Unique Chic Lets, the winner of Most Stylish Guestroom in last year’s Hilden Style Awards, showed us that size doesn’t matter when it comes to creative hospitality interiors.
Unique Chic offers quirky, self catering apartments based in Edinburgh with excellent views of Edinburgh Castle. In total the company owns three Edinburgh based apartments with its Bijou apartment bedroom taking top spot in last year’s Stylish Guestroom category.
We interviewed owner and interior designer, Alexis Sanghera, about the inspiration behind her award winning design.
To see what’s trending in interior design for hospitality, download the 2016 Hilden Style Guide now.
Winner’s Interview: Unique Chic Lets
What is the story behind the Unique Chic Lets apartments and how did you get into the hospitality market?
Unique Chic Lets really came about by accident! I had an interior design business (The Couture Rooms) and was getting frustrated creating beautiful spaces for other people and wanted my own project, to be my own client. I bought my first property in 2011, it was the basement of a shop that didn’t even have water or electricity! With a vision (that nobody else could see) and working with my husband and son we gave ourselves six months to turn it into a fabulous two bedroom rental property. We did most of the work ourselves and exhausted, one year later, it was complete. It’s close to Edinburgh University so our original plan was to rent it to students. On completion however I didn’t want to hand the keys over to messy students having endless parties so we started thinking of other options. Due to it’s location in the city centre, self catering holiday lets seemed like the logical way to go so we gave it a try. With no experience of the industry I had no idea what to expect but as a keen traveller I did know what I like to find when renting on holiday. Within six months the apartment was doing really well. Guests were absolutely loving it and I was really enjoying every aspect of the job as host.
How did you come up with /what inspired the design of your winning Bijou apartment?
All three apartments are in Edinburgh’s Old Town so designing eclectic and interesting spaces is the natural way to go. Our Bijou Apartment is built on the spot where the infamous grave robbers Burke & Hare lived back in 1828. They supplied bodies to the Royal College of Surgeons who, at the time, were pioneering anatomy and needed bodies to experiment on. It’s all rather gruesome but an undeniable part of the Old Towns history so I wanted the apartment to give a nod to that. The white tiled wall in the kitchen is reminiscent of a medical lab and the teak worktops were reclaimed from an old school science lab, as was the parquet floor. The rest of the apartment represents the diversity of Edinburgh as a city.
What challenges did you come up with when styling the guestroom / apartment? What advice would you give other venues coming across the same challenges?
Size was the biggest challenge in the apartment. At only 34m2 it was always going to be difficult to make it feel spacious. I decided to treat it like a hotel suite and open it up as much as I could whilst still creating very defined zones. The bedroom itself is small but with dark walls and ceiling it doesn’t feel small, it’s more like a cosy hug when you go to bed! My best advice when dealing with small spaces is not to be scared of using dark colours. Painting a small space white may make it feel a bit brighter but it’s not going to add floor space, better to look at what you have and decide what’s going to make it feel welcoming. Oh, and don’t forget plants. Big luscious green plants can instantly give a space life and energy. If you don’t have enough light for plants then there are lots of incredibly realistic artificial plants available, just don’t let them get dusty, it’s a dead giveaway!
What key trends do you think are emerging/going to emerge over the next 12 months?
Symmetry is out! Chain hotels in particular are guilty of this, matching lamps, matching bedside tables, chairs by the window, it’s all very formulaic. Things don’t have to match in a room. If the thought makes you nervous then play it safe by keeping the shapes or colours similar but don’t be scared to experiment. In Our Castle View Apartment I have a Charles II armchair (circa 1660) sitting opposite a Harry Bertoia Diamond Chair (circa 1952) and they look fantastic together! Over the coming year I think we are going to see more and more creativity in interiors. Scandinavian design with its soft pastel colours and geometric shapes brought to life with metallics in copper and gold have influenced interiors this year, it looks like that trend is here to stay.
What do you think sets your venue apart from others?
I believe attention to detail sets us apart. I love to make people smile with design so I like to add little touches that may not even be noticed by guests until their 2nd or 3rd day in the apartment. Also, since the rise of sites like Airbnb the term “Live Like a Local” has become very popular. Doing what you can to help guest feel immersed in the local area is important. These days I don’t believe guests are just interested in visiting the local tourist hotspots, instead they want to know where the locals like to shop, eat & party!
Do you have any advice for any establishments wanting to enter the Style Awards in 2016?
My advice for next year’s Style Award hopefuls would be to show creativity in your design. When guests first walk into your establishment they should feel like they’ve arrived somewhere special, the same goes for the Hilden judges!
Download the Hilden Style Guide to read more inspiring interviews with our Style Awards’ winners and to see what’s trending in UK hospitality design this year.