Rules for dealing with builders
January 1, 2015
February 16, 2021
The brief: an old English Manor house hotel in the Sussex countryside is in need of a complete makeover. Its new owners want it to become a high-end wedding venue for couples looking to spend £15-25,000 on their nuptials. Key is that the rooms appeal not only to the couple and their friends, but also to parents and grandparents. Specifically, they want the revamped bedrooms “to be turned into spaces that people want to post on Instagram”.
A hotel bedroom can be a dream brief. Here is a chance to let fantasy fly and create something truly exotic. When you stay in a hotel you absolutely do not want to be thinking that your bedroom at home is better. Hotels should be about escapism from the mundane. And a wedding hotel especially so. It should be romantic, and a bit unexpected. You should be transporting the guests to a world away from normality. Caveat: never forget the practicalities of maintenance and durability essential for a busy commercial business.
The designers worked in two teams of four. One team was given, by the client, the brief “subtle glamour/refined elegance” and the other team had “decadent maximalist”. And yet, although I’d expect them to be open to borrowing ideas from each other, coordination is not the name of the game here. Each bedroom could be an entirely different interpretation of the brief. In fact, I think it’d be a big selling point in a hotel if every room was completely different. The given themes are pretty broad too, so almost anything goes. Except kitsch.
But regardless of aesthetic, I’d expect to see an absolutely show-stoppingly well-dressed and surround-soundesque-decorated bed. By this I mean, literally the dressing of the bed itself — eiderdowns, throw pillows, bolsters or coverlets (being mindful of practicality. This is a hotel not a home) — as well as the immediate area around the bed. Perhaps there could also be a fantastically painted, or even wallpapered ceiling! This could be the element of the unexpected. It’s also the sort of big statement that a hotel room needs, to grab the attention, because sometimes it’s really not about the details first.
A hotel bedroom is always first seen, loved or loathed, from a singular vantage point, the door. The designers need to stand there and think wow factor. What’s my big ticket move to draw someone in. It’s the equivalent of the little gasp a person makes when they first see their partner all dolled up at the end of the aisle. This is what the designers have to replicate in physical form. Next step, work up and out from here, guiding the eye to slowly take in the rest of the room.
This is why the client request for Instagrammable spaces carries some weight here. (Ordinarily, I’d despair of this ever being given as part of a brief, precisely because spaces are always experienced in constant random motion. The Instagrammation of design can therefore be ridiculously reductive.)
The point is that you use the bed as the inspirational lead, then follow up with consistent attention to detailing across the rest of the room. But here, such smaller details can play second fiddle to that first impression.
However, let me be crystal clear. This is not an excuse to let the details slip! Rather it’s a reminder that if a successful first impact is not made, no-one is going to bother marvelling at the glorious fringing around the lamp-stand.
The other important view the designers need to remain acutely aware of though, is what you see when you wake up. The reverse viewpoint of the bed (this holds true for domestic bedrooms too). The actual placement of the bed is therefore crucial.
The possibly tricky bit is aligning these two potentially competing aims. But then that’s where decoration comes in. Perhaps that amazing wallpaper on the ceiling comes cascading down the wall in front of the bed (the bed’s view), whereas behind the bed, a bold coordinating colour is picked out as a framing backdrop, thus tying it all together.
In short: determine the focus, continue the impact, and wrap the bed like a present. And as always, take your decorative lead both from the given brief, and the context.
Kit Kemp is renowned as the founder and creative director of the Firmdale Group of hotels, a group that stretches from London to New York. Exemplifying a look she defines as “English Eccentric”, her hotels have come to epitomise a kind of super up-market eclecticism, rich with her “handwritten and distinctive style”. Whether you like it or not aesthetically, it has to be admired for its panache and especially the incredible quality of every material and detail.
As Kit puts it, “I like my Interiors to capture the imagination. When you leave a room, something should stay with you, making you want to return, if only to recapture the magical spell over again. But most of all, I want a room to last. If it’s lovingly created and beautifully detailed, it will forever be a joy. Happy moments and treasured memories are integral to our comfort and surroundings.” Hear hear!
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Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.