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Once dubbed the “Athens of the North,” Edinburgh was at the heart of Scotland’s enlightenment in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Scots such as David Hume, Adam Smith, and Robert “Rabbie” Burns, among many others, rapidly advanced the fields of philosophy, political economics, and literature and brought the city to life.
The vibrant culture in Edinburgh hasn’t changed—cafés and bars that once played host to intellectual discussions are now the birthplace of novels by Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, and J K Rowling. University of Edinburgh has produced 20 Nobel laureates and counts Charles Darwin, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Prince William among its alumni. And to top it all off, Edinburgh hosts the largest arts festival in the world, welcoming opera, music, theatre, dance, and comedy performers from all over the world every year.
Hotel Indigo is opening its second location in Edinburgh on Princes St. Located amidst the action, in the heart of the city, it was crucial for the hotel’s design to reflect its culturally rich surroundings.
Every corner was used as an opportunity to pay tribute to the area’s rich literary history. Oak bookcases stacked with leather-bound books stand beside lamps up-cycled from vintage typewriters, and there are books beside every door.
Drawing on the city’s impressive historical legacy and creative contemporary culture, the interior designers at Matthews Mee were spoilt for inspiration. “We spent over a week in Edinburgh researching, photographing, and interviewing locals,” says design director Robert Matthews. “Our inspiration came from total immersion and a real understanding of the neighbourhood. It was about finding the seeds of our design idea in the most unlikely of local places—a colour in a tile, a texture on a pavement, an object in museum or gallery. Then we applied our experience to make it work practically and coherently.” The wall panels in stone grey reflect the local architecture while geometric rug designs reference nearby tiled shop fronts.
“We wanted to reflect the local neighbourhood and create a connection between the hotel and its guests rather than just designing a characterless branded hotel,” says Matthews. The hotel sits on the border between the city’s medieval old town and its Georgian ‘new’ town. Thus, its personality is inherently blended between the two period styles. The room numbers are embossed and engraved in genuine leather while the Harris Tweed furniture complements the clean-lined contemporary bathrooms. Marble counter tops and slate flooring laid in traditional Georgian bond and herringbone designs finish off the period aesthetic.
The hotel’s Georgian infrastructure also gives way to more opportunity for creativity. “We really enjoyed the challenge of finding the quirky and unusual—every room is a unique shape and size, unlike a new-build hotel where the design for each room can be a repetition of the last,” recalls Matthews. “We loved this because it meant we could approach each room individually, so it was more like a personal domestic design project.”
Each room is essentially custom-designed with personal touches down to the haggis-flavoured crisps, Edinburgh shortbread, and Tunnocks teacakes.
“I hope the hotel’s design makes visitors feel a connection with the city, and the local neighbourhood in particular, and that it encourages them to seek out the quirky and unusual in Edinburgh,” says Matthews. “And the one thing they must seek out is the hotel’s secret gin bar—if they can find it!”