What if you took the glossy pages of a massively influential lifestyle magazine and brought them to life in a contemporary hotel? Sounds like a plan ..
That is exactly the innovative formula that Country Living Magazine, with their huge readership, has followed. They have brought the dream to life, a soft-furnishings and Dulux paint-chart reality in Harrogate: achieving a sophisticated aesthetic of rural escapism.
This rambling Grade 2 listed Edwardian mansion was perfectly positioned, just a short walk from the Turkish Baths and the Montpelier Quarter of over fifty independent stores: an ideal candidate for a sophisticated country makeover, creating a quiet rural oasis in an urban milieu.
Harrogate with its numerous festivals – Children, Comedy, Crime Writing, Gilbert and Sullivan, International Youth and Literature – is suitably cultured, highly tempting for Country Living aficionados. And Harrogate’s got Betty’s Tea Rooms too, where the waiting staff dress as if Lloyd George were still Prime Minister.
Harrogate softens the hard edges of contemporary urban life with Gardeners-World-immaculate formal gardens, plus a Titchmarch of hanging baskets. This is a town that has always liked to bring the countryside into the town. So, it was the ideal location for the second Country Living Hotel. The first The Country Living Hotel Landsdown Grove reposes in another spa town, Bath.
The mantra, “An escape from everyday life” acts as a title for a peaceful English landscape scene that is the back-drop to reception’s two desks. At each desk, comfy armchairs send a message that St George looks nostalgically back to a time when life was less rushed when people had more time for each other. It’s a haven for perfectionists who prefer their furniture crafted with dovetails precise to 1 / 16 of an imperial inch rather than flat-packed metric.
But before you go thinking that it might be all a little too gingham tablecloth and roses-round-the-front-door twee – take a look at some of the edgy design. Country Living chic moves seamlessly through time. In the Swaledale Restaurant, the light fittings are an avant-garde fusing of skeletal bronze gas-lamps. Also, in the vast spaces of the Palladian-pillared Swaledale Restaurant a central banquette, as space-breaker, succeeds against the odds. Bold landscapes, on big canvasses, with thick vibrant lashings of oils are appropriately more Lucian-Freud-modern than Constable-Hay-Wain-pastoral pretty.
Country Living’s logo is a duck and duck prints adorn cushions on the bed and, in superior rooms, the sofas too. Every room looks as if it’s been curated for a magazine shoot: artfully distressed solid furniture, fluffy duvets, a colour burst of pink orchid, black retro phone, teaspoons in place for afternoon tea and, decadently, a miniature box of Country Living chocolates.
At first glance bathrooms seem retro monochrome – don’t worry there are separate spacious rainfall showers and luscious deep baths – but in fact designer, Oliver Redfern uses some whizzy left-field thinking with the geometric tiles to create a highly effective finish.
Currently – and appropriately – toiletries are Harrogate’s H2K, though as you soak in the bath you can imagine the Country Living fragrance that is said to be on its way. As a base, there will probably be some English Country Garden classics such as lavender. On-trend, it will be sexually ambiguous. Contemporary Country Living couples challenge gender assumptions: he’ll make the damson jam, she’ll cajole the rhubarb. And there will be a heady oriental note reflecting Country Living couples’ adventurous penchant for scouring far-flung bazaars and souks for funky textiles and zingy spices.
There’s a return to a bygone time with a morning-sun -it Drawing Room, plenty of sofa-furnished lounges and a good old-fashioned leather-bound-volumes library. Conveniently the Dog and Duck Bar is just a few paces away.
Talking of duck, there’s a pressed duck starter about in the Swaledale Restaurant. It’s a menu of local, seasonal classics that matches the Country Living ethos. Although Whitby crab, Yorkshire asparagus, Dales bred lamb and North Coast salmon are hardly going to rack-up the food miles, there’s an adventurous twist to the bonbon of lamb, the charred watermelon with the crab, the pear and ginger chutney accompanying that pressed duck.
The concept of dreamy magazine-life becomes luxurious reality at the St George hotel. Inspiring décor and classy dining for foodies renews the rural idyll for the guests. How long before other lifestyle brands, perhaps a Vogue hotel, follow Country Living’s example?
Tell Me More About Country Living St. George Hotel, Harrogate
Country Living St. George Hotel, Harrogate 1, Ripon Road, Harrogate HG1 2SY.
T: 01423 561431
Superior room rates begin at £159 including breakfast.
Learn more about Harrogate’s attractions here at Visit Harrogate