Inside Martin Brudnizki's latest project
The interior design du jour's latest project has a quintessentially English feel, and a strong nod to Cambridge's rich history.
Uber-designer Martin Brudnizki (the man behind Scott’s, The Ivy, the Beekman in New York and the recently revamped Annabel’s) has given the historic University Arms hotel in Cambridge a brand new look.
The University Arms has long been a leader in design, being the city’s first hotel (doors opened in 1834) and the first in the city to have electricity and toilets on each floor. It has just reopened following a two-year £80m transformation.
Originally built as a 15-bedroom coaching inn, the University Arms has been restored to its former prime by interior designer Martin Brudnizki and classical architect John Simpson, relaunching with an additional 73 bedrooms.
The hotel’s new interiors have been thoughtfully handled by Brudnizki, one of Europe’s leading interior designers, while Simpson, who has worked on Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Eton College, the Royal College of Music and the University of Notre Dame, was commissioned to create a new classical frontage and a sensitive extension that honours the architectural traditions of the city.
When it came to the decor, Brudnizki’s aim was to create an environment reminiscent of hazy school days, lazy afternoons spent on the banks of the River Cam and the raucous revelry of students.
The entrance lobby boasts a grand, high ceiling, Cambridge Blue timber panelling and a grey and green patterned marble floor. Natural light pours in through the huge glass windows, while statement lighting including three huge, bespoke pendant lights fills the space with a warm glow, adding a contemporary edge in contrast to the classical architrave and urns.
Guest rooms incorporate Cambridge blue, yellow and red colour palette, plus plenty of Penguin clothbound editions of classic novels displayed on gorgeous bookcases – referencing Cambridge’s academic heritage.
The 12 suites (named after famous university alumni such as Alfred Tennyson, AA Milne and Rosalind Franklin) each have their own private libraries and feature portraits of their namesake.
Several suites on the top floor also have access to private balconies overlooking Parker’s Piece, and bathrooms inside the original domed turrets with freestanding, claw-footed baths overlooking the green.
Great care has been taken to preserve and present the original features of the hotel, including a magnificent marble fireplace in the library that will be lit for the first time in more than a century.
In the library, bookshelf walls, traditional timber panelling and the original, wood-burning fireplace all help to tie in with Cambridge’s history.
The library flows through to the bar, which features bold marble patterned wallpaper that’s reminiscent of antique book covers.
A final nod to the iconic university can be spotted above the bar with the inclusion of a traditional crest, contrasting against the glamour of the brass bar detailing.
The hotel’s restaurant, Parker’s Tavern, is filled with canteen-style seating and a mixture of free-standing chairs and benches, inspired by the communal dining halls synonymous with the Cambridge colleges to give diners a sort of ‘university dining’ experience.
High ceilings, the Cambridge blue wall panelling, solid wood parquet flooring, paintings, sketches, posters and original stained-glass windows finish the university dining hall feel.
The new University Arms has clearly been redesigned with the literary and academic spirit of the city in mind.