architecture & design
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Designing for Experience

By Christine Skaar

Hiring an Interior Designer may seem like a luxury, but the benefits far outweigh the investment. When clients have been in an environment for a while, they often fall into the routine of their current space which can make them blind to its potential. Equally, a new investment can often fuel the imagination beyond what is sensible to achieve. We are dedicated to each creative brief that we are given, listening to your aspirations and tailoring a bespoke creative vision which can be delivered by our expert contacts and suppliers.

We often joke that we are part designers and part counsellors. To create the perfect space, we need to get into the mechanics and preferences of those occupying it. This is (and should be!) a highly personal process as we listen, guide and resolve issues together. Each scheme and client are unique, so for us it is paramount that whilst we offer our experience and expertise we do not impose a ‘house style’.

In the autumn of 2018 I had the pleasure of working with the Nettleton Collection to deliver their vision for Gaia Spa, a stunning a luxury spa within the grounds of Boringdon Hall on the edge of Dartmoor. The contractor had already been appointed when I was brought on board to review the interiors, and generic finishes specified for the new building by the previous pre-Planning stage architects.

Gaia Spa: product photographs. The brand is reflected in the features of the building. [Images: Gaia Spa]

The first step was to review the current proposals and have a detailed conversation with the Client team about their brand, user aspirations and the desired interior quality and functionality of the new space. I visited one of their other hotels in Newquay to speak to the staff and management as well as looking at what did and didn’t work well. Armed with this information allowed me to apply specific critical thinking to the existing proposals to streamline them, identifying savings and omitting features that would not add value; commercially or experientially. Bringing the surrounding landscape into the building via views and natural light, high ceilings and exuding quality through detailing and materials were key aspects that we put at the heart of the design. 

Gaia Spa: concept sketch and completed photograph of the lobby showing how the consistent concept and high-quality materials used in the right places reinforce the character of the spa.

Gaia Spa: concept sketch and completed photograph of a treatment room showing how careful selection of materials and varied lighting creates a relaxed space with experiential quality.

Exploring the qualities that strengthen a client’s brand or identity and introduce a sense of delight in the space is an exciting process. At Gaia natural materials and diffuse daylight, supplemented with strategic interior lighting and soft reflective materials, deliver a fresh environment that promotes wellbeing and exuded energy.

Gaia Spa: treatment room photographs. [Images: Gaia Spa]

Gaia Spa: concept sketch and completed photograph of the reception retail area that sets the tone for the experience alongside the own brand products. Key furniture items combined with consistency of design features throughout the development reinforce the spa’s ethos and embrace visitors.

A strategic combination of off-the-shelf products and materials and investment in bespoke pieces or finishes is key to creating the ultimate fantasy on a reasonable budget. With these tools we seek to paint a picture at concept stage; and tailor the right setting within long-lasting spaces that ooze character and individuality in both residential and commercial properties.

Gaia Spa: retail and salon photographs [Images: Gaia Spa]

Attention to detail & materials

Connecting you to specialist makers and suppliers is a fantastic part of our job. We love building relationships with dedicated craftspeople locally and internationally who can contribute the perfect elements to finish off a scheme. Once we have a clear concept and design vision for your space, we curate options to present a harmonised scheme that oozes character. Incorporating personal touches and bespoke items make the finished space original and memorable. 

We will combine different textures and materials, from natural stones, wood and metals - to luxurious leather and silk velvet; carefully curated to enhance the qualities they bring to each space. In 2016, whilst in Devon, I had the pleasure of working on Lympstone Manor as part of the architectural team to deliver the 21 bedroom hotel and restaurant for the chef, Michael Caines, to fulfil his long-standing ambition of owning his own hotel.

The £9million renovation and extension of the grade II listed mansion, Courtlands House, sought to create an unashamedly luxurious, chic and glamorous destination. It celebrates the future and the contemporary; while at the same time embracing the historical architecture of the house. 

Gaia Spa: material presentation finishes boards. The active areas (left board) had a brighter natural colour theme, whilst the tranquil treatment areas had a warmer tone (right board).

Lympstone Manor: Indulgent materials paired with clean contemporary lines and lighting bring a modern luxury to the 5* hotel and Michelin restaurant in Devon. [Images: Lympstone Manor]

Inside, the client was keen to create a sense of place with spacious rooms where guests would want to linger. The interiors were delivered by Meraki Design, who sought to evoke a sense of escapism in a luxury setting. The choice of gilded, natural materials and soft lighting bring warmth to the hotel, while reflecting the poetic beauty of the surrounding area. The estuary and Jurassic coast led the colours of the public areas and have created a serene mood throughout the hotel. The interiors draw the eye out to commemorate the view instead of competing with it. The colour of the tide continuously changes from golden hues, to soft dove blues to champagne.

Lympstone Manor: Indulgent interiors inspired by the tidal surroundings. [Images: Booking.com]

The birds of the Exe estuary are reflected in the room names, which also informed the colour schemes of all the rooms. Artwork and textures subtly reference the theme in a sophisticated way, reinforcing the link with the stunning context. Bespoke wallpapers were commissioned from Devon-based watercolour artist Rachel Toll toprovide a focal point in the reception, on the stairs and in Powderham – one of three dining rooms.

Lympstone Manor: The main staircase before and after photographs. The wallpaper is one of three commissioned from a local artist.

Lympstone Manor: The birds that live in and around the estuary formed the concept for the bedrooms, from the soft greys used in the top Heron suites to the blue jewel tones found in Kingfisher and an indigo shade with black and white accents in Magpie. The theme also appears in carefully selected accent furniture throughout the hotel and restaurant.

We can help you to create an outstanding tailor-made space suited to your resources. The discounts we can negotiate on trade purchases often reduce your final costs down to more than the original design fee, whilst giving you a higher quality of fixture and fitting as well as an overall unique design and experiential quality. 

It’s not just the trade discounts we have access to, but the choice of fittings, finishes and the curation of the whole that matters the most to creating a wonderful space. Standard rooms can be transformed to luxury spaces with simple cost-effective tweaks, lighting changes and considered layout arrangements, accented by carefully selected furniture and accessories. The good thing is it needn’t cost the earth so small or large projects can benefit. 

Please do get in touch for a friendly chat about a project or idea; whether it is a commercial development, or a residential house, room or item of furniture.