The Strathaven Hotel – Strathaven.
As we revealed last month The Strathaven Hotel in Strathven has already undergone a transformation having been taken over by husband and wife team Hans and Lydia Rissman at the start of the year. Hans who heads up The Rissco Collection, which has the backing of his former boss Peter Taylor, had ambitious plans for the hotel and this month he revealed the progress to date – and just let’s say it has been significant.
There is no doubt about it before The Rissco Collection took it over The Strathaven Hotel was a traditional and tired hotel which needed investment. Today I can’t imagine many locals would have visualised such a transformation. A seven-figure has seen the ground floor of the hotel re-configured and totally redesigned.
Hans told Hotel Scotland, “I did a design brief and then gave it to designer Jim Hamilton. It then grew arms and legs. Jim is a very talented designer and he challenges things. He puts a lot of focus on the customer experience and he is very good at getting his own way, but does it in such a nice way!”
Originally the couple had put a rather more ambitious plan into planning which included additional rooms and extending out over the terrace, but says Hans, “We scaled it back a bit. The reality is that at the moment we want to grow and focus on our food and beverage
Work started mid-summer and the bar and restaurant were finished at the end of September
while the banqueting and conference facilities are very close to being completely finished too. Says Hans, “It was a very quick job, and that was to do with the professionalism of G1 and Jim McMillan who did the build. In fact between Jim McMillan, Jim Hamilton and Scott Wardlaw of Novo Design Architects we made a very effective team.”
The outside of the building is a real juxtaposition with the interior. It is a traditional Georgian building but inside the look is contemporary. The modern reception space which features a hardwood floor, grey wood panelling and a statement desk, sets the tone. If you then turn left into the bar the hardwood floor carries through …and as you look up I would imagine the first word you would think of would be ‘Wow!’ Expecially if you had been there before the transformation. Out has gone the chintz, sofa’s and wing backed chairs and in its place there is a very contemporary and stylish bar and restaurant.
A black and white checked tiled floor – which is very striking, emphasises the space that appears to have been created but the main feature in this area is the bar itself – which is totally new. It has a zinc top and runs the length of the bar area and curves around into the restaurant. A collection bar stools line the bar – says Hans, “I wasn’t sure about them to begin with but they have been very popular – people are even eating at the bar.”
Fixed seating has been used to maximum effect throughout. When you first come into the bar area it is dark blue (salon blue to be precise) while as you move through there are four semi circular booths upholstered in beautiful caramel buckskin with accompanying chairs in contrasting dark blue – all the tables have white marble tops. Lights hang down above each table while along the deep window shelves there are an array of plants and greenery. There’s also a display of crisp black and white artwork, but not too much. It’s got the feel of a contemporary French-bistro.
Between the bar and the restaurant there is a new door which takes you out to the carpark, or the outside terrace which is now extensive. This means that customers can enter directly from the carpark into the restaurant or bar area without having to bypass the reception. But don’t expect it to be draughty because the designers have double-doored the entrance.
The restaurant itself has fixed seated booths on the left and on the right there is fixed seating.but no booths. The right hand wall also features mirrored tiles to great effect. Round marble tables, which seat four, are arranged in a row down the centre of the restaurant with chairs upholstered in pale grey bute from Bute fabrics. Explains Hans, “It’s a nod to the fact that I am from Bute.”
The left of the room features bench style fixed seating booths. The colours come from the upholstery and range from Salon Blue, to Cambridge Ruby and Hemingway Park Teal.
At the far end of the room there is a private dining area – which is separated from the main dining area by a glass panelled wall. Says Hans, “Jim Hamilton persuaded me to put a private dining area in. It was previously our walk-in fridge and I was initially a bit reluctant to lose it, but I am delighted with the result.”
Outside the bar and restaurant there is a brand new terrace which is quite substantial and it gets the sunlight for most of the day. Says Hans, “We’ve not bought the furniture yet, but that will be in place for next summer.”
There are also still a few bits and pieces to come for the bar and restaurant including some new light fittings, but already it is proving to be very popular with customers.
Meanwhile the hotel’s function suite and conference facilities have also undergone a transformation. Hans explains, “We wanted to trade the business as two stand alone entities. We now have a separate bar and restaurant and a separate events space. This also allows us to stream line our service too.”
Now when you come into the hotel for a wedding (for example) you turn right into a small reception area which now features exposed stone walls and further through there is a room which can be used for wedding ceremonies or for meetings and this takes you into the function suite and ballroom. This has now been wood panelled in grey and completely redecorated. The shape of the room has also been changed so that it is more square. Says Hans, “We’ve created a corridor on the left of the function suite – which means it can be serviced more easily and it makes much more sense for people to enter the through the doorway at the centre of the suite.”
The plan is for the new look, 200-capacity suite to put The Strathaven Hotel on the map as a destination for weddings and business conferences. Says Hans, “We would hope to double our turnover to £2 million a year by hosting some 60 weddings annually.”
Hans concludes, “We wanted to create a timeless design which was sensitive to the original building.
But also wanted customers to have that element of surprise and come in and go ‘wow’. And they have. People say it is like having a city centre on their doorstep. I wish we had something like this where we live.” I second that.