Refurb designed to broaden appeal of Lanarkshire business
CREATING a contemporary venue in a historic space has been the challenge for the team at New Lanark Mill Hotel ever since the venue first opened in the late ’90s.
The hotel, part of visitor attraction and former mill village New Lanark – a World Heritage site – is located in a converted mill building and owned by the same trust that operates the historic village.
Over the past two years the hotel has been the subject of an extended refurbishment project, intended to revitalise the venue and attract customers from nearby Lanark as well as further afield.
Carried out in conjunction with East Kilbride-based interior design firm Select Contract Furniture, the first phase of the project involved the refurbishment of the hotel’s bar in 2012, before progressing, last year, to the restaurant and then, most recently, the conference and function suite.
“Historically the hotel has catered just to residents, and there’s lots of restaurants in Lanark, so it’s been difficult to attract custom from the local area down here,” said general manager John Stirrat.
“That was one of the main reasons I wanted to refurbish – because I want to start appealing to a different market.
“If the occupancy is high, then our restaurant will be busy. But let’s say I have a wedding on. If everyone staying at the hotel then attends a wedding there’s nobody in the restaurant.
“So I wanted to make sure that the nights I do have a wedding on, the restaurant is not sitting empty.
“By refurbishing it [the hotel] it provides a focal point for the local community. We’re certainly increasing the number of outside guests coming down.”
The transformation of the bar and restaurant spaces was designed to create more of an atmosphere in both areas, said John, through the use of warmer colours and booth seating.
“The bar is a bit more subdued than the restaurant, which has bolder colours, but the booth seating has continued in both areas,” said John.
“I wanted to give [guests] the flexibility of eating in either area, with the same feel to both areas.
“So if the restaurant is full we can easily spill over into the bar.”
The hotel already has an established weddings and events business, and so the refurbishment of the function suite was a logical next step.
Working with John, the team at Select transformed the space late last year, installing a new dancefloor, furniture and carpets as well as a new bar.
“John had a good idea what he wanted, so we just put his thoughts onto the drawing board,” said Jeff Taylor, director of Select Contract Furniture.
“The bar had been in a different part of the room. It had been towards the centre of the room, which broke up the function area to an extent.
“John wanted to create a dedicated area for dining and sitting, and have the bar at the top end, nearer the kitchen.
I wanted to refurbish the hotel to start appealing to a different market.
“So the old bar was taken out, and we created a new bar, with a nice walnut finish.”
And despite the historic nature of the building, Jeff said the team was free to be as creative as they wanted.
“You have to be very aware of it [the history of the building] from a design point of view,” he said.
“You can’t go too over the top.
“You have to be aware of what’s around you, but it hasn’t really restricted us in any way.
“It’s just making sure you get the aesthetics right for the building and the type of place it is.”
Key to the project, said Jeff, has been the close working relationship between the teams at Select and New Lanark.
“You have to understand what the client wants,” he said.
“We’ve got fairly strong relationships with a lot of our clients.
“It’s a two-way street. You have to trust each other, you have to understand each other, and you’re only as good as your last job.”
The next stage of the ongoing project will be the refurbishment of the hotel’s 38 bedrooms.
John said the continued development of the business is vital in a competitive climate.
“It’s difficult for independent hotels at the moment,” he said.
“The big chains obviously have the money to invest, whereas independents are hit in that respect.
“They need to perform well in order to be able to invest, and if they don’t invest they’re going to lag behind the chains.
“That’s why we’ve put an awful lot of effort into being successful over the last couple of years, so that we can invest in the hotel.”