There has never been a better time than now for finding interiors inspiration. Along with traditional magazines in print and online, we have Pinterest, Instagram, Houzz, podcasts and an abundance of TV home makeover shows. However, there is nothing like seeing fabulous room sets “in the flesh”, which is why there is a growing trend for touring the UK’s most stylish hotels to gather ideas that we can use in our own homes.
Many of the go-to places, including those designed by Kit Kemp and those in the Soho House chain, are in London and the Home Counties, but Yorkshire can give them a run for their money. Among the best dressed in our region is the five star Manor House Lindley in Huddersfield, which was recently crowned National Hotel Wedding Venue of the Year at The Wedding Industry Awards 2022.
Bought in 2016 by Sara Presley, it was a derelict Georgian mansion and former children’s home that had captured her heart while she was out running in Lindley village. “I thought it was such a beautiful building but also sad because it was in such a state so I contacted the council to see if it was available to buy, not for one minute thinking it would be.”
It was and she bought it with a plan to renovate it and turn it into a boutique hotel. Having no experience as a hotelier proved to be a bonus as it allowed her to approach the project from a completely fresh perspective.
“I design sofas so I was completely new to hospitality when I took this on but I did a lot of research and I had lots of ideas on how I wanted the interiors to look and function. I travel a lot for work and had some amazing and not so amazing experiences so I know what you need in a place to make it work from a guest perspective,” says Sara, who has spent a total of £5.5m on the property’s transformation into an 11-bedroom hotel with a restaurant, clock tower bar, wedding venue and event space.
It now attracts both locals and guests from all over the country and beyond thanks to its stunning good looks.
The Grade II listed Georgian property began life as a home for Huddersfield mill owner and philanthropist James Nield Sykes. In 1902, Mr Sykes commissioned the architect Edgar Wood to design an 83ft tall clock tower to make sure his workers arrived at the mill on time. The Art Nouveau structure is one of Huddersfield’s most impressive architectural gems and boasts an octagonal copper roof with sculptures around the tower depicting “time and the eternal virtues of truth, love, purity and justice”.
Gargoyles at each of the four corners of the eaves are what the architect referred to as “the beasts falling from the towers of time and represent lazy, vicious, cunning and greedy dogs”. The property later became the council owned Fieldhead children’s home before slipping into disrepair and being damaged by fire, after which it was left to slowly decay.
Bringing the property back to life was a gargantuan task that took three years and included reparation to the historic fabric while sensitively repurposing the internal space for its new use. It now boasts the Clock Tower Bar with opulent Art Nouveau style decor and The Kitchen, for casual dining, which has stained glass windows and gorgeous floral installations.
The Lantern Room is an enclosed reception room and glamorous place to dine with floral ceiling, statement chandelier and parquet flooring. The Coach House, a favourite place for weddings, features distressed Chinoiserie wall panels drawn and hand-painted by Diane Hill, who added a textured finish inspired by aged plaster. Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga and Kate Hudson have also commissioned her work.
Another standout feature in The Coach House is also a work of art. The huge faux floral installation climbing up one wall is by Fiona Pickles and it is much admired and much photographed making it a regular on Instagram.
Upstairs, the bedrooms are all different, apart from the luxury mattresses from renowned Yorkshire manufacturer Harrison Spinks, and all feature statement wallpaper from the likes of House of Hackney, Sanderson and Morris & Co. The honeymoon suite also has a coveted Rothschild and Bickers pendant light.
When it came to interior design, Sara knew what she wanted and says: “ I worked with other people on the interiors but I had a strong vision of how I wanted the space to work and look and that included lots of different textures and influences. I love antiques so I like buying from antique markets and auction houses and my taste is quite eclectic but that works in a place like this and helps it stand out.”
The stylish interiors are integral to the success of the business and they are regularly tweaked and updated.
“I think if you go somewhere regularly you get bored of seeing the same thing so we try to make changes. Fiona Pickles has just updated the floral installation with some flowers in different colours so it looks fresh,” says Sara, who still designs sofas but who also has an office in The Manor House so she can work from there and be present.
However, the day-to-day running of The Manor House is left to the professionals, which is another top tip. “I’ve got a great team of experts running the hotel and I let them get on with the job. They are brilliant,” says Sara, who is originally from Bath and settled in Huddersfield after marrying a Northerner.
“I think the town is underrated and hopefully The Manor House is helping change perceptions. People who come here from outside are always surprised by the architecture and the lovely countryside.”