In the first of a new series, WGSN Chief Content Officer Carla Buzasi looks at the design trends shaping the destinations where we escape the 9-5.
Lime Wood hotel in the New Forest opened to much fanfare back in November 2009, and became, overnight, an instant English classic. There have been plenty of upgrades since, notably the opening of the Herb House Spa and the introduction of Angela Hartnett to the destination restaurant, Hartnett & Holder, but the fabulous old Regency manor house and its mix of vintage and modern-with-a-twist furnishings have remained its calling card.
Let me get it out early: I’m a sucker for these kinds of interiors. (In fact, I’m a sucker for anywhere with a roll-top bath, but that has more to do with the size of my bathroom at home than anything else.) And Lime Wood does it well. Throw in a really good spa – and when I say really good, I mean really, really good – plus great food, and it ticks pretty much all my high-expectation boxes.
While I still haven’t quite figured out the name – do lime trees actually grow in Hampshire? – on its interiors I’m most definitely sold.
Regency manor house in the heart of England’s New Forest
Interior design: David Collins Studio
Restaurant interior design: Martin Brudnizki
Architecture: Charles Morris; Ben Pentreath of World Group Design
There’s a crop of destinations that do laid-back luxury well in the UK. Lime Wood does it to perfection, albeit in a way that encourages you to wipe the mud off your boots before you trek into its rooms and hang your coat up rather than throw it over the armchairs.
The style – plenty of traditional styling and vintage furniture with a smattering of modern accents to stop it sliding into the old-fashioned – isn’t unusual these days but Lime Wood’s version of laid-back luxury does come rounded in its own special sphere.
It’s smart rather than slouchy, and opulent rather than stripped back, with statement pieces like showy marble fireplaces (lit pretty much year round), and oversized glass chandeliers, pitching alongside more subtle detailing: huge freestanding Jielde lamps in the bedrooms, wood-carved pencils by the phones and leather jewellery cases on every dressing table.
In the bedrooms, the laid-back luxury hallmark reveals itself with freestanding baths and walk-in showers with huge rainforest shower heads – both something of a must in country house hotels these days. Less common, and eminently steal-able (the idea, not the items) are the writing desks, which pop up in lots of the larger rooms. Repro versions need not apply – much reclamation yard hunting will be needed if you want to copy this at home.
The colour palette in the bedrooms is neutral featuring lashings of creams and natural linens, with a healthy dose of copper and nickel fittings for effect, offset with knotted rugs and leather pieces. i.e it’s one of those interiors that looks incredibly simple, while being fairly complicated to replicate.
This clean restraint, however, goes out the window when it comes to the restaurant. In Angela Hartnett’s stomping ground, the reds are plush, the banquette seating even plusher and the lights just that right dimness to encourage large amounts of red wine drinking and indulgent Italian pasta eating.
(Side note: the menu looks meat heavy, as is standard in most Italian eateries, but ask the staff and they have not just a vegetarian menu but a vegan one too, which wins it major brownie points in my book.)
Nature First, Architecture Second
With an idyllic setting in the heart of the New Forest, this is a hotel that certainly doesn’t shy away from its surroundings. The ornate chandeliers fashioned entirely in leaf shapes to reflect the New Forest countryside around might nod to the wilds outside, but the windows and vistas directed straight into the forest embrace it, none more effectively than the huge floor-to-ceiling windows from the spa’s sauna and hot baths, which are set right in the forest.
This philosophy means trees in the hotel grounds carry as much importance as the buildings. There’s an imperfection to the perfect lines and balconies, terraces and little garden paths leading out of the hotel grounds all encourage visitors to pull on their boots and head out into the cold.
Lime Wood’s USP, mixing the old and new, doesn’t just apply to it interiors, but the buildings that house them, too. So while the main house, which includes the restaurant and sixteen of the bedrooms and suites, is Regency, the aptly named Coach House (set where the original stable block stood) is more Arts & Crafts, and a white wood-panelled Crescent building, looks more New England. (Or Franco Scottish meets New England, according to the architects.)
The boot room – now standard in most country house hotels – is decorated with colourful Wellington boots and apple boxes stuffed with succulents. All nice and easy to replicate at home. The delicate silk wallpaper elsewhere might be more of a stretch.
‘Cabin Porn’ might be one of this year’s ubiquitous interior trends, but Lime Wood has been flirting with its own version of cabin living since 2013. The hotel’s two Forest Cottages and Forest Cabin are little havens of oak flooring, slate bathrooms, wooden bunk beds and wardrobes fashioned from tree branches.
This isn’t rustic per se, more a five-star version of a forest chalet. So while there might be butler sinks in the kitchens, they’re matched with large Smeg fridges. And the wooden ladders propped against the children’s bunk beds hide velvet cushions piled up behind them.
It’s that mix and match of high and low, new and old, rustic and modern that permeates the whole building, and, I’d bet, will ensure its claim on the country classic crown won’t slip for some time yet.
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