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Editor Checks In: April ‘19

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: April ‘19

Everyone is talking about Milan…

Italy’s city of the future, which is also its fashion, culture and design quarters, thrives in between Gothic architecture. The fast-paced metropolis of Milan comes alive in April for what is seen as the largest design event in the calendar, Milan Design Week. Leading designers, architects and journalists from all corners of the world descend onto the city. Visitors are warned pre-show by the festival guides to expect the unexpected – and each year, companies come to premiere new collections. Over the six days, everyone is talking about Milan.

But with all the pre-event noise in the world, nothing could have prepared us for what came next. Having attended the annual event now for five years running, the British designer Tom Dixon decided it was time to make his permanent mark on the city. Instead of exhibiting in the traditional way – on a stand at Salone del Mobile – he opened a restaurant and showroom in time for this year’s activities, allowing visitors the ability to browse the studio’s products in an active context.

Witnessing the constant stream of ideas, launches and collaboration announcements made the week an incredible time to be curating the content on the editorial desk – albeit remotely at times. Salone del Mobile recorded 386,236 attendees, over the six days, from 181 different countries. That is what the Italians would regard as a ‘successo’.

Back on home soil, last month I was fortunate enough to check in to what was one of last year’s most anticipated hotel openings. The University Arms in Cambridge, designed by The Brit list 2018’s Interior Designer of the Year, Martin Brudnizki, is a jewel in the heart of a city riddled in history. Taking an aptly earnest approach (when in Cambridge), we published the interactive hotel review after speaking with both Brudnizki and John Simpson from John Simpson Architects who were the visionaries behind the reinvention of the heritage hotel that now shelters a modern soul.

As the sun sets on yet another incredible, immersive and influential Milan Design Week, I am reminded that there’s never a dull day in the life of a design editor (I’m writing this in between seminars at the inaugural Interior Design & Architecture Summit (IDAS)). There’s optimism in the air and London, which has been at the centre of the world’s attention recently for putting the magnifying glass on climate change, is calling for more to be done in terms of building sustainable cities and hotels around the world. As we gear up for Clerkenwell Design Week , will sustainability dominate the talks and sessions as it has at IDAS? Well check out our recently published pre-event guide identifies the major product launches to look forward to.

During May, Hotel Designs will be putting Bathrooms and Bars & Restaurants under the spotlight. If you would like to contribute to these topics, please do not hesitate to email me.

Editor, Hotel Designs

Checking in to University Arms, Cambridge

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to University Arms, Cambridge

Combining the best of British interior design and architecture, the University Arms in Cambridge is an effortless reflection of old and new. Editor Hamish Kilburn checked in to the Franklin Suite – and spoke to the leaders behind the project – to unearth the fascinating design story that’s written inside…

In the race for luxury in tier two cities around the United Kingdom, Cambridge city centre’s lack of statement hotels doesn’t exactly rank it highly among others.

Despite the city being riddled in history and context, substandard independents remain firm, not willing to set themselves aside from others in regards to design. But amidst the unimaginative and limited hotel scene, things are changing and there is one property in particular that is shaking up the competition to become one of the UK’s best luxury hotels. Cue the monumental unveiling of University Arms, Cambridge.

Image credit: University Arms, Cambridge

The 193-key hotel, which started life in 1834 as a coaching inn, reopened its grand doors in August of last year as interior designer Martin Brudnizki’s first full completed hotel project in the UK. “Cambridge has a really rich story that’s not just academic,” Brudnikzi told Hotel Designs. “It has a flourishing art scene – Kettle’s Yard is a haven for modern British art – and a food scene that’s worth investigating further. Of course, the architecture is wonderful and really quite awe-inspiring, however the city also has a unique sociable atmosphere. With it being small, you easily feel part of the city even after just a few days.”

Click here for interactively view room no. 201, the Stephen Hawking Suite | Image credit: ACT Studios

Following a number of large fires that broke out in the hotel, the most recent in 2012, University Arms closed in 2016. Working on the architectural restoration project from concept to completion, the team at John Simpson Architects were briefed to create new guestrooms, public areas, a gym and functional back-of-house spaces. “In terms of architectural language, the brief was to create a timeless appeal,” John Simpson from the architecture firm told Hotel Designs. “We wanted to create an architecture that honours the traditions and creates an aura that is present in so much of the historic buildings in the city.”

While the hotel’s shell was on the boards, Brudnizki and his team took the mass of inspiration from the history and culture around the city and infused it into thoughtfully curated interiors. “I always knew we wanted to create a hotel that reflected the academic heritage of Cambridge, whilst also feeling fun and approachable,” added Brudnizki. “The hotel is in the perfect location for university parents to stay at when visiting children or for those visiting the city for a weekend break. With this in mind, we created a hotel that combined academic references – the tie-patterned carpets, suites named after famous academics and the restaurant that feels like a college dining room – with comfort and elegance.

Guests now enter the hotel through an extravagant Porte Cochere entrance. “This element of the design references the scale style of the neighbouring Downing College, highlighting the historic association the hotel always had with the university,” Simpson added.

Image credit: University Arms, Cambridge

The large lobby is complete with two striking chandeliers that hang above both the minimalist check-in area and the concierge desk. On the walls, art curated by Adam Ellis hangs on chains and has been inspired by Cambridge’s roots, its past heroes and heroines and its many eras of charm. A poster-style piece “The Man in the White Suit” next to the lifts suggest that this hotel has been designed by and for the modern traveller to enjoy.

Upstairs, the corridors and guestrooms include nods at every turn to the heritage of the city. For example, the carpet that leads to the guestrooms and suites has been designed to replicate colour and style of the original Cambridge College tie. Each of the suites are named after a significant individual who had a relationship with the city and the interiors represent the character of the personality. The Franklin Suite, for example, was named after Rosalind Franklin, an English Cambridge-graduate chemist who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. The terraced suite located on the top floor includes literature about Rosalind Franklin that sit in a modern setting. “We wanted to make sure what we designed wouldn’t feel out of place or context,” added Brudnizki. “With this in mind, it was important for us to work closely with John Simpson, who is an expert in classical architecture, as well as the local area. The best way for us to achieve this was through carefully selecting artwork that rooted the project to Cambridge and that would tie the narrative together.”

In all the rooms, which come in four categories, attention to detail is immediately evident. The ‘do not disturb’ signs are shaped as bookmarks, while the writing desks – think ink quill and paper rather than emails – were inspired by the traditional student desks that are finished with coloured leather tops.

Click here for interactively view room no. 907 | Image credit: ACT Studios

The bathrooms in the suites, complete with underfloor heating, are both stylish and lavish. Victoria + Albert baths positioned by the windows, accented with gold legs, create an immediate statement – as do the gold shower fittings from Vado. The walls, meanwhile, have been painted in the same light blue that is associated with the city, keeping the interiors balanced and tame in all the right places.

If the lobby lounge area is described as the heart of the hotel, the guestrooms the brains, then the soul is quite rightfully reserved to the bar and restaurant located on the ground floor. Brudnizki’s masterful hands have created a welcoming environment that has attracted not only guests but also loyal locals. Guests entering for dinner or to have a drink at the bar enter via a separate entrance to those staying at the hotel. “They still arrive at the front of the building, through grand doors, so there is a sense of occasion and not a sense of separation,” explains Brudnizki. “The bar itself includes a spacious lounge area, with mixed seating and larger tables to encourage communal imbibing. During the day you can use the bar as a place to work or even enjoy an afternoon tea. Whilst at night it becomes a great place to sit back with friends and enjoy drinks before dinner in parker’s Tavern next door.”

Image credit: University Arms, Cambridge

The public areas overlook Parker’s Piece, a large plot of grass that is rumoured to have been where the rules of Football Association emerged from (probably over gin and tonics). The library, which, when pushed, Brudnizki admits to being his favourite area of the hotel, is a clever blend of indoor/outdoor interiors, designed to be light, bright and open for all.

It’s refreshing to see an upscale hotel in Cambridge bravely achieve what no other hotel in the area has managed to; take on the history and heritage of the city and seamlessly blending into the architecture and the fabrics. Through true collaboration between MBDS and John Simpson Architects – both of which were winners at The Brit list 2018 in their categories – University Arms is now a timeless gem, in a league of its own operating in a modern city with a storied past.

Main image credit: ACT Studios

Mandarin Oriental lobby

Top 5 stories of the week: London fire, summit success and first looks

1024 624 Hamish Kilburn

Here are our top 5 stories of the week…

1. Mandarin Kensington Fire: Hotel issues statement

fire at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel London

Image credit: Twitter @Watersun555

Not surprisingly, our top story of the week was the Mandarin Oriental London’s devastating fire. It happened on Wednesday afternoon, one week after completing “the most extensive restoration in its 115-year history.”

2. Hotel Designs celebrates record-breaking success at this year’s Hotel Summit 2018

Delegates and suppliers at Hotel Summit 2018

This year’s 20th anniversary of Hotel Summit becomes the most successful event to date in Hotel Designs history. You can read all about this year’s summit and what the delegates and suppliers thought via the link above.

3. First look: University Arms, Cambridge

Large suite wtih bookcase diver and bespoke furniture

Ahead of the opening of University Arms, Cambridge, we went behind the scenes to find out how the design concept developed between interior designer Martin Brudnizki and architect John Simpson.

4. Technology: Is Alexa welcome in the hotel industry?

In-room software

Image credit: Alice, info.aliceapp.com

This has been the most shared story of the week. In our technology feature this month, we’re discussing how tech, placed thoughtfully, can help create a relevant and modern in-room experience. With 73 per cent of travellers wanting in-room voice commands, should hotels offer Alexa in guestrooms? One company believes so.

5. designjunction announces new home for 2018

London Southbank

designjunction is set to transport to the cultural hub of London’s South Bank with a showcase of world-class design for the annual London Design Festival in September 2018.