Behind the design of Babington House
To celebrate 25 years of our first country retreat in the UK, we take a look at what inspired its signature interiors
Wednesday 14 June 2023 By Soho House
When Soho House’s Founder Nick Jones opened Babington House, he intended to create a space that was different to a traditional country house, a new rule book if you will. With such grand infrastructure, designing a building like this was no easy feat. So, we spoke to interior designer, Susie Atkinson, who worked on the design at the time, to give us some insight on how it all came together. ‘The brief I was given was to design the interior to be not like a hotel, but more like a home – way back then, this was not the norm,’ she told us.
The rooms are ‘understated but glamorous, informal and yet still sophisticated’, with soft blush and moss-coloured velvet sofas, roll-top baths in the bedrooms (it was one of the first hotels across the globe to do this), and walls that have been ‘upholstered in a pale blue moire taffeta’ in the main bedroom. Throughout, the space is decorated with a modern take on Georgian interiors: ‘we have become more experimental – mixing old and new, contemporary with traditional,’ featuring a mix of vintage furniture and specially designed pieces throughout the House.
Atkinson advised that you should always ‘observe the architecture and try to complement this style,’ evolving the design in a natural way. ‘I actually think when designing a house or hotel, this often brings the best results – so it doesn’t feel too “done” and impersonal.’ In Babington House’s case, the Walled Garden and surrounding countryside was used as colour inspiration, so there are plenty of greys, greens, buttermilk creams and sage hues with varying textures that nod to the rural environment.
So, what are the standout features that make the House extra special? ‘The mirrored pod in the Playroom (main bedroom suite) is a particularly special piece, I think,’ she says. ‘The room has the most beautiful view, and yet the planners (understandably, as the building is listed) would not let us remove the walls and add a bathroom. We therefore designed a mirrored pod with furniture makers Rupert Bevan in the back of the room to house the shower and loo within it. On the outside, it has antique mirrored glass applied to it – this added a glamorous feel and also beautifully reflects the light in the room.’
And, of course, ‘another highlight was the garden spa, which I really love.’ The Cowshed spa was the first of its kind, having been born in a renovated milking shed, which incidentally is where it got its name. ‘Every spa I had ever been to had a slightly sterile or even medical feel, but as this was set within the Walled Garden, it was asking to be designed in a more natural way,’ she adds.
‘I wanted the space to feel part of the garden – among the herbs, fruit trees and vegetables.’ With this in mind, it was built with the old garden wall, where the exposed brick and flagstone floor set the tone. Natural fabrics – linen, cotton, wool and hemp – are used for the curtains and upholstery in harmony with the surrounding area.
If you want to bring the Babington House aesthetic into your own home, Atkinson suggests the best way to do so is by layering. ‘I think a key way is to think of a room in layers – the more layers, the more character you can inject into a space. Add something that is more “of the moment” via the less expensive things, such as lamps or cushions, so that when the trend moves on, they’re replaceable and not too costly. The “backdrop” should always feel timeless, avoiding trends, so that you don’t tire of it.’ And obviously, ‘have a few Cowshed candles lit to give it the wonderful Babington House feel – ideally in a room with a lit fire and a log basket.’
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