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

1024 639 Hamish Kilburn

In the second article in the series, From Concept to Completion, we delve deeper into the design story of Plaza 18. Interior designer Nicky Dobree speaks to editor Hamish Kilburn on the final stages of the journey to complete her first hotel…

In part two of our From Concept to Completion series, where we are closely following the design story of Plaza 18, Dobree’s first hotel project is beginning to take form. The building’s design is approaching the final stages before the grand reveal this Easter. Meanwhile, interior designer Nicky Dobree is able to step away from the project for five minutes – something I believe the designer is not accustomed to – in order to explain more about her relationship with the soon-to-be hotel.

With just a couple of months until the scheduled opening, the bulk of challenges have been rectified and Dobree’s original sketches are taking shape. However, like with many of these projects, the journey hasn’t been a simple one. “The property was a listed building and we had to apply for a change of use too,” Dobree explains. “The combination of both these requirements made it a particularly difficult process and we had to sell our vision. The process has taken a frustratingly long five years. We had a clear view of what we wanted to achieve and have managed to open up the space to work as a hotel and avoid poky corridors and dark corners,” she adds.

Through the painful months which turned to years, Dobree was able to use the time as an opportunity to connect with the project, which leads me to ask the question all designers arguably fear the most. “My favourite area of the hotel,” she considers scanning the site. “I think it is probably the patio with its sweeping staircase and communal area at the heart of the building breathing air, light and vitality into the hotel. “It invites you to rest, take a breath, look up and around to absorb the structure of the building. Another favourite area is the roof top with its incredible views across towards Morocco.”

Considering the hotel’s location, with its strong sense-of-place local architecture and colours, blending design and functionality has been the starting point of every design decision when creating Plaza 18. “We have worked with the building and the spaces that it provides, accentuating its best features and incorporating the needs of modern living,” Dobree unveils. “The overall aesthetic is pure, elegant and comfortable,” which is a description I totally conquer with.”

In part one of the series, in a quickfire round, Dobree admitted that her biggest bugbear was non-surprisingly bad lighting. Therefore, I am eager to understand the lighting direction of Plaza 18 and how she has natural and artificial elements to highlight the hotel’s unmistakable personality. “We are lucky to be in a spacious and bright building, so daytime light plays its ways through the space as the sun moves through the day,” she explains. “The large central sky light in the patio lets the light pour in. There are windows on both the north and the south of the building too so nowhere is it dark and poky. To provide a soft evening light, we have used lamps and wall lights.”

“The overall aesthetic is pure, elegant and comfortable.” – Nicky Dobree

One of the most interesting elements about Plaza 18 is the fact that it will shelter just six bedrooms. “They are not six individual personalities per se but each room has been individually designed so that they each have their own personality,” explains Dobree. “The bedrooms are not, as in so many hotels, just a repeat of the room next door.”

Lifting the lid on the suppliers that she has used for her first hotel, Dobree explains: “Combined with marble and Spanish ceramics, we have used Lefroy Brooks in the bathrooms. We have kept the reclaimed tiles in the patio and laid timber floors elsewhere.  Regarding the fabrics, we have turned to Pierre Frey, Ralph Lauren, and many of our other favourite suppliers. In the bedroom, there is exquisite bed linen from Italy in which to sink into at the end of each day. The furniture, meanwhile, is a mix of vintage finds and more contemporary pieces.”

As Dobree continues to design Plaza 18 ahead of its highly anticipated opening, I am beginning to realise the personal connection Dobree has on all projects that she sensitively touches.