Dorothée Meilichzon nods to Alice in Wonderland for Cotswolds hotel interior

Cowley Manor Experimental stairway

Cowley Manor Experimental stairway

French interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon has created the interior for boutique hotel Cowley Manor Experimental, adding chequerboard details and hidden keyholes to the rooms of the former country house.

Meilichzon drew on the history of the Cowley Manor Experimental, which is said to have inspired author Lewis Carroll to write Alice in Wonderland, when designing the interior for the hotel.

According to the hotel, Caroll was walking in the gardens of the then Cowley Manor with Alice Liddell – for whom he wrote Alice in Wonderland – when he saw a rabbit disappear down a hole under a hedge.

Nodding to the chessboard around which the classic story is constructed, Meilichzon designed bespoke chequerboard carpets that were produced by Hartley & Tissier.

The designer added baldachin beds and colourful accents to the bedroom suites

“Alice is subtly spread all over the place,” the designer told Dezeen.

“Small doors are hidden in the rooms for the White Rabbit, there are hidden keyholes, rabbit ears, hearts and spades on the checkerboard carpet,” she explained.

“We have used the checkerboard in many ways: hand-painted, tiled, on fabrics and wallpaper.”

Touches of rattan, mixed with strong colour, glossy lacquer and lava stone feature throughout the 36-room hotel. Large bedroom suites have baldachin beds and interiors accented with blurred maple and verdigris.

checkerboard carpet at Cowley Manor Experimental
The games room features chequerboard rugs

The project, which Meilichzon designed for Experimental Group, saw her update an existing hotel at the site, which sits within 55 acres of Cotswolds countryside. The hotel also incorporates a spa, restaurant, cocktail bar, lounge, library and living rooms.

Other than respecting the heritage-listed elements of the property, Meilichzon had full design freedom.

Interior at Cowley Manor Experimental
Heritage-listed elements of the existing Cowley Manor were preserved

“Historical buildings are something we are used to; we work a lot in Europe and often in very old buildings,” the designer said.

“So we always try to respect them and start from there: the shape of the space, an architectural detail, a listed element.”

Meilichzon combined classical and contemporary elements, keeping all historical listed elements from the building, such as doors, wooden panels and windows.

However, she added “some modernity through the furniture, the geometric patterns and colours,” she said.

Hearts derived from the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland are worked into the stair carpet

“Colour is everything, I am really not a grey and beige person,” explained Meilichzon.

The hotel also features a restaurant and cocktail bar by chef Jackson Boxer that is focused on Cowley Manor’s kitchen garden, which has increased in size and is growing wider varieties of produce. The cocktail bar features a lacquered blue bar and tables.

The bar at Cowley Manor Experimental
The bar has blurred walnut panelling and blue lacquered tables

Meilichzon, founder of Paris-based design agency Chzon, is a frequent collaborator of Experimental Group and has designed the interiors for several of its properties.

“I see my work for Experimental Group as separate pieces but with a common DNA – the same hand. Because they are context-based, a hotel in Menorca cannot look the same as one in Venice or in the Cotswolds,” she said.

Earlier this year, she gave a bohemian refresh to Ibiza’s first hotel, now called the Montesol Experimental, and has also renovated a Belle Epoque-era hotel in Biarritz, France.

The photography is by Mr Tripper.

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