Design Focus: Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye

For 40 years Lord and Lady Claire and Godfrey Macdonald ran Skye’s Kinloch Lodge, cementing its status as one of the island’s best loved hotels. The couple’s daughter Isabella Macdonald and her husband Tom Eveling took over the reins five years ago, and recently spent £750k on a refurbishment that’s sure to secure the Macdonald family legacy for at least a few more generations.

The couple, whose co-director in the business is head chef Marcello Tully, moved back from London a decade ago, taking over the running of the place in 2008. Isabella grew up on the island, whereas Tom left behind his native London, and he couldn’t have picked more of a contrasting part of the UK to decamp to. Together they have brought to Kinloch Lodge cutting edge design concepts that are also sympathetic to its location in one of the most remote and picturesque parts of the country.

The whitewashed hotel is set in its own grounds in immensely beautiful countryside, and the interior changes are just as stunning. It closed on the 7th January this year and the work took two months to complete. The renovation has included the refurbishment of the three ground-floor drawing rooms, 13 new bathrooms in the 13 existing rooms, plus the addition of six new suites.

Heading up the design was Catherine Wilson of Revamp Transition, although Isabella also inputted greatly. One of the chief considerations for the designer was its surroundings, as Isabella explains, “I had a very clear vision of what I wanted – a country house hotel on Skye. I didn’t want to go down the boutique hotel route. So the brief to Catherine was a lot more diverse than I first thought it would be, and I wanted an interior that made guests feel relaxed without being stuffy or too formal.”

“As well as being a business, this is also our home, and the design comprises lots of personal touches, like Macdonald family photos and memorabilia in the drawing rooms. We’ve also created six new individually-designed bedrooms, four of which have seating areas, with the other two larger rooms having a separate sitting room area. The 13 remaining original rooms meanwhile have been fitted  with beautiful new bathrooms, including underfloor heating and power showers, and they’ve all been finished to the same exacting standards as the rest of the place.”

The interior is absolutely beautiful, and the three drawing rooms on the ground floor now all have log fires, and one of the rooms also has a Talisker bar area, where guests can congregate and have a drink before moving through to the other rooms which are used for dining. The bar has a Talisker branded mirror hanging on the back wall, framed by a very elegant oak bar surround, bookended by two glass cabinets displaying Talisker bottles and samples. The walls of the dining rooms have been painted in antique green, and are lined with period portraits, with the surroundings reflected in the earthy other colours that have been used throughout.

Four of the new bedrooms were created by converting Isabella’s former home, an old extension to the hotel, while her parents former accommodation now houses the other two rooms. They’ve all also been individually designed in a variety of colours that aim to reflect the landscape of Skye, with vivid red tartan upholstery and carpets paired with hessian-coloured walls. The walls have also been decorated with interesting prints of the island, and most of the new rooms hold books from the Macdonald family library, as well as views across sea-Loch Na Dal towards Kinloch Hill.

Jeff Taylor, Director, Select Contract Furniture, who provided much of the furniture said, “The furnishings specified were of the highest calibre and the aesthetics created are quite stunning. It was our pleasure to have worked alongside such charming owners and of course we wish them every success following this quite considerable investment.”

I should also mention the superking-size beds in the new suites that really are as big in real life as they are in the pictures.

As well as accommodation, food also forms an integral part of what the Macdonalds are cultivating at the Kinloch Lodge. Said Isabella, “My mum’s written 18 cookery books, so naturally we wanted to capitalise on my parents’ legacy and maintain the hotel’s reputation for great food.” As a result they also invested in expanding the size of the kitchen and putting in new equipment. An interesting new addition in fact, is the chef’s table, as she goes on to explain. “In light of our customers becoming increasingly more interested in how the food is prepared, the chef’s table can now be observed from a special little room that allows guests a view of the chef’s table, which forms part of our newly upgraded kitchen. This also included the installation of a biomass boiler so that we are no longer reliant on fossil fuels.” She continues “Head chef Marcello Tully’s amazing work meant that our restaurant was awarded a Michelin star three years ago and he continues to inspire and create.”

So how has the refurbishment been received by the hotel’s regular guests? Says Isabella, “A lot of our custom comes from repeat business and the enthusiasm for what we’ve done has been fantastic. We’ve been aware since taking over five years ago that we can always do better and that the business can’t stand still.” Given her family’s long association with the hotel, this was a labour of love for Isabella and Tom, and it’s fair to say that this is apparent in a design that’s the epitome of ‘lovingly created’.

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