REVIEW: THE COTTAGE IN THE WOOD, MALVERN, UK
Following the completion of an extensive three-phase refurbishment earlier this year, The Cottage in the Wood, in the beautiful undulating countryside of Worcestershire’s Malvern Hills, is now the epitome of chic country calm. SPACE visited the hotel this autumn and spoke to Co-owner Nick Davies about the project.
Set high up in the hills with astoundingly glorious views over the Severn Valley, The Cottage in the Wood provides an exquisite retreat from close by city life. The refurbishment of the entire property, which consists of The Main House with seven guest rooms and the hotel’s destination bar and restaurant, The Cottage – a cosy little building housing four guest rooms, and The Coach House – a 13-year-old new build with 19 guest rooms, began in 2017 and was completed earlier this year – an unheard of two years earlier than scheduled! “We bought the hotel five years ago,” says Nick Davies, Co-owner of the hotel with his with Julia. “It had been owned by a family for around 30 years operating as a hotel, but had become tired and in desperate need of refreshing. It needed a lot of TLC.” With no prior hotel experience, the couple were taking on a big project but helpfully knew plenty about building up businesses. “We were sat at home one day drinking coffee and I said to Julia, shall we buy a hotel? and she said OK. A year later we signed the deal on Cottage in the Wood. When we first got here it was all brown carpet and rather uninviting décor. We knew we had a big challenge ahead of us.”
The project began with initial interviews and discussions with a number of design studios, but it was a chance meeting with Nelson Design’s communications manager at an event that really got the ball rolling with work on the hotel. “Shortly after our chance meeting with Emma we invited Claire Nelson down to Cottage in the Wood. Her ideas were so aligned with our own, and even though we’d interviewed a few different design companies, we knew we wanted to work with Nelson Design.
The layout of the hotel was all wrong, Claire came and made lots of suggestions for things we’d already had in mind and we knew then that she just ‘got it’. Hotels like these have a life of their own and you have to really understand the flow and how they operate as a space, then you can really get the design right.”
Playing to the strengths of the architecture of each part of the hotel, The Main House was restored with its Georgian details brought back to life, the cottage has been made to feel like a cosy countryside retreat, and the Coach House has been given a more contemporary feel. “The whole design concept is the wallpaper in the restaurant. The idea is to bring the outside in – that was Claire’s idea. In fact, the whole refurb sort of started with that wallpaper. We’re huge fans of Timorous Beasties. All the wallpaper in the hotel is from Timorous Beasties.” Georgian greys, nature-themed aesthetics, classic modern chandeliers and mirrors to reflect the spectacular views over the Malvern Hills have been incorporated into the redesign of the restaurant. Elsewhere in the Main house colourful and eclectic areas have been created, with deep blue bookcases stacked with literary classics, Georgian green walls are adorned with old photographs of the local area, and an image of Elgar and a contemporary painting of a traditional Malvern gas lamp by a local artist takes pride of place on the ground floor. “We wanted something that was all about a feeling of countryside relaxation but with a high-end London style.”
Following the refurbishment of the 1919 Restaurant and Bar, the second phase saw the completion of the seven guest rooms in The Main House and the four guest rooms in The Cottage. Rooms in The Main House have been designed in keeping with the property’s Georgian heritage, with plenty of contemporary styling. A traditional to the period colour palette of pinks, blues, greens and greys has been used and set against bold-patterned accessories and unique furniture, including Georgian nightstands, tripod cricket tables and a gypsy bobbin leg table. In The Cottage there are more quirky design elements, with the use of gorgeous wallpapers from Timorous Beasties and Neisha Crosland.
Phase three saw The Coach House, the largest of the buildings with 19 guest rooms to refurbish. Transformed to reflect the hotel’s elegance and history, olive and sage interiors mirror the hotel’s peaceful surroundings, alongside injections of contemporary pink and burnt orange. Unique furniture has been sourced from suppliers including Graham & Green, Swoon and Northern Lighting, mixing natural materials with rich velvets and striking black accents. The entrance lobby and public corridors have been finished with statement colours and a combination of bespoke herringbone carpets that emulate the flooring of the other hotel buildings.
The Coach House architecture and frame was designed by a Swedish company focused on sustainable building construction. The wood for the frame of the building is sourced from sustainable forests and even the transportation from Sweden to the UK is sustainable. The walls are made from mulched wood, which not only lasts for a long time, but also allows airflow through the building, providing guests with fresh air that helps promote more restful sleep. The building leads the hotel’s sustainability credentials with savvy environmentally friendly initiatives and saves energy usage by 60%.
It was important to both Nick and Julia to put their mark on the hotel, and they achieved that through unusual and quirky artwork. “All the artwork throughout the hotel was chosen by myself and Julia. We worked with an art company in London called Gallery Different. All the music-themed artwork plays to the history of the hotel. Most of the artists featured have stayed in the hotel. Elgar played here, years ago in a previous iteration, when there was a concert hall where The Coach House now is.”
“We are extremely proud of the new design, providing an exemplary addition to our offering for our returning visitors and new guests,” says Nick. “UK hotels haven’t always had a particularly good rep, particularly in the countryside – everyone thinks of Fawlty Towers, and for a long time they were a bit like that. But I’d say in the last ten years UK hospitality has become really rather sophisticated and is now doing some really interesting stuff. There’s so much happening now, why wouldn’t you want to explore the UK?”
INTERIOR DESIGN: Nelson Design
SUPPLIERS: Lighting: Northern Lighting Furniture: Swoon, Graham & Green, Desenio, Aitken & Thyme Wallpaper: Timorous Beasties, Neisha Crosland, Coles, Sandberg