Martin Hulbert has returned to The Grove, 15 years after first completing the hotel’s original interiors, to complete the architecture and design for a series of inspiring private events spaces. Hospitality Interiors’ Gemma Ralph was kindly invited to visit The Grove to see the new facilities for herself …
The reputation and outstanding facilities of this five-star luxury hotel and resort in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside are recognised far and wide and so too, now, are the hotel’s meeting and events spaces. Martin and his team at Martin Hulbert Design (MHD) were commissioned to create an atmospheric, highly adaptable series of spaces that would meet with demand for customised and experiential events in today’s market.
“The Grove is an incredibly inspiring place for special events, full of wit and flair, wonderfully unexpected and naturally inspired by its setting in 300 acres of parkland and gardens,” explains Martin. “The original interiors had lasted really well, they just needed a shot in the arm, something to push them forward into the future.
“Coming back to The Grove, we knew that it still had to be quirky and interactive, but things have changed in the last 15 years, people now want a beautiful space to work with – so they can be creative, with a sense of freedom, and put in exactly what they want for their event. In effect we were designing a beautiful blank canvas!”
Another key aspect of the brief was to ensure that each of the social spaces can be hired as a whole, or used as separate spaces, each with its own entrance, reception area, dining areas and exclusive after-dinner drinks spots. The hotel’s existing venues, Amber and Ivory, have thus been artly reconfigured to ensure that they are more independent from one another, each boasting a dedicated entrance complete with stylish leather-clad reception desks, slick steel flooring and furniture that has been custom-designed by MHD.
The break-out spaces and meeting rooms have been thoroughly modernised with all the latest technology. Floor to ceiling windows flood the rooms with light and offer guests views over the immaculate gardens, while black-out banners, hung with material designed expressly for The Grove, create privacy when required. Some rooms offer full white-board walls to promote creativity, while others feature solid oak, chestnut and walnut tables.
The piece de resistance of the project, however, is conceivably the grand Cedar suite. As the first opportunity for MHD to lead the creative architectural concept of a building, Martin and his team have not disappointed. This entirely new building is a wonderfully-proportioned oval pavilion in the hotel’s formal gardens, which links seamlessly with the new reception rooms and service areas in the main building.
Martin’s guiding inspiration for the structure was the integral role that the hotel’s abundant gardens play in the guest experience. Over half of the pavilion’s floor-to-ceiling windows are thus formed from glass, emphasising the blur of outdoor and indoor and bringing in plentiful natural light. A series of striking exterior fins, formed from leaves and greenery set in resin, have been hung vertically behind the glass wall to provide privacy.
The bright Verdigris copper exterior is another key highlight, acting as a point of contrast to the existing redbrick building, yet sitting perfectly at home. The structure’s living roof adds texture, while creating an uninterrupted view onto the gardens from above.
The interior of the Cedar suite is perfectly in keeping with its exterior. A bespoke tapestry, commissioned by MHD and created by Rosalyn of Mollie Regan Textiles, echoes the glass of the exterior with its abstract take on the magnification of flowers and plants. The tapestry’s fine details and pale colour palette add texture and visual interest, yet appears colourless from afar in order to maintain a neutral backdrop. A ceiling of acoustic leaves meanwhile – inspired by those in the Royal Albert Hall – ensures that all kinds of events can be catered for.
From this striking pavilion space, the Cedar Suite extends into the original main building through a new private entrance. Every element here is bespoke, and was either commissioned by or designed by MHD.
At the heart of the space is a working sculpture – a vast steel table, suspended between two steel columns, which moves up and down using a series of bespoke weights and pulleys. Not only visually striking as a decorative centrepiece, the table also functions as a dining table or cocktail bar.
Elsewhere, the team has added specially-designed sofas upholstered in deep blue and green mohair fabrics, as well as chairs and stools from Poltrona Frau. Some of the tables have been designed using pipes and glass, while others incorporate solid wood or are inspired by petal shapes.
Another integral aspect of the new Cedar Suite is the bold use of artwork; the most striking example of which, I felt, was an installation of 150 copper leaves strewn across the wall and ceiling of the reception. Elsewhere a woman’s face has been depicted using 15,000 steel screws and a video challenges the viewer with snapshots of women being carried by men from films throughout history.
Within the Amber and Ivory spaces, too, there are a number of specially-commissioned pieces designed to encourage creativity and provoke thought. None more so than a large photographic work that chequers photographs of Lady Margaret Thatcher and Jeremy Corbyn together.
Bold and original touches such as this have been masterfully integrated by Martin and his team to create stylish interiors that will enhance rather than dominate the diverse occasions that are sure to be held here in the coming years.
“MHD have done a brilliant job answering the brief,” affirms Michael Helling, General Manager of The Grove. “The new spaces are like a stunning stage set, which can be propped up – or used as they are. They are inspiring, for brainstorming and creativity, but also elegant, for celebrations and special occasions. They are completely flexible, with multiple spaces, to bring in food stations, create a rustic chic bohemian wedding – whatever the client wants.
“We say anything’s possible at The Grove, and Martin Hulbert and his team have interpreted that beautifully.”