The car park is to the rear of the property in one of those secluded and private areas that happen in cities. In a quadrilateral made by four roads is an almost secret space approached through an access road. With solid electronic doors leading to a contemporary landscaped garden the mews area parking is secure. Hotel is not what Guido and Irene van den Elshout call their suites, regarding them instead as a bed and breakfast establishment. Certainly the front door is grand domestic and next to their own front door, located in a terrace of similarly large town houses in a quiet suburb near the centre of the city. But if a B&B (or chamber d’hôte when in France) then this is a B&B extraordinaire, and their smiling inference that it is based on their own travels in Britain staying at B&B’s does not parallel my own experience of these establishments. Indeed it is considerably grander in its interior design than many large hotels and stands comparison with them favourably.

Each suite takes a complete floor of the building, each with a living area, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. The house was originally built as part of a terrace in 1890, and the van den Elshout’s bought it on the death of the previous owner, whose family had lived there since it was built. A condition of purchase was that the building was sensitively modernised, keeping as many of the original features as possible. As they owned the building next door and live there this is an on-going project. Their own ground floor dining room and kitchen are being turned into a private dining facility catering for up to two dozen guests, enabling the garden area to be used for wedding receptions in conjunction with the ground floor of both buildings. The gardens of both properties have been made over as one to present a contemporary take on a 19th Century formal garden.

There is no register to sign, just a lectern with a visitors book inside the front door. Ushered in to a living room where a friendly fire burns, tea is served as the few formalities are completed. First impression is that the lounge continues the echoes of the nineteenth century to be seen in the formality of the garden layout. Lighting is kept low (candlelight is often used) and subdued allowing the firelight to impact whilst the reflections off polished woodwork, glass and shining brassware enhance the initial feelings of comfort and luxury created by what is a visual feast. No ‘less is more’ here, but the complex layering of visual, aural and physical sensations building the overwhelming impression of richness and tactile complexity.

Rich warm colours, use of pattern, flowers, the open fire, the 'family' portraits (that aren't), the grandfather clock ticking (and it chimes too),and candle light all provide a sensory feast around warmth and comfort. Here you are welcomed, invited to relax and have a glass of Bols,wine or a cup of tea. Just what a guest needs after a hard day...rollover to see the garden

Original plaster work restored. Rollover to see how the tea service has been chosen to complement the marble table top - typical of the attention ot detail throughout

The fire burns in an original fireplace, and each suite has its own fireplace. When the wind blows off the North Sea this part of Holland can be quite bleak so an effective heating system is needed. Unable to add a standard central heating system because the radiators would have looked out of character, the heating system has been laid into the walls. To overcome the expansion and cracking the heat would cause in a plasterboard wall, the finish is a clay based finish material that moves and allows the wall to breath. It has the added benefit that when knocked the wall colour is in the actual surface rather than on it. Deep rich colours are used, with the plastered ceilings being given their own separate colour treatment, allowing the mouldings to stand out by their subtle colour difference as well as their 3d nature.

The staircase is a mixture of faux imagery, complex shadows from the lanterns lighting the way and the restored original handrail. On each landing is the small sink that would have been used by the maids to provide and remove water from the rooms in the nineteenth century. Amongst other nineteenth century techniques are the use of wood graining in the decorating, a technique that was still taught in UK colleges in the 1980’s and which can produce magical effects when used properly as it is here.

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