durham hotel
Kathryn Mason, interior designer at Howarth Litchfield, with Paul Borg, Hotel Indigo's general manager.
Rebecca Wayman

New £15m hotel transformation of Grade II listed Durham building almost complete

A £15m 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 ornate interior - featuring 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, said: “The building has been empty for such a long time, therefore we are delighted to have this opportunity to bring 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 a 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.

Kathryn Mason, interior designer of Howarth Litchfield who were appointed to design the hotel’s interior, added: “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.”

Each floor level has been named according to parts of Durham’s 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.

Marketing manager, Luke Balcombe, concluded: “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 30, 2018.

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