British hotel chain Birch has opened an outpost in south London, with grounds rewilded by designer Sebastian Cox and interiors conceived by local studios A-nrd and Sella Concept.
Birch Selsdon is housed in a 19th-century mansion in the borough of Croydon and accommodates 181 rooms alongside a wellness space and lido, co-working facilities and a medley of restaurants and bars.
The building was first turned into a hotel in the 1920s, with slapdash extensions and modifications added over the following century.
Local studios A-nrd and Sella Concept took a “restorative approach” to the interior works, stripping back much of the existing fit-out to allow the building’s original architecture to come to the fore.
Restoration was also the focus for Sebastian Cox, who developed a woodland management plan for the hotel’s grounds as well as a rewilding strategy for its 18-hole golf course.
This will involve introducing grazing pigs and ponies, which can naturally distribute seeds and shape growing vegetation. The former fairways of the golf course will become wetlands, while the sandy bunkers will eventually attract small reptiles and other animals.
Cox has also turned trees harvested from the grounds into a series of furnishings for the hotel, creating affordable, locally produced products while providing ecosystem benefits for the woodland.
“Managed woodlands have higher biodiversity because when you harvest the trees, light gets onto the woodland floor and other vegetation can grow,” Cox explained during a recent episode of Dezeen’s Climate Salon podcast.
“So we can categorically say that our furniture actually makes a net contribution. It doesn’t just harvest materials, it actually contributes to the spaces that the materials come from.”
Among Cox’s furniture contributions is a pair of shingled timber reception desks in the entrance lobby, backed by an ombre curtain that mirrors the shifting seasonal hues of the landscape around Birch Selsdon.
The lobby’s floral bas-relief ceiling was preserved alongside the original masonry walls, which peek out from behind the curtain.
Dotted throughout the space are moss-green velvet sofas as well as wicker armchairs, potted plants and vintage petal-shaped pendant lamps made from Murano glass.
When guests are hungry, they can head to the hotel’s all-day restaurant Vervain, which serves a farm-to-table menu.
The space is anchored by two huge, arched banquettes featuring seat cushions upholstered in an abstract camouflage print and sawn-timber backrests, which were also sourced from the hotel’s woodland.
Oversized rice paper lanterns hang from the ceiling overhead, which is painted a rich apricot shade to highlight the existing ornate bas-relief.
For drinks, guests can head to the hotel’s peachy-hued Meadow Bar or to the Snug, which has a slightly more grown-up aesthetic thanks to the dark, wood-panelled walls that are original to the building.
The space is dressed with vintage travertine coffee tables and an array of lounge chairs in sumptuous colours like ochre, olive green and damson purple.
To one side of the room lies a curved seating nook that was uncovered during the renovation works. Its interior was rendered in blush pink to foster a warm, intimate dining ambience.
There’s also the option to relax in The Orangery, a light-filled space centred by a wiggly cobalt-blue sofa. Terracotta tiles are arranged in a traditional checkerboard pattern across the floor in a nod to the building’s Victorian past.
The aesthetic of the hotel’s communal spaces is maintained in the guest bedrooms, which are finished with textural decorative elements like linen curtains and hand-blown glass lamps that cast dappled light across the limewashed walls.
Larger suites come complete with lounge areas, dressed with plump armchairs and sisal rugs.
Timber from the hotel’s woods was also used to produce 352 bedside tables for the rooms, all crafted in Cox’s Kent workshop.
The launch of Birch Selsdon comes just three years after the opening of the inaugural Birch branch near Hertfordshire.
It was designed by architecture studio Red Deer to challenge the notion of a luxury hotel and features a series of pared-back rooms with quirky, unfinished details.
The photography is by Adam Lynk.
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