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Martin Brudnizki

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

Mr. C Hotels to unveil first property in Q2 2019

1024 576 Hamish Kilburn

The new 100-key luxury property, which will be designed in conjunction with architecture firm Arquitectonica and Brit List winner Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, will open in Miami this spring…

The highly anticipated Mr. C Coconut Grove, the first Mr. C Hotel to debut in Florida from the fourth-generation hospitality leaders, brothers Ignazio and Maggio Cipriani, has announced that the property will open in spring 2019.

“It is with great pleasure that we are able to unveil Mr. C Coconut Grove to the community this spring,” said Ignazio Cipriani, Founder/President of Mr. C Hotels at the announcement. ” Our partners and associates have enhanced our vision and helped to bring this exciting project to life in such an iconic neighborhood as Miami’s Coconut Grove.”

Modern guestrom with palette of light blue and light oak

Image credit: Mr. C Hotels

Mr. C Coconut Grove is situated in the heart of one of Miami’s most notable neighborhoods and is set to provide guests with unmatched views of Biscayne Bay and the Coconut Grove skyline.

From its interior, the hotel draws inspiration from Italy’s iconic coastal style and hints at the aesthetic elements of a classic yacht. Interior design includes high gloss timber paneling, leather-upholstered blue and caramel headboards, nautical style dressers, playful and comfortable sofas and armchairs in a range of soft and airy blue, and white and pink fabrics throughout the space. Acclaimed architecture and design firm Arquitectonica, in conjunction with the Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, combined the stylish European glamour and nautical aesthetic Mr. C Hotels are best known for with the tropical surroundings of South Florida.

In addition to its 100 guestrooms and suites with private outdoor terraces, Mr. C Coconut Grove also features the Bellini Restaurant and Bar, on the hotel’s top floor. The restaurant boasts a refreshing new Italian dining concept inspired by Ignazio and Maggio Cipriani’s travels throughout Italy, and offers indoor and outdoor seating that exudes the intimate old-world atmosphere of coastal Italy while embracing a sleek and soothing Miami modern style.

Rooftop pool render

Image credit: Mr. C Hotels

For corporate meetings and social events, Mr. C Coconut Grove offers guests a top floor ballroom with panoramic views of the Biscayne Bay. The space can accommodate a seated dinner for approximately 150 guests and cocktail reception for 300 guests, with an additional pre-function space. A covered event space is also available in the hotel’s ground floor for up to 720 guests.

Other statement features include a rooftop pool and pool deck with private cabanas and a pool bar, state-of-the-art gym equipment with personal trainer and yoga classes available upon request, a Lobby Lounge with indoor and outdoor garden seating, and a private spa suite with a relaxation area, sauna and treatment room which can be reserved through the concierge team.

Main image credit: Mr. C Hotels

The Brit List 2018 – designer profiles

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In the coming weeks, Hotel Designs will be profiling the 75 finalists in the Hotel Designs Brit List 2018. We continue with profiling our winning designers in alphabetical order…

This year’s The Brit List 2018 concluded on November 22, when leading designers, hoteliers and architects gathered at BEAT London to find out which of them made it on to this year’s The Brit List 2018. The hundreds of nominees and entries were whittled down by the event’s five judges, who were:

  • Gilly Craft, President of the British Institute of Interior Design
  • Charles Leon, founder of Leon Black Architecture and Interior Design
  • Gerri Gallagher, former associate editor, Tatler
  • Lysbeth Fox, founder and director of Fox PR
  • Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs

Top designers 2018

Katherine Neathercoat – Head of interior design, Scott Brownrigg 

Katherine Neathercoat joined Scott Brownrigg’s award-winning interior design team in 2017 as director/head of UK interior design. Based in the Endell Street office, Neathercoat leads the creative design direction of the interior design service for the brand. Working closely with the team, she is responsible for growing the interiors business, expanding its client base and developing the studio’s multi-sector offering, together with supporting Scott Brownrigg’s wider international growth initiatives.

As the head of interior design, she is integral to ensuring the success and high calibre of every project and has worked on numerous notable schemes for clients as diverse as Hard Rock, Expedia, Berkeley Homes, Thomson Reuters, glh Hotels, Canary Wharf Group and Lendlease.

Kim Partridge – Founder and Director, Kim Partridge Interiors 

Kim Partridge Interiors creates high-end hospitality and residential spaces with a personal touch. New to hotel design, Partridge has made a statement entrance having just completed the award-winning Neo-Gothic flavour interiors for Adare Manor.

“There is much that I find rewarding about my work, but essentially, I get the most thrill out of sourcing those final pieces that make a space personal,” Partridge said on her website. “I absolutely love books and libraries, so often aim to find something unusual relating to the project that will tell a story.”

Maria Vafiadis – Managing Director, MKV Design 

The founder and managing director of MKV Design, Maria Vafiadis is an established thought-leader within the interior design world. With her body of work expanding more than two decades, Vafiadis’ ‘every project is one-off’ approach reflects her constant quest for new ideas.

Her ability to celebrate location is at the heart of the new Bürgenstock Hotel, which is located 500m above Lake Lucerne in Switzerland.

Martin Brudnizki – Director, MBDS (winner – Innovation in Design – Interior Designer of the Year)

Martin Brudnizki is one of the world’s most acclaimed designers – and for good reason. Previous prevalent projects in the hospitality industry include The Ivy in Soho, Sexy Fish and The Beekman in New York. His recent works include Cambridge’s new hotel, University Arms, and Annabel’s nightclub in London. Brudnizki’s love for design started from a young age. His mother was a stylist and his father a mechanical engineer; the combination of these elements embedded a deep understanding of aesthetics alongside a grounding in functionality.

Following a number of successful positions at renowned interior design firms, Brudnizki established his eponymous studio in London in 2000 and later in 2012 launched a New York studio in response to the growth in demand.

Nicholas Stoupas – Director, Twenty2degrees 

Nicholas Stoupas has successfully led a number of prestigious projects including Hyatt Abu Dhabi, Hyatt Regency Minsk, Hilton Bankside, InterContinental Westminster, Aloft Abu Dhabi and Russel Hotel London. Working with Joseph Stella, he is currently working on projects such as Le Meridian Abuja, Hyatt Regency Rawalpindi, Four Points Sheraton Abuja, Westin Abuja.

RFH The Balmoral - Brasserie Prince

Bespoke brass lighting for Edinburgh’s newest brasserie

800 533 Hamish Kilburn

Working to a Martin Brudnizki Design Studio design, lighting specialists Dernier & Hamlyn produced a stunning two-tier chandelier almost 1.5 m across that forms a focal point in Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux.

The bar and brasserie at The Balmoral – a Rocco Forte hotel in Edinburgh – signifies an alliance between the Forte family and legendary father and son chefs Michel and Alain Roux. Opened in June 2018 the menu offers classic French dishes made with the finest Scottish ingredients.

The chandelier was handmade in Dernier & Hamlyn’s London factory. It is finished in antique brass and fitted with ribbed, curved, translucent panels.

Main image credit: The Balmoral

Large suite wtih bookcase diver and bespoke furniture

First look: University Arms, Cambridge

800 571 Hamish Kilburn

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

When it comes to designing a hotel that not only stands the test of time but also creates an awe-inspiring impression from check in to check out, two heads really are better than one and collaboration is most definitely king. The most recent example of this can be found in Cambridge, in the new 192-room hotel Universtiy Arms. The creative footprints of two celebrated visionaries’ – architect John Simpson and interior designer Martin Brudnizki – are very much in the fabrics as it heads towards opening.

Slated to be one of 2018’s most exciting hotel unveilings, University Arms, Cambridge is expected to open on August 1. The landmark hotel is located overlooking Cambridge’s Parker’s Piece. First opened in 1834 as the city’s original hotel, its currently undergoing an £80m transformation.

Exterior shot of University Arms

Simpson is one the nation’s foremost classical architect and has worked on extensive projects in Cambridge, including at Peterhouse and Gonville and Caius Colleges.The architect whose portfolio also includes working on both Buckingham and Kensington Palaces has overseen the hotel redevelopment. This includes the replacement of the building’s 1960s and ‘70s extensions with an attractive, classically designed front that is in-keeping with Cambridge’s better-known architectural heritage. He approached the project with a self-professed vision to “try and create this hotel so it becomes the best hotel in Cambridge again”, restoring its faded glory.

Brudnizki’s past projects include Miami Soho Beach House, Scott’s, The Ivy and the acclaimed Beekman in New York. University Arms is the first complete hotel project in the UK that will showcase the designer’s interiors from top to bottom. Throughout the planning process, Brudnizki has been mindful to create an environment reminiscent of school days past, lazy afternoons spent on the banks of the River Cam and the raucous revelry of students; truly a space for locals, tourists, Cambridge students and their families alike. Creating a timeless look and feel, Brudnizki chose a selection of bespoke products from Chelsom to light up the public areas and guestrooms.

The Lobby 

Providing a warm welcome for guests, the lobby boast a grand, high ceiling, Cambridge Blue timber panelling and a grey and green patterned marble floor. Natural light pours in through large glass windows, while statement art deco lighting lends a glowing touch. An unimposing, fabric-fronted reception desk adorned with a mixture of bespoke and antique furniture ensures that guests feel at home from the moment they arrive.

large lobby with statement chandelier lighting

The Library

Paying homage to its famous location, the hotel’s library is an area for relaxation and escape. Curated by Heywood Hill – one of the leading bookshops in London – the room is filled with books from renowned authors, which many of the suites are named after. Bookshelf walls, traditional timber panelling and an original, wood-burning fireplace create a home-from-home with a luxury spin with an eclectic mix of deep sofas and cosy armchairs ensuring optimum comfort.

Relaxing tones in the library

The bar

The library flows through to the bar, featuring bold marble patterned wallpaper. Reminiscent of antique book covers, the design flourish reflects the city’s heritage as an academic institution. A dark wooden bar forms the backdrop for a diverse range of seating and tables. Traditional loose rugs paired with statement lighting and classic bead ceiling creates a welcome atmosphere for both guests and visitors.

Parkers Tavern

Inspired by the communal dining halls of Cambridge College, Parker’s Tavern will be the standalone restaurant of the hotel. It will offer canteen-styled seating with a mix of free-standing dining chairs and benches, all finished in red and mustard-yellow leather and dark timber. The Cambridge Blue wall panelling, traditional solid-wood parquet following and original stained-glass windows with crest detailing are reminiscent of the traditional architecture of the city’s university colleges.

Guestrooms and suites

The guestrooms and suites will open with a light, breezy and relaxed feel. Hints of Cambridge Blue, yellow and red enliven each space, while some are paired with a traditional bookcase divider with private library, again curated by Heywood Hill. All rooms come complete with bespoke furniture and statement chandelier lighting from Chelsom.

As the hotel nears completion, the work of two leading names in our industry can stand back to reflect on what can happen when a successful collaboration comes together.