Quirky collections, student artwork and the contents of an entire chemist shop all amass in a commotion of design ideas at this new Bath hotel, creating a surprisingly elegant result. Janet Harmer pays a visit
Hoteliers Ian and Christa Taylor always knew they could support a third hotel in Bath. When the husband and wife team saw that the former Carfax hotel on Great Pulteney Street – one of the most impressive and most photographed thoroughfares in the city – came up for sale for £4.5m in early 2016, they were keen to move quickly. Within six weeks, the Taylors had secured the necessary finance from their main lender, Barclays, and taken possession of the Grade I-listed property, located across three townhouses.
The building was at one time owned and run as a hotel by the Salvation Army until its acquisition in 2014 by Italian property company Geco Spa, which intended to transform it into a boutique business with the Vineyard Group as the operator. However, a change of heart by the Italians to proceed with the development turned out to be fortuitous for the Taylors.
While planning permission had already been obtained to create a 40-bedroom hotel, Ian says there was much work to be done to win over the neighbours: “I think it helped that we were local buyers,” he says. “We’ve certainly worked hard at securing their approval.”
The first hurdle was to obtain a liquor licence, something that hadn’t been required during the property’s 70 years as a temperance hotel. When it came to renovating the building, Ian initially expected it to cost around £1m. “However, we discovered more work was required than we thought,” he says. “The heating system was not adequate and the lift shaft was too small.” But with the bank fully behind the project, the required work was undertaken, resulting in a total renovation bill of £2.5m.
Since opening in December 2016, No 15 Great Pulteney joins the other Bath properties in the Taylors’ Kaleidoscope Collection, with the four-AA-star, 60-bedroom Abbey hotel and the 21-bedroom Villa at Henrietta Park B&B.
The managing director of the hotel is Jonathan Walker, who previously worked as operations director at the Hotel Collection and was director of hotel performance and operations support at InterContinental Hotel Group.
No 15 Great Pulteney has quickly established itself as a standout design hotel in Bath, with a look that is equally quirky and unique. While Martin Hulbert – who had worked on the bar and restaurant at the Abbey hotel, as well as creating the look for Coworth Park and the treehouse suites at Chewton Glen – was appointed to design the reception, bar and two floors of bedrooms, Ian was also keen to have an input into the look of the hotel, as well as involve as many local people as possible.
Hence, Ian designed the restaurant and loft bedrooms, while students from local schools, art colleges and Bath Spa University were commissioned to create a vast collection of art, which has injected a vibrant energy throughout.
“I think Martin would have liked to have done the entire hotel, but I felt that would not have totally captured the personal and individual feel we wanted to create,” says Ian.
There is certainly nothing formulaic about No 15 Great Pulteney. With its tagline of “luxury for the curious”, the hotel is distinguished by its fun and numerous collections of just about anything you can think of. So expect to find groups of china dogs, perfume bottles, shells, powder compacts, beaded evening bags, decorative eggs, paperweights and, of course, kaleidoscopes, displayed in the most imaginative ways – in frames, on shelves lining the stairs, or on Plexiglas tables.
“I really thought it would be lovely for guests to turn every corner and come across something they weren’t expecting,” says Ian.
The reception and sitting room
When guests arrive at the hotel, they are immediately greeted by a riot of visual treats, in particular an oil painting, appropriately named Lobby Boy, which dominates the space. The work was created by art student John Lloyd of Bath Spa University, who was inspired by the film The Grand Budapest Hotel.
“We bought 12 pieces from the university,” says Ian. “It provides a great opportunity for the students to showcase their work and it gives us the chance to buy some individual pieces for a very good price.”
All the artwork in the hotel is currently being photographed to appear in a booklet, which will feature details of the artist and the story behind each painting.
Also capturing the eye is the lost earring chandelier, made up of more than 1,000 donated items of jewellery. Commissioned from artist Lauren Sagar and Zoe Rigby of Agapanthus Interiors, the chandelier has turned out to be one of the most creative PR hooks for the hotel. A preview party, attended by local residents, resulted in nearly 500 earrings being donated for the piece.
The flamboyant light is just one of a collection of 62 chandeliers, many of which were sourced in Amsterdam and including one made from antique gramophones. “They were cheaper to buy there than in the UK, even though we had to rewire them,” says Ian.
This is very much the hub of the hotel, for everything from morning coffees to afternoon tea and evening cocktails. The paint-washed plaster walls provide a blank canvas for interior designer Hulbert’s whimsical mural art, and he is also responsible for a series of colour-co-ordinated jewellery tables, featuring many of the Taylors’ purchases from antique shops.
The creativity follows through to the drinks service, in which guests are presented with a pack of cards, each one detailing 52 different cocktails. Drinks ordered, a game of snap or rummy may ensue.
Key to its success – and of other rooms throughout the hotel – is the carefully selected lighting created by Sally Storey, design director of London company John Cullen. “It is essential to create different layers of lighting for a space to be cosy and welcoming, and Sally has done a wonderful job,” says Ian.
When it came to creating an eating space with a difference, Ian travelled to Llandudno, Clwyd, to acquire the contents of a chemist shop from antique dealer Drew Pritchard, presenter of the TV series Salvage Hunters on digital channel Quest. The haul is now installed in the basement, where cabinets and shelving are packed full of vintage apothecary bottles, beautifully lit by Storey, alongside an extensive collection of kitchen equipment, including antique whisks, jelly moulds and kettles. Overhead pendant light shades have been created by glass sculptor Adam Aaronson.
Ladies’ and gents loos
Even the public loos have been given the full idiosyncratic design treatment, with hand-designed wallpaper from Bath Spa University student Rhian Beynon, and a collection of perfume bottles. The chandelier was snapped up by the Taylors in a sale of items from the Inter- Continental London hotel on Park Lane.
Everything within the bedrooms is intended to enhance the guest experience, from the comfort of the Hypnos Lansdowne Cashmere beds to the James Dyson hairdryers, which retail at £300 each. “We’ve had the beds made slightly higher than normal, so they create an imposing presence as you walk into the room,” says Ian. “There is something rather special about climbing into a big bed.”
Top quality pillows and linens provide a luxurious feel, while off-the-wall touches abound, such as the dolls’ houses holding the tea and coffee provisions and vintage bone china.
The rooms and suites on the first and second floors feature mural art by Hulbert in the same style as the bar – but this time depicting the frills and furbelows of a four-poster bed canopy. While most of the Hulbert bedrooms are painted in muted colours, some have been left with bare plastered walls to provide a neutral backdrop for the oversized modern art.
It is in the loft rooms, though, where art is the main focus, with floor to ceiling murals painted by the students. Ian created these rooms in conjunction with three local interior designers: Woodhouse & Law, Rossiters of Bath and Eton Design.
The bathrooms are also all individually designed, with boldly coloured and hand-crafted ceramic basins in some, and roll-top baths in others. Chandeliers add a touch of glamour, and amenities are from Bamford, and Mitchell and Peach.
The hotel is not yet complete, and work is under way on the creation of a spa in the basement, featuring five treatment rooms. The separate Coach House at the back of the property is also being converted to create eight additional bedrooms. Both should be complete by late spring.
15 Great Pulteney
15 Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2 4BR
Owners Ian and Christa Taylor
General manager Jonathan Walker
Room rates From £150 per room B&B
Lost earring chandelier
Ceramic bathroom basins
Sally-Jo Bond Ceramics
Bown of London
Duvets and pillows
Beaumont & Brown
Bed linen (Egyptian cotton) and towels (1,650gsm)
Mitchell and Peach