The boutique makeover of a former Victorian bank

Located in two former early-Victorian banks, the Bristol Harbour Hotel merges history with plush contemporary designs. We spoke to Director Mike Warren about the design team’s vision for the project and how they sought to combine historical features with a luxury design aesthetic.

Bristol Harbour Hotel
Now Grade II listed, the neoclassical structure dates from the 1840s. For decades, the building served as two banks, one of which was the headquarters of Lloyds.

“These architecturally stunning former banks provided a unique opportunity,” says Mike, “to bring back to use old banking halls that have been vacant for years and create a luxury city centre hotel.”

The hotel maintains its glorious façade and many features from its original interiors, which have been “meticulously restored.”

“Renowned architect William Bruce Gingell is behind the original design of the former Lloyds Bank building,” says Mike. “He was inspired by Sansovino’s 16th-century Library of St Mark’s in the Piazzatta at Venice. We wanted to honour the property’s remarkable history – hence the name ‘Sansovino Hall’.”

Bristol Harbour Hotel
The 16th-century Library of St Mark’s has a light stone symmetrical façade featuring pillars, arches and elaborate carvings, which was mirrored in the façade of the old banks. The Sansovino Hall is a central feature of the building, a colonnaded space with a skylight and painted ceiling. It was formerly the busy banking hall, and Bristol Harbour Hotels have restored the features to give it new life.

“The old banking hall has undergone a full and sensitive restoration of its 16th-century Venetian-inspired interior,” says Mike, “including historical details and a magnificent sky light.”

Bristol Harbour Hotel
“Given the working history of these buildings, we were lucky to have such unique original features and architecture to work with – keeping a part of Bristol’s remarkable history alive.”

“Such exceptional buildings require respect and care,” says Mike, “our intention was always to enhance and maximise on both properties’ unique interior features – for example the impressive vault doors in the luxury new spa and the iconic Bristol blue glass in our Jetty restaurant.”

The Jetty restaurant features stunning Bristol blue windows, a type of coloured glass that has been made in the city since the 18th century. The windows set the pace for a vibrant colour palette throughout all design aspects of the restaurant. The old basement bank vaults are in the process of being transformed into a luxury spa, opening in spring 2017.

Bristol Harbour Hotel
Bristol Harbour Hotel
Though the architectural features of the building reveal its historical purpose, for the guest rooms, the designers opted for boutique style, with rich colours and contemporary design pieces.

“With Harbour Hotels across coastal and city locations, we carefully select our design schemes to reflect the style and energy of each setting, whilst ensuring our signature themes and colour palettes remain,” says Mike.

Bristol Harbour Hotel
Bristol Harbour Hotel
“It is essential to respect the original features, whilst introducing modern features and luxurious design in keeping with our signature style and ethos," says Mike. "Our design teams are experts in delivering properties that provide the right blend of character, style and detail.”

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Annabel Sheen

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