Interior design at Cowley Manor
Our exteriors may feature classic Italianate architecture but don't be fooled - step inside Cowley Manor to discover a wide range of vibrant colours and quirky design features. From intricate geometric carpets to papier-mâché hunting trophies on the wall of our lounge, a trip to Cowley Manor is full of surprises. Jessica Frankopan, Owner of a Curious Group of Hotels, takes us through Cowley's transformation below.
A place to recharge your batteries
Cowley Manor was our first hotel project and is especially close to my heart. We wanted Cowley to be fun, modern and relaxing – a new kind of countryside escape where luxury, design and outstanding service make for the perfect escape from the city.
From the start, we wanted a place where you didn’t need to wear jackets and ties for dinner but could dress up for a glamorous night away. It was not easy to get that balance right but I wanted to create a place where you could recharge the batteries but also have fun, relax, and wish this is what real life was like every day.
A mix of old and new
Cowley definitely has a sense of humour; we try to let you do what you want, when you want to. It was really designed with what I liked and how I wanted to relax and enjoy the countryside with or without my children, whether for business meetings or sneaking away for a break.
Cowley has always been a mix of the old and new. Despite its grand and famous façade, Cowley was designed for modern living from the start. So, when we took it over, we used modern building materials and celebrated modern design, while also paying attention to the features that have survived and respecting the rich history of the buildings that are among England’s most famous.
Getting the details right
We love to spend time thinking about how to re-invent the past and pride ourselves in not just restoring features, but working out how the bedrooms, public areas, spa, and magnificent grounds actually work. I can’t stand things that look good but don’t work or worse, things that work but don’t look good. It pays to spend time getting the details right!
At Cowley, we are constantly trying to think, re-think and improve. Mulling over the perfect country house led us to studying how, in the past, heads of animals were mounted on the walls as trophies of travel and hunting.
Our papier-mâché heads
As a play on those (that also happens to be rather more ethical and sustainable), we have papier-mâché heads on the wall of the bar – like a grinning mandrill, a camel smoking a pipe and a Gloucester Old Spot pig eating an apple. Rather than traditional green baize, the billiard table is a brilliant purple; instead of boring dark wood, the panelling in the billiard room is made of studded leather. I love that there are twists and turns everywhere.
Commissioning young designers
When we rebuilt and restored Cowley, we decided to create huge bedrooms and really big bathrooms. Sometimes people comment that their bathroom is bigger than their flat in London! We took huge pride in commissioning furniture and fabrics from young designers, both because that’s what happened with grand country houses in the past, but also because we have always been champions of those starting their careers, whether as designers, in the kitchen, or in management positions.
As the saying goes, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Some of proudest moments have been giving brilliant people a chance to shine.
Bright and bold
At Cowley, all the bedrooms are different. All have bespoke pieces of furniture, unique curtains, and hand-crafted rugs. They celebrate the best of contemporary British craftsmanship and design. Underlying the rooms are a range of brilliant colours. Cowley Manor is a place that sings, rather than bubbles along with things that are dull and safe. We think life is too short and needs to be enjoyed!
A celebration of the arts
Cowley Manor is a haven for families and design-hunters alike and I wanted it to create a sense of approachable luxury. I am a firm believer in investing in quality and timeless design, and Cowley celebrates the glory-era of furniture making. Mid-century classics quietly contrast the historic building and grand proportions throughout.
Cowley is also a celebration of the arts and is furnished with pieces from our personal collection, degree shows and sculptural commissions from the Royal College of Art, who we have long supported.
I’m really proud of what we’ve done; and it makes me thrilled that for nearly 20 years, Cowley has become one of the most loved hotels not only in the UK but in Europe.