Radisson Edwardian - Guildford
Rabih Hage has created theatrical public areas inspired by the town’s most famous writer to complement Aukett Fitzroy Robinson’s tailored guestrooms for the £60m Radisson Edwardian Guildford.
Arriving at Radisson Edwardian’s new town centre property is like stepping on stage into a theatrical production. Heavy drapes in plush red velvet are parted to reveal oversized props. Well-trodden boards lay underfoot illuminated by high-beam industrial spotlights. And waiting in the wings, a competent crew are ready for their cast to check-in.
“I was keen to create an experience that will be enriched by the hotel’s guests, who will by the very nature of their visit, become performing artists in a creative, theatrical environment,” set designer Rabih Hage says of his masterpiece. The 183-key property, built on the site of a former 17th century coaching inn, is Guildford’s first four-star deluxe hotel. A joint venture between Marcol and Nicholas James Group, along with operator Radisson Edwardian, the hotel forms a major part of the regeneration of the town’s upper high street and brings some much-needed facilities in the form of bars, restaurants, a spa, and seven private function rooms.
Retaining the period façade, the addition of a triple-height glass atrium brings the building in line with the adjacent G Live entertainment complex that opened in September 2011, a draw that it is hoped will provide the hotel with a proportion of its leisure guests. Public spaces including the lobby, MKB and Relish, have been created by Rabih Hage, best known in the hospitality industry for his transformation of a rundown B&B in London into Rough Luxe, a nine-bed property that blends partially sanded surfaces, bare floorboards, chipped paint and rough edges with opulent contemporary wallpaper, modern art and designer furnishings. Although Radisson Edwardian Guildford is far more polished, Hage’s passion for interiors with character shines through. Photographer Massimo Listri’s prints of Italian palazzos also feature throughout.
The design brief was to create something unique, where guests “discover something new every time they come” explains Hage, who strongly believes in creating a narrative. “In essence what I came up with for this project is a design concept which works in four dimensions – three of space, and the fourth is the way one circulates within; for me a hotel is a theatre of many lives, marking people and creating encounters,” he continues. “It is like a role in a play, the guests are the actors on the stage that we have created in the hotel.”
Taking the theme of performance, Hage looked to Guildford’s most famous writer Lewis Carroll for inspiration. In the lobby, the set features a two-storey library kiosk that gives the impression of a private box from which to view the stage, and a three-metre chandelier as the centerpiece. Downstage, a towering bookcase accessed by the ‘ladder to nowhere’ acknowledges Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books.
The hotel’s main restaurant, Relish, carries on the theme of performance. The serving bar features an eclectic range of fringe-trimmed glass lampshades hanging below a curtained pelmet that forms a stage for the bartenders, while the dining room is characterised by dark wood tables and deep-buttoned leather banquettes. Wall-sized photographs by Massimo Listri – also printed on voiles to break up the space – add depth, and chandeliers add to the drama.
The second, more contemporary F&B offering, takes its name from Guildford’s market town history. Specialising in sharing platters and dishes cooked on the Josper Grill, MKB (Market Kitchen & Bar) later transforms into a chic cocktail lounge with a focus on theatrical lighting effects and urban sounds played through the state-of-the-art Martin Audio sound system.
At the risk of alienating hotel guests, access to MKB is through the street entrance only. Whether this was an active decision or through necessity, the move has diminished any stigma associated with a hotel bar and led to a loyal following of young professionals.
Under the direction of Radisson Edwardian’s Head of Design, Michael Attenborough, Aukett Fitzroy Robinson have designed the 181 guestrooms and two suites. “Our design is based on the elegance of a bespoke tailored business suit with emphasis on a few simple details, the greatest importance being the classic line that does not age,” explains Anne Kuyzk, Director of Interior Design at Aukett Fitzroy Robsinson.
Sleeper’s lodgings, a Deluxe room with king-sized bed and American Oak black stained timber veneer casegoods, followed a black and lavender colour scheme. Says Kuyzk: “The analogy of the business suit manifested itself with a feature colour used as a tailor’s outseam detail. This was incorporated on the wardrobe doors whereby a feature stripe was introduced.
“The design of the casegoods followed our theme of bespoke tailoring,” she adds. “Our feature colour was used for the interiors of the wardrobe and the credenza to emulate the coloured lining of a tailored suit. The fabric used on the bed throw is the signature piece of each room, punctuating the design like a beautiful tie.”
Also designed by Aukett Fitzroy Robinson, the 490m2 spa includes a Technogym-equipped gym, indoor contra jet pool, stone oven sauna, and aromatic crystal steam room tiled in black and white mosaic. A full range of treatments are offered from spa brands Dr Murad, Crystal Clear, and Pinks Boutique, who’s organic facial comes highly recommended.
Catering to the business traveller, Radisson Edwardian Guildford offers complimentary Wi Fi throughout the hotel, and in the four meeting rooms and three conference rooms – aptly named Act I, II and III – that together accommodate up to 400 people.
While the design and operations teams continue snagging, refreshingly they are not skimping on cost. Early feedback indicated that lightbulbs were taking too long to warm up leaving guests in the dark. This has resulted in the owners opting to replace all bulbs with a brighter, energy efficient alternative at a significant investment. Futureproofing has also been considered to ensure the next generation of technology can be accommodated.
Concludes Hage: “What I created for Radisson is adding to their good service an authentic narrative linked to the city and the region where they are to create a true destination, not only for business but also for pleasure.”
Words: Catherine Martin Photography: Marcus Peel