Kedleston Country House - elegant interior design in a Georgian landmark
- Credit: Ashley Franklin
Part of our 18th century heritage, these premises on the outskirts of Derby were extensively refurbished last year. Ashley Franklin returns for an in-depth look at the elegant interior
It’s a satisfying feeling, sitting in the sumptuous snug of a restored and reborn Kedleston Hotel after it had been shut up and shuttered for four long years. Closed in the autumn of 2010, this grand building – designed in 1762 by Robert Adam when Architect of the King’s Works – soon looked forlorn and forgotten, with sheets of tin shutting out the light and all hope.
Today, the sun’s rays pierce through to illuminate an interior where Georgian heritage classily combines with contemporary chic. The tasteful transformation of the renamed Kedleston Country House is admirable testament to the vision of Paul Harris of the Derby Brewing Company who wanted to ‘breathe life back into a waste of a beautiful building’, along with his wife and business partner Leanne who has worked in harmony with Buckinghamshire interior designers Plum & Ashby to create the stylish rooms, comprising a bar, parlour, snug, study, dining room and orangery plus boutique bedrooms upstairs and, in the grounds, the Georgian Gardens.
The Brewing Company has already earned acclaim and awards for bringing new life to The Tap and Greyhound pubs in Derby and the Queen’s Head in Little Eaton. Although the Kedleston was a more expansive and challenging restoration, the same company principles applied, as Leanne explains:
‘We always try and put the character and soul back into a building as well as respect its heritage. The walls hold stories and we try to honour this. The rich heritage of the Kedleston certainly had to be highlighted, so we were intent on reinstating much of Adam’s architecture. At the same time, we like to add something quirky and original.’
‘And of course,’ smiles Leanne, ‘we also have to take into account the fact that we are the Derby Brewing Company, which means a trailblazing bar!’
Restoring the Georgian features was paramount. However, Paul and Leanne discovered that the interior had been progressively altered down the years – ‘messed about with’ states Paul bluntly – so there was much work to do in bringing aspects of the interior back to how they used to look. Essentially, they have worked with the building to realise what Paul describes as ‘a tasteful blend of old and new.’
‘We really wanted the Georgian features to sing out,’ says Leanne, ‘so that meant large, elegant windows with lots of natural light, deep set skirting, mirrored by simple cornicing, and a rich tapestry of natural materials like burnt oak floorboards, hand-riven stone tiles, thick British cottons and worn antique leathers.’
To achieve the overall look, Paul and Leanne turned to Vicky White of Plum & Ashby. Vicky’s company had built up a reputation for the design and manufacture of interior accessories, but had not been engaged on a design project such as this before. However, for Leanne, Plum & Ashby’s style was ‘a perfect fit with the simple, rustic, quality British aesthetic we were keen to create.’
Leanne continues: ‘We liked the fact that Plum & Ashby was a brand which acknowledges country traditions but with a fresh modern twist, and sources materials largely within the UK. Vicky was able to encapsulate sophisticated contemporary interior style in a soft, cosy, clean and accessible way.’
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Plum & Ashby also proved useful in being able to advise on every single aspect of the design, as Vicky points out: ‘Rather than the Derby Brewing Company engaging several disparate companies, we were able to offer the full service, advising on everything from the width of Georgian floorboards through to the paint colours and panelling features of the period. We also sourced antiques and props, designed and printed exclusive fabrics and even provided washes, lotions and bath salts in the bathrooms.’
What also worked to their advantage was time. Although the Kedleston was ‘tinned up’ as soon as it closed, it wasn’t long after that the Derby Brewing Company secured the tenancy. Subsequently, the important if protracted discussions with English Heritage, meant that Leanne and Vicky had plenty of time to collect and discuss ideas as well as source items from antique fairs, where most of the furniture came from.
To achieve what Vicky refers to as ‘a traditional British colour palette’, she made a research trip to Kedleston Hall – arguably Robert Adam’s finest work – taking photographs of small details and paint colours. ‘Of course we couldn’t recreate them but it was a great inspiration,’ says Vicky.’
‘The traditional and calm colour palette has really helped to create an inviting atmosphere. With this sort of project you’ve got to create something that entices customers to leave their own sitting rooms. For me, the Parlour, Snug and Study really deliver with this.’
There is another aspect of the Snug that finds favour with Leanne: ‘With its thick wood panelling, deep cosy armchairs, roaring fire and period oil paintings, the room has the feel of a hunting lodge.’
The armchairs in the Snug, Parlour, Bar areas and bedrooms have all been reupholstered in plain linens to complement the ‘sophisticated country feel,’ with Vicky contemporising them by using a selection of cushions and throws that ‘added colour and broke up the neutral tones.’
One of the most appealing aspects of the design is Plum & Ashby’s ‘All the Breeds’ fabric which was exclusively commissioned for the project on a number of window dressings, particularly in the bedroom. It’s a linen based cloth in a natural colour with the dogs printed in a teal tone. ‘We reduced the scale of the print so it became more subtle,’ Vicky points out. ‘It’s only when you look closely that you can tell they are dogs; from a distance, it’s a lovely, attractive pattern.’
As well as appearing on the curtains, the dog motif pops up on the bedroom cushions and even the hot water bottles. All five bedrooms, two of which are elegant suites, house Plum & Ashby products, including even the traditional brown apothecary bottles filled with Green Fig and Lavender washes and lotions along with Lavender Bath Salts.
Although open for business since last August, there are already plans for improving the building. The airy, spacious, light-flooded Orangery – the one brand new ‘add-on’ at the Kedleston – is to become ‘a more cosy and intimate area,’ promises Leanne. ‘We’re adapting our stunning vintage screens, adding lots of our Plum & Ashby wool throws, and adding more ambient lighting to make it an even greater place to relax.’
There are also long-term plans to add more bedrooms. This will boost the hotel’s profile as a licensed wedding venue, for which bookings this year are filling up.
Come the spring, the Georgian Gardens will also start to flourish and help feed the diners, largely through the efforts of groundkeeper Mark who has also become known as the kitchen forager and gardener. ‘Mark has been part of our team since the diggers were creating the first garden beds,’ Leanne points out, ‘and he has planned the planting to provide the kitchens with the best variety of ingredients around. Increasingly, the chefs will work up each and every menu with this in mind, meaning we can change options organically, depending on what is at its best.’
The food – ‘modern British with a Kedleston twist’ – is proving popular, as is the whole place. The response to the décor, ambience and service has been very positive, with over 90 per cent rating the Kedleston as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
‘Since we’ve opened, we have been overwhelmed by the fantastic support we’ve had from the people of Derby,’ says Leanne. ‘We have lots of exciting plans and whatever direction we decide upon, it will be consistent with our family brand values of individuality, innovation and heritage – and to put a smile on our customers’ faces as well as one of our award-winning beers in their hands!’