Row of derelict Liverpool townhouses transformed into boutique hotel

    Hamish Kilburn
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    After a two-year renovation, Lock & Key, a 14-key hotel, has breathed new life into listed Georgian buildings in Liverpool’s Ropewalks neighbourhood…

    Ropewalks is an area in central Liverpool known for its long, straight cobbled streets that run in parallel lines, which allowed rope manufacturers to lay ropes out lengthways during production. Today, the area is well known for its creative businesses and independent shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. Most recently, though, a row of townhouses that have been converted into a boutique hotel is helping the area thrive.

    Time has preserved its excellent location — now a strategic position for a hotel – on the main thoroughfare of Duke Street between Liverpool One shopping district, the bars and restaurants of Bold Street, and the cathedrals and theatres of the city’s Georgian Quarter.

    The building was purchased by local developers Andrew Spencer, Tom Bower and Michael Connolly in 2015. They opened Lock & Key bar in Autumn 2017, and the hotel is due to open a year later in early December 2018.

    “We fell in love with the character and history of the property,” explains Spencer, whose previous projects have been for the residential market; “and have worked hard to retain as many of the original period features as possible. The central location is ideal for tourists and business travellers”.

    It has taken hard work and dedication to preserve the building’s character – not to mention a lot of cash. The Georgian shop windows have been faithfully restored, along with the original staircase, and, for as much as is possible, the layout. Fourteen bedrooms are spread across three floors, with petite wet rooms cleverly tucked into the eaves and wardrobes occupying cubby holes and dead spaces.

    The decor is somewhat of a departure from the city’s current hotel offering of dockland-chic; minimalist apart-hotel; and hen-night-glam styles. With deep skirting painted in deep Farrow and Ball shades, peacock coloured velvets and brass hardware, the interiors evoke a sense of contemporary heritage that Liverpool has been long missing. It’s fair to say that what the hotel lacks in facilities (guests will find no guest lounge, pool nor gym here), it makes up in aesthetics.

    The front entrance is rather modest – it’s completely separate from Lock & Key Bar, whose entrance is more prominent on the corner of the block. From the reception area, a staircase – enrobed in a thick-pile, chevron-patterned carpet – leads to eight bedrooms above, while a further six are to be found along the ground floor corridor and up the rear staircase. The rooms vary in size from little to large. All feature bespoke velvet headboards; some are clad in wallpaper sourced from the likes of House of Hackney and NLXL; and most offer a brass cocktail trolley loaded with local spirits and cut crystal glasses. Bathrooms are concealed behind pocket doors, and feature rainfall showers and full-size toiletries.

    Breakfast is taken in the bar next door. Already established, the bar – which operates under the same name – is another small-but-perfectly-formed space that attracts locals and passing visitors with a bistro-type menu, good cocktail list and calendar of events that includes jazz nights and whiskey tastings. As in the rest of the hotel, its staff are friendly, attentive and confident.

    Behind the design are local interiors duo House of Sloane. Gemma Tate and Lea Sloane are based between Liverpool and Manchester, and have worked on a number of residential and commercial projects across the UK. They are also accomplished furniture designers, with a small range of bespoke-made sofas and chairs under their belts. Their signature velvet cocktail chairs can be found in each guest room, and their unique approach and thoughtful touches are evident throughout the hotel.

    “We were immediately struck by Lea and Gemma’s true passion for design. They were different to other interior designers, and have gone the extra mile in every aspect of their work,” says Spencer, who is delighted with the aesthetic outcome of the project; “they have realised our original vision and enhanced it far beyond what we thought was possible given the nature of the building, as well as budget and time restraints.”

    To achieve all this, the owners have invested some half a million pounds. That is a lot of money to spend on a hotel in a regional city — but Liverpool is no ordinary place. The Albert Dock has recently been awarded royal status and is home to a Tate gallery, the independent scene is thriving, and the city is consistently named as one of the top ten best places to live in the UK. While tourists flock to visit the Beatles museum, Cavern Club, and haunts of the fab four, creatives are pulled in by affordable work spaces, world-class exhibitions and a vibrant digital economy.



    Hamish Kilburn / 08.11.2018


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