Once upon a time we made a pitstop in Bristol on a journey from Cornwall to London and stumbled across the most incredible derelict building on a beautiful square, just a few minutes from the city centre. Part Georgian townhouse, part boot factory, the Grade I listed building was on the ‘At Risk’ register, and had all the quirks, faded grandeur and original features we look for in our places – plus an amazing location in the creative heart of Bristol, one of our favourite UK cities. Needless to say the old boot factory had us at ‘hello’!
The building is located on Portland Square in the St Paul’s area of Bristol. Designed back in the 18th century, the square was originally intended for the use of wealthy merchants. The timing wasn’t great as a big recession hit shortly after completion of the square and the area fell into disrepair with many of the Georgian townhouses being turned into offices and factories. The area has since become home to a diverse community, with a rich African-Caribbean culture celebrated by the now iconic annual St Paul’s Carnival and the creative hub of Stokes Croft just a few minutes away. For us, the real appeal of this dilapidated building is the opportunity to bring a corner of this historic square back to life for the community to enjoy.
Due to open in Summer 2019, Artist Residence Bristol will be a home from home for the creative traveller; comfy and welcoming with eclectic decor and playful art – some sourced from local Bristol artists. The 23 bedrooms will be tucked away above a bar, cafe, garden, restaurant and events space, forming a hub for the local community and our guests alike; a buzzing neighbourhood hangout for any occasion – night or day, work or play.
We’ve spent the last four years restoring the building and we’re so excited to be able to show a little glimpse of our progress!
One of the most important things for us is to always really understand the localities of our places, the building and the context. The boot factory was originally a Georgian townhouse which, over time, had been adapted and used for increasingly industrial purposes before being transformed into a fully fledged boot factory in the 1960s – 70s. To revive the building’s history we’ve kept structural beams, posts and industrial sliding doors in place, and have uncovered a most unusual juxtaposition of exposed brick against restored Georgian cornicing. We’ve even unearthed a domed skylight and a secret passage into the basement!
Our approach to design is always to create something fun, eclectic and comfortable – like a friend’s house you never want to leave. We love sourcing unique signage, lighting and furniture from salvage yards (and eBay!) and mixing vintage, industrial and antique styling. For Bristol we’ve sourced some huge red metal letters from the 1960s and French street lights from the 1930s as a nod to the building’s industrial history, as well as statement bathtubs and headboards for a touch of ‘bohemian’ luxe. Here are a few sneak peeks…!
The best bit! We pick art for our places to make you feel good, have a little chuckle or take a double take, whether that’s with a bright colour palette, a hint of nostalgia or witty typography. For our Bristol location we were keen to bring an eclectic mix of artists together, with local artists we’ve never worked before alongside some firm favourites of ours, like Maria Rivans, Bonnie & Clyde, Andy Doig, The Connor Brothers, David Spiller, Pure Evil & Euan Roberts.
The search for Bristol artists began through word of mouth, and we quickly stumbled upon Jamaica Street Artists studios in nearby Stokes Croft and the wonderful work of Rose Vickers and Annie Clay. We will also be working with Jessie Woodward, who we found at The Other Art Fair in Bristol and Kedals, a street artist we spotted on a wall somewhere and tracked down on Instagram.
Expect to see urban, pop, and abstract art, as well as photography and neon installations all hanging harmoniously across the walls together.
The countdown is on! We are hoping to open our doors in early Summer this year, and will be keeping you all updated regularly! You can sign up for our newsletter here to be the first to know news, or follow Justin on Twitter here for daily ‘behind-the-scenes’. We can’t wait to show you more!
Justin & Charlie x
Bristol photo credit: Visit England/Destination Bristol