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Nicky dobree

Large and expansive public area that is designed to look very residential

MINIVIEW: Discreet luxury unveiled by Nicky Dobree in the heart of Vejer

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: Discreet luxury unveiled by Nicky Dobree in the heart of Vejer

To complete the Concept to Completion series with Nicky Dobree, Hotel Designs is given the keys to finally unlock the majestic heavy doors of pure luxury inside Plaza 18… 

Up until now, the designer Nicky Dobree has been synonymous with luxury Alpine chalet design and most recently very high end residential design. Most recently she has turned her attention to Plaza 18, her debut hotel design project in collaboration with Vejer’s Hotel La Casa del Califa.

Large and expansive public area that is designed to look very residential

Set in the former 19th C merchant’s house Nicky Dobree has taken inspiration from this elegant building and brought new life back into this Grand Dame by respecting its history, but also lifting its character to provide an enriched experience for the modern traveller. Working with local trades and craftsmen, the building, which dates back to 1896 and stands on the foundations of an ancient 13th C Arab house, has been entirely restored using authentic organic building materials where ever possible.

“Meticulous care and attention to detail has been maintained throughout the refurbishment of this important historic property.”

Exterior of the hotel

Image credit: Plaza 18/Philip Vile

Dobree was determined to restore and re-use as many of its existing features as possible. The original black and white floor tiles were therefore lifted and re-laid on newly levelled floors. The Montera (large glazed roof lantern over the entrance patio) was carefully dismantled and repaired to its former glory, which now floods the entrance foyer with light. The stone staircase and balustrade were also completely restored, as was all the metal work around the entrance gate. Many of the original shutters and windows were restored along with the front door. Meticulous care and attention to detail has been maintained throughout the refurbishment of this important historic property.

Extremely reclined interiors with personal interiors

Image credit: Plaza 18/Philip Vile

The designer felt that her role was to curate this elegant old building and to bring it a new lease of life, enhancing its beauty with style and a subtle creative twist.

Plaza 18 has been a true labour of love with the inevitable obstacles of planning, working abroad and within a listed building. The trials and tribulations of restoring an old building and the rules and regulations that needed to be adhered to, to convert it into a commercial venture, has meant that the project took two years to get through planning and a further two years to compete.

The hotel is now the secret second home that one has always dreamed of, warm and welcoming with a strong sense of place, an oasis within an oasis.

Whilst the details adhere to the classical principles of the house, there is comfort and elegance through every door. Every room has a story to tell and contains pieces that have been lovingly curated by Dobree from around the world. This is evident from the moment you enter with the oversized black and white mirror by a South African artist which makes a dramatic statement in the entrance.  Dobree designed the bespoke console to sit beneath the mirror that complements the monochromatic entrance scheme.

In the patio whilst your eye is drawn up to the montera and the wonderful central staircase you cannot miss the large scale butterfly painting sourced from an antiques fair.

Stepping into the sitting room, there is nothing more welcoming than a well stocked drinks trolley, an honesty bar, that can be enjoyed by guests at Plaza 18. Standing proud above it is a painting of Admiral Lord de Saumarez who fought at the Battle of Trafalgar (a short drive from the hotel) alongside Admiral Lord Nelson.

“On a clear day the North African coast is visible.”

Leading off the sitting room is the main terrace with views across the old town, sierras and coast line. On a clear day the North African coast is visible. It is here that guests can enjoy breakfast, sitting on olive wicker chairs with outdoor fabrics that complement the vintage printed crockery. No detail has been missed.

Tall black bespoke doors with circular brass handles designed by Dobree create drama and continuity throughout. Behind each of these doors are interiors that are intensely layered and so inviting that everywhere you turn is a visual delight.   Here you will discover more of Dobree’s curated pieces such as a Japanese Boro Kimono or collage painting by Peter Clarke.

All the bathrooms have been beautifully designed using Spanish floor tiles and bespoke marble vanities with Lefroy Brooks deco style fittings echoing the elegance of the house.

The attention to detail is reflected in every aspect of one’s experience here. Dobree worked with a renowned perfumer to provide bespoke toiletries that have been specially formulated to create a signature scent for Plaza 18 and that are soft and subtle on the skin. The scent is inspired by the aromas that perfume Vejer, orange, bergamot, lavender and geranium. The base of olive oil and almond that nourishes the skin is local too.

Plaza 18 has a true home from home feeling that brings Dobree’s collective chic and timeless elegant style to Vejer. It is a place to feel at home, a place to disconnect and re-discover.

Hotel Designs has followed the construction of Plaza 18, Dobree’s first hotel project, from concept to competition. Click here to read part one. Click here to read part two. Click here to read part three

Main image credit: Plaza 18/Philip Vile

From Concept to Completion: Restoring a 19th-century house to create Plaza 18 (part one)

800 501 Hamish Kilburn

Hotel Designs has vowed to follow interior designer Nicky Dobree as she works towards opening the soulfully restored doors of Plaza 18. In the first article in the series, Hamish Kilburn exclusively catches up with Dobree to establish the plans for her first hotel project… 

Up until now, Nicky Dobree has been known and celebrated for her talent in restoring luxury ski chalets, villas and contemporary residential interiors. In 2003, her first chalet conversion, a 300 year old alpine farmhouse, was followed by Grand Designs Abroad and described by presenter Kevin McCloud as the “ultimate James Bond pad” and in so doing set a new benchmark for chalet design. Moving on from 007’s ideal alpine bachelor estate, Dobree has recently turned her attention to the luxury hotel design scene – in particular to one building in Andalucía.

Inspired by the classicism of a heritage building and the surrounding Spanish region of Andalucía, Plaza 18 has become one of the most anticipated openings this year. Set in the historic white town of Vejer de la Frontera (Vejer), featured on forbes.com, the hotel which will shelter just six luxurious, individually designed bedrooms is the conversion of a listed 19th Century merchant’s house. The project, a collaboration between Dobree and Vejer’s principal hotel La Casa del Califa, is expected to turn one of Vejer’s landmark properties into one of the finest boutique hotels in Andalucía.

“There will be comfort and elegance through every door.”

The building, which dates from 1896 and stands on the foundations of an ancient 13th C Arab house, is being restored using entirely organic building materials including traditional lime-based mortars, wooden floors and natural stone and marble. “There will be comfort and elegance through every door, a place to feel at home, a place to re-connect and re-discover,” says Dobree who describes her first hotel project as a home hotel’. “There is no one dominant material,” adds Dobree. “I have retained the existing black and white Andalucian tiles and mixed them with timber and stone. Large black doors with bespoke feature brass handles open onto the six individual bedroom suites, each of which has been personally curated.”

“There are many challenges, but over and above the planning constraints, the space is disproportionate.”

With the design world watching, and with just six bedrooms to play with, this project has been quite something, “There are many challenges, but over and above the planning constraints, the space is disproportionate,” explains Dobree. “It has a huge central patio and elegant sweeping staircase leading to an amazing roof terrace that overlooks the castle with views across to Morocco. It has meant that we have had to be creative with planning the space for the individual guest suites.”

I have come to the conclusion that hotels are only at the edge of the curve when they bravely break the mould of what is considered, at the time, as being conventional. It is therefore a relief to hear that Dobree is planning on ‘Breaking the rules’ – her words not mine – in order to create this timeless, luxury hotel. “I want to add layers of soft furnishings to create a home,” she explains. “But above all, I want the hotel to be true to its heritage and I want it to retain its soul.” To do this, Dobree has worked to retain and repair original features using local craftsmen to restore the glass ceiling, stairs, balustrade and even the wrought iron gate. “I see myself very much as a curator of the building whilst making it comfortable for living in today,” she adds.

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: What’s your favourite colour this season?
Nicky Dobree: Burgundy

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
ND: Lebanon

HK: What’s worse, bad lighting or bad wallpaper?
ND: Bad lighting

HK: What is one item you cannot travel without?
ND: An Adaptor

HK: Can you give us one easy way to brighten up your interiors?
ND: With cushions

HK: What’s the largest misconception about you? 
NB: That I am an extrovert


“As with everything, it is all about timing,” Dobree says when I question her as to why she has waited until now to commit herself to the venture and step into hotel design. “I have wanted to design a boutique hotel for a while and was fortunate when this opportunity arose that we were able to embrace it.”

As I learn more about the awaited Andalucían jewel, I can’t help but wonder how similar this hotel will be from some of Dobree’s previous projects. “There are similarities, Plaza 18 is all about elegance and comfort, using the local vernacular in the design and celebrating the local culture,” Dobree explains. “It is what I endeavour to achieve in all my projects.”

And with that, Dobree’s task continues as she prepares to enter a new design chapter in her already celebrated career.