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.
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.
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.
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