The Retreat At Elcot Park is the hottest new hotel in the UK this spring
Credit goes to The Signet Collection co-founders Hector Ross and Ronnie Kimbugwe, but also to Anneke Gilkes and Harriette Cayzer, the talented duo who created luxury residential design firm Taylor & Turner and were hired by the first to breathe new life into the Georgian mansion. “Our starting point was the building itself,” says Gilkes vogue. “Some of its beauty had dissipated over time through various commercial projects and we wanted to respect the structure, recreate that feel of a family home and preserve the original architectural details. Where these details exist, we we made it the focal point.
One example is the lovely bay window in the Sutton Suite – the designers decided to place the copper tub next to it to draw our gaze to it rather than, say, hiding it behind a couch. Elsewhere, it was about replacing what had been lost decades ago. “The fireplace in the lobby was hideous,” laughs Cayzer. “There was a lot of coating and gold around. It really wasn’t original. Now in its place is a limestone chimney which, Gilkes adds, is closer to what would have existed at the property when it was built.
But the redesign wasn’t just about the restoration. “The building has these incredible proportions,” says Gilkes. “It’s quite serious and impressive, so our job was to instill a sense of sass in it.” There’s also irreverence, with the Sutton Suite featuring Watts of Westminster hand-blocked pineapple wallpaper, strawberry-patterned cushions and a pomegranate-strewn canopy, while the Bushby Bacon Suite is upholstered in the Toile des Indes wallpaper by Pierre Frey, illustrated with frolicking goats, monkeys and roosters. The latter also features a free-standing bathtub hand-painted with wisteria by British artist Fiona McAlpine, a design that extends to the bay window behind. “There was wisteria in this room the first time we saw it,” Cayzer recalled. “Initially we were going to put it on a panel, but that didn’t work out, and then we were like, ‘Oh, we should bring the wisteria! “”
In the bedrooms, there are also tapered mirrors, scalloped bedside tables in shades of ice and Rosi de Ruig lamps lacquered in sunny yellow shades. “For the main house, we kept the colors relatively subtle – not muddy, but appropriate for the country,” says Cayzer. This, she says, contrasts with the newer parts of the building towards the rear, built in the 90s, where the couple felt more able to “go wild with contemporary color and detail”. Among these spaces is 1772, which has a bar with a fluted leather facade, brass accents, velvet booths, marble shades, and tall windows painted fire engine red that overlook rolling fields.
Yü’s design too, with its deep burgundy walls and mustard benches dripping with fringe, is bolder than most rooms. “It was a challenge to stay true to both home and the food that Yü serves, like sushi and sashimi,” admits Gilkes. “A lot of the aesthetic you might associate with a Pan-Asian restaurant – that clean, streamlined minimalism – just wouldn’t have worked here.” Instead, they’ve created a restaurant that’s in keeping with the rest of the property, but with an almost cinematic opulence that sets it apart.