This month we speak to Jojo Barr, founder of House Nine Design, the team that brought our Gara Rock vision to life.
Your thoughts and inspiration behind the gorgeous design at Gara Rock Hotel?
We wanted to bring the outside elements in by using soft, earthy, natural colours and textures. The surrounding area and landscape was our real inspiration. We used wide wooden floorboards, exposed wood walls. The deep ochre yellow seen around the hotel was taken from the gauze bush seen around the grounds. The sea greens and blues on the furnishings obviously taken from the sea, the greens from the rolling hills surrounding Gara Rock and the raw textures and finishes on the accessories a true reflection of the rugged coast line leading down to the sea.
How did this project differ from others past and present?
Of course it would have to be the location! As everyone who has ever been here knows, it is an adventure to get to! Which of course made the task of actually orchestrating the redesign and refurbishment of the hotel a real challenge! Kingsbridge is a 30 minute drive away and from there, you have to navigate through very tight and windy lanes. Sometimes torrential snow and rain conditions and other road hazards including the usual tractor, flock of sheep or cow on the run, would mean getting any deliveries to site was exceptionally challenging.
A refurbishment of a building over a straight new build threw up a number of obstacles, such as the introduction of the Loft suite rooms over the lounge and restaurant. The ceiling height was already very low and we had to get all of our services, sound insulation and fire proofing in, meaning the ceiling had to come down even further. That’s when we came up with the idea to board the ceiling giving it a Hamptons beach house vibe. Actually, it turned out to be one of the key features of the hotel and the low ceiling height makes it feel more cosy, especially considering the room is open and from one end to the other is around 45 metres!
Had you ever been to South Devon before embarking on this design adventure?
Actually yes. Coincidentally, I have been holidaying in Salcombe for the last 10 years, so I know it very well!
Which piece of accommodation was it most exciting to work with at Gara?
To be honest, each area of accommodation at Gara has come at a different stage of the project so we have had time to really enjoy each and every one. It would be hard to not say that for me the Penthouse was probably the most exciting unveil, as the master suite turned out to be even more than we had hoped. The design of the 4 poster bed was a very late addition of mine. I had just been on holiday and the hotel room we were staying in had one, so I was inspired! After a lot of begging and pleading, we managed to get one designed and made in time for the first guests!
If you were to choose just spot at the hotel to sit, where would it be and why?
It's funny you ask as whenever I go down there, I always gravitate to the same green armchair at the back of the lounge. But I think that’s usually so I can’t be found! If I were staying, I would say it would have to be the chairs in the window of the Penthouse master bedroom. The view is so incredibly special. I have been down there so many times and I just never tire of it. Therefore actually any seat with that view I would be happy to sit in for hours!
What feedback have you enjoyed hearing the most about your work at Gara Rock?
All the feedback we have received has been so incredible and not once does the feeling of pride wear off for what my team has achieved down there. I suppose the loveliest thing is hearing that people feel instantly relaxed and comfortable, almost at home.
Name your favourite dish at the restaurant
The menu has changed recently and I had the pleasure of sampling the food recently. So from what I tried, it would have to be the Barnsley chop. Although my go to after a busy install day, I usually go straight for a glass of red and a bowl of rosemary cheese chips!
Any little black book secrets to share with us on the South Hams location?
I am sure its no secret but for me it would have to be the Millbrook Inn. On a warm summers day, the garden at the back with the little stream running through it is just dreamy. Food to die for.
The Pigs Nose is also a seriously fun place to visit. About as quirky and eclectic as you can get. You really feel like you are in with the locals!
Oh and of course the Curator Café in Totnes for a 10/10 flat white!
Who or what inspired you and have you achieved it or did it change during the process?
The Client gave us a brief to refurbish the hotel to a standard that would appeal to everyone of all ages, day and night and in any season.
We wanted to create luxury but in a very informal way. When people think of luxury, they might think of opulence or wealth but we wanted to design an obtainable luxury that is made up of sumptuous comfort and warmth. Design that wouldn’t date and would work in both the summer and winter months.
The design certainly changed throughout the project as the potential of Gara Rock started really evolving mid project. The addition of the private cinema, the treatment rooms and the Secret Suite for instance.
Could you share some of the design notes from your favourite rooms?
Using colours taken from the natural surroundings, we wanted each and every area of the hotel to feel soft, comfortably luxurious and inviting. The fabrics used are a combination of leathers, soft linens, luxurious flat velvets and subtle prints. The colour palette is made up of natural oatmeals, deep earthy browns, soft greens, burnt oranges and ochre yellows and sea blues.
Lighting was really important as we wanted it to feel soft, warm and natural. We made the decision to remove all downlights where possible and introduce small bulkhead lights instead.
We only gave a subtle nod to the nautical location and history of Gara Rock as we feel this look is very common of seaside hotels and Gara Rock is just as much about the land as the sea. We used bulkhead wall lights and rope details and the art work prints feature some black and white fisherman sourced from old photo albums of the South Devon coast. These sit alongside original prints of local birds, fish, urchins and seaweeds.
All the bathrooms have half height Farrow & Ball painted panelling and we used strong geometric tiles of complimentary colours by Bert & May to add an element of contemporary fun. Traditional style bathroom fittings and iron mirrors give it a solid and homely feel.
THE SECRET SUITE
The secret suite is a romantic getaway like nowhere else. It is literally a bolt hole cut out of the landscape and just envelops serenity and comfort. Just beyond your floor to ceiling windows, you step out onto your terrace from the warmth of your beautifully comfortable hotel suite and look directly out at the ocean. You have not a single soul overlooking you and are completely at one with the natural surroundings. Come rain or shine, its a complete sanctuary of peace and relaxation.
The Signal House being a fully equipped two bedroom suite, is the perfect getaway for a small family or even two couples sharing. On the large private sun terrace with direct access down to the beach, is a beautiful William Holland tin hot tub which can be enjoyed in all weather conditions. Step inside and you feel instantly at home in the open plan kitchen living room with its own dining area. The furnishings are warm and inviting, the colours earthy and muted, making you feel instantly relaxed.
The Gara Rock Penthouse is a suite like no other. Spanning over two floors and with direct views out of the curved windows down to the ocean below, it offers a type of luxury that is made up of sumptuous comfort and a homely atmosphere. The lower ground floor compromises of 3 bedrooms - the huge master bedroom with free standing bathtub, fully tiled walk in shower enclosure, double basin, private changing area and own living area. The second bedroom has a beautiful Super king bed with luxury ensuite shower room. The third, a twin bedroom with a family bathroom across the hall. On the entire top floor, a conical eaved room with kitchen living and dining, perfect for couples or families.