The River Yealm Hotel was in its hey-day a prestigious hotel in a spectacular riverfront location. The building had since ceased to operate as a hotel and was at risk of vandalism, having been vacant and derelict for several years. Our team undertook an extensive revitalisation of the site, comprising the conversion of the historic hotel into high-quality apartments and the development of contemporary new-build residences adjacent to the original building. The woodland grounds were extensively landscaped, and the original private jetty restored.
We believe this project is an outstanding example of how contemporary new-build homes can work in harmony with a sensitively restored historic building. It demonstrates how a partially derelict old building can be brought into the 21st century with excellent environmental performance and all the comforts and conveniences expected of a modern home. At the same time, it shows how new-build dwellings can be designed with contemporary forms that make the most of the stunning views out over the estuary, yet appear grounded within the landscaped setting and complement the more traditional appearance of the old hotel.
This was not just another site in a beautiful location (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) – but a site at the heart of the history of the community, which needed to be treated with respect and sensitivity. Although the hotel building was not Listed, it was much loved locally. Maintaining the presence of the original building was a priority both for our team and the local residents and committed to it with enthusiasm by the developer despite the cost of refurbishment and conversion being far more than demolition and new-build solution. The original building was comprehensively renovated, including complete reroofing as well as attention to smaller details, such as the replacement of the specialist zinc cornice and restoration of the Victorian finials by local craftspeople.
Sustainability was another driving factor in the decision to restore the old building, rather than demolish it. The project’s environmental focus was on reducing embodied carbon emissions by renovating the existing structure to extend its lifespan. We also strove to achieve a high level of energy efficiency to further improve the development’s whole-life carbon footprint and ensure thermal comfort and low running costs for the residents.
Encouraged by the local planning department, the new-build elements were designed in an overtly contemporary style to contrast with and thereby enhance the presence of the historic building in the landscape. Their organic forms reflect the curvature of the site and the articulated nature of the hillside landscape, while the material palette of zinc, timber and render echoes the materials of the original hotel building.
Much care was also taken over the landscaping of the grounds and design of communal areas. Touches such as a shared fire pit, walled seating area and new woodland walks are well-used by residents and part of what makes The Yealm such a great place to live.