The beaches and castles of the Northumberland coast have inspired the design of this relaunched hotel, which offers sophisticated, cosy rooms with a nautical feel. Katherine Price pays a visit
Following a £3m, 18-month refurbishment, the independent Beadnell Towers hotel in Northumberland relaunched in May, reimagined as a family- and dog-friendly country house hotel with a coastal feel.
Property developer David Wilson bought the Grade II-listed, 18th-century building in the seaside village of Beadnell in October 2016, when it was a 10-bedroom hotel. Together with interior designer Matt Hulme of Dynargh Design (whose previous work includes a number of Hotel du Vin properties and the Cookie Jar in Alnwick), they oversaw a complete refurbishment of the property, individually designing each bedroom.
“We stripped it completely back and exposed a huge amount of stonework. When you’ve got original features, let them become a key part of the design, rather than trying to hide them. It’s always good to let the building speak,” says Hulme.
The brief was ‘country house with a seaside feel’, but instead of the striped deckchair aesthetic, they wanted something a little bit more sophisticated and slightly more “members’ club” that would also appeal to the families and walkers who are attracted to the area for its beaches and countryside.
Hulme came up with the idea of embracing the storminess of the North Sea, with a design that is nautical but not twee. The aim was to create an ambience that would be as warm and inviting in the middle of winter when it’s pitch black at 4pm as it would be on a sunny day in July.
“He completely understood the brief,” says Wilson. “I wanted something different to fit into the local area and he came up with an amazing concept and it’s worked really well.”
Reception and lounge
Guests are welcomed into a blue and navy corridor with Lewis & Wood wallpaper, muted blue panelling, a display of vintage suitcases and shelves of antique telephones flanking the reception desk.
“I know there’s a trend nowadays of not having a reception desk, but I personally don’t agree with it, because I think, as a guest, you like to have that focal point to go to,” says Hulme, “It was just a very simple way of framing the reception and it’s proved really popular – people have tried to buy the phones and suitcases already.”
Corridors are hung with dramatic paintings of shipwrecks (“rather than a beautiful, tranquil sea, we embraced the dark, more moody side”) and vintage nautical maps, with pendant lights from Chantelle and lampshades by Samarkand Design. On each landing there are pantry units with fresh milk and water for guests.
To the left of reception is the reading room or hotel lounge. This is open during the day to host afternoon teas before being closed off to become a residents’ lounge in the evening, as well as being rented out for private functions and television viewings. It is decorated with blue-toned wallpaper by Melissa White and a lampshade with a shipwreck design by Cream Cornwall on top of an old ladder. Illuminated bookcases house books in tones of blue, cream and coral, and are littered with shells and ships in bottles (“It gives a nod to the nautical side of it without it being too clichéd,” says Hulme).
The Towers bar kitchen terrace has its own separate entrance for non-residents. “If you walked in and wanted a glass of wine or coffee or lunch or dinner, you wouldn’t feel like you were in a hotel,” says Wilson.
The space follows the theme with nautical touches – fishing nets, ropes, pulleys and life buoys – along with brown Clayton Contract Furnishings banquettes, mustard bar stools, herringbone floors, and brass pots and pans on the walls, creating a look that is relaxed without being too casual.
Wilson says: “You can come in after walking your dog, with your shorts and T-shirt on, or you can take your wife for dinner there on an evening. I didn’t want tablecloths and candles, but I wanted something special without putting people off.”
The 100-cover space offers a modern British menu overseen by head chef Tony McDermott. The open kitchen is flanked by a huge bespoke kitchen dresser lined with more pots, pans and old pewter jugs.
Hulme adds: “It’s a family hotel, so it was about creating a space in which both a couple and a family would feel really comfortable, so it couldn’t be too refined, but then not too casual. It’s that fine line between the two.”
The banquettes, however, proved the trickiest aspect of the fit-out. The narrowness of the doorways – which couldn’t be adapted because of the building’s listed status – meant that a window had to be taken out in order to get the banquettes into the building.
Bedrooms and bathrooms
As is also often the case with old buildings, no two rooms are the same size or shape. However, Hulme embraced this challenge by commissioning bespoke furniture in a similar style but in varying sizes, and employing cohesive, bold patterns in muted colour palettes.
“As a guest, if you stay there four times you will get a different experience,” says Hulme. Rooms vary from classic, deluxe and superior and there are five suites or ‘heritage rooms’: Yarkin, Shiel, Muckle Hoose, Harberance and Craa’s Nest. Some are equipped with freestanding cast-iron or copper baths from Hurlingham or big walk-in showers.
In some of the rooms the exposed stonework “naturally created a scheme, so the rest of the room didn’t need to be so impactful,” explains Hulme. Plain rooms or those that didn’t have the best views were decorated with bolder wallpapers.
Desks are from Cornwall-based Apt Studio, and while some rooms feature four-poster beds, the deluxe room Cooth (a Scottish colloquialism for comfortable) and the Muckle Hoose (‘great house’) room both have cast-iron beds from the Cornish Bed Company. Hulme says the latter pairs well with the William Morris mural wallpaper, although he admits that the bed reminds him of the one in the 1970s Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Six of the bedrooms can be booked together as family suites and there are design touches intended to appeal to younger guests, such as antique scuba divers’ helmets and octopus prints reminiscent of stories like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Moby-Dick.
Mirrors and artworks vary across the bedrooms, with Hulme aiming to create the feel of an art collection that has been cultivated over time. “It just feels more lived-in, rather than too staged and perfect,” he says.
As well as sea creature prints and collections of feathers Hulme has picked up off the nearby beaches, he has spent hours scouring the internet for postcards of Beadnell and nearby Bamburgh Castle and local 1970s bus passes for the area. Others feature shells in the room colour scheme painted by local Alnwick-based artist, 15-year-old Matt Robson.
All bathrooms feature British Noble Isle toiletries. The tiling is from Cornish company Artisans of Devizes. The bathrooms also feature sensors and step lights so guests don’t have to switch on the main lights in the middle of the night – small details that guests expect with the room rate (from £135 for a classic double).
Although Beadnell Towers will be Wilson’s ‘signature’ hotel, he has plans for a group of high-end luxury accommodation across other locations in Northumberland. He has recently purchased Petilaw House in Corbridge, which previously offered supported living accommodation, and plans to invest £1m to transform it into a 15-bedroom property called Corbridge Rooms, with a lounge area for residents, garden and spa. The project is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
“Once we’ve conquered Northumberland, we’ll look at other areas like Harrogate and Durham,” says Wilson.
Contact and details
The Wynding, Chathill NE67 5AY
Opened 24 May 2019
Owners David and Anna Wilson
Design Matt Hulme of Dynargh Design
General manager Joann Mailer
Bespoke upholstered furniture
Clayton Contract Furnishings www.claytonupholstery.co.uk
Bespoke dining tables, coffee tables and high tables
Quirky Interiors www.quirkyinteriors.co.uk
Bar stools and dining chairs
Taylor’s Classics www.taylorsclassics.com
Style Matters www.stylematters.co.uk
Bespoke pendant lights above staircase, bar and restaurant
Bespoke pendant lights in bar and restaurant
Northern Lights www.northern-lights.co.uk
Lighting and lampshades
J Adams & Co www.jadamsandco.com
Cream Cornwall www.creamcornwall.co.uk
Samarkand Design www.samarkanddesign.com
Lewis & Wood www.lewisandwood.co.uk
Reading Room lounge wallpaper
Melissa White www.melissawhite.co.uk
Ted Todd www.tedtodd.co.uk
Bespoke staircase and corridor carpet
Tiling in bar, restaurant, public toilets and bathrooms
Artisans of Devizes www.artisansofdevizes.com
Cornish Bed Company www.cornishbeds.co.uk
Bespoke headboards, upholstered furniture and soft furnishings
Clayton Contract Furnishings www.claytonupholstery.co.uk
Bespoke bedside tables and desks
Apt Studio www.aptstudio.uk
Soho Home www.sohohome.com
Mayflower Bathrooms www.mayflowerbathrooms.co.uk
Matt Robson Artwork www.mattrobsonartwork.co.uk