Multi-award-winning interior design studio Goddard Littlefair has just completed a £25m, top-to-toe transformation of The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square, formerly The Roxburghe Hotel.
The remit for Grade II*-listed The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square covered a complete revamp of all the hotel’s public spaces, including the reception, lounge areas, ballroom and meeting rooms, plus the stunning central ‘Garden’ all-day dining area. All of the hotel’s 181 rooms and 18 suites, plus linking lobbies and corridors, were also completely redesigned.
‘Like a cosmopolitan clubhouse, the scheme for The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square is eclectic, intriguing and full of references to travel, from set-dressing with vintage suitcases, hats and canes to The Map Room, where the walls are lined with historic maps from around the world. The interior feel is plush and elegant, with interesting and varied furniture and tactile, high-quality fabrics, such as richly-coloured velvets and leathers, all set within a series of stand-out individual spaces.’
Guests enter the hotel via a classic original arched entranceway, refurbished with a smart, black-painted door set into a white-painted, glazed arch. The sense of being welcomed into a grand old Georgian townhouse prevails. Once inside, a spacious, glazed vestibule provides an area to wait or lounge in, with, to the right, an antique bench and bent-wood hat-stand and multiple hooks for hats and bags. Vintage walking sticks, hats, bags and suitcases immediately de-formalise the space and reinforce the subliminal sense of entering a private residence. Over to the left, an original fireplace, floor lamps, small tables and Ercol chairs upholstered
The vestibule space is freshened and contemporised by white marble, herringbone mosaic flooring, which cedes to an ebony timber parquet floor, as guests move into the reception area through a second set of glazed timber and bronze doors. Immediately beyond hangs an opulent, 1.1m-diameter, bespoke pendant light, designed by Goddard Littlefair and produced by A Shade Above in pale, coffee-coloured silk with elaborate black trimming.
The walls here are painted a soft milk-chocolate colour, creating an immediate feeling of warmth and intimacy. The space is further softened via the use of full-length deep green velvet curtains, which cleverly subdivide the space and provide a sense of privacy and exclusivity.
Rich in heritage and local charm, The Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square also incorporates features now customary to PRINCIPAL hotels, including vintage red post boxes with post collected daily and a Corner Shop selling treats to stock the mini-bar, at convenience shop prices. In the guestrooms, retro, 7-series red phones invite guests to dial 9 for an outside line and 0 for the ‘everything else line’, creating a single point of contact for all services.
Originally open to the elements, the central courtyard space has now been reclaimed as part of the hotel’s interior space with the addition of a new glazed roof. With open views of the sky, the light-filled space provides the hotel with a much-needed heart and allows comfortable all-year-round usage. Electronically-operated Pinoleum blinds ensure the light is not overwhelming on bright summer days and soften the fenestration. The introduction of timber-clad columns and surrounding bulkhead both encloses and compartmentalises the space, providing a number of intimate nooks and cosy corners. Cantilevered mirrors have been added to the bulkhead to maximise the sense of light and space and to encourage glimpsed views and people-watching.
The design for the space was inspired by the great hothouses, orangeries and nurseries of grand, historic country estates. Art Nouveau peacock chairs provide a sense of exoticism and romance, for example, whilst the fabric palette of vibrant greens and yellows, grounded by the ever-present monochrome sub-theme, reinforces a stylish ‘al fresco’ feel. Planting, including trees, hanging baskets, pods and vines were supplied by Bright Green and local landscapers Fleurtations. Ladders laid across the roof transoms provide an anchor for paint-dipped wicker lampshades, antique chandeliers and the occasional watering can.
A deliberately eclectic and varied approach has been taken with all the furnishings to give the impression of pieces acquired by the owner of the ‘house’ over a period of many years. These include a combination of painted wrought iron, wicker, timber and woven rattan chairs. Tables, some bespoke and some from Restoration Hardware and Andy Thornton display a variety of finishes, from reclaimed timber to stone tops. Visual cohesiveness is achieved by the sensitive deployment of a vivid fabric palette, with all seat pads for example in the same leaf green, layered with cushions, throws and faux-furs. An L-shaped sofa, immediately on the right as guests enter, is upholstered in a densely-patterned floral velvet from House of Hackney and provides a transitional lounge space between The Garden and reception.
‘We cast the net wide when it came to searching for the right accessories to dress the space with and add personality’, commented Richard McCready-Hughes, Goddard Littlefair Creative Director. ‘Extensive trips to antiques markets and dealer fairs provided one-off planters, jardinières, benches, cabinets and garden tools, all of which add to the fashionably eclectic feel of the space.’
Pre-function Space, Gallery, Board and Drawing Rooms
The pre-function space is located directly behind the bar area of The Garden and shares part of the same glazed roof. The area benefits from a soft glow of light, created by mid-century-inspired table lamps, which sit on the bar counter, whilst glass and metal lanterns continue the outdoor feel. This space can be sealed off for functions, as it leads directly into The Gallery (the former ballroom), where grey-toned woodwork acts as a backdrop for gallery-feel art displays, featuring local artists. On the George Street side of the hotel, floor-to-ceiling glazing affords passer-by views directly into The Gallery between new charcoal grey curtains, coupled with a white sheer.
BABA offers a boldly unconventional menu of simple, fresh, tasty small plate mezze dining and the restaurant’s unique twist is the flavour of ‘Levantine escapism’, infusing everything from its personality and design to the bold eastern Mediterranean mezze food offer. Goddard Littlefair was asked to provide a step change in terms of the look and feel of these spaces and this change in approach is immediately apparent.
‘To give these hospitality spaces a strong and unique personality, but at the same time ensure they linked well to the rest of the hotel, we incorporated a number of period elements that paid respect to the building such as Georgian-era tiling designs, as well as architectural salvage elements that linked other key spaces’ Will Hutchings of Goddard Littlefair explained. ‘We then alluded to the Levantine-influenced food offer with, for example, a series of rugs fitted to the walls like tapestry artworks and via the richness of the colour scheme, which includes aubergine, teal and peacock leather armchairs, with the whole concept overlaid with a bold and contemporary freshness.’
The BABA bar has its own street entrance, which signals the unique identity of the space within. A specially-commissioned mural of the ‘host’, Mr Baba, based on a vintage photograph, provides the backdrop to the bar counter. Elements of this image re-occur within the restaurant and across BABA’s brand collateral.
The bar itself has been refurbished with a re-finished, dark-stained, timber bar front and re-used zinc bar top, replete with the signs of ageing and character from its previous life. A new gantry above the bar counter has been constructed using mesh cages and scaffolding poles to provide storage for glassware. Contemporary bar stools now allow guests to sit at the bar counter. The bar ceiling is painted in a rich teal tone, with multiple antique framed mirrors attached to it, reflecting the activity beneath. A new, poured concrete floor has been decorated with a stencilled repeat motif, whilst the aubergine leather backrests on the bar banquettes, hung from scaffolding poles, plus a bank of reclaimed cinema seats, provide all-important contrast in the space.
The main area features a vibrant colour scheme and an industrial, distressed design feel, with strong elements of the Levantine in terms of colours and detailing. An arresting palette of deep teals and sea-green is used for the walls and ceilings, on top of which specialist paint finishes have been applied by artist Diane Hill to evoke the passing of time and hint at the building’s age and materiality. The extensive use of mirroring reflects the richly-patterned, Middle Eastern, wall-hung rugs, as well as the deep red, terracotta and sea-green tiling, adding a sense of glamour and excitement to the space. A deep red chequerboard pattern, stencilled onto the floorboards, will wear with time and increase the scheme’s feel of worn authenticity.
‘These are an excellent example of the resourceful upcycling we looked to incorporate wherever possible in the scheme’
Project Type: Hotel Design
Photographer: Gareth Gardner