Design Focus: The Radstone (Formerly Shawlands Park Hotel)

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Robert Kyle, who co-owns the RAD Hotel group with his wife Vivien, bought the Shawlands Park Hotel out of administration at the end of 2011, and along with recent major refurbishments there is also a new name, The Radstone. Robert told me, “We found that people were confusing the hotel with the Shawlands area of Glasgow, so we decided to re-name it when we were refurbishing. We’re in the heart of the Clyde Valley, and Vivien and myself wanted to highlight our amazing location.”
A short drive away from Larkhall and surrounded by the Lanarkshire countryside, The Radstone couldn’t be more removed from Shawlands. As you sit in the bar or restaurant area and look out through the full length windows onto the countryside, you are struck by the serenity of the surroundings. The hotel is a popular wedding venue, and it’s easy to see why.
The Kyle’s took over the hotel in 2011 after it had been in administration for eighteen months. The hotel had been the subject of a major refurbishment by the previous owners, but this aside Robert and Vivien were naturally keen to put their own imprint on the front of the building. With funding secured, one of the first things the Kyle’s did was to change the frontage of the building to a timber cladding exterior. Each of their other hotels has this same design, and Robert told me that they were keen to continue the exterior uniformity of the group. Robert and Viven have also invested in landscaping and gardening, which they told me had been rather plain beforehand. It makes for an attractive, striking sight as you drive up alongside The Radstone.
The architectural work was undertaken by Elevation Architects, whom Robert was quick to praise. I spoke to Chris Benn, a Director of the company, who told me, “The Kyle’s like to have consistency within their hotels, and they also put special emphasis on the sociability of the environment, so for us it was all about creating an open-space feel and a natural flow to the building. It was an extremely challenging job; before Robert and Vivien came in the hotel seemed to have been put together ad-hoc, and we had to work around that.”. Working along with interior designers 10 Design the whole concept of the project has achieved its goal with consistency and flow throughout.
It’s not just the hotel that has been renamed; the bar and restaurant, formerly known as The Ash Grill, now goes by the name The Opal. The room forms an L-shape, taking you from the lounge, through to the bar and then the adjacent restaurant. As you enter from the foyer there is a casual lounge area, comprised of a number of couches and two television screens showing rolling news. It’s a great spot for informal meetings or a quiet coffee. The stairs down to the bar area have been moved from the side to the centre of the room and look straight down onto the island bar, creating a sense of symmetry and flow previously lacking in the room. There are semi-circle high table booths (more on these later) with bar stool seating either side of the bar, and at the far side some stand-alone benching with patterns of mustard and orange flames. Bar stools sit at the black, marble bar top, and rustic, wooden tables line the perimeter of the room. The colour scheme is fiery, matched by the natural stone-clad fire wall at the back of the room. Mirrors abound, which prevent the bar from dominating the space by reflecting the vibrancy of the interior. The floor to ceiling windows look down over the Lanarkshire countryside, again adding to the openness of the space.
A small, al fresco seating area is accessible from the side of the bar area. Where in the past there had simply been a couple of wooden benches, there is now a cosy, semi-enclosed seating area, with black and white patterned marble-effect tables with dark wicker seats. The area is enclosed by a white stone L-shaped wall, with small hedging running across the top that blends in with the newly landscaped gardens.
The restaurant area is immediately adjacent to the bar and features a row of six, leather clad, back-to-back semi-circle booths in the middle of the room. They add symmetry to the space and look fantastic, but Robert told me that they caused no end of headaches. He said, “When the half circle booths arrived we had to send them back because they faced towards the kitchen, not the view. It was a huge decision and held us back by two to three weeks, but it was totally worth it. Harvey McLean, our main contractor for our custom joinery, went with us on this, and they dealt with the problem fantastically.” All flooring was undertaken by Carpetronic of Glasgow and the loose furniture was by Satelliet Browns, also of Glasgow.
On the window side of the restaurant the wall has been extended further out towards the road with full length windows installed, an extensive architectural and structural undertaking. The move has added an extra 30 covers to the restaurant’s seating count, and at the risk of sounding repetitive, has greatly added to the spaciousness of the room. On the opposite side of the room is the open-plan kitchen, partly obscured by a wooden block dividing structure that offers glimpses onto the food preparation without the kitchen becoming a large feature of the room itself.
The audio in the bar and restaurant has been designed so that different music can be played in various areas around the room to create personalised experiences for the guest. The sound, lighting and audiovisual was all installed by SSUK, who have had a working relationship with the Kyle’s for 15 years. Director Scott Maitland said, “We have 16 different zones spread across the hotel, it’s an integrated system designed to maximise the guests experience from the front door to the bedroom and everything in between. It was a huge job to orchestrate, and when Robert next expands the hotel we’ll be right there beside him.”
When I visited the hotel work was still ongoing on a new private function area to the rear of the restaurant. Although it was very much still a working site, it was clear that Robert has big ambitions for the space. The room will cater for up to 60 people, and is being built with birthdays and other special occasions in mind. Robert is also planning to host cocktail masterclasses for large groups, with a pull-out cocktail bar and large screen being installed.
From the restaurant we took a short walk through the foyer to the newly-installed corporate function rooms. Three bedrooms were removed to make space for these rooms, but naturally the function suites increase the hotel’s versatility. The corporate rooms are smart, modern and minimalist, featuring dark, wenge-effect tables, beige cushioned seats, beige curtains from the floor to ceiling, windows and a large flat screen television attached to the wall. The rooms make for a perfect environment for business meetings.
Each of the hotel’s bedrooms have also been refurbished. Liz McNeill, from interior designers 10 Design, told me that the colour scheme for the rooms was chosen to keep them as fresh and light as possible, with alternating primary colours of orange or purple blending with the dark wood effect furniture. Some quirky tartan cushions and blankets add a hint of Scottish character to the surroundings.
The honeymoon suite features a low-lying, chandelier style light fitting, two twin sofas with dark ruby cushions and floral patterned seats at the room’s two dressing tables. The mix of cream and rich chocolate brown décor and the soft furnishing create a warm environment. Robert told me that they had invested so much in the gardening and landscaping partly to ensure that the honeymoon suite had the best possible view. The window looks out over a serene water feature and fountain with a walking path over the top, and of course the Lanarkshire countryside in the background.
In spite of the large-scale refurbishment already undertaken, Robert is confident that this is just the beginning, with work on the foyer, car park and reception set to begin in the next twelve months. The expansion isn’t restricted to The Radstone Hotel however, with the RAD group also investing behind the scenes in personnel. Robert said, “Moving forward, the old upstairs conference rooms are being converted into a sales and marketing suite and a central reservations desk for the whole company. We’ve brought in a whole new Sales and Marketing department, as well as a Financial Director which is a step forward for us. We’ve also introduced a Training, Procedure and Compliance Officer to our HR department. It’s amazing the relief that this brings, as we can delegate more instead of trying to do it all ourselves .”
Having invested heavily in The Radstone, the Kyle’s are starting to see the fruits of their labour. Says Robert, “The hotel has doubled its turnover since we came in, and we hope to exceed £2.5m for 2014/15. We’ve gone from hosting 20 weddings a year to 90 this year. Everything about this place has done well in the last twelve months.” Yet he’s reluctant to claim all of the credit. He continued, “We need to thank all our staff for their hard work and dedication. Old and new, the respect we get from them continues to amaze me. Honestly, they’re great, and I’m very close to a lot of them. We couldn’t have done it without them standing by our side.”