Jewel in the Crown
Good design and arty interiors take on an added complication in a busy business setting, especially one where visitors definitively treat the scheme as a home from home. The Crown, a boutique townhouse inn at the heart of charming Woodbridge in East Suffolk was unveiled in July 2009 with a dramatic new look. The cosmopolitan dining and ‘R & R’ on offer in the lavish setting of the urbane Crown have swiftly become the talk of this quiet market town and throughout East Anglia.
For a hotel setting where the practical and the ergonomic are just as important as the aesthetic and the contemporary, Chelsea based designer David Bentheim relished what was quite a challenge, incorporating his favourite looks, textures and personal touches.
A glass roofed bar textured in black granite and seasoned oak with wooden sailing skiff dramatically suspended above… Prosecco on draught alongside unique Suffolk brews including Calvors lager, Aspall’s Cyder and Adnams Southwold bitter, as well as London’s distinctive Meantime Greenwich beers… Quirky global wines in benchmark Riedel glasses… Outside in the white painted courtyard, a dramatic ‘secret garden’ of circular willow screens…
And that’s just the Crown’s idiosyncratic bar.
Artfully combining the modernities of chic interior design with the history of a 300 year old townhouse, the new look Crown is bringing inn-keeping sharply into the 21st century. Upstairs ten very individual bedrooms ooze comfort and simplicity, emphasising relaxation over style and indulgence over fussiness – a home from home but with more than a little luxury. Downstairs off that plush bar, four different restaurant areas offer a variety of distinctive eating spaces whilst the front dining room panelled in rich tomato red painted wood makes a perfect space for private suppers.
Taking initial focus from the town’s riverside setting down by the white boarded mills and the yacht club in the atmospheric basin of the Deben, David was energised by the serenity and the fluidity of the riverscape, where coast meets country in a myriad of blue-grey-green tones. He goes on to say “The inspiration for the Crown comes from a number of sources, it is distinctly in its own mould but I suppose in particular there is a strong flavour of Nantucket, a terrific Island off the east coast of America close to Boston. I spent some time there both on holiday and whilst designing a mammoth holiday home for some UK clients. Travel to Key West at the tip of Florida also demonstrated a relaxed "dolce fa niente" approach to life, that informality and care-free approach but set against very crisp cool design and great hotel-keeping. I think Olga Polizzi’s Cornish gem, Tresanton in St. Mawes has had a huge influence on the hotel trade and was used in some ways as a benchmark for this but equally the whole new attitude to modern inns and pubs has raised the bar considerably. But my love of most things Italian is not missing from the scheme to add flavour and pzazz.”
David Bentheim and his company are best known for their work with private residential clients and public spaces such as museums and exhibitions as well as re-designing hotels and cruise ships. Having studied under Sir Hugh and Lady Casson at the Royal College of Art, David’s projects have been widely broadcast on BBC Radio and Television and he features on the benchmark House & Garden Magazine's top 100 designer list. He numbers the likes of the Groucho Club, Wagamama restaurants, children’s couture house Marie Chantal and the Natural History Museum amongst his clients. (www.bentheim.co.uk). His strong interest in theatre design comes through in the challenging yet unthreatening edge of the Crown’s downstairs areas. David’s travels bring back creative ideas from a host of locations, most recently in Kenya and Southern India.
Exterior: With all the charm of Port Merrion, this corner-fronted long property now sits as individually coloured London terraces to make this Woodbridge street scene memorable with a blue and grey palette of different colours, enlivened with a dash of Carrinean lime.
Bar: A new fantastically long oak fronted granite topped bar backdrops this glass covered former courtyard. A locally purchased Windermere skiff focally illuminated is dramatically suspended from the rafters in the glass roof above the long focal bar against those azure Suffolk skies.
Restaurant Rooms: The front red dining room, the first of the four dining areas, is fantastically cosy in brilliant paprika hung with William Scott prints - the perfect place to celebrate a family occasion. The second is delightfully airy, decorated in cool greys and featuring a beautiful etched glass mural screen decorated with views of Woodbridge by Alison Reese a noted designer in vitric materials. The third is in a sharper lime and white palette, made cosy with pale coffee banquettes. In the fourth sits the huge, bespoke Bentheim designed communal table facing open plan towards the bar, letting diners soak up the ambience and buzz, whilst a cosseting sofa facing the fireplace makes for an intimate hideaway.
Entrance: One comes off the car park through a maze of high wicker hurdles creating a delightful private garden perfect for summer drinks into the bar. On the other side one enters from the main street into the pale blue airy hall furnished with spectacular hand made Orkney porter chairs and leading to a very comfy sofa and stool seating area, ideal for drinks and light bites.
Bedrooms: The ten upstairs rooms are all different within a common leitmotif of crisp white furniture exclusive to Bentheim and relaxing riverside colour scheme, of whites, soft greys, light blues and pale greens. Classic designs include the iconic white plastic and chrome chaise longue by Charles and Ray Eames, Italian Milan-sourced lamps and local coastal inspired accessories. Picking up on the Brampton Willow woven-screened amoebic secret garden downstairs, some rooms have similar wall panels whilst others feature romantic rose murals photographed by the designers and blown up onto single accent walls.
Throughout the hotel there is a mixture of photographic prints, some local, mostly rural, some witty, some old - a really lively mix. Avoiding the obvious seaside pastiche of nautical ornamentation, there is a distinct countrified riverside feel to the occasional objets d’art in wooden nets, fishing forks and driftwood sculptures dotted around.