Harrison Restores Hort’s Townhouse to Former Glory with Revolutionary Refurbishment

by Francesca

Full service 360 brand design agency, Harrison, has completed a full refurbishment for Young’s & Co.’s latest project Hort’s Townhouse, located in the city centre of Bristol. Completed in Spring 2023, the transformation turned an outdated sports bar into a premium 1920’s cocktail bar and hotel, bringing the space back to its former glory.

Hospitality group Young’s & Co. challenged the team at Harrison with transitioning what was previously called ‘Hort’s’ into a premium cocktail bar and hotel, celebrating the building’s original art deco heritage and the city of Bristol. Located on Broad Street in the city centre, the building is Grade II listed dating back to the 18th century with a long and varied history having, at one time, been used for everything from a hospitality venue, a sales office, a warehouse, and most recently, a pub and cinema.

The brief from Young’s & Co was not without its challenges; the Harrison team were faced with a long and thin ground floor layout, where a previously tired pub in the front flowed toward the dining area in the back. Adjacent was a cinema as part of the pub’s offering which, while used, was bringing no additional income as tickets were free to patrons. The fabric, colours, and general feel were unwelcoming and lacked character. What’s more, the building was ‘landlocked’ by surrounding buildings, meaning there was no room to expand outside of the existing boundaries. Other obstacles included:

  • Logistical problems on the upper two floors as a result of a previous fire which required the existing rafters to be doubled up.
  • A challenge to attempt to get services through the building, also due to the fire, meaning routes had to be changed constantly throughout the process.
  • The existing floor levels were chaotic, causing many issues when managing the floor levels and head heights.

However, the team at Harrison recognised the fantastic potential in the building to maximise the space available and bring back to life the original features that make it unique, emphasised and underpinned by the additional design touches created by the Harrison team. To do this, they made some vast changes to how the space is utilised:

  • Acoustic flooring and doors were put in place to reduce the transfer of noise between the pub and hotel bedrooms.
  • The raised level flooring was taken out to make the area flow better.
  • The cinema was removed to create more room for the bar and restaurant.
  • The kitchen was expanded to increase capacity and fully re-fitted with state-of-the-art equipment.
  • Modern toilets were installed where part of the cinema used to be.
  • To separate the pub off from hotel guests at night, screen details were put in place, which are both functional and beautiful.
  • A lift was added to increase accessibility for the hotel and ensure it had a fully accessible bedroom.

Jackie Mingo, Associate Design Director at Harrison, comments: “Despite having worked with Young’s & Co for 20 plus years, this was by far one of the biggest projects we have worked together on. A complete transformation. We wanted to get this right – honouring the rich history the building has seen over its years standing, which is why we embarked on such an in-depth research project. It laid the foundations of everything from the look and feel, to the space’s identity, to the re-designed customer journey, and finally the little extra touches which continue to tell the story at every twist and turn.

“We are immensely proud of what we have achieved. We feel we have showcased the rich history of the building itself and brought it back to its full potential. Each piece of furniture, design, and little details are selected to add to the character of the building and bring out the art deco feel it once captured so well.”

Creating A New Era of the Roaring ‘20s

Delving into the history of the building, the team at Harrison conducted thorough research on the building’s illustrious past, uncovering that in the 1920’s it had indeed been a cocktail bar before. This sparked the inspiration to bring back the art deco and roaring ‘20s feel. This became the cornerstone of the identity of Hort’s Townhouse and central to the transformation of the ground floor.

The dining area has been re-vamped to include quintessential art deco features and stylisations, capturing the opulence and ambitious optimism of ‘20s design. Blue-paneling and deco-inspired artwork adorn the walls while vintage lamps provide soft lighting in the feature rooms with a hero chandelier hanging from the centre of the room.

Leather chairs and booths create intimate dining spaces with eclectic décor hanging from the walls. Art deco-inspired mirrors bring rectilinear geometry to the space, lining the walls and making the room look and feel bigger. The layout includes separate spaces with a mix of sofas and tables and larger seating sections at the back.

The bar features a long, expansive wood counter and arched mirrors bring motion to reflect aerodynamic curves, as well as reflecting the back bar to create the feeling of grandeur and excess. Vintage tile flooring and textured terracotta ceilings are enhanced by wall lights and pendants, as well as floor and table lamps.

Art Deco Meets Creature Comforts

The first and second floors were previously used as office space but were made redundant after a fire broke out in the late 20th century. Since the pandemic, Bristol welcomed 52% of all staying domestic trips to the region and 57% of all international staying trips.[1], meaning Bristol is calling out for more hotels and accommodation. In line with this, Harrison was tasked with building and designing 19 boutique hotel bedrooms on the first and second floors.

From an architectural perspective, the team at Harrison was challenged with tight spaces which needed to be carefully designed in order to create bedrooms that would not only be usable, but ‘luxurious’ too, enhancing the experience and creating a destination in the centre of Bristol.

Each bedroom is a different size and shape, designed to suit the available space. No two rooms are the same and Harrison used space saving details to maximise the smaller bedroom spaces and concealed furnishings to ensure the rooms do not feel cluttered or claustrophobic, instead light and spacious. For example, with some rooms internal to the building and without windows, rooflights were fitted where possible to still ensure natural light. The designs also include luxurious finishes and furnishings and clever technology.

The building was named after Sir Arthur Fenton Hort, born in 1864 and author, schoolmaster, and gardener who wrote many books including ‘The Unconventional Garden’, ‘Garden Valley’ and ‘Enquiry into plants’. Hort’s family owned the building, where it was originally used as a sales office with a warehouse in the back – where the current hotel bedrooms are now located. In 1922, it was turned into a cocktail bar that served signature dishes including exclusive and decadent menu items. The building was then sold to steakhouse chain, Berni Inn, in 1943, is now owned and operated by Young’s & Co.

Harrison and Young’s have a long-standing relationship lasting over 20 years. Throughout the years, Harrison has completed over 100 projects with Young’s as part of the longstanding relationship. All Young’s & Co. locations are different. In fact, each is designed to fit the surrounding area, building layout, and customer personas.

[1] 40+ Bristol Tourism Statistics, Numbers and Trends, Tripplo, June 2022

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