Design Focus: Cameron House
We are all familiar with the notion that if something works, why change it – and that is very much the spirit in which an ambitious refurbishment project at The Cameron House Hotel, at Loch Lomond, was recently completed. The team at Greyline Design, who created new looks for three of the five-star luxury venue’s restaurants and bars – The Boathouse, the Cameron Grill and The Great Scots Bar – were asked to enhance what was already in place through the use of colour, richness and opulence.
That is very much in line with the idea that this 18th century Baronial mansion is a place where ‘glamour and romanticism meets culture and history’ – to quote from the resort’s own web page. So it was about upgrading and improving what was there rather than ripping everything out and starting over and it was also about making clever changes to the existing seating arrangements in order to boost the number of covers at each offering – all with minimal disruption to guests.
Resort Director Andy Roger explains, “We are blessed with a beautiful location and some fantastic facilities but the resort has probably not had the investment that it has demanded over the last few years so the thinking is to take the resort back to and ahead of where it has been before, and to be able to capitalise on the huge demand we have in some of our restaurants. “The third aspect was to look at where we could really drive the business forward over the next three to five years, with an owner, KSL, who is looking forward rather than looking to sell the business.” One of the first phases of the work was down at The Boathouse, an informal restaurant which overlooks the Marina and is a short walk from the main hotel.
It is a great place to watch the water, catch some sport on the new larger-screen TVs and sample the seafood menu which includes Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese and pizzas baked to order in the wood-burning oven as well as Orkney crab and West Coast mussels. Much of the emphasis here was on increasing the number of covers, so the tan-coloured banquette seats which ran down the middle of the main seating area have been removed and replaced with lighter chairs in a mixture of blues and reds, with seats and backs upholstered in contrasting colours.
Other innovations like the Captain’s Table, which seats eight and is set slightly away from the main restaurant, have also proved popular. The main bar area still has its large sofas but they have been re-covered with lighter, brighter fabrics. Gone are the brown, taupe and cream hues and in are the blues and reds we see in the restaurant. The changes have enhanced the venue’s New England style and make the space feel both bigger and busier at the same time. Andy says, “We have taken the capacity up by 50 per cent, from 100 to 150 seats and from a revenue point of view we will grow that business by over ten per cent this year and a huge part of that is through the covers.
We’ve made it slightly more casual seating and reduced the size of some of our tables and chairs to really capitalise on the space. The next phase will be to look at our outside dining, to increase the capacity further.” The Cameron Grill has also been refurbished as part of this £3million investment programme. Here the major changes included removing much of the dark leather banquette seating which previously dominated the space. Now the seats around the sides of the restaurant are upholstered in distressed-look dark brown leather, while the seating in the middle of the room is covered in lighter taupe shades.
A Last Supper-style painting which used to run almost the length of the right-hand wall has been replaced with four large mirrors which bounce light back into the room, set against grey/blue and gold flock wallpaper. The same colours are also picked up in some of the fabric on the chairs. Again the immediate impact of the refurbishment has been to make the restaurant feel more spacious and much lighter and this is boosted when the tables – a mix of small square ones, which seat two comfortably but can be joined together for bigger parties, and large round ones which seat up to eight people – are set for dinner with crisp white table linen.
It retains a sophisticated, high-end feel and is an ideal setting for guests to enjoy the new wine list and menu which includes dishes like wood pigeon, Highland deer and Orkney scallops. However, given that this is also where hotel residents have breakfast it probably works better with the lighter, fresher colour palette and again the capacity has been increased by 50 per cent. A small room to one side of the restaurant has been transformed into a cocktail bar with 14 seats. Once again, mirrors bounce the light around while distressed metal ceiling tiles, streaked with a rust colour, add warmth. The front of the new bar is tiled in irregular aqua, gold and grey tiles, creating a glamorous feel in what also doubles as a private dining area.
The Grill is already reaping the rewards of this refurbishment with the average spend up by 20 per cent as a result of the changes. The Great Scots Bar now has a much warmer feel, almost like walking into one of the large bottles of Glenmorangie sitting on the stunning copper-topped bar. The dark colours that were in the room previously – mostly greys, browns, taupe and creams – have been banished and replaced instead with tan leather, velvet and tartans in oranges and a touch of pink. To the right, the walls are now upholstered in padded tan leather panels studded to create a Chesterfield sofa-style effect, separated by horizontal-striped wallpaper in varying tones of slate grey.
Meanwhile the walls around the large stone open fireplace have been covered in a textured light and dark tan flock paper while large tan leather tiles have been used to cover another wall area. Two sets of semi-circular banquettes have been cleverly arranged around the fire – each one seats six people comfortably – while single armchairs arranged around small circular wooden tables add extra covers. The overall feel is of luxury, inclusivity and intimacy, even for larger groups of people. To the left hand side of the room, the ever-popular Whisky Lockers remain.
Current incumbents, whose keys are kept behind the bar so they can access their personal bottle whenever they wish, include former Scotland rugby player Gavin Hastings OBE and Olympic gold medallist Katherine Grainger CBE. Again, armchairs in a mix of tan leather and the warm tartan provide additional seating and there are wing-back chairs in another corner. Moving through into the main bar area, the original wooden parquet-style floor has been restored and brought back to life, while the curtains have been removed from the huge picture windows to really make the most of the stunning views over the hotel’s elegant grounds to Ben Lomond.
The large sofas and armchairs have been re-upholstered in a mix of leather, green and purple velvet and contrasting tartans, tones which reflect the natural colours of the hills around the hotel, while mirrored table tops bounce light back into the room. The walls are still lined with the same iconic black and white photographs of the Great Scots the bar is named after, including racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, novelist Ian Rankin OBE and actress Hannah Gordon. Andy says: “We’ve kept all that’s great about The Great Scots Bar but we’ve replaced all the furniture and changed the configuration to allow us to have more groups in there, more people enjoying the experience.” The upholstery and re-upholstery work on this refurbishment project across all three venues was undertaken by Glasgow firm ESL, while Style Matters supplied new furniture.