As hotels and B&Bs become ever more revered sources for interior design inspiration, Rosalind Sack talks to Georgie Pearman – the woman behind some of the UK’s most stylish countryside destinations – to discover what really goes into designing a true home from home
IMAGE: THE SNUG AT THE TALBOT IN MALTON, YORKSHIRE
We’re certain we’re not alone in returning home from a weekend away at a beautiful hotel feeling thoroughly inspired and with a head full of ideas to repaint the bedroom, fit new wall lights in the bathroom, or rearrange the furniture in the lounge. As everyone from hoteliers to occasional Air BnB hosts are recognising the growing demand for beautiful, aspirational décor, so the choice of carefully considered, design-led accommodation is growing. And we couldn’t be more delighted!
Georgie Pearman, who together with her husband Sam founded the Country Creatures collection of hotels, has a burning talent for creating beautiful hotels that are carefully designed to feel comfortable and relaxed, yet unfalteringly special. Packed with personality, they feel more akin to a friend’s sprawling pile, than a faceless hotel.
IMAGES: (L TO R) GEORGIE PEARMAN’S BEAUTIFULLY DESIGNED INTERIORS AND GROUNDS AT THE TALBOT IN MALTON
After making their name as co-Founders of the Lucky Onion group of boutique hotels and pubs in the Cotswolds, they left to set up the Country Creatures group in 2017, which includes The Swan at Ascott-under-Wychwood and The Chequers in Churchill in the Cotswolds and The Talbot in Malton, Yorkshire. And Georgie has had the somewhat mammoth task of heading up the interior and garden design for them all – with evident success. So where does she start?
“There are definite similarities between designing for hotel interiors and deigning your own home, in that we want our hotels to feel comfortable rather than formal and fussy; a place where people instantly feel relaxed,” explains Georgie, whose team is based at an office, complete with resident budgie, at her own beautiful 17th century home in Stroud.
“Having said that, with my own home I don’t have the same budgets as when I’m designing hotels, so my own home is a bit more of a mish mash of everything. I think I’m a lot more traditional in my own home than I often am in the hotels; I love a more relaxed English country house style – I’d have more Robert Kime if I was to do my house properly!
“It is filled with things that we have acquired over time and don’t often work or match, but they just get thrown in together. So the house has organically grown into being our home.”
IMAGES: (L TO R) GEORGIE AND SAM PEARMAN; THEIR HOME IN STROUD WHICH ALSO HOUSES THE COUNTRY CREATURES OFFICE
Clearly, when designing hotels, there isn’t the luxury of allowing your scheme to develop over time, it has to be more deliberate, more carefully planned and constrained by strict deadlines. On the flip side, it’s rare that a homeowner has the incredible opportunity to design the interiors for a charming historic building on quite the same scale as a 16th century Cotswold stone coaching inn, for example.
The first step is compiling moodboards for every single room; no mean feat when you consider that The Talbot has 26 bedrooms alone! Fortunately, many of the bedrooms at The Swan had recently been redecorated in partnership with designers including Molly Mahon, Barnaby Gates and the former owner, Willow Crossley, so Georgie has kept them as they were when they bought the property.
We don’t want our hotels to be fashionable, we want them to last.”
The constraints of a strict budget also throw up challenges, particularly when you consider the volume of rooms being designed at the same time. First and foremost, trends are ignored, not least to avoid having to redecorate every few years: “We don’t want our hotels to be fashionable, we want them to last,” says Georgie.
Yet by allowing your creativity to be stifled by spreadsheets it can be easy to make the wrong choices, as Georgie can attest: “I’ve done it before where I think, ‘I love that, I love that,’ but it’s not within budget so I’ve gone for something really sh*t and then you’re not happy with the end result. I think that compromise really impacts the design.
IMAGES: INTERIORS INSPIRATION ABOUNDS AT THE SWAN IN ASCOTT-UNDER-WYCHWOOD
“So I try not to look at the prices and just make the design decisions, then I’ll refer to the budget and cut things out if I need to. Otherwise you end up thinking, ‘I can’t afford anything, I can’t do it,’ and you end up in Ikea! I think Ikea’s brilliant, by the way – I have all their storage stuff at home and in the office – but I can’t put anything in hotel rooms that people will have seen elsewhere.
“When you are staying in a hotel room you want it to feel a bit special, a departure from the everyday, so I want it to be all quite bespoke and high end, or antique and old.”
When you are staying in a hotel room you want it to feel a bit special, a departure from the everyday.”
“We are also always trying to create a bit of theatre, which you don’t necessarily do in your own home,” explains Georgie – whether that’s a reclaimed floor to ceiling stone fire place, a collection of wall-hung stag’s heads, or a grand feasting room.
So Lack coffee tables and Billy bookcases are definite no-nos. Instead you’ll find Georgie scouring antiques emporiums and markets like Ardingly and Shepton Mallet for furniture; searching online for antique art; and returning to her favourite brands, including Lewis and Wood, Colefax and Fowler, Ian Mankin, Fermoie and Parker and Jules for fabrics. She also has a trusted band of dealers and suppliers who source items on her behalf.
IMAGES: THE TWO GRAND FEASTING ROOMS AT THE TALBOT (LEFT) AND THE SWAN (RIGHT) CREATE A TOUCH OF THEATRE
When it comes to travelling and what she looks for in a hotel, unsurprisingly Georgie is driven by design and she and Sam often like to try out new places: “We’re always analysing, which probably isn’t great, but we love what we do so it doesn’t feel like work,” she says.
While they may specialise in beautiful English country locations, one of Georgie’s favourite destinations is Morocco and she particularly loves El Fenn boutique hotel in Marrakech. Not only is she wowed by the aesthetics of the vivid colours and incredible wood carvings and stonework that are so ubiquitous over there, it’s the feel of the place that Georgie finds truly stirring.
We are always trying to create a bit of theatre, which you don’t necessarily do in your own home.”
“There’s something so amazing about sitting outside on a rooftop terrace in Marrakech at dusk when the candles are lit and it smells of Africa and you’ve got the mullahs chanting across the square. It hits so many of the senses.” It’s somewhere that she and Sam dream of launching a hotel and potentially even making their home one day.
Not only is Georgie’s job about designing destinations that look beautiful, it’s equally as important to create an environment that feels inviting, too. Somewhere – like Marrakech – that holds a special emotional pull.
“One of the loveliest things about our job is when you walk in for the first time when the hotel is open to the public and there are people sitting with friends and family laughing and having fun. You think, in my little way that’s what we have created. It’s such a wonderful feeling to create a place for people to have a good time – it’s the lovely side of life.”