The Cotswolds-based husband-and-wife team talk to Wildflower about their approach to beautiful interiors and why their latest property has gone from strength to strength
Building or redeveloping a new hotel or restaurant is really exciting, but it’s also terrifying because you’re not sure whether anyone will turn up when it’s open to the public. Once you see people laughing, eating, drinking and having fun with their families and friends, it’s lovely. To create spaces where the nicer side of humanity appears is a wonderful thing.
Our latest venture – The Double Red Duke in Clanfield, near Bampton in the Cotswolds – was particularly challenging as we undertook the redevelopment during the pandemic. Although building works could continue through lockdown, Covid rules affected certain aspects of the project and, to complicate matters further, supply chains were disrupted due to Brexit. Although we opened a few months later than we had hoped, that we opened at all was thanks to about 60 very hard-working individuals who turned up every day in rain and snow, despite all the Covid worries at the time. They were amazing.
Along with the dedicated team, our love of hospitality got us through. There is no other industry that covers everything from interiors, art and music to food, drinks and gardens, and includes people, graphic design, architecture, events, parties and so many other areas of life.
It’s the most amazing career and we’re so fortunate to be working with some really talented people who are passionate about what they do. Since leaving the Lucky Onion hotel and pub group in 2017 to start our own business, Country Creatures, a collection of Cotswold properties including The Swan at Ascott-under-Wychwood and The Chequers in Churchill, we’d say the most rewarding aspect of our work is seeing a passionate team develop within each property.
I studied interior design at Chelsea School of Art & Design and therefore head up the interior and garden design for every property, while Sam focuses on the wine and service. It’s a partnership that works well, both in business and at home. I don’t have a particular interiors style and tend to let the property and its architecture guide me. To maintain the integrity of the historic building, I always draw on the history and tradition of each space while aiming to add contemporary twists where I can. It’s also important that the decor doesn’t date easily; we don’t want our hotels to be fashionable, we want them to last.
The Double Red Duke is a 17th-century coaching inn with 19 rooms each of which I designed individually, starting with a mood board of inspirational images from Pinterest, magazines, books and places I have visited. Then I began sourcing and ordering. I adore working with British artisans and companies and have used Cotswolds-based fabric and wallpaper designers Lewis & Wood in every project. I also love Parker & Jules, Lefroy Brooks, Samuel Heath, Catchpole & Rye, Fermoie, Colefax & Fowler and Ian Mankin. Each room feels informal yet luxurious, with rich fabrics and textures, supremely comfortable beds complete with roll-top baths and 100 Acres apothecary products in the ensuite bathrooms.
We want our hotels to feel warm and welcoming rather than formal and fussy; places where people instantly feel relaxed – and design is crucial to making this happen. At the Double Red Duke, there are cosy snugs and lounges dotted with armchairs upholstered in plush velvet and dark brown leather that are perfect for settling into with a drink or a book. Light is also vital to create an attractive space, so we installed skylights in the pub room and made a garden room that opens up the building in a natural way, flooding the dining area with natural light and giving us valuable extra space. In the summer, with the doors open, it feels spacious and bright with large planters bringing the outdoors inside; in winter, the space is cosy and warm with the natural fireplaces blazing.
The reclaimed floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace also creates a bit of theatre. It’s important to ensure that our inns and restaurants include things people haven’t seen before or wouldn’t do in their own homes, such as open-fire cooking. When you’re staying in a hotel, you want it to feel a bit special, a departure from the every day, so I want the decor to either be bespoke and high end or antique and vintage. To achieve this, I’ve commissioned wooden planters for the garden room and sourced old Roberts radios and refurbished Bakelite telephones in bright colours for the bedrooms.
We want our hotels to feel warm and welcoming rather than formal and fussy
A kitchen garden is every chef’s dream and we worked alongside our general manager Sion Hamilton and head chef Richard Sandiford to create a garden that can be used as a source of edible herbs, fruit and vegetables. This summer, we grew mint to use in tea, and tomatoes, spinach and artichokes for the restaurant. We plan to expand as we’re keen to use more fresh and homegrown produce in our kitchen.
Now that the year is drawing to a close and the Double Red Duke has been running successfully for many months, we are looking forward to celebrating Christmas at home with our extended family and some good friends. We always have a huge tree and, once that’s up and the fireplaces are decorated, we really do try and switch off for a few precious days.
Open for indoor dining and overnight stays. Rooms start from £120 per night, countrycreatures.com/double-red-duke