Family-friendly Style: Tips from Luxury Family Hotels Interior Designer Carole Taylor
Here at Luxury Family Hotels, we believe we've achieved that elusive thing – stylish interiors that also happen to be kid-proof, and a luxurious environment in which parents can relax without worrying that their offspring are going to cause havoc and elicit disapproval. We asked designer Carole Taylor how she created this aesthetic and persuaded her to share her tips for child-friendly, cosy chic.
Carole, you have a long history with Luxury Family Hotels. Tell us about your path from housekeeper at Woolley Grange to in-house designer.
I trained and qualified as an interior designer but fell in love with Woolley the moment I walked through that low front door and took the job as housekeeper. Later I was approached by Nigel Chapman [founder of Luxury Family Hotels] to help with the transformation of Fowey Hall from a hostel into a luxury hotel.
We've now worked on numerous projects, including the Martinhal resort on the Algarve in Portugal. I've been with the company for 18 years and still love it! I have to work somewhere I can personally appreciate, and LFH does this for me.
What are your general design inspirations?
As a team we are always looking for pieces we would love to put in our own homes (if you were to come to my house, it looks like a mixture of all our hotels). We're not designing to get recognition or to stand out – we genuinely want to make places we too would enjoy.
We do have some bad habits, too – when we find a fabric or something we love, we use it again and again. So don't be surprised if you spot a small bit of one hotel in another!
… And when it comes to the different hotels?
It's the property itself that gives most of the design inspiration. For instance, if you look at the grandeur of The Ickworth, the individual pieces have to stand up to the stature of the building or would look insignificant. That does not mean they all have to be antiques – we have many retro and contemporary pieces as well, but they are design classics that will hold their own.
Then look at Woolley Grange, which requires that cosy, homely feel and pieces of furniture that look like they have been waxed hundreds of times.
How much were you influenced by geographical location when you created the hotel interiors?
The decor of the properties is often affected by their setting. The lounge at The Polurrian is all about the view, for example, so we don't distract with the curtains or objects in front of the panoramic windows and we use semi-transparent furniture at the very front of the room so as not to obstruct. On the other hand, we tried to be light-handed with seaside artefacts, though we do have some stunning Nicola Bealing fish artwork and a huge wooden crocodile!
Do you think it is possible to combine a stylish home with family life? If so, do you have any tips for us?
Very much so! Everyone should live in a space they can love and appreciate. White sofas may not be so practical with little grubby fingers, but other shades can look just as classy. And most things can be cleaned – although the housekeepers probably want to dispute that, especially when it comes to the many silk cushions in the hotels!
In terms of tips, my first is that paint colour makes a massive difference to a room – just a little warmth to an off-white will soften the overall look. Look for a brand that gives a limited number of well-selected colours, such as Farrow & Ball, Rose of Jericho and Paint Library. Try to keep the overall look – walls, large pieces of furniture – fairly neutral, and then play around and be more extravagant with colour and patterns, for instance through cushions and artwork.
When selecting furniture, look for rounded edges that will soften the look and feel of a room as well as being safer for exuberant children. Not everything has to be a designer piece – it's far easier and more economical to buy simple but well-made pieces and combine with one or two special pieces.
Original pieces of artwork /objects add personality and interest to a room – and they don’t have to be expensive. We love using local artists in our hotels.
Lastly, remember that your house is a home not a showroom – don’t worry if it doesn’t all match (we don’t!) and just enjoy it.
Can you talk us through a typical design process? With The Polurrian, for instance, where did you start?
Let’s talk about the bedrooms first. The brief for these was that they had to be comfortable, homely, simple/calm and affordable. We looked at and collected images to find a style we liked. In this instance we used a furniture designer and a British manufacturer, Modus, to make the key pieces. Walls and curtains are soft neutrals, the carpet is an extremely good quality but again neutral, and money was invested in toppers, mattresses and beds. Colourful artwork by artist Anna Marrow and bright cushions were added for interest.
With the public areas, we were able to have more fun and bring more colour and interest. If you look around, you'll find a mixture of new and old pieces – and even a few wacky pieces.
Each of the Luxury Family Hotels has its own character. How much of a challenge is that – integrating charming original features and quirky elements such as the stuffed animals and old fairground items (Woolley Grange) with modern elements?
It's not a challenge – each hotel having its own character makes it easy to keep the story going. Finding and slotting in additional interesting pieces is actually the fun part of the role!
And what about the child-specific areas, such as the crèches? Is it true that these too have designer furnishings?
Yes – Vitra, Magis, Twenty Twenty One and Fat Boys all have wonderful, child-friendly designer pieces. We are also introducing children-only bedrooms and we use pieces from all these companies specifically to make it fun and interesting for younger visitors.
Which is your favourite Luxury Family Hotel, and why?
That is unfair! I love them all for very different reasons…