Cotton Tree Interiors have recently undertaken a full renovation of the historic Bell Hotel, located in the heart of coastal Suffolk. Transforming a traditional coaching inn into a new hub for the town of Saxmundham, the work included four main ground floor spaces, aptly re-named the River Bar, Heath Restaurant, Coast Lounge and Coach Private Dining Room. Further to this, ten unique bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms have been transformed, each named after a local Suffolk town.
The new owners, Beales Hotel Group, headed up by Andrew Beale and son Ashley Beale, enlisted Cotton Tree Interiors to bring their vision to life. The key brief was to create a real sense of place, which resulted in taking inspiration from the surrounding Suffolk coast and countryside to evoke the feel of various towns and villages within each space.
“When we at Beales Hotels bought the very tired Bell Hotel in Saxmundham in 2022, I had a clear vision of restoring the building to its heyday as a proud East Anglian coaching inn with a strong sense of place.
We were fortunate to join forces with Cotton Tree Interiors, within sight of the hotel, and it has been a great pleasure to work with them to transform the Bell Hotel into a luxury boutique hotel with incredibly high ratings (currently 9.1/10 “Superb” on Booking.com for example)” said Andrew Beale.
The Heath Restaurant features rich and earthy tones with some hints of deep purples, brought together by the use of a statement wallpaper on the back wall emanating a Suffolk sunset. The room includes banquette seating, a warm wooden floor, subtle lighting and a mix of velvets and weaves for softness.
Moving through to the River Bar, the colours become deeper and sludgy such as those found along the riverbanks. A large working bar was built along the back wall which is visible as soon as you enter the hotel. The original wooden floor was restored, and a variety of atmospheric lighting added. The room includes a choice of seating, from deep comfy sofas to large cosy armchairs. Both the River Bar and the Heath restaurant are finished off with the restoration of the original fireplaces, linking the rooms back to the original features.
There’s a change of feel as you move through to the Coast Lounge, which is by contrast bright and inviting. Hosting breakfast and afternoon tea, the room is filled with soft blues and sandy tones to bring the surrounding beaches and coastline to life. The room is brought together with a stunning image of row boats on the Iken coast captured by local photographer Justin Minns, who the designers chose to feature throughout the hotel.
The team most recently completed the Coach Private Dining room, which finishes off the offering of F&B spaces, and is available to hire for an intimate dinners, business meetings and events. The room is panelled, and uses a fun Mulberry wallpaper highlighting classic British sports. This room gives a real feel of the age of the building and ties back to the Bell Hotel’s impressive history.
The bedrooms are where Cotton Tree Interiors had a lot of fun, designing individual schemes based on local towns and villages. From the deep heathy purples used in the Dunwich bedroom scheme, to the playful rowing boats of Thorpeness. The grandest bedrooms of the hotel include Aldeburgh, with its high ceilings and roll top bath, and Southwold, with its classic, calm colours and bright spacious bathroom.
Of working with Cotton Tree Interiors, Andrew Beale said: “I commend Cotton Tree Interiors to any hospitality operator looking for bold and exciting interior design schemes, that are of the moment but designed to last in the hard environment of the lettings business.”
The project brought together a variety of local businesses, including Brooks Architects and Dash Developments, who as a team overcame many structural challenges presented by the aging building. The renovation is currently ongoing with a further four bedrooms planned in the near future.
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