Hatfield House was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, the First Earl of Salisbury. Elizabeth I lived in it as a child, and the house, park and gardens, still owned by Lord and Lady Salisbury, make up one of Britain's most popular stately homes visited by thousands every year. So, that's a little about its past but what about the present and the future? The introduction of The Coach House, an incredible cafe and restaurant space designed by SHH and run by Levy Restaurants has made Hatfield's future look very bright indeed.
The redesign of the restaurant and cafe was commissioned as part of an expansion on the house's grounds, initiated by Lord Salisbury and taken up by Brooks Murray Architects. Winner of the 2012 Restaurant and Bar Design Awards, SHH have successfully introduced a fresh, functional and stylish modern design that not only compliments the grandeur of the house but will also continue to contribute towards funding its upkeep by catering for and attracting a growing number of visitors. The restaurant itself is housed in a former 19th century coach house and the design has focused on complimenting the stunning house whilst adding a contemporary feel in order to enhance its future. This has been achieved through a design focus on quality and simplicity. The result is a combination of original features and contemporary additions; an old brick wall which has been carefully exposed, old materials such as timber have been stained black around the bar and nails from the house have been included, offering warm contrasts to the bold introduction of modern design features such as striking British hand blown lighting and a striking spiral steel staircase by Albion Designs.
The design behind The Coach House has made its addition really feel like the evolution of Hatfield because of the consideration for its British heritage. SHH Associate and Project Leader Brendan Heath explains how important the heritage of the building was to the design: 'For the furniture and lighting we took the approach that it had to be very British - so we made a conscious decision to specify products by British designers'. The products include solid wood tables and stools by local manufacturer Ercol, untreated oak stools by Tom Dixon and Audrey bar stools by Naughtone. The wood used is from timber that's been felled on the grounds and the use of black timber was inspired by the original stained black timber on the outside of the building further adding a sense of belonging to this new design.
The use of local materials and craftsmanship give a sense of history and honesty to a new design that's overall, strongly contemporary and excitingly functional. The expansion of the space and use of glass, space and textures have resulted in an airy, light modern space that is not only functional but an absolute pleasure to spend time in. The chef's table creates an element of theatre where customers are able to watch their food being prepared. The Bakery and Deli counters add a sense of continuation whilst attractively displaying produce. The displays in this restaurant are generally striking with bespoke shelving that's been hand crafted, the dents left in to maintain authenticity complimented by large circular steel chandeliers. This is a space that encompasses some bold and clever design but, at the same time, feels relaxed and homely.
The Coach House at Hatfield House is an award winning restaurant; an incredible design in its own right, yet the magic is further enhanced by its strong conscious connection to Hatfield and its heritage. This restaurant and its stunning design are at the heart of Hatfield, feeding its past, present and future alike. Now that certainly deserves an award.