The Whitehouse in Chillington
PUBLISHED: 16:37 29 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:29 20 February 2013
Cathy Koo discovers the Whitehouse; a stunning boutique hotel
Who'd have thought it? An oasis of sophistication in the small South Hams village of Chillington of all places! As villages go, it's not exactly synonymous with boutique hotels and uber-cool standards of style. There is nothing wrong with Chillington per se. It is a fine village with quaint thatched cottages, rolling farmland and a stone's throw from some of the best coastline in Britain, but it's not exactly the first place that springs to mind when thinking of cutting-edge, hip, happening hotels.
But Chillington is where it's at these days because tucked unobtrusively away at the end of the main street lies a real 'find' - the Whitehouse - a hotel a million miles away from your average establishment. Sure, it has the essentials: the five luxurious en-suite bedrooms, the intimate bar, the romantic dining room, plenty of parking, the use of a health spa, and everything is country-house size - not overly large but still spacious enough for fun and games - ideal for the sexy, romantic break in the country or a weekend house party.
The place oozes urbane coolness and has the feeling and ambience of a private members' club. It's the sort of place which (and remember you read it here first), once word gets around, will become the place to go. It's a place to indulge in a dose of uncontrived sophistication and lap up the individuality and creativity that wafts through the air.
The three partners behind the Whitehouse - Tamara Costin, Mathew Hall and Allyson Wray - are all seasoned performers in the hospitality game and it is their shared vision of creating a hotel, which combines unashamed luxury with an unsurpassed ethic of hospitality, that is the foundation upon which the hotel is built.
The Whitehouse is a Georgian country house with graceful architecture, mellow stone walls, fine period rooms, proper staircases and galleried landings, and it was the building's elegant proportions and bright white spaces that provided Tamara with what she describes as "a simple canvas from which to create a contemporary grown-up space with touches of vintage glamour". And it is this mix of classic and contemporary that works so brilliantly throughout the building.
Many pieces of furniture in the Whitehouse have been collected by Tamara on her travels, and these, mixed in with period family antiques and contemporary design, all contribute to the hotel's individual style.
The project took Tamara and Matthew years to develop. "Designing a hotel and restaurant requires far more thought than a home to live in," says Tamara. "Spaces need to be practical, uncluttered, easy to use and clean, yet at the same time provide a home from home.
"I see the process as a fluid one, and when things are wrong, it's important to admit it and make changes. Even now we are still moving pieces around, changing elements. Interior design never finishes... and we would never want it to."
It's the team's dedication to detail that really shines through and clearly there has been no compromise in the refit. Nothing has been overlooked, no concessions to the age of the building have been indulged - every single floorboard has been lifted, sound-proofed and re-laid. Every bedroom is different - some have a bath in the middle of the room, others a hanging chair, all have HD TV, DVD and CD.
With crisp white Italian Frette bedlinen and piles of fluffy pillows the enormous beds are ripe for romping, and the sumptious bathrooms have huge monsoon-like showers, sink-up-to-your-neck baths, gorgeous tiles and a range of delicious bath products designed especially for the Whitehouse.
If it's nights of passion you're after - well, you wouldn't go too far wrong if you checked in here for a couple of nights - and you can also turn your attention to that other pleasure of the flesh - eating.
In the dining room, which is housed in a modern conservatory, accommodating tables sit beneath the outstretched arms of a beautiful old Italian chandelier which sparkles and twinkles all night long like some squiffy grande dame. Old butchers' blocks serve as dumb-waiters and bowls of fresh cherries or other delights are bandied about to tempt the palate in expectation of more gastronomic delights to follow.
It's worth a visit to the Whitehouse for the wallpaper alone, which is witty and funny, suggestive and shiny, and somehow works in an unexpected and incongruous way. (Check out the saucy paper in the downstairs loo.)
Kind and quirky lighting shimmers everywhere: colourful lamps carefully positioned, enormous modern chandeliers (the Whitehouse trademark) light up the landing and shine on the stairs, state-of-the-art lighting in the screening room and real fires lit in every room, winter and summer - how indulgent is that?
There is already a film club up and running for local people, housed in a screen room with a roaring log fire and huge camo-covered Fatboy beanbags to loaf about in, and the team hope the Whitehouse will become the location of choice for local clubs, organisations and businesses, as well as discerning guests.
"It's all to do with working with what you have but taking a risk at the same time. We wanted to challenge people, push boundaries and make people think differently - have showers clad with original floorboards and local slate, deep square baths, stainless-steel shower curtains, oversized lighting features and bespoke emperor beds.
"We wanted to offer something a little different to encourage people to come and stay with us - and it seems to have worked. It would be hard to leave here without talking about some aspect of the Whitehouse," says Tamara.
Whitehouse, Chillington, 01548 580505, www.whitehousedevon.com