Category Archives: Features

Bespoke Access Awards 2017/18 Opens for Entries

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), in association with Bespoke Hotels, launched the second year of the Bespoke Access Awards this week.

The Access Awards are an international competition to design fully accessible hotel rooms, to continue improving access to properties worldwide for disabled people, including those with learning difficulties, as well as all other guests. The Awards aim to challenge the perception of hotel facilities set aside for disabled people, which can often be viewed as joyless, poorly-designed and over-medicalised.

The Bespoke Access Awards were established in 2016 and were the first awards of their kind. In their opening year, teams of designers from countries as far afield as Hong Kong, Russia and Canada submit entries across a range of categories. The overall winners, awarded the Celia Thomas Prize worth £20,000, were Motionspot & Ryder Architecture, who devised ‘AllGo’, a unique, universalised approach to hotel room design system to ensure that all hotel rooms are functional, flexible and accessible.

The scope of the competition has been broadened for its second year to cover five strands of inclusive design: Architecture, Product Design, Service Applications (digital), Service Applications (training), and Inclusive Employment. Prizes will be awarded for the most imaginative, innovative and potentially realisable ideas in any or all of these strands,, with the overall winner of the Celia Thomas Prize will receiving £20,000.

The Paralympic Gold Medalist and Peer Baroness Grey-Thompson, whose interest in design was fostered by her father, a professional architect, will judge the competition, together with the distinguished architect Alan Stanton, winner of the 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture.

Alongside them will be Robin Sheppard, Chairman of Bespoke Hotels and Hotel Sector Champion for Disabled People; Baroness Celia Thomas, Patron of the Access Awards Graeme K Whipper MBE, Disability Specialist for Channel 4; Alastair Hignall CBE, Trustee of the Leonard Cheshire Foundation; Sarah Weird OBE, Chief Executive of Design Council; and Paul Gregory, MCIBSE, MSLL, Global Specification Director for Dyson.

For full competition and entry details, please visit

Afternoon Tea — As English as Roses

There’s nothing that evokes old-world England quite like afternoon tea. In the 19th century, and well into the 20th, it united the aristocracy and working classes as the country came to a halt at four o’clock for sandwiches, scones, cakes — and, of course, tea made the old fashioned way. As the old popular song put it, “everything stops for tea”.

Today, we might throw a tea-bag into a cup, but most of us don’t have time to stop for a full afternoon tea. We still love it, though, whenever we have the opportunity indulge ourselves at a tea-room or hotel.

Bespoke - Risley Hall Hoetl


Afternoon Tea in Hotels

If you’re in London, tea at a hotel like Claridges or the Dorchester is a treat everyone no one should deny themselves, but a hotel doesn’t have to be that famous or expensive for the experience to be special. Properties up and down the country offer this service both to guests and non-guests.

If you’re staying there, a traditional tea can make your break extra special. Or, if you’re in the vicinity of the right hotel, you can pop in and enjoy the elegance just as it should be.

Afternoon Tea 1

Here are just a few of the hotels around the country that offer afternoon tea:

  • Hallmark Carlisle Hotel — In the heart of the historic city of Carlisle, the Hallmark offers a comprehensive tea menu in the bar or brasserie. It’s popular, though, so you’ll need to book.
  • Tigerlily — A chic hotel in the centre of Edinburgh, Tigerlily’s celebrated restaurant offers tea either cosily inside or at its pavement tables on George Street in summer.
  • Hotel Gotham — A listed art-deco building in mid-town Manchester, the Hotel Gotham serves tea at any time between 2.30pm and 6pm.
  • Inn on the Lake — By contrast, the Lake District’s Inn on the Lake offers stunning views over Ullswater while you take your tea in either the Lake View Lounge or the Orangery.
  • The Grosvenor Arms — Situated in the picturesque Dorset town of Shaftesbury, the Grosvenor Arms serves tea in its restaurant.
  • Hallmark Hotel Bournemouth West Cliff — This elegant hotel in the middle of one of Britain’s most popular seaside resorts offers both traditional and themed teas.Afternoon Tea in Your Area

    Of course, these are just a handful of the many hotels around the country serving afternoon tea. Whether you’re on holiday or a day out, or whether you’d like to treat yourself close to home, check out your area for hotels to visit.

Form and Function: The Art Of The Modern Boutique Hotel

If modern art is divisive then there are few words for the reaction that modern architecture can inspire because by anyone’s standards, it’s an exciting time for art and design.

Whether you love or hate the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Renzo Piano, post-war the collaborations between form and function have scaled new heights and produced some of the most creative and important structures of the modern age.

Bespoke Hotels - Andersen Boutique Hotel
Andersen Boutique Hotel Copenhagen

They have also inspired generations of people in their field, and as a result the line between art and architecture has become blurred, interior and exterior have become fluid, and surely the result is some of the most thrilling and democratic art around, because whether you are on the outside looking in or the inside looking out, it’s art that we can all interactive with and enjoy.

Nowhere has this become more evident or important than the hotel industry, especially in the boutique hotel sector. As a place defined by standards, service and experience, design has taken precedent as the mood influencer, the holiday inspiration and the purveyor of interesting social media content. After all, few things make for a better Instagram photo than a beautifully orchestrated library, a cantilevered swimming pool overlooking a city or carefully chosen textiles hinting at an offbeat sense of humour.

Bespoke Hotels - Andersen Boutique Hotel Lobby
Andersen Boutique Hotel Lobby

Perhaps one of the best examples of contemporary design and interesting architecture is the Andersen Boutique Hotel in Copenhagen. Denmark’s capital city is a hub of character, quirks and contemporary intrigue, so it’s fitting that the hotel follows suit.

This boutique hotel is decorated with textiles and wallpapers from the Designers Guild and boldly showcases a vibrant colour scheme. Everything from the lighting to the carefully selected magazines has been choreographed to fit and enhance the urban buzz and inspiring atmosphere that surrounds it.

Meanwhile the likes of our newly opened boutique hotel – Gotham Hotel in Manchester fuse a historic exterior with the sleekest and sexiest of interiors, to prove that really great design is a fluid, evolving, ongoing process that embraces both the past and the future in a way that we can enjoy it in the present.

If you look at it that way, where we are now with modern design isn’t just about aesthetics, it’s an incredibly exciting experience for us all and I can’t help but wonder where it will take us next…

Vagabond Hotel: too many reasons to go back to the ‘50s


There is something so glamorous about 1950s America. Post-war, the world was becoming a glossier place – Marilyn Monroe was in her heyday and everybody loved Lucy. Much as we appreciate all the glories of 2015, the nostalgic appeal of 1950s style has an unmistakable romance, all of which has been epitomized in The Vagabond Hotel in Miami.

Vagabond Hotel Miami FL USA - Bedroom
Vagabond Hotel Miami FL USA – Bedroom

Originally built in 1953 as a motel, The Vagabond was the rumored hangout of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Fast-forward 60 years and following a complete renovation it’s all sparkling new, which means that frankly, nothing has changed. That’s because here it is all about that original magic, or retro-luxe if you will. If you didn’t know any better you could have stepped back into that founding year… but now it has WiFi.

Such is the landmark appeal of The Vagabond Hotel that some features really haven’t changed at all. The sign outside heralding your arrival at the ‘Vagabond Motel’ is a monument in its own right and as such had to be kept in situ as part of the conditions of the renovation. It’s part of the charm and personality of the place that it’s not just a replica of a bygone era but a thriving part of the ‘50s. It’s living, breathing and playing your favourite song on the Jukebox. If a Corvette pulled up outside it would not be out of place, it would be perfect.

Vagabond Hotel - Pool
Vagabond Hotel – Pool

A throwback to its motel past, there are just 45 rooms while the focus is on fresh colours, a sense of space, and art everywhere – not least of all because some dude has doodled all over the walls with intricately stenciled geometric patterns. It’s kitsch but seriously cool – a phrase that comes to mind when you head to the restaurant, which is still referred to as a ‘diner’. It’s just that these days it serves a Miami-modern blend of Latin-Asian-American food rather than your bog standard burger and fries.

Vagabond Hotel - Bedroom
Vagabond Hotel – Bedroom

You will be pleased to hear that even if dear old Frank isn’t gracing the bar with his presence, it remains one of THE places to go in Miami proving that it hasn’t lost any of its magnetism. In fact today it’s attracting more than clientele, the area as a whole is the go-to hotspot for boutiques and independent restaurants that are popping up at a rate of knots.

The cherry on top of the ice cream milkshake however is the Vagabond Hotel’s pool and bar. This is where you want to throw on your high-waisted bikini and lay back with a Vagabond Collins (their signature cocktail). This is what glamour really feels like. This my friends, is where it doesn’t matter what your story is, it’s worthy of the silver screen and Sammy Davis, Jr. is providing the soundtrack.