The transformation of the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa in Edinburgh is now complete, following the latest phase of re-planning and refurbishment by MKV Design.
This has involved the re-design of all the hotel’s public areas as well as the ballroom and meeting room spaces; MKV Design also handled the recent guestroom refurbishment which was completed at the end of 2010. Now, with its strikingly different lobby lounges, bar, restaurant and function spaces, the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa has been recognised as the UK flagship for the brand.
The reception lobby has been totally remodelled, removing the old central staircase that had dominated the area and bringing natural light and volume into the space. Where before spaces were hidden from view under low ceilings, sightlines are now clear with a natural flow across the entire ground floor giving improved clarity of the direction to take for guests arriving in this busy hotel.
Maria Vafiadis, Managing Director of MKV Design, explains: “The Sheraton Grand has diverse audiences to please. It is the hotel of choice for national and international dignitaries visiting the capital; during the week, it is very popular with business people and at weekends with leisure travellers. Its central location also means that it is very special to local people as a place to meet for coffee, cocktails or afternoon tea. It was clear to us that we could only reconcile the requirements of these different groups and enhance their experience by a major reconfiguration of all the public areas”.
The ambience of the reception lobby is now welcoming and refined with a gentle sense of place referenced in the designs of the rugs, some of the fabrics and in selected artworks such the framed “coats” made from Edinburgh city maps that are signage for the cloakroom. The structural columns have been clad in back-lit, textured resin so that they glow like spun sugar, a modern fireplace burns invitingly and seating groups have been organised to allow for different guest activities. Throughout, contrasting finishes are boldly juxtaposed, hard and soft, glossy and matt, the pale envelope with punches of crimson red upholstery and warm walnut timber cladding. The play of textures is epitomised in the flooring which unifies the entire ground area: three types of Scottish granite, honed, flamed and polished, laid in variously alternating strips, creating a fluidity across the space. At the same time, the designers have remembered that this is a reception that must cope with large numbers of arrivals; finishes are practical and durable.
The new main staircase is located in the lift lobby. As much a work of art as a stairway, it is constructed of brushed steel and glass and is set against an image of the famous Scottish Eilean Donan Castle superimposed onto 15 frosted glass panels with integrated lighting behind. Another staircase, dedicated to serving the first floor function rooms, has been introduced alongside the reception entrance, thus eliminating any risk of over-crowding at the point of arrival. In between the lift lobby and reception lobby, the designers have captured space to introduce Sheraton’s new business centre concept ‘Link’. This is an informal working space, in style more akin to a library than a conventional business centre. It is essentially part of the lobbies but is also partially separated from them by large open bookcases specially designed by MKV to help zone ‘Link’ and define a quiet area.
The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa has the largest function suite in Edinburgh and re-planning has further increased the number of break-out rooms which now flow around the reception atrium adjacent to the ballroom. The carpet unifies this level with its large abstracted thistle design; again warm walnut cladding abounds. Artwork in the meeting rooms includes framed quotes from Scottish literature.
The restaurant and bar areas are on the opposite side of the building from reception with a full-length glazed façade opening onto Festival Square. The transformation here is as complete as elsewhere with the whole space now reading as one area that segues from bar and café to restaurant, wine tasting and private dining.
Named ‘One Square’, the space is a visual feast combining different forms, layers of transparency, deep-toned timbers and brightly upholstered furniture into a whole that is both lively and cheerful and also smart and sophisticated. It is a flexible and interesting space with a lot of details to discover; the design draws inspiration from the tradition of grand European cafes but is very much designed to meet today’s lifestyle. Again, some of the upholstery fabrics hint at tartan but, by and large, this is a cosmopolitan space with its vividly toned wing back chairs and leather-covered poufs in the bar to the more classic seating of the dining areas. Walnut is widely used, on the floors, walls and for the furniture; the bar is of marble. Two huge clusters of multi-coloured globes hanging from ceiling coffers serve to zone the café bar in a playful manner whereas lighting in the restaurant is more architectural.
“The aesthetics of the public areas were to be very similar to the blueprint we had established in the guestrooms,” says Maria Vafiadis. “The design is clean and contemporary and the detail is more in the richness of textures and how we use them. We always like to discover how to play with materials and use them in a different way.”