Pamela Goodman explores the design DNA of The Pig Hotels after the addition of a new Devon outpost.
Last summer, The Pig at Combe opened its doors, the fifth of its kind in this small, innovative, enormously popular collection of hotels. Set in a deep, picture-perfect Devon valley with unblemished views of English countryside, this hotel has raised the bar (again) in achieving that combination of location, history, design, great food and good value. Here, co-owner Robin Hutson discusses the creation of the quirky, fun and inspirational interiors.
Q: How would you describe the 'look' that you and your wife Judy achieve at The Pigs?
A: We avoid over-contrived design and try to create the feeling of a house in which items have been added over the years. The strength is in the mistakes and idiosyncrasies - just like anyone's home.
Q: Are there elements of design you purposely avoid?
A: We don't like pelmets or fitted carpets, or anything over polished. We find wood or stone floors work best, and we like a sense of haphazard informality, hence the mismatching crockery, cutlery and glassware in the restaurants.
Q: Did The Pig at Combe present any different challenges from the previous hotels?
A: Combe is a Grade I-listed, Elizabethan house - a first for us. Even though it was a hotel before, Historic England and the local planners were very strict about what could and couldn't be changed.
Q: Is there one aspect of design you oversee and another that falls under Judy's remit?
A: Judy tends to look after the soft furnishings, lighting, fabrics and colours, whereas I tend to focus on hard surfaces such as the bathrooms. We come together on choosing furniture.
Q: Do you feel as though you have been more adventurous in the design of Combe?
A: Combe offered us the right canvas for new ideas, particularly in the conversion of the stable yard. Tricky spaces like The Hayloft and The Horsebox presented a fun challenge, but these have become two of our signature suites. And it was a dramatic move to change the use of the grand old entrance hall; now you walk through the front door and straight into a huge bar, with big comfy sofas and a roaring log fire.
Q: Do you have a regular team of craftspeople that you rely on?
A: We love working with individual artisans. Some of our relationships, including those with decorative artist Gary Myatt and Downers, which makes our curtains and blinds, go back 20 years from our early days at Hotel du Vin.
Q: Are there any interior design staples that you always fall back on?
A: While a lot of our furniture and furnishings are sourced from antique shops and markets, we do have our favourite suppliers. Judy particularly loves the colour range from Paint & Paper Library and we tend to use Aston Matthews for bath-rooms. George Smith is a fail-safe for sofas, while all the beds come from Vispring. Richard Taylor's 'Oak Branch' chandeliers and wall lights are regular features, too.
Q: What elements of design at Combe are you most proud of?
A: On a small scale, Judy's use of old silk saris for lampshades; on a bigger scale, the folly in the garden, where we've made a virtue of its semi-derelict state to create an atmospheric indoor/outdoor bar and dining area. Guests seem to love having drinks or a wood-fired pizza here and, if they've got children in tow, the giant swing seats under the nearby cedar trees come into their own.
Double rooms start at £145 a night midweek