Located in deepest, glorious Hampshire, this historic 18th-century country house offers traditional comforts with a modern feel. Its owner, Hong Kong businessman Gerald Chan, called on Ben Thompson, a protegé of designer Ilse Crawford, to convert the house and its interiors. He also employed the help of Skye Gyngell– the original Petersham Nurseries chef who now runs Somerset House’s Springin London – to oversee Heckfield Place’s two restaurants. The results are wonderful.
Thompson has reconciled the house’s grand Georgian architecture with a more contemporary aesthetic by stripping back ornamentation and working with natural materials. Bullrush from the nearby Great Ouse river was harvested to create baskets and headboards for the beds, while one-off pieces from The New Craftsmen sit beside artworks from Mr Chan’s own collection.
‘The challenge was to be brave enough to treat Heckfield Place as a home, while having a hotel operation run unobtrusively in the background,’ Thompson says of the project – his first solo hotel. He’s certainly succeeded: the 47 bedrooms (scattered through the house, its courtyards and wings), morning room, drawing room and Moon Bar are all convivial and cosy.
Across the 400-acre grounds, there’s a biodynamic farm, two lakes, a miniature spa and The Little Bothy, a Pilates studio.Peach trees grow in the greenhouse and the market garden produces everything from fennel to melons, all of which willgo straight to the kitchens of Gyngell’s two restaurants – the larger Marle and the homely Hearth, which is housed in the converted stables.
‘A stay at Heckfield Place will feel like you’re being hugged – a feeling that’s in your plate of food,’ says Gyngell. It can also, we think, be found in the warmth of this countryside retreat’s beautifully relaxing interiors and gardens. From £350 per night, heckfieldplace.com.
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration August 2018