York is a city steeped in history. The majestic walls and gateways that encircle the city have stood since Roman times—the stone iterations are medieval replacements for the original timber. In more recent history, York boasts a proud industrial legacy as the home of the railways and renowned chocolate companies Rowntree’s and Terry’s.
York has grown upwards and outwards, but the memories its past remains omnipresent in its structures. Hotel Indigo York is housed within a red brick industrial-style building just down the road from Walmgate Bar—the only gatehouse to retain its barbican, portcullis, and inner doors. Inside, history comes to life.
The hotel comprises a typical 101 bedrooms, a bar, a restaurant, and a fitness room, but its interior design by Wakefield-based studio Matthews Mee draws inspiration from various strands of history to create an entirely customised experience. “This project was really about creating a unique experience for each Hotel Indigo guest,” Matthews Mee Design Director Rob Matthews says.
In order to integrate the diverse storylines in York’s history, the team at Matthews Mee conceived three different hotel room concepts. The first subtly celebrates the city’s confectionery industry with playful wall panelling that recalls slabs of chocolate. But beyond the innovative design concepts, the spaces exude an air of authenticity. For Matthews and his team, the devil is in the detail. The lamp fixtures in these rooms are made from antique chocolate moulds. “We even sourced antique accessories such as old Yorkshire Tea tins and other local artifacts,” Matthews says.
The second typology reflects the industries that once thrived in Walmgate such as public houses, wrought iron metal works, and leather tanneries. The artworks that hang above the beds reference the Crown & Cushion brewery and public house that once stood on the site of the hotel, while 16th century census information is printed onto lampshades to demonstrate Walmgate’s significance as one of the oldest commercial and social streets in York. “The furniture was all designed and manufactured in Yorkshire by hand—a fact that we proudly stamped onto each piece,” Matthews recalls.
Matthews Mee’s third room concept pays homage the city’s medieval architecture. Reclaimed brick and oak frames provide a rustic aesthetic, while an array of cosy woollen fabrics reference North Yorkshire’s wool industry. “We used locally sourced natural character oak which gives a homely warmth and a familiarity that’s not normally associated with international brands,” explains Matthews. “As well as York’s varied architecture, the ironmongery of the wardrobes and furniture reflects the former ‘Walker Foundry,’ which was located to the rear of Hotel Indigo.”
Matthews Mee continues to weave these local ‘easter eggs’ and the tripartite design scheme throughout the hotel’s public areas. The wall panelling in the reception area is a nod to York’s quaint shop fronts, while the geometric tile motifs in the bar, lobby, and carpets mimic the ones found in York’s grand Georgian buildings. The result is a pleasantly eccentric array of objects that are unified by the central theme: York.