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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

New research suggests that hotels are not doing enough to be eco-friendly

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
New research suggests that hotels are not doing enough to be eco-friendly

New research published by the Independent Hotel Show London has revealed that 76 per cent of holidaymakers feel as if hotels could do more to be greener and become more eco-friendly. Editor Hamish Kilburn took to stage to present the findings and writes… 

I am sick to death of hotels – large and small, chains as well as independents – doing the bare minimum in order to claim that they have become more sustainable. Yesterday, I took my frustration over the ‘greenwashing effect’, which so many businesses are guilty of, to the stage at the Independent Hotel Show London to deliver the Conscious Bedroom Report. And here are some of the new stats that have emerged.

Times are changing, and hotels – like all other businesses and sectors worldwide – need to change with them. A report by the conscious bank Iriodos reported that in 2017, UK consumers spent an estimated £83.33 billion on ethical goods and services. And given the recent developments in climate change awareness, that number has increased drastically. While 76 per cent of consumers who were surveyed believe that hotels could do more to become greener, a whopping 72 per cent hoped hotels could also provide local produce.

Question: Are you more likely to book a room if a hotel has a clear sustainability policy? Would your preference change if you were given an incentive? Of the 2,000 individuals who were polled in the survey (64 per cent female and 36 per cent male), the answers to these particular questions were divided. While 57 per cent responded in the affirmative, 43 per cent were not converted by sustainability policies in and of themselves. Furthermore, this plunged to just 16 per cent once an incentive of some sort was involved. When asked why, however, many responded that protecting the environment itself was a strong enough incentive.

It seems, more recently, that sustainability has gone on tour to become a global concern and conversation and not one that is restricted to regional areas. 14 per cent of consumers surveyed admitted to being more aware of their environmental impact when away from home. Interestingly on the flip side, the same number that they believed to be less mindful. 72 per cent, though, managed to keep their beliefs consistent when both travelling and when at home.

“62 per cent of respondents admitted to feeling frustrated by single-use plastics in their room.”

The report also stated that “180 million plastic cotton buds are flushed down the toilet every year in Britain.” For many, and certainly myself after reading that statistic, it is unfathomable for hotels to still be providing guests checking in with single-use plastics. 62 per cent of respondents admitted to feeling frustrated by single-use plastics in their room. 26 per cent claimed not to be bothered and 12 per cent argued that they didn’t notice whether or not single-use plastics were in a hotel room during their stay. Whats more, plastic cotton buds, drink stirrers and straws will be banned in England from April 2020.

“73 per cent of guests asked did not consider a hotel to look ‘budget’ by using large dispensers.”

From recent discussions I have had with hoteliers on how to activate sustainable change without diluting the quality of service, there is a concern that replacing miniatures in the bathrooms with large dispensable bottles will look like a hotel is scrimping. However, 73 per cent of guests asked did not consider a hotel to look ‘budget’ by using large dispensers. If you needed further reassurance, a large proportion of the top luxury hotels in London have replaced bathroom miniatures with large dispensers and are, as a result, feeding back to the editorial desk at Hotel Designs zero complaints. “We ensure that the product remains high quality,” one hotelier said. “And in order to illuminate the opportunity for guests to complain, we ensure that each bottle is always topped up.”

“78 per cent of those surveyed embraced the rag ‘n’ bone revolution.”

The report also examined the design element of a hotel guests’ experience. 78 per cent of those surveyed embraced the rag ‘n’ bone revolution. 22 per cent maintained to feel ambivalent at the thought of restored furniture. In regards to art, which is further being taken outside the frame in hotel design with new innovative design scenes coming into vision, seeing locally sourced pieces around a hotel is becoming more of a demand among travellers. 61 per cent of guests said that they did appreciate the use of indigenous arts and crafts, and only six per cent were non-plussed.

The Conscious Bedroom Report is a step in the right direction. Although positive to see that consumer demands are very much in line with ensuring that the international hotel design scene becomes more conscious both socially and environmentally, it also exposes an industry that is behind many to become sustainably driven.

“In short, the value of becoming a more conscious hotel operator, designer and architect far out weighs the cost.”

EDITOR’S COMMENT: “Never before has it been more transparent than it is now to see hotels either choosing not to embrace and adopt new eco initiatives or doing the bare minimum and greenwashing. I believe that in order to really make an impact on the international hotel design scene, examples need to be set. Examples like Heckfield Place, The Langham London and Inhabit London. All of which, interestingly, are sheltered in grade-listed buildings. The excuses are fading.

“By the industry creatively thinking about how they can add sustainability into their core values, hotels and hotel designers will naturally open themselves up to local suppliers, businesses and communities that surround them. In short, the value of becoming a more conscious hotel operator, designer and architect far out weighs the cost. We have an opportunity to make a real change and the statistics in the Conscious Bedroom Report just highlight further the changing demands of modern travellers.” – Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs

The seven-page report was unveiled in an exclusive panel discussion, hosted by Kilburn. He was joined by Alex Harris, the creative director for Harris + Harris London; Olivia Richli, the general manager for Heckfield Place; Sue Williams, the general manager for Whatley Manor and Xenia Zu Hohenlohe, the managing director of Considerate Group.

The Independent Hotel Show London continues…

Next month, Hotel Designs will be putting sustainability under the spotlight. If you have a story for the team, please email h.kilburn@forumevents.co.uk

Main image credit: Inhabit London


10 innovative hotel design trends to watch for in 2019

Hamish Kilburn
As Hotel Designs continues to focus the spotlight this month on independent hotels, Alyssa Johnson explores possible 2019 trends in international hotel design…

Today hotel guests have higher expectations than ever. They appreciate exotic textures and personalised experiences and have developed a taste for exquisite materials, even if it’s just an overnight stay – all while feeling at home. With more focus on guest experience than ever before, here are 10 interesting creative trends we expect to be emerging in 2019 and beyond.

Trend 1: Even more personalised experiences

Hotels will have to focus on creating memorable experiences for their guests rather than simply offering amenities and services. They will learn to be creative in tailoring their experiences to guest preferences, driving their inspiration from boutique hotels. Guests can expect personalized greetings and rooms set to their preferences, as well as unique products curated by the hotel. The boutique approach to the hotel design helps create truly genuine and captivating experiences that modern guests, especially millennials, expect these days.

Trend 2: Home from home

Taking a hint from high-end Airbnb lodgings, hotels are adding coffee machines and even home-style kitchenettes to serve their long-term guests. Charging stations are making way into every room, not to mention wifi connectivity, which is even better than the broadband in their home.

 Trend 3: Eclectic style

Gone are the days where every room in the hotel looked exactly the same, leveraging the popular neutral color trend of the last decade. Hotels are now styling their rooms in a more natural, hospitable way combining eclectic elements, contrasting colours, and vivid combinations around the rooms. In fact, hotels are enjoying a renaissance of color. Hotel News Now says: “People not being afraid to be bold and be colourful.” Visitors will find more local handmade decor, unexpected texture combinations, and even vintage fabrics — something that frequent travellers will appreciate.

Trend 4: Smart-room technology

Travellers already enjoy mobile bookings and mobile payments, but the future is for mobile keys, text messages to the reception instead of calling, and saving in-room preferences such as temperature, lighting, or even the type of toiletries preferred. This trend in hotel design will call for even greater room decor simplicity accentuated by recycled wood and organic materials.

Trend 5: Personalised entertainment

 In 2019, guests will be seeing TVs broadcasting their own subscribed content from Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other platforms. This innovative hotel design will make the guest experience more streamlined and effortless at the same time, notes the contributor who travels a lot while working for the popular in the UK dissertation writing service. At the same time, guests will still enjoy the feeling of personalized and friendly hospitality.

Trend 6: Indoor meets outdoor

One of the most interesting hotel design trends to watch is the move to bring the outdoor experience to hotel lobbies and corridors. In 2019 hotels will be seeing more indoor waterfalls, all-season terraces, rugged outdoor-style furnishings, gorgeous plants and panoramic views. This trend in hotel design will help guests to enjoy nature while staying inside, creating a completely unique and memorable experience.

Trend 7: Multi-function spaces

Meeting spaces will become more flexible, accommodating various types of functions, from family gatherings to large conferences, thanks to the clever use of roll-up walls, doors, and power outlets built into the floorings. Hotels will be offering more collaborative workspaces that will be available both for guests and visitors.

Trend 8: Eco-friendliness

In 2019, hotels will be more focused on the use of environmentally sustainable practices, from using natural and recycled/recyclable building materials, to solar panels and linen recycling. We will see more initiatives to measure and reduce carbon footprints and LED lightning in a bid to reduce energy consumption. Speaking of design, this trend calls hotels to incorporate more live greenery and natural light into their designs.

Trend 9: Evolution of the lobby

Hotels are transforming the lobby area into an expanded living room — a common area with lots of cosy enclosures where guests will be able to find some privacy without feeling lonely. Lobbies will becoming eco-friendlier, too, with large potted plants being used to break up the space into more intimate areas, says Hotel Propeller. The lobby of 2019 is becoming a central clubhouse where people can explore various activities. This important hotel design trend has already caused hotel chains to completely update their lobbies into unique, personalized environments.

Trend 10: Integration of all things local

In 2019, hotels will be integrating the guest experience with the local culture. The hotel of the future will become a focal point for locals, as hoteliers embrace local retail and outsource more services to local businesses, such as dry cleaning or deliveries. Hotels are also becoming cultural hubs where guests can enjoy exercise classes, massages, concerts, arts, and more alongside the locals. This trend calls for adding local touches to the hotel design, as well as involving local designers and artists to create a unique ambiance.

The hospitality industry will be rapidly evolving in 2019. Hotels will have to find creative ways to meet the high expectations of modern travellers, especially millennials who today comprise the majority of frequent travellers who also like to stay on budget. If you are travelling on a budget, here’s how you can avoid paying extra for your hotel room. Keeping up with the changes in consumer tastes and the rise of technology will bring a lot of much-needed innovation in the hotel design.

Main image credit: The Arch London

The LaLiT London

Small Luxury Hotels Of The World welcomes The Lalit London

1000 550 Daniel Fountain

Small Luxury Hotels of the World is delighted to announce The LaLiT London as the latest addition to its collection of small, independently owned hotels in the UK capital.

The hotel, which is now available to book via the SLH website, opened in February 2017 and is the first overseas venture for New Delhi-based hotel company The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group.

The LaLiT London
The LaLiT London sees the transformation of a derelict Grade II listed building into a 70-room luxury boutique hotel following a five-year restoration, and combines original Victorian features with custom-made Indian interiors and modern technology. Once home to St Olave’s Grammar School, there are nods to the building’s history throughout, most notably in the striking paneled Great Hall, two bars located in the former Teachers’ Room and the Headmaster’s Room and some guestrooms which boast 30 ft ceilings. The dramatic great hall is home to pan-Indian restaurant Baluchi.

Daniel Luddington, Vice President of Development at SLH says: “SLH now has nine hotels in London, so any new hotel we add to the collection here has to be something really special. The LaLiT London offers extraordinary attention to detail and craftsmanship as well as a modern take on Indian fine dining. A stone’s throw away from Tower Bridge and the Southbank, we are excited to offer the SLH community our first luxury experience south of the River Thames.”

The LaLiT London
Arun Kumar, General Manager of The LaLiT says, “We are delighted to be part of SLH, for us they incorporate the same core values to drive unique one of a kind experiences for guests, with a personal touch that leaves a lasting impression. Our London hotel is an incredibly special hotel to the family and its staff, and joining the SLH family feels like the perfect partnership in a portfolio of so many incredible hotels.”