Hospitality design practice twenty2degrees completed the interiors at The Fellows House, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton.
The Fellows House in Cambridge offers apartment-style luxurious long stays with sumptuous communal spaces to host their dedicated events programme and onsite leisure activities for long-stay guests. The accommodation is ideal for those looking to reside somewhere where they can “Feel at home, Feel Inspired and Feel like a Fellow”.
The interiors for this home-away-from-home concept, which has been cleverly infused with the legacy of university fellows as well as the architectural and cultural soul of Cambridge, was completed by hospitality design studio twenty2degrees. We caught up with twenty2degrees Creative Director, Joe Stella, to discover how the influences behind The Fellows House brand led the design narrative, which threads through the hotel.
What was the brief for The Fellows House?
The design of The Fellows House was a very interesting opportunity for us because we were being asked to design something that was new in the hospitality marketplace, combining premium quality hotel-style public areas, a choice of food and beverage spaces and an indoor pool with apartment-style accommodation. The brand had been carefully thought through by the owner and we were tasked with creating a narrative that was at one with its values. Our design was to celebrate the legacy of the Cambridge fellows and the architectural and cultural spirit of the city. The hotel was to be an exclusive destination with an inclusive spirit, offering a modern experience of fellowship, a home-away-from-home for long-stay guests and an exciting new destination for local people that was unlike anywhere else in Cambridge.
How does the concept tie together throughout the spaces?
This was a new-build hotel, so our starting point was to configure the public spaces for the large ground floor area. In the spirit of inclusivity, we chose an open-plan approach with café, reception lounge, bar and restaurant flowing from one to another. While each space clearly has its own identity, the areas are visually connected and there is a compelling carry-through of key elements in the aesthetic: a juxtaposition of the classic and modern, the use of very high-quality materials, carefully considered lighting and antiqued mirror.
Every space in The Fellows House hosts artwork which tells a story that is open to interpretation. Guests may engage with it, or not, enjoy it as background or come back to a piece time and again. All-original artwork, as well as carefully curated accessories, play a key role in tying the concept together in a narrative that is sometimes thought-provoking, often playful and always layered to feed guest curiosity. We were not aiming to create a grand luxe hotel, this would hardly have been in the spirit of inclusivity, but we did want to achieve a hotel that would serve the test of time by using premium materials and creating interiors layered with unfolding discoveries.
The restaurant and bar areas contrast beautifully, can you tell us about the use of materials in these spaces?
It was very much a conscious decision give The Folio Bar and Folio Kitchen a different aesthetic from one another. The Bar has the ambience of a private members’ club. The colour palette is deep and rich and the space is extravagantly layered. Carefully framed views create a feast for the eye in which infinite reflections caught in antiqued mirror amplify the drama. With limited natural light, the theatre of artificial lighting is key, highlighting features, artwork and accessories, revealing luxurious finishes and creating a mood conducive to quiet conversation. While The Folio Bar opens onto the restaurant, three floor-to-ceiling columns interrupt show-through and help to cocoon its guests.
By contrast, The Folio Kitchen is a light-filled space thanks to a large roof lantern and a fully glazed wall at one end which opens onto the courtyard garden. The restaurant combines the contemporary and classic within a fresh and inviting colour palette. Walls and columns are clad in Calacatta marble and whitewashed brick and the accent colour is ‘Cambridge Blue’ with punches of ochre orange in the leather upholstery. A marble sharing table together with marble-topped dining tables are elegant and sophisticated. They also provide a counterpoint to the traditional millwork of the roof lantern recess and the timber banquettes as well as the geometric black and white tiling to the floor, all of which are a nod to historic Cambridge.
However, certain elements are drawn through from the Bar, including antiqued mirror, the marble features and, of course, the use of artwork.
What is your favourite space at The Fellows House?
I would have to say The Folio Bar. It is cosy, yet fun, with its chesterfield sofas, large wing back armchairs and billiards table. I am particularly pleased with the way the antiqued mirror plays with what you think you are seeing at first and how it reflects partial glimpses into other spaces, and I love the soundscape – conversations played out against the intermittent sounds of cocktail shakers and the tapping of billiard balls. There is no pressure to be any type of person to enjoy The Folio Bar – although the cocktails are some of the best I have tried in a long time!
What was the most challenging part about this project?
The fact that The Fellows House is a new-build hotel in one of the most historic of cities was a challenge since it meant that we had to work hard to create an original experience where guests could taste Cambridge in a modern and relevant way. However, we had the luxury of a client and a brand eager to tap into a design narrative and inspiring collaborators in artist and sculptor, Diarmuid Byron-O’Connor, and Elegant Clutter who realised our ambitions for the artwork. So, in reality the newness of the building became our opportunity to put our first stamp on Cambridge.