A £15million redevelopment of a Grade II listed building, The Old Shire Hall in Durham, is nearing completion thanks to Howarth Litchfield’s design team.

Durham’s Hotel Indigo, situated on Old Elvet, has been converted into a boutique 83 bedroom hotel incorporating a function room, Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Rotunda Cocktail Bar & Lounge and Tinderbox Espresso Emporium coffee house.

The richly ornate interior, which features dozens of original stained glass windows, an elaborately tiled main staircase and wood panelling, will be retained to keep the historical feel of the building, but with a contemporary slant. The building was built in the 1890s for Durham County Council, and was home to the authority until it moved to County Hall in the 1960s. It then became the administration centre for Durham University until 2012, since which time it has been empty.

Paul Borg, General Manager, added “The building has been empty for such a long time, therefore we are delighted to have this opportunity to bring such a beautiful building back to life. We’re here to enhance it. Things are going at a pace and the scheduled Spring opening is on track. The hotel is right in the heart of Durham and we feel it fills a gap in the market, with Durham tourism on the rise.”

One of the most decorated rooms, the circular former council chamber, which was later used by Durham University’s decision-making senate, is being converted into Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, a 100-cover restaurant with adjacent cocktail bar.

The bedrooms will have either an academic or cathedral theme in a bid to reflect Durham’s history, with the historical theme continuing throughout the hotel. The textures, patterns and colours found in Durham Cathedral are reflected in the Cathedral rooms, using contrasts of timber, stone and sumptuous fabrics, whilst the style of the academic rooms, Collegiate and University, combine old school science artefacts and academic paraphernalia from Durham University with contemporary luxury.”

Kathryn Mason, interior designer of Howarth Litchfield who were appointed to design the hotel’s interior, said “Hotel Indigo has been an outstanding project to work on. The listed building is steeped in history and our brief was to reflect the neighbourhood story of Durham within the hotel. It was crucial to design a scheme that enhanced the original features but also that held the hotels brand in a unique way to Durham and make it suitable for today’s clientele. Many legacy items of furniture from the council chambers have been re-used and adapted along with bespoke items and lighting throughout the hotel to create a grandeur and opulence to the Interior.“

“Durham City has a prestigious and affluent air that evolves from its historic roots, from both the university and the Cathedral, which we wanted to reflect in the hotel interior.”

Each floor level has been named according to parts of Durham city centre: The Vennels, The Elvets, The Bishops and The Mansard.

Throughout, the corridor carpet takes inspiration from the original stained glass windows, having been specially designed to form an abstract version of the effect given by the sunlight shining through the stained glass.

For the coffee house and reception area, the design was inspired by the working history of Durham using earthy tones and rich fabrics, whilst the bar is an elegant space using a mixture of antique brass finishes with plush navy fabrics to contrast against the listed panelling and original marble flooring.

Marketing Manager Luke Balcombe said: “Part of our brand is for each individual hotel to have its own neighbourhood story. Durham is very much a historic city so we wanted to reflect that. We have worked in hotels before, but nothing like this.”

The hotel is expected to create over 60 jobs. Restaurant bookings are being taken from March 30th.

We had the most fantastic [wedding] day. The whole weekend was amazing. Everything went so very well. The food was amazing as always, the décor and the ambience was all perfect. All of our guests had a wonderful time and are still talking about it, especially those who stayed over. The staff were an absolute credit…polite, helpful, courteous and friendly, nothing was too much trouble. What a wonderful experience it was and we will never be able to thank you all enough.
Marie and Phil Butler

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