With a heritage of over 120 years, this Grade 1 listed building has benefitted from superior hotel design and interior design. Once an excellent example of an Elizabethan Manor House encompassing genuine British Colonial style, and oozing nostalgia from a bygone era. Currently, The Hotel carries a status of International Importance, indeed it was identified by National Geographic Magazine a ‘must visit’ when in Sri Lanka. Little is known outside of the island of the role that this hotel played in the fabric of ancient and modern Sri Lanka, gaining the accreditation of ‘National Heritage Property’ by the Department of Archaeology in the Nineties.
The Days of The Raj
Situated at high altitude in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka (known as ‘Little England’ or ‘Switzerland of the East’) the property’s journey began as the private residence of Sir Edward Barnes, Governor of Ceylon during the days of the British Raj. Governor Barnes realised that the invigorating climate made it an ideal location for a military sanatorium and for his new home. Settlers and British visitors soon developed enormous enthusiasm for the small hamlet which quickly began to buzz with cricket
matches, race meetings and elk hunting.
After the advent of the motorcar, and the construction of a perilous road, the area became more popular for the casual visitors wishing to escape the oppressive heat of the City. This time also saw the commencement of an engineering marvel in the form of a rail line. This rail journey provided the most adventurous and breath-taking railway experience Ceylon offered and remains to this day the most popular mode of transport to Nuwara Eliya.
The Birth of a Hotel
After his return to the UK, and with Nuwara Eliya more accessible and growing in popularity, Governor Barnes’ original property gave way to become a small, basic single-story guesthouse, ‘Barnes Hall’. This period became a crucial one for Nuwara Eliya, even the devastation of coffee was offset by the success of tea with mountainsides covered in teach bushes glistening in the sun. Within this period ‘Barnes Hall’ progressed from basic hotel to multi-storey and the beginnings of the aptly named ‘Grand Hotel’. Mock-tudor first manifested in Britain in the mid to late 19th Century and quickly became an influence in the British Colonies including the hill stations of India and Ceylon. It almost certainly was the Grand that first adopted the mock-tudor style – probably in the 1880’s when the hotel was converted from ‘Barnes Hall’.
To meet the increased demand for accommodation of a high standard, expansion of The Grand Hotel became essential and such was its success that the hotel soon gained promotion to ‘Vice-regal residence’ after becoming a favourite haunt for royalty. By the 1930’s the third floor had been added to the hotel and on February 4th, 1948 Ceylon gained independence from the British and a new era dawned for this gem of a hotel.
Sympathetic hotel design has ensured every corner of the hotel has retained its grandeur. This hotel is steeped in history and the ‘British-ness’ with beautiful craftsmanship and fine architectural details still visible, amongst the rambling corridors and their fine dados and elegant cornicing in teak, the ornate lounges and the hidden dens blend beautifully with the new wing which offers sophisticated and fine dining. Soaring ceilings, wooden floors throughout and solid wooden doors as well as a diversity of period furniture complete the overall look of the hotel.
Retaining ‘Old England’ Even the charm and beauty of the surrounding gardens emit the quaint charm of ‘Old England’, with plant-filled gardens and beautifully manicured lawns with parasol-shaded sets of wrought iron furniture. There is no doubt that from around the inception of Nuwara Eliya, the British residents understood the need to transform the appearance of the landscape into an English countryside by introducing native plants.
Hotels such as this do not enjoy the luxury of being able to stand still in time and whilst preserving and respecting its history, progression is vital. As such an ambitious interior renovation project to span two further years is planned, the interior works having begun in 2010.
A Wealth of Archive Information
The Interior Design arm of ‘Silkroad Interiors and Flooring’ have already completed the internal reception areas as well as introducing two new dining experiences: a Thai Restaurant and the Tea Lounge and Tea Veranda. The Tea Lounge was ingeniously transformed from an office during the renovations in 2012 with gold wallpaper lining the walls offsetting hand-painted vintage tea posters and display cabinets filled with antique copper, brass and silver tea sets.
Antique furniture, original ironmongery for the fire surrounds and door furniture as well as all the silverware was personally sourced by the interior designers in the UK and imported to Sri Lanka. The importance of authenticity is uncompromised. The Tea Veranda – an entirely new structure – sympathetically unites ‘original’ and ‘new’ and provides one of the best places to view the landscape of the tea country.
First impressions are striking and upon entering through the portal you will proceed in to the doorman’s ante-room – a reminder of the days when visitors on horseback would remove their protective clothing before entering the hotel welcoming large, blackened wrought iron fire places which still burn logs today as has happened throughout the hotel’s distinguished past. The hotel capitalises on its history and everywhere there are glimpses of days gone by with an invaluable collection of archive photography.
Gold Buttoned Uniforms and Vanilla Tea
The newly renovated and stylish reception lobby more than nods to the days of the Empire with heavily framed coronation portraits of the British Royal family. In contrast, on the opposite wall are photographs of tea plantation workers who were responsible for creating the wealth of the Empire. The furniture and wall panelling were chosen using existing designs found elsewhere in the hotel as well as those invaluable archive images. Instead of the usual check-in mayhem, guests are ushered into the adjacent lounge, given a hot face towel, proffered with silver tongs by a waiter in a uniform consisting of a white tunic, with gold-coloured buttons and white sarong and then there’s the welcome drink: Vanilla Tea.
Perhaps the most precious and unique part of the hotel is the Billiards Room which remains untouched with its timber planked ceilings and exposed wooden trusses. Three antique full-sized billiards tables dominate the room made by Burroughes and Watts of London, who helped pioneer the game and were given a royal patronage by Queen Victoria (a keen billiards player herself). Original cues survive as do a collection of 35 ivory billiards balls, their colour faded, but nevertheless a fascinating addition to what is essentially a billiard’s museum.
Character and Colonialism
Interior redecoration has now shifted to the bedrooms and suites with the opening of the new ‘Queen Elizabeth II Suite’ (images of this completed suite can be seen on our portfolio page). Each bedroom is difference in size and aspect which naturally affords the interiors designers the change to individualise – always ensuring the essential character and colonialism is retained throughout.
Still Partying On
The Grand Hotel is that rare treat which successfully manages to move forward with the ever-changing world of tourism. It effortlessly retains its record of an age that sadly seems to be slipping away. The hotel has lost little of its Edwardian charm whilst keeping up with the demands of the modern-day visitor.
It is impossible to bring back and retain the sense of inner calm gained from the serenity of a luxury holiday. What is possible, is to re-create the ambience and style of the accommodation that contributed to the enjoyment of said holiday. Lead Designer of The Silkroad Interiors and Flooring, Sahran, offers his advice.
With hotel accommodation, it tends to be the beautiful bathroom adjoining the equally breath-taking bedroom which contributes to the tranquillity and comfort of the stress-busting break away. Balancing the demands of modern living is without a doubt tiring and stressful. For many, the onset of stress creeps in before the cases are unpacked as tired children bicker in the background.
Architects and developers are not always sympathetic to the requirement of a ‘Zen Den’ at home, a place to relax and rejuvenate. This makes it even more important to create your own haven away from the ‘communal’ areas of your home. The most effective rooms to create such an environment are bathrooms and bedrooms. Relaxing doesn’t just happen when you are not busy. Like a luxury holiday, relaxation is a gift to oneself, quality time, spent in quality surroundings.
Bathrooms should always be sanctuaries that exude quiet sophistication, but they must also have the functionality to be able to offer state of the art comfort at the flick of a switch. A shower that trickles because of lower water pressure, a bath that is too small or lighting that isn’t efficient spells trouble. What we all want are clean lines, spaciousness, the opulence of a huge bathtub, a shower that makes you feel like are in a warm rainstorm, perfect lighting, mirrors that make you look flawless, music to reflect your mood. All of this complimented by the finest fittings.
This is what you enjoyed in your luxury hotel and there is no reason why it can’t be recreated in your home. No matter the size of your bathroom, there is a solution, but pre-planning is paramount. It is about making the right choices. Simplicity is key – wall hung toilets won’t disturb the fluidity of the flooring, contemporary glass table-top sinks, sited on minimal, linear plinths will work towards creating a feeling or order and space. Careful placement of mirrors will contribute to the aesthetics of the bathroom whilst fulfilling a practical role.
Efficient showers rely on adequate water pressure and shower fittings chosen to accommodate this. Showers are likely to be used daily so practicalities must be taken into consideration. Baths may be used less often, but they open a new world of luxury. Spa jets are effective and worth the investment if a long soak is a treat.
Lighting plays the single most important part of the overall scheme. The placement and strength of the lighting will dictate the feel of the space. There is a plethora of choice when it comes to tiling and paint colours which will decide the overall look and feel – dark and moody or light and airy?
What is noticeable in boutique hotel bathrooms is that they offer excellent storage facilities. There’s a place for everything, creating a clean and neat environment. Take advantage of this simple tip – build in as much storage as possible and optimise unusable space for the same purpose. Eliminate clutter and ensure that everything has a home. Finally, add the finishing touches to your bathroom – candles, aromatherapy oils, sweet smelling soaps and diffusers. Awaken your senses.
Bedrooms also play a key role in the quest for peace and quiet. These are often the smallest areas in our home and yet accommodate the largest pieces of furniture. Bedrooms should have an emphasis on ‘soft’ and ‘opulent’. The trick is to allude to more space than exists.
Creating ‘hotel chic’ requires an in-depth knowledge of colour and textiles. Most luxury hotels benefit from a professional interior designer to ensure a seamless and continuous finish. Calm sophistication does not mean dull and boring; however, it is prudent to acknowledge that fashionable colours will date over time. The ideal is a result that is timeless, elegant and welcoming and above all a retreat.
Colour selection is a key consideration and by creating a mood board mistakes will be highlighted. The colour of the walls must work with the colour of the soft furnishings and colour reflection should also be considered. Look at the natural light and enhance what you have. This will dictate the overall colour palette. For example, north facing smaller areas will need more careful attention to colour choices, best relying on lighter or pastel shades, whereas larger and brighter bedrooms offer more scope and wider colour choices.
The route when selecting fabrics for the soft furnishings should be clearer. The colour on the walls is often the smallest element in bedrooms, with fabrics making the biggest impact. To create a relaxing and opulent retreat, fabrics should be of a superior quality to ensure they retain their shape. Simple, elegant fabrics should be used for larger areas such as curtains, with impact being created using cushions and throws. More fabric than less is key.
The largest piece of furniture is the bed. Ensure this is the centrepiece with upholstered headboards, best quality fresh linen (white will be the designer’s first choice) and cushions of carrying sizes creating a waterfall of sumptuousness at the head of the bed, tumbling down towards the textured, rich throw at the foot. By layering textures and fabrics in this manner it is easy to create a feel of luxury. A deep velvet pile carpet will further add to the comfort of the bedroom.
Finally, lighting….. where lamps are placed, the quality of the fittings, the design of the fittings and the strength of the light will all have a make or break effect on the scheme. Fabrics and soft furnishings provide soul, lighting creates character.
Don’t rely on your next holiday to de-stress, create your own haven at home.
Once a bustling Roman market town, the City of Chichester’s ancient streets have much architectural and historical interest. Twisting up into the West Sussex sky is the piercing spire of the 12th century cathedral, an imposing salute to medieval architecture and a fitting centrepiece to a city which sits placidly amongst the rolling green patchwork of the South Downs.
The flint-faced walls which remain to this day were inherited from the Romans and clearly define the Old City boundaries, also remaining are the clear grid patterns on which the Romans built Chichester with the main streets forming a cross encompassing North South East and West Streets. Located within the old city walls is The Ship Hotel, a Grade 2 listed building which carries the status of ‘historical importance’ within the diocese of the City of Chichester.
Home of Vice Admiral Sir George Murray
More recently, the building that is now The Ship Hotel was once the private home of Vice Admiral Sir George Murray (1759-1819), Admiral Lord Nelson’s most trusted sailor who was born and bred in Chichester. He enjoyed a particularly enduring friendship with Lord Nelson who selected Murray as his first captain on HMS Victory. Murray hesitated to accept the appointment, fearing that professional confrontations would damage their friendship. Nelson, however, assured him that even should everything go contrary to his wishes, he would waive the rank of Admiral, and explain or expostulate with him as his friend Murray (Naval Chronical, 1807).
‘No- one But Murray Will do’
The death of his father-in-law, prevented him accompanying Nelson on his last voyage at Trafalgar. With Murray absent, Nelson declined to appoint a replacement citing the most famous of quotes “No-one but Murray would do”. In 1815, he was nominated for the Kings Cross for Bravery and died in his sixtieth year in 1819.
World Famous and Distinguished Clientele
More prestige beheld the building, when General Eisenhower, Field Marshall Montgomery and Air Marshall Cunningham had dinner at The Ship just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. Nowadays, with the world-famous Chichester Festival Theatre within walking distance, the property continues to play host to a famous and distinguished clientele. Helen Mirren, Nigel Havers, Stephen Fry, Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith have all enjoyed The Ship’s hospitality.
Home from Home – A Dramatic Transformation
The Ship Hotel has recently undergone an overhaul capitalising on its grandeur, whilst remaining true to its Georgian origins. The Silkroad Interior Design, were commissioned to roll out an interior design scheme of the downstairs’ communal areas to ensure a relaxing, stylish and above all welcoming feel. The location of this hotel in the heart of Chichester needed to offer clients an oasis away from the busy and noisy city outside. Hence, the designer’s focus was to create a ‘home from home’ atmosphere without compromising the hotel’s features, whilst also celebrating the hotel’s history.
Commercial Hotel design requires a different approach to that of a residential design- the interior scheme needs to meet a variety of criteria whilst also reaching out to satisfy the tastes of the hotel’s clientele- old and new. Longevity and durability are key to any commercial design, however, a boutique hotel of this nature- which is more ‘home’ than ‘hotel’- also needs a sympathetic eye on comfort.
A Taste of Sophistication
The downstairs areas were reconfigured starting with the entrance lobby. Bespoke wooden flooring leads clients to the reception desk with this area enjoying leather effect wallpaper, and a statement piece in the form of an oversized urn and stunning moss ball – the latter can be enjoyed fully as guests climb the grand Adam Staircase to the first floor. Despite its simplicity. First impressions offer guests a taste of the sophistication and classy style of the Hotel.
The overall scheme aimed to reflect a hint of ‘colonialism’, brought about by the dark wooden flooring – coloured and distressed to reflect age and character- and the muted colours introduced in the soft furnishings and bespoke carpets which were designed especially for the hotel. The dramatic use of plants in the Dining area further nods to the days of the empire.
From the Entrance lobby, the heavily accessorised Lounge, with chesterfield and roaring log fire awaits guests. A popular meeting place for shoppers, the Lounge and Captains Bar simply buzzes with life, from those wishing only for a coffee to others who prefer the sound of corks popping. The introduction of colour is subtle, but the ‘Georgian red’ nevertheless creates an impact- carefully chosen books for the dark wooden shelving have been sourced to match the same shade of red as the newly built and well stocked bar area.
Seamless Design Which Flows Throughout
Curtains and accessories have been carefully selected to offer interest and impact- similar to that of a home- and the upholstery and fabrics chosen to blend rather than contrast. The smallest details have been taken into consideration to ensure an authentic scheme which flows seamlessly from room to room linking fabrics, colours and textures. It is the attention to the detail that elevates a good design to an exceptional one.
Leading on from the Captains Bar, the striking ‘oldest new restaurant’ in Chichester awaits. As with all businesses, the scheme had to be dictated by the numbers – table and seating occupancy was paramount both in the main Murray’s Restaurant as well as the Captain’s bar and lounge area. The dining area, whilst having to provide the maximum amount of table covers, also needed to be sufficiently accessorised to counter -balance the uniformity of a large number of tables and chairs. Sideboards, with clusters of lanterns and plants below Georgian effect mirrors add interest and light where it is most needed and the large palms create drama and height.
Practical Bespoke Flooring
The flooring plays a practical role in this area with the combined use of wood and carpet- the wood flooring creating walkways which enable the waiters and waitresses to move about freely are offset by the carpeting in the eating area which absorbs sound and creates a feeling of warmth. The common challenge is to ensure an ambient atmosphere by day as well as by night. This challenge was met with the use of the candle lanterns- perfect in the evening with dimmed overhead lighting- and by day the warm tones of the plants and fabrics retain an intimate feel.
This distinguished hotel continues to welcome a vast and diverse clientele throughout the year- from those enjoying a day of shopping or the theatre-folk who capitalise on Chichester’s excellent Theatre through to large wedding parties and corporates wishing to entertain.
This hotel could not be further from the stark and cold minimalism that is so popular in trendy London hang-outs. Without a doubt, this city hotel has retained its own charm, oozing sophistication and opulence and above all its own, very particular identity.
Glowing client reviews confirm another successful interior design project.
The Silkroad Interiors and Flooring weighs up the popular options of today.
Design experts recognise that the flooring element of a room is one of its most key features and the flooring you choose can have a ‘make or break’ effect on the entire decorating scheme. Therefore, choosing the right floor for you and your lifestyle is a very important investment offering little room for error. Hard flooring, including wood and stone is not an exact science, therefore, specialist knowledge and expertise is vital to ensure the decision you make is the correct one for your home and your lifestyle.
What makes choosing a floor tougher still, is that there are no ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’ – merely what may be more appropriate than not. Whilst there are many options with flooring, it seems that carpet remains the stalwart of the industry, with stone and wood raising the most queries regarding maintenance and performance.
Hardwood or Natural Stone?
Hard flooring such as wood or natural stone has never been more desirable, offering home-owners a long-lasting beautiful floor. Engineered wood can vary in price enormously, as will the quality and in turn the performance. Ultimately, decisions about both stone and wood need to be made by weighing up the importance of quality versus price.
Pro’s and Con’s
Wood and stone can both look stunning – but only fitted correctly. Nature has shaped the product so very tile or plank will be unique and no two floors will be identical, adding to the lure of this type of flooring.
However, there are a few disadvantages to be aware of. Both wood and stone are susceptible to scratching, however, wood offers more options to rectify than stone – scratches to stone will be more permanent. Whilst a ploly-urethane wood finish proved a tough protective coating, it is very difficult to ‘make good’ if a scratch does occur, however, a wax/oil finish allows for straight forward touching up in areas of high tread and if maintained, has the advantage of looking great for its entire life, without the need to sand and seal. All types of wood or stone flooring will benefit from good doormats and protective pads for furniture legs which will help to minimise damage, although very often the natural tone of stone and rustic wood can help to disguise scratches. For example, a prime oak is more contemporary looking with little or no knots, therefore, a scratch may look more obvious, whereas a rustic grade will have variations in grain and colour, offering an element of ‘camouflage’. Natural stone will also very in grain and colour and the same principle applies.
Unlike wood, stone is naturally porous and must be saturated with a sealant after fitting, taking care to re-apply around areas such as hobs more regularly. Stone must also be fitted onto a secure, sound subfloor to avoid any movement which will have a negative impact on the grouting and can even cause a tile to crack.
Underfloor heating is suitable for both engineered wood flooring and natural stone. As stone is a natural conductor, underfloor heating performs effectively and efficiently, however, increasingly engineered wood is now also a very popular choice. It is worth noting, that Wood is a natural insulator, is not cold underfoot and will not perform as efficiently as stone.
Cleaning stone or wooden floors no longer need to be as arduous as it once was. The advent of steam cleaners makes light work of this chore. Wood is best suited to a light steam clean (the more sophisticated steam cleaners have individual setting for wood, stone and vinyl flooring), or otherwise a well-wrung out mop will suffice. Stone, however, can cope with the heat and moisture emitted by steam cleaners and this is the perfect method to remove dirt.
Carpet still remains the most popular and cost effective option, with consumers now able to enjoy collections that embrace colour, pattern and design which were previously only available in the more up-market ranges. Consumers have been inspired and are having more fun than ever capitalising on what’s on offer. Stripes on stairs, tartan in studies, spots in children’s rooms…. The industry has moved on significantly with qualities increasing to pleasing standards. Maintenance of carpets are surprisingly simple – carpets can easily be cleaned using hot water extraction machines which rely on heat and water to effectively remove soiling – the purchase of one is a a very prudent purchase.
There is no such thing as a ‘maintenance free’ floor. Today’s premium floors will last for years but they must be properly installed and cared for. Your local, independent retailer will play a vital role in your decision-making and many will offer an installation service, saving you time and effort whilst keeping the entire process under one roof.
4,000 years ago, the Chinese first discovered how to cultivate the threads found in the cocoons of native caterpillars. Each cocoon products a continuous thread of 600 – 900 metres long which is then spun into the fabric we know today as Silk. This innovation marked the birth of the interior design industry with interior traders travelling across the pre-existing routes through Asia, Africa and Europe to sell their products to the West. Originally used for salt trading, this route is now universally known as The Silk Route. Latterly, political powers imposed economic and cultural barriers across this route which rendered it unviable for trade, sadly starving the West of the Orient’s rich and diverse imports.
More recently, we have seen the re-emergence of The Silk Route which is once again providing European homes with the flavours and inspiration of the East. Not only does The Silk Route conjure up an air of the romantic and the exotic, it has also stimulated designers and fired imaginations worldwide. By way of example, you will now see Chinese-styled wallpaper which is produced in Britain, and features English as opposed to Chinese subjects. To this day, Silk remains one of the most desirable fabrics for designers.
Lead interior designer at The Silkroad Interiors and Flooring, Sahran Abeysundara, has a career spanning Sri Lanka, Dubai, Maldives, India, Thailand and Hong Kong. Now based in the UK, he has witnessed first-hand how exciting design can be when East meets West and has observed the cross-border similarities of his clients. “The requirement of my clients in Sri Lanka, whose old colonial homes could have been picked straight out of the Surrey Countryside, and those of my European clientele are remarkably similar. There is a warmth and mystique surrounding the Orient that my clients in the UK want to subtly introduce into their homes, and vice versa with my international clients, who look to add more British touches into their homes. The result is always an interaction of quality, elegance and style; a fusion of form and function which is universal rising above the notion of following a trend”.
It is the West’s demand for vibrant and rich fabrics, high quality bespoke furniture and exotic accessories that has led to the success of The Silkroad Interiors and Flooring.
It is easy to overlook your staircase, but it is often the first part of your home that visitors see when they walk through the front door. Creating a warm and inviting focal point, making a statement and having some fun has never been easier with the vast choice of striking and exciting carpeting available today to create that lasting impression.
Staircases compliment bold designs because they stand alone from other areas of your homes, and as such won’t overtake or clash with other flooring or colour schemes. Originally designer-led and limited, the industry has moved forward significantly to offer vast opportunities to ensure your staircase becomes a feature. Stripes, spots, tartans and herringbone designs are all readily available with many manufacturer’s producing complimenting plain products for hallways and landings.
So much choice can be daunting which is why independent retailers, such as The Silkroad Interiors and Flooring based in Haslemere, Surrey are passionate about the importance of rising above the faceless medium of the internet and offer the highest levels of service and specialist, impartial advice to ensure clients are fully informed with their decision- making.
Creating a “WOW”
Elite companies such as Roger Oates (also keep an eye out for Fleetwood Fox and Anta) offer over a 100 samples to choose from. Considered as a “must have” design statement, Roger Oates is hand finished, and loomed in such a way as to be utterly authentic and true to the art of weaving and their designs are grounded in chic twenty-first century taste offering a contemporary twist on classical designs. Produced with selvedge edges as standard the requirement for additional taping or whipping is removed. Alternative Flooring and Crucial Trading both create innovative and diverse flooring with bespoke options to create your very own personalised stair runner or rug.
Creating a statement on the stairs can be successfully combined with wooden flooring either on landings or in hallways. Another premium product that cannot fail to impress is their bespoke wood flooring range which originate from Europe and is hand finished to precise client requirements. The calibre of these products cannot be mistaken and continually exceed client expectations.
Stair Rods are purely aesthetic but do add an elegant finish touch. Modern day carpets to not require such fixings, relying instead on specialist grippers and underlays to secure the runner. If you are unsure, these can be added at a later date.
As a specialist retailer of Roger Oates, Fleetwood Fox, Crucial Trading and Alternative Flooring, The Silkroad Interiors and Flooring is best placed to help you create your unique statement.