror and brass details. The bespoke headboards reference the local craft of basket weaving, while the artwork celebrates the Czech avant-garde movement, including photomontages by Karel Teige. The terrazzo in the bathroom areas is both decorative and functional. Each room has a window bench seat – some looking out onto the church opposite – to offer guests a direct connection with the city and outside. Our aim was to redefine Maximilian with a clear and compelling personality which is grounded in the local context and re-establish it as a prime design destination hotel for the city.”

Image credit: Matthias Aschauer

Artwork plays a key part in the design, based on pieces the owners had already, combined with prints of iconic Teige collages and contemporary works inspired by his playful, surreal and intriguing works. The Teige pieces were sourced through the Czech archives with the new pieces curated with Dais Contemporary in London.

Conran and Partners’ design approach for the rooms has sought to optimise the spaces across various guestroom layouts, which include quirky rooms with curved ceilings within the roof space, and give them a contemporary yet warm and residential feel.

Main image credit: Matthias Aschauer

Eco gem: The Tongsai Bay, Koh Samui

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Eco gem: The Tongsai Bay, Koh Samui

In search of eco gems, as we continue putting sustainability under the spotlight this month, journalist Sara Darling has committed to long haul, and Asia is firmly on her agenda. Removed from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, Koh Samui is Darling’s next adventure as it is home to one of the world’s few fully sustainable boutique hotels, The Tongsai Bay…

Koh Samui, just east of mainland Thailand, is a relaxed island, famous for its giant temple of the Big Buddha- a 39ft golden Buddha erected in 1792 at Wat Phra Yai. It is also the home of what I have found to be one of the world’s most sustainable boutique hotels.

The Tongsai Bay, on the north east tip of the beautiful island, is a family run business which has been welcoming visitors since 1987, and is the ideal  tranquil break that is full of many sustainable and thoughtful moments thanks to its design, architecture and day-to-day operations.

Nestled amongst 28 and a half acres of greenery, the secluded property consisting of low rise apartments, bungalows and cottages are spread in the valley of a private cove. Only 15 minutes from the airport, it is a short hop north of the popular Choeng Mon beach, and a ten minute transfer to the buzzy restaurants, bars and shopping in Fisherman’s Village.

Paying attention to all the small details, the hotel has a modern rustic feel, which blends Eastern and Western philosophies with science and spirituality; However the subtle decor is more homely than pretentious and enhances the brand’s ethical stance. For example, the art throughout the property, which has been created by the hotel’s resident artist Mook, uses recycled materials – and paints my first indication of a sustainable and eco-friendly picture.

Meanwhile, the elegant, airy villas have private pathways and pools which are interspersed amongst the greenery. Along with cottages, villas and suites, there are low rise blocks, all which maximise the uninterrupted sea views, and are designed to utilise the natural sun and shade within their open spaces.

With a low-key, back-to-nature environment, the 83 chalets and villas that cascade down to a private beach on the Gulf of Thailand, have also been designed to enhance their natural surroundings, so guests can enjoy the birdsong, crashing waves and sound of crickets on their terrace. The terrace cottages all offer an outside “bath with a view”, four poster gazebo, bar, dining area and sun loungers, along with a freshwater plunge pool for ultimate luxury while feeling at one with the elements.

“Dedicated to improving its carbon footprint, Tongsai Bay has abolished the use of all plastic – providing re-fillable glass drinking bottles and lemongrass straws for guests.”

Great care has been taken to integrate the buildings into nature. They are furnished in contemporary Thai style – dark wood tables and beds, hardwood floors, along with modern showers, hairdryer and walk-in wardrobe.

Dedicated to improving its carbon footprint, The Tongsai Bay has abolished the use of all plastic – providing re-fillable glass drinking bottles and lemongrass straws for guests. It also applies energy-saving measures throughout, stocks guestrooms with environmentally-friendly toiletries made by local supplier, and only changes bedding when requested.

Other eco-conscious details include washing-up liquid and cleaning products produced from leftover peelings, and mosquito deterrent created with natural citronella and lemongrass. Staff are trained to be environmentally aware and the hotel prides itself on upcycling and composting everything it can- including the waste of the compost toilets for fertiliser, and recycling cooking oil.

These simple approaches go a long way in making a difference to the future of the planet, and the ethos is subtly carried out across the site. From a bay that is free from mechanical water sports, to avoid pollution, to the two fresh water pools.

Image credit: Tongsai Bay

In regards to food, as much produce as possible is home grown for the Tongsai, at an impressive, off-site organic garden which provides ingredients for the bar, kitchen and spa, and is open to guests by arrangement. Packed with edibles including exotic fruits, herbs and vegetables, they are cared for using sustainable agricultural practices, and knowledgeable gardners.  The breakfast “Happy Juice” prepared by larger than life Khun Pu is an essential kick start to your day.

A visit to Thailand is not complete without a massage, and the onsite Prana Spa provides a wide range of luxury, innovative treatments for a traditional  taste of Thailand. The scents and oils are provided by the same organic company as the bathroom products, and you can get transported to another world either in one of the cosy spa cottages or shady daybeds on the beach.

For a deluxe stay in a hotel that really puts the environment first, along with friendly staff, The Tongsai Bay is a great place to escape from the rat race where guests can feel at one with nature and themselves.

Main image credit: Tongsai Bay

MINIVIEW: Austin Proper to open in December 2019

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: Austin Proper to open in December 2019

Austin Proper Hotel and Residences offers an artful immersion in lifestyle and well-being. Ahead of its official opening in December, editor Hamish Kilburn took a sneak peek inside..

Following the opening of Santa Monica Proper in July, Proper Hotels has extended its portfolio with the launch of Austin Proper Hotel and Residences.

Also designed by the acclaimed Kelly Wearstler, the hotel shelters 244 rooms and suites; 99 branded residences; four unique settings for dining and drink; a focus on wellness with a dedicated spa and fitness centre; plus a variety of atmospheric spaces for events. And it wouldn’t be Proper without a 5th floor pool deck offering small-batch tequilas and majestic lake views.

This sculptural new construction also integrates the work of award-winning Handel Architects in a progression of atmospheres including two pools, 9,500 square feet of event spaces, and multiple dining concepts by McGuire Moorman Hospitality. In step with Austin’s natural lifestyle, LEED Gold certification minimizes footprint and maximizes sustainability. To promote wellness for those who stay and work with Proper, these rigorous environmental standards extend from water use (reclaimed irrigation systems, in-building chilled water loops, centralized boilers) to low-VOC paints, energy-efficient LED lights, and insulated dual-pane windows that save energy and block UV.

Render of a private pool

Image credit: Proper Hotels

Wearstler’s creative direction for the site-specific design of Austin Proper has unfolded over three years. The layered, individualistic look mines a tradition of artistry and craftsmanship distinct to Austin. The historical influence of Austin’s most stately homes inspires eye-catching details, from a sculptural staircase installation of 60 patch worked vintage rugs, to the lobby’s monolithic wood-and-ceramic grandfather clock. Local artists and materials feature prominently throughout, with every surface adding textural interest: pots, trays and cabinet inlay tiles by ceramicist Rick Van Dyke; locally quarried travertine on the pool deck; Delta wood panelling; native elmwoods; and antique mirror finishes.

With Austin as muse, each of the 244 rooms and suites has been carefully detailed by Kelly Wearstler for refined living and restful evenings. The design is deeply influenced by local craft and material, from raw travertine sourced at nearby quarries, to trays by Rick Van Dyke to original fibre artworks by Magda Sayeg. Well-considered appointments include Aesop bath amenities, Kelly Wearstler x Parachute Home robes and signature Proper beds layering Simmons Providence Mattresses, Fili D’oro and Bellino Fine Linens.

Stylish and chic restaurant with glass barriers

Image credit: Proper Hotels

Leading Austin Proper’s dining front is McGuire Moorman Hospitality, the award-winning team behind many of Austin’s best dining and entertainment spots. At the landmark eatery, guests can savour Mediterranean–inspired foods and flavours. Mezze plates and wood-grilled fare are colourful, healthy and wholesome, paired with house-made pita from the wood-burning oven. On the rooftop pool deck, a coastal Mexican restaurant with raw bar offers wood-fired seafood and fajita offerings. Morning, noon or night, a ground floor Mediterranean coffee shop serves savoury items to-go and tempting treats like soft-serve Greek frozen yogurt, while the sunken bar is an elegant hideaway.

In step with Proper’s commitment to wellness, this urban getaway begins with a private reception to discuss a client’s needs. The facility includes a soothing lounge, five spa treatment rooms, men’s and women’s locker rooms with steam showers, and wellness experts on call. A 2,000-square-foot fitness centre is also on property.

An array of high-end amenities aim to refresh, whether with a challenging workout in the 2,000-square-foot fitness centre, borrowing a bicycle for a lakeside trail ride, or a dip into world-class wellness at the spa. Guests are encouraged to linger on property, perhaps set up your office for the day by the 5th-floor pool. Dining options satisfy a variety of moods, whether cafe grab-and-go, garden cocktails overlooking Shoal Creek; poolside suppers, or a full feast at the landmark restaurant.

From well-appointed ballrooms to music gardens, Austin Proper offers more than 9,500 square feet of thoughtfully designed spaces for indoor and outdoor meetings, weddings and special events, and private dining. Adding distinction to the creative design, the Proper team and McGuire Moorman Hospitality specially curate menus and styles of service to match any occasion.

Austin Proper rises above the waterfront of a 2nd Street District booming with creative offices, world-class design, conveniences and culture. Add in an easy-going lifestyle, and you’ve got a style forward epicentre of pedestrian activity.

Main image credit: Proper Hotels

Checking in to a urban landmark: The Edwardian Manchester

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to a urban landmark: The Edwardian Manchester

The Edwardian Manchester, which joins The May Fair as Edwardian Hotels London’s second Radisson Collection property, has recently completed a £12m renovation. Editor Hamish Kilburn was invited to exclusive review the 263-room hotel… 

A coherent blend of old and new is my first impression when, stood under a glass box that divides two buildings, I check in to the modern and contemporary The Edwardian Manchester.

The Grade II listed The Free Trade Hall plays an integral role in the UK’s history and has long been an important spot for Mancunians. From the political, the Free Trade Hall was constructed in 1853–56 on St Peter’s Fields, the site of the Peterloo Massacre, to the cultural; a range of  iconic names have either performed or spoken at the property, from Charles Dickens to the Sex Pistols to Winston Churchill, the hotel embodies a sense of community and union.

Edwardian Hotels London’s Design Team, led by Creative Director Rob Steul and Product Design Manager Krishma Singh-Dear, has successfully created a dynamic destination through smart, intuitive architectural design. Guests are drawn to a series of connected focal points throughout the building, with each location serving as a distinct purpose to enhance their visit. Their refusal to compromise on quality, and consistent attention to detail is apparent through the use of robust, yet luxurious materials and subtle highlights that consciously link spaces together.

“The top-to-bottom renovation allowed the opportunity to marry the modern bedroom tower with the important heritage of the Grade II* listed original building,” says Steul. “The ground floor public rooms now create a coherent guest arrival leading to a varied and memorable flow of elegant spaces – layering materials, colour and lighting in a clear spatial sequence with texture and drama. It was critical in this building to get the balance of old and new right, allowing the memory of the Free Trade Hall, with its heroic façade, to live on as part of a confidently modern yet comfortable hotel. For me, the great surprise is the spa, gym and pool found below the entry level – a true urban resort in the heart of Manchester.”

The lobby’s design is an excellent place to start. Balanced to reflect both the building’s heritage as well as the modern soul of Manchester. A large contemporary chandelier hangs in the entrance under a carefully curated mix of relaxed public seating. Meanwhile, above the long check-in desk, deliberately hidden from view upon arrival, are crests of honour, which reference the properties previous life.

Peter Street Kitchen

The ground floor restaurant, Peter Street Kitchen, serves hotel guests a fusion of Japanese and Mexican cuisine under a quirky and thoughtful design concept that aims to bring people closer together. The design team created a sequence of four distinctive spaces; a heroic scaled bar, an intimate circular dining room, a shared table area, and a relaxed lounge running the length of the barrel-vaulted colonnade overlooking the nightlife of Peter Street.

“A varied palette juxtaposes smooth and textured materials to further define the space.”

The unique menu inspired design features such as shared bench tables, a Hibachi inspired fire pit, and sumptuous leather-clad booths. Highly dramatic mood and feature lighting complements the stylish textures of natural woods, river stone, and sleek steel, with the historic carved stone arches and highly detailed plasterwork serving as a rich backdrop.

A varied palette juxtaposes smooth and textured materials to further define the space. Circular marble mosaics and wood planking is used on the floors with historic stone with hand-crafted plaster framing circular mirrors and reflecting the shape and light of the arches opposite. The rough, raw timber exterior cladding of the bespoke dining banquets gives way to a supple white leather interior, further enhancing the powerful, circular form of the dining area.

Image caption/credit: Peter Street Kitchen/Edwardian Hotels

The Library

Also situated on the ground floor, The Library has been curated by Assouline and is nestled adjacent to the welcoming lobby. The chic and contemporary dining concept includes neon lighting and considered bookshelves to create subtle boundaries. What is arguably most impressive, though, is the style of the menu. Designed around the theme of a recipe book, a clean image of the dish is the left of the page, while a precise list of ingredients is on the right page.

“Mirrored nickel lamps project a warm glow over the navy velvet and dark woollen charcoal grey armchairs.”

Complete with stunning, limited-edition books, the area, especially during the day, is a sophisticated space that encourages guests to sink into leather sofas and wingback armchairs to truly relax. Mirrored nickel lamps project a warm glow over the navy velvet and dark woollen charcoal grey armchairs, whilst the baby grand piano greets guests with a luxury setting to eat, drink and relax in, simultaneously capturing Manchester’s ties to art and culture. The property’s birch tree wallpaper has been used to mirror the exterior birch trees that line South Street entrance, bringing a connection and synergy between the two spaces.

Wellness and wellbeing

The lower floor of the hotel features the hotel’s gym and spa, which has been completely reimagined to manipulate ceiling heights, remove the appearance of walls and barriers, and create an open and fluid floor plan that provides clear sight lines between the defined spaces. The entire pool area is encompassed by a neutral palette of wood, concrete, marble and white flooring which aesthetically contrasts with the 12-metre pool’s aqua blue stone lining, creating an alluring lagoon. Crittall glass dividers are used to open the space and maximise light, while the swimming pool is further enhanced as a destination space with seven low cabanas creating a truly relaxing escape for guests.

“The project allowed us to combine modern design influence with the property’s classic heritage.” – Product Design Manager, Krishma Singh-Dear

Image caption/credit: The spa/Edwardian Hotels

Guestrooms and suites

The hotel’s guestrooms and suites have also been transformed, aligning with the contemporary design used throughout the property’s ground floor. Modern, yet relaxed and inviting, a pallet of greys mixes with black leather, smart dogtooth, marble, walnut and brass.

Iconic images of Manchester and its history adorn each room, bringing flashes of colour alongside bespoke graphic prints designed exclusively for the hotel, while quirky details, such as the same checkered armchair seen in the lobby, add personality and form to each room.

Image caption/credit: Modern guestroom/Edwardian Hotels

“Aside from our ongoing work on the group’s first Super Boutique hotel The Londoner, the refurbishment of The Edwardian Manchester has been our largest and most complicated in-house designed and managed project to date,” explains Singh-Dear. “The project allowed us to combine modern design influence with the property’s classic heritage. I am very proud of the result and enjoy seeing our guests enjoy the spaces we have created.”

Combining luxury, style and a rich history, The Edwardian Manchester has become one of the most established five-star hotels in the region as the brand prepares to open what is said to become one of the most environmentally friendly in the UK, with sustainability at its core.

Main image credit: Edwardian Hotels

INTERACTIVE HOTEL REVIEW: Monkey Island Estate, Bray-on-Thames

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
INTERACTIVE HOTEL REVIEW: Monkey Island Estate, Bray-on-Thames

Unearthing eight centuries of history, editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to Bray-on-Thames’ Monkey Island Estate to interactively review a new kind of private countryside luxury…

Travel upstream from London and you eventually arrive in the quintessentially British surroundings of Bray-on-Thames, a quiet suburban village that is arguably most for harbouring two of the UK’s five restaurants that hold three Michelin stars.

But before the existence of award-winning gourmet F&B establishment, some 800 years prior, there quietly sat an empty island, which went on to soak up interesting eras. It was firstly an ideal setting for monks seeking peace on the banks of the river. It is said that after the Great Fire of London in 1666, materials from Oxfordshire, such as stone and brick, were transported down the river for rebuilding the city. On the vessels’ return, rubble would be spread around some of the Thames islands, which greatly reduced erosion and helped to strengthen the foundations.

A few decades later, in 1738, the land was purchased by Charles Spencer, 3rdDuke of Marlborough, who was rumoured to have paid palladian architect Robert Morris £2,277 to erect the first two buildings on the island in order to indulge his hobby of fishing. It took Morri three years to complete, but his work marks an important milestone in the property and island’s history – and it is arguably here where the narrative of what is now known as Monkey Island Estate really begins. But it was only recently when the story took on a new narrative, complete with the introduction of new characters, to become a completely unique boutique hotel.

In 2016, YTL Hotels acquired the land, and work began to restore the property into a modern and relaxed countryside abode. Inspired by the haunts of monks, monarchs, aristocrats and writers alike, New York-based Champalimaud Design was responsible to sensitively orchestrate the interior design of the hotel. Having completed the interior design of YTL’s debut UK property, The Gainsborough Bath and Spa, and more recently The Academy in London, the studio, while also sensitively restoring Raffles Singapore, was well-poised to develop the relationship further.

Unlike any hotel project that lead designer Jon Kastl has faced before, the geography of Monkey Island Estate presented its own unique set of challenges. “You have no idea how difficult it is to work on a island that has no direct car access,” he explains. “Everything had to be carried over the footbridge onto the island. And then, the other challenge was the age of the buildings, and dealing with the neglect of the building. They were in pretty rough shape, almost falling into disrepair.”

Guests’ first impression of the hotel is an understated – almost camouflaged – lobby area in a cosy ‘boathouse’ – the feeling of being taken away from the daily grind does not get much stronger than this so close to the centre of London. “The hotel is relatively small,” adds “

The short walk over the footbridge from the unassuming lobby to the public areas is one of wonder. Architectural landscape designer AV Design has created a majestic garden that compliments the various buildings.

Framing what should be in my opinion the postcard picturesque views of the River Thames, the pavilion building, which shelters the majority of the public areas, sets a relaxing setting – and echoes, on a balmy summer afternoon at least, the same peaceful scene that I imagine was once enjoyed by monks centuries ago.

Caption: The Restaurant | Image credit: ACT Studios

Although the bar and restaurant is, on the surface, seemingly conventional, the building has a few hidden gems. The Monkey Room, for example, stands true to its original form and structure – and even design. “The only thing we changed was the purple paint colours on the ceiling and add the furnishings,” says Kastl. The eye-catching murals on the panelling is all original which has been there from since when the building was first built.

Caption: The Monkey Room | Image credit: ACT Studios

Up the spiral staircase, The Whiskey Room is the latest area that has opened. Designed with the winter months in mind, the cosy and home-from-home atmosphere, complete with tactile wallcoverings, is an expected treat.

It is because of the fact that the 41 guestrooms and one originally restored suite are sheltered in a grade I-listed building that makes the design story even more fascinating. The design of each and every one of the guestrooms utilises the entire space, with some stretching out onto terraces which look over the river, while carefully blending in a modern style that becomes timeless.  “We just had to accept the smallness of the rooms when designing them,” Kastl explains. “We did things like designing miniature shelves and additional service space. We designed rails that lined the rolls for guests to hang items from. Because there is such a limited closet space, we had to rely on these rails.” The furniture is scaled appropriately so that it fits in the limited space neatly. Meanwhile, the blinds and curtains, supplied by Concept Contract Furnishings are deliberately not heavy, and instead naturally flood the rooms with light to make them look and feel more expansive.

INTERACTIVE tour of The Wedgwood Suite | Image credit: ACT Studios

Despite the guestrooms being impressive – and adding to the overall interior design story (and challenges) – the masterpiece of the hotel is perhaps sheltered upstairs in the Wedgewood Suite. “The room, from the panelling to the ceiling, was very much intact,” explains Kastl. “One of the challenges was that it has windows on three sides, so from a layout point of view it created a few headaches.” The ensuite bathroom has been re-gutted and given a fresh and modern look. “ The suite is the coming together of old heritage design and the new.

Moored on the river bank, the hotel’s spa is unlike any other in or around London. The facilities have been curated by Melissa Mettler who took inspiration from its riverine surrounds, past inhabitants in the form of royalty, liturgy and literary stars, as well as elegant architecture. The floating spa, which features two treatment rooms that are uniquely sheltered within a renovated barge, is a celebration of the power of water blended together with natural wellbeing and wellness.

Image credit: ACT Studios

I’m sure, for the designers as much as the operators, that the thought of completing Monkey Island Estate and opening again to the public was a distant day dream. But, considering the drastic rise in demand for wellbeing as well as wellness, the timing of YTL hotel’s countryside retreat could not have been more perfect. Checking out of Monkey Island feeling fully restored in mind, body and spirit myself, following a short by sweet trip to the floating spa before departure, the hotel locks in so many unique and thoughtful moments – and exceeds expectations to become one of the UK’s premium countryside retreats.

Main image credit: ACT Studios

The Standard London, Camden’s new kid on the block

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
The Standard London, Camden’s new kid on the block

In search of a new standard in design, creativity and urban hotels, editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to London’s most talked-about hotels this year to explore another world. The Standard London has opened, making a bold statement on the capital’s new hospitality scene… 

Something significant is happening in London’s King’s Cross area. It’s been brewing for some time now, but it has only recently erupted.

During London Design Festival and London Fashion Week, the area was the backdrop of a scene of celebrities, models and the odd design editor or two falling out of parties and onto pavements. Soho and Shoreditch were desolate deserts in comparison. It’s the power of real estate like you have never seen before. Selecting its opening date carefully, The Standard has disrupted everything – and it’s about time too!

Although, for years, the district has evolved with the time, it was the expansions to King’s Cross and the new St Pancras International stations adjacent to each other that started the catalyst for change. Strangely enough, my father worked on the construction of both. I remember the odd non-official ‘bring your son to work’ day, the oversized hard hat specifically, as we meandered around the expansive building site unable to imagine the finished picture. “Soon, you will be able to travel from London to Paris in just two hours, imagine that” I remember my father saying overexcitedly. “Right here, where you are standing, is going to become London’s major international train station!”

Whether or not my pops really was one of the first to envision the area’s potential is irrelevant. The station opened and almost instantly the cool, quirky neighbourhood of Camden became even more of a hotspot for the mainstream, without much – if any – loss of its bold and bohemian personality. As a result, the capital’s hotel scene – quick to follow major travel trends – moved outward to put a roof over the raw and rustic scenes that its locals had created.

And here we are, welcoming the city’s new arrival, The Standard, which has been patiently waiting in the wings for some time now. And while all hotels have a story (some more worth sharing than others), The Standards’ narrative is as unique as the interior design scheme locked within; a perfect meeting of American soul and London’s ostentatious quirk.

Housed in the former Camden Town Hall Annex in London’s thriving King’s Cross neighbourhood, the 1974 Brutalist building has been meticulously restored by the legendary ORMS Architects in collaboration, in part, with Archer Humphryes Architects.

The 266-key hotel, which shelters 42 suites, sets the perfect stage for the brand’s first arrival outside America. Uniquely overlooking the iconic St Pancras Station, from street level it’s juxtaposition of architecture that shouldn’t but does work. On the north side is the traditional 19th-century iconic neo-gothic architecture, which has stood the test of time, and two world wars for that matter, unscathed. On the south side is the ultra-modern non-conventional structure, symbolising loudly that times are changing.

“Three new storeys have been added to the top of the building,” explains Simon Whitaker from ORMS Architects. “The form of which has been derived from the host building below, and clad in new stainless steel and glass panels. Two of these floors provide hotel bedrooms, whilst the top floor is dedicated to the new restaurant and bar, with a roof terrace above.”

Image credit: The Standard Hotels

Upon entering, the lobby lounge sets the scene, with a carefully curated library that pays homage to the building’s original use. Further in, sound studio booths host weekly live music and talks. Executive Chef Adam Rawson’s street facing bar, Double Standard, designed by Shawn Hausman, the neighbourhood’s street-facing anchor for lunch, casual drinking and dining throughout the evening.

Although the colour scheme in the guestrooms and suites may not be to everyone’s taste, it is very much so mine. Not so much because of the tones used, but more so because they have been intertwined together with purpose – and unapologetically so for that matter. Complete with bespoke curved sofas and the King’s rooms featuring outdoor terrace bathtubs, the idiosyncratic charm of the hotel is certainly not limited to the public areas.

Image credit: The Standard Hotels

Before it opened, the hotel’s street level, red exterior lift was the ultimate teaser campaign. Now fully open, it shoots guests up directly to the 10th-floor where Chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’ restaurant showcases his live-fire cooking and where guests and visitors alike can enjoy the building’s 360-degree views of the city below all-year round thanks to the retractable awning.

No longer do party-hard followers of the brand have to travel stateside to experience The Standard’s retro maximalism. First launched in the late 90s with its debut hotel in Hollywood, which for the record remains to this day a go-to destination on the Sunset Strip, the hotel’s urban cool influence is London’s answer to keeping the Camden’s hospitality scene fresh, authentic and designed with purpose.

It’s next stop? The Maldives, next month in fact, which will be an interesting page to turn in what is an unmistakably climatic chapter for the now international hotel brand.

Main image credit: The Standard Hotels

MINIVIEW: The Pig at Bridge Place

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: The Pig at Bridge Place

Following its hotly anticipated opening in April, The Pig at Bridge Place marks the hotel brand’s sixth authentic boutique hotel within its portfolio. Editor Hamish Kilburn heads back to his home county in Kent to explore the countryside gem… 

With its welcoming red brick façade and ornate Jacobean interior, Bridge Place is an intriguing old building with an usual rock-n-roll vibe. Over the past four decades, this musical honeypot in Bridge, Kent, has been home to some renowned parties and gigs playing host in the ‘70s to Led Zeppelin and The Kinks.

The property houses a wealth of period features, which are most noticeable in the public areas, including large fireplaces, secret stairways, panelled walls and endless nooks and crannies. In the refurbishment, all of these structural nuances have been respected and enhanced to create seven bedrooms along with numerous cosy bars and sitting areas.

But now, the building has turned the page to a new chapter, The Pig at Bridge Place is a 31-key boutique hotel that oozes effortless style thanks to the acclaimed designer Judy Hutson, whose signature style has given The Pig its unique brand of laid-back chic, which has been beloved by guests to date.

The Pig, Bridge Place, Canterbury, Kent, hotel, boutique hotel, gardens, restaurant, bar

Attached to the main building a new, carefully detailed Coach House contains a restaurant with open kitchen. Within The Coach House are 12 bedrooms; four on the ground floor and eight on the first floor. Over the brook via a hand crafted wooden bridge are seven fitting Hop Pickers’ Huts created from reclaimed materials all dotted along a meandering wooden walkway. Each hut houses a double bedroom with cosy bathroom and wood-burning stove. Next to the kitchen garden is The Barn; a large upstairs/downstairs room with vast bathroom and bedroom views across the garden.