Style Awards Winners – Hotel Gotham
With Robin Sheppard, Creator and Chairman
What’s the story behind Hotel Gotham?
We wanted to pay tribute to a major building designed by one of the greatest British architects, Edwin Lutyens, whilst injecting a distinct, fresh personality. The architecture of the ‘King of King Street’ provided natural inspiration for the nostalgic yet decadent design direction. It’s timeless, opulent, playful and, most importantly, fun.
What inspired the design that we see in Hotel Gotham?
The devil’s in the detail… Edwin Lutyens designed the building in 1928, with construction finishing in 1935. In 2014/15, it was then painstakingly restored and transformed from its previous banking life into the handsome 60-room hotel you see today. The Art Deco, in a ‘neoclassical style’, building features Lutyens’ ingenious calculations. The top stage is two-thirds the middle stage, which is two-thirds the bottom.
Inside, the layout of the bedrooms features travel trunk-style cocktail cabinets and wardrobes, ingeniously devised by Squid.Inc and Sherliker Design. Burnished metals teamed with dark polished woods and luxurious leather, are coupled with feminine notes of plum and raspberry; while soft velvet and faux fur are used liberally. To top it all off, subtle references are made to the banking history with moneybag style laundry bags and gold ingot toiletry displays.
There’s a big focus on theming within Hotel Gotham; from the playful nods to its banking past to the incorporating of characters. Why did you decide to follow a theme for the hotel?
Our designers Oliver and Mandy always wanted to tip Bespoke’s hat to the financial history of the building, which is what made it so famous within Manchester, and such a recognisable location.
We knew the attention to detail would be crucial to sell our vision and enable the guests to truly absorb their experience, so we ensured no stone was left unturned, be that in terms of the narrative, the theatre of the characters and staff, the finishings and interiors, as well as the fittings, menu items, and facilities.
It’s been dubbed ‘Europe’s Sexiest Hotel’. Did you originally set out to try and make it that way?
Absolutely! I think I was the one who dubbed it so in the first place. We always aimed to capitalise on the aesthetic and sensory appeal of both the building and allude to a glamorous, somewhat saucy, history.
What challenges did you come up against when deciding which way to take Hotel Gotham? Was an art-deco style always the favoured one? Did you specifically choose an old bank building for this reason also, to stick with the banking themes?
We had long aimed to have a hotel in Manchester, and when I saw the building I fell in love with it immediately. I felt as if I was in old New York (hence the name) and we trialled the title on social media, which created a swift Marmite effect. Enough people told us they liked the name so it stuck, thereafter the influences become many and diverse.
We put a little bit of Grand Budapest Hotel into a cocktail shaker, combined with a hint of Noel Coward, a dash of Great Gatsby, dollops of Manhattan, slices of the banking icons of years gone, by topped off with a faux set of characters inspired by the Cluedo board game. Then served it in a martini glass, shaken not stirred!
Were you ever in fear of the look and feel of Hotel Gotham bordering into being ‘gimmicky’? How did you combat this?
Of course, we were concerned about this and deliberately set out to minimize any Batman references, which is not easy when your first name is Robin! We spent a good deal of time working on a style guide, before realising it was good enough to be our brochure, which it still is to this day. We used a lot of video work to pre-sell the hotel, which was very moody and atmospheric in tone, so by the time we opened the doors demand was off the scale and we have been full ever since.
What advice would you give someone who wants to design their hospitality space to be highly individualistic? Has it been difficult to create something with such a strong sense of identity?
I was very lucky to find Oliver and Mandy, our interior and graphic designers. They had never met before but were soon ganging up on me to distil my over-bearing and didactic ideas, improving on each one whilst skilfully kidding me into believing I was still calling all the shots all along. The sum is definitely greater than its parts.
The experience and immersive nature of the hotel really help its appeal. How important do you think it is to offer an ‘experience’ to a paying guest these days as opposed to a place merely to rest your head?
It was always at the forefront of our collective mind, and we made sure that awareness of minutiae and attention to detail filtered through to every member of our team, from the interior designers and PR team to the service staff and on-site management. We knew that cutting corners would quickly lead to Hotel Gotham becoming simply a comfortable spot to rest your head, and we were careful to ensure that we stuck to our vision of the hotel being far more than that.
What is your personal favourite part of the styling at Hotel Gotham?
It’s tricky to choose just one. But I’ve always had a soft spot for the wall mounted typewriters in Honey Restaurant.
What do you think sets your venue apart from others?
The substance, not the style, which is entirely down to the staff who act out the Gotham story every day; coupled with a sense of fun, swagger, and a pageantry that feels spontaneous, yet never forced.
What do you think made the judges choose your venue as the winner this year?
In short, we’re a little bit different! We like to think we offer a superb product in a unique and previously underappreciated location and have contributed to the continuing resurgence of Manchester as both a business and tourist destination.
Have you got any advice for someone wanting to enter the Style Awards in 2017?
Sweat the small stuff! Focusing on specific details might seem over the top, or feel like a distraction at times. But if done correctly, it really pays off.
Find out more about Hotel Gotham here and watch this space as our Style Awards are back for 2017-18 soon.