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Hotel design: Cow Hollow, Manchester

14 April 2018 by

Katherine Price checks out a former textile warehouse in Manchester's Northern Quarter that has been transformed into a hotel full of character with a cool, west coast vibe

Located just a short walk from Manchester Piccadilly station, the Cow Hollow is the first hotel from husband and wife team Muj and Amelia Rana. On a quiet, unassuming street, with only a small gold plaque on the wall divulging what lies within, you wouldn't anticipate the glamorous San Francisco-meets-Shoreditch cocktail bar inside.

Neither Muj, a former investment banker, nor Amelia, who spent seven years at Universal Music Group, have any prior hospitality experience, but the pair have thrown themselves into developing the concept over the last three-and-a-half years, which they completely self-funded.

"It's all been what I expect from a hotel from travelling the world and picking out the bits that do very well and trying to replicate that here, as well as adding a few of my own ideas," says Muj.

cow-hollow-staircase
cow-hollow-staircase

Opened in January this year, the hotel has a guest profile which spans from students to travelling business people, mostly from the UK, although they are seeing more international guests, and averages 70% occupancy. The property is overseen by 10 members of staff, half of whom came from another boutique hotel in Manchester, although they won't say which one. As the Ranas step back to focus on the next hotel, assistant general manager Ricky Gwilliam will step up to general manager and the team will expand as the hotel gets busier.

Design inspiration

Both the name and design inspiration come from the Cow Hollow neighbourhood in San Francisco, where Muj and Amelia spent their first holiday.

"It has a very nice, cool vibe," he says. "I'm hesitant to say hipster, but it is a little. We figured we'd bring some of that west coast vibe back to Manchester. It almost feels like you're in a different city."

cow-hollow-bedroom3
cow-hollow-bedroom3

Cocktail bar/lobby

A small marble reception desk next to the door welcomes hotel guests. White concrete steps lead up to the bar, made from an old solicitor's desk, topped with marble and decorated with dried flowers from Essentially Hops ("there's less wastage than fresh flowers; they last for six months instead of six days").

The bar hosts events on top of the nightly 'Prosecco hour' with complimentary Prosecco for guests, and all drinks are flat-priced. Apart from the downstairs Aviary café with self-service tea and coffee, and 'gourmet breakfast bags' filled with Dorset Cereals granola, orange juice, fruit and croissants, there are no other food and beverage options.

"Unless you're running a destination restaurant, the idea of a hotel restaurant run in-house is dead," says Muj. "We figured we'd focus on the cocktail bar as a main revenue stream, and if we were ever to expand to do a larger hotel which necessitated a restaurant, we'd outsource it to a restaurant group, preferably a local one."

Instead, the hotel recommends local businesses, some of which offer the hotel's guests discounts, and front of house is happy to accept Deliveroo and UberEats deliveries, which staff will deliver to rooms on a tray with cutlery and no additional charge.

The cocktail bar
The cocktail bar

Bedrooms

The biggest challenge was trying to fit 16 bedrooms (nine standard rooms and seven suites) into the property without it feeling too compact or compromising on style or practicality.

"I've always thought big furniture works well in any room, rather than poky little pieces, and I like the grandeur of double doors for bathrooms. Trying to fit all that into a building which is only four metres wide comes with its own challenges, but I think we've got there," says Muj.

As a result, a lot of furniture was custom-made, including the beds, which were constructed from Timeless Timber railway sleepers and weigh approximately 300kg; and the bedside tables, which Muj and Amelia designed themselves. "We spent a lot of time making sure everything gave a real luxurious, glamorous feel to the rooms, which I feel is really missing in a lot of hotels in Manchester," he says.

cow-hollow-hallway
cow-hollow-hallway

The luxury element is further emphasised through lashings of Carrara marble and copper, Hypnos mattresses and pillows, chandeliers and the largest vintage mirrors the walls can accommodate. Touches such as Brazilian stepped slate feature walls and antique machine parts hark to the building's history as a textile warehouse and Manchester's industrial past.

Space limitations meant certain concessions and imaginative thinking: there are no wardrobes, so safes were built into the beds, wall hooks are provided, and ironing boards are kept in corridor storage cupboards to maximise the space in the bedrooms.

Tech-wise, all rooms have Samsung Ultra HD televisions with Netflix access, music docks from John Lewis and multiple plug and USB sockets to remove the need for adaptors.

A flat pricing system means rooms are approximately £100-£120 during weekdays and £150 on Saturdays, which the owners don't intend on changing.

Bathrooms

Several of the marble-clad bathrooms are located in what used to be the warehouse's lift shaft. All have REN toiletries; hairdryers, straighteners and curlers; Hilden Turkish cotton towels; and antique brass fixtures and rainfall showers from Bisk Deco AB.

Magnification mirrors with sensors to activate the mirror lights were added recently following guest feedback.

cow-hollow-bathroom
cow-hollow-bathroom

Future expansion

The Ranas are in discussions with investors to pursue a second Cow Hollow in the city's Spinningfields district, which would be approximately twice the size, with further expansion outside Manchester also possible. They are searching for the right property, which would have a similar design with individual touches according to the property and locality, with Edinburgh a city they're keen to look at next.

cow-hollow-bedroom2
cow-hollow-bedroom2


Contact and details

57 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1ET

www.cowhollow.co.uk

Owners Muj and Amelia Rana

Opened 25 January 2018

Number of bedrooms 16

Number of staff 10

Starting room rate £99


Suppliers

Linen

Soak&Sleep www.soakandsleep.com

Towels

Hilden www.hilden.com

Chandeliers

MarkslÁ¶jd www.markslojd.com

Brazilian stepped slate feature walls

Mrs Stone Store www.mrs-stone-store.com

Make-up mirrors

SimpleHuman www.simplehuman.com

White concrete floors

Cornish Lime Company www.cornishlime.co.uk

Cushions

Raine & Humble www.raineandhumble.com

TVs

Samsung Ultra HD www.samsung.com

Speaker docks

John Lewis www.johnlewis.com

Telephones

Jacob Jensen www.jacobjensendesign.com

Dried flowers and vines

Essentially Hops www.essentiallyhops.co.uk

Heaters

Adax Neo www.adax.lt

Mattresses

Hypnos www.hypnosbeds.com

Toiletries

REN www.renskincare.com

Paint

Farrow & Ball www.farrow-ball.com

Cowskin rugs

City Cows www.citycows.co.uk

Rusted door numbers and letters

RE-foundobjects www.re-foundobjects.com

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