I recently visited Hermitage Road in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Wow. I was not expecting what I saw! As a newbie to this area I was excited to visit somewhere that was also relatively new and as we walked through the entrance I was stopped in my tracks by the staircase. The original distressed stairs were there for all to see and the tiled flooring worked with it so perfectly. Definitely my kind of look.
As we walked through the doors into the main restaurant and bar area I was completely blown away by the stunning windows and cool industrial style furnishings. We sat near the open plan kitchen which was bustling away and were served a wonderful selection of freshly prepared seafood and meats from the grill, everything was cooked to perfection, absolutely delicious and the service was fantastic. We had such a fun evening and loved the open kitchen aspect of the dining room; the whole place had such a great ambience about it.
As we left I noticed an info board on the landing that said it was originally built in the 1930s and was known as the Hermitage Ballroom. The building had a somewhat varied music history and eventually closed down in 2010 after being run as a nightclub for many years.
I was lucky enough to visit again on Sunday afternoon and meet with Ellene Immelman who led the interior design of this £600,000 project. When Ellene saw the photographs of the gutted building, she instantly had a vision of how the restaurant and bar could look and knew that the building's natural light and charm would be the key to successfully designing and finishing the space.
Opting to keep as many original features as possible, most of the walls have been stripped back to their natural brick state with paintwork left in places. Carefully selecting low-key mood lighting to allow the natural light to literally pour into the building. it provides enough uplift in the darker corners.
All the furnishings in the restaurant and bar were sourced by Ellene who visited salvage fairs and scoured the internet, markets and antiques and vintage shops for interesting and quirky accessories to fill the space. The sliding ladder and sky-high wine racks behind the bar area were inspired by something similar she had seen in her native South Africa.
Talking to Ellene, what I loved most was her attention to detail, her care and precision in restoring and unveiling those original details in the building. When they realised they needed to remove the middle section of the giant folding doors, rather than discard them, she instructed the builders to re-use the doors as the framework for the bar. It works wonderfully. The flooring in the restaurant area is the original parquet flooring, carefully restored and even retaining its spring!
There was so much to talk about in terms of the design process and the sourcing of particular pieces that I think I'll write a second post including some of the before photographs that Ellene has kindly shared with me as well as further details. Sound okay?
If you're in the Hertforshire or Bedfordshire area, you simply have to visit Hermitage Road.
Laid-back luxe is a difficult ambience to create but Ellene, Howard and the rest of the team at Hermitage Road have nailed it. Go! Visit! And do it soon! But make sure you book a table because they get fully booked :)
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