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.
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.
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.
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.
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