Transforming Queen Elizabeth I’s childhood home into a restaurant is no short order. Erected in 1611 in a Hertfordshire park, the building has been home to the first Earl of Salisbury throughout the past four centuries and has expanded to include a farm, gardens and other venues to accommodate an increasing volume of tourists.
To meet the demands of visitors, Lord Salisbury and Brooks Murray Architects initiated a masterplan that included a conversion to the existing tea room by local firm SHH. The result is Coach House, a chic restaurant named for its former 19th-century dwellings. It houses a bakery, a deli and the chef’s table – as well as the tea room, which has been expanded to two floors.
Throughout, SHH felt it was important to maintain historic values. “As we were designing a space within a former working building, anything too pristine would be out of place, so the materials are used in a very honest way,” says project leader Brendan Heath. “For the furniture and lighting, we took the approach that the context could not be more British, so a conscious decision was made to specify products with a British connection, wherever possible.”
The architects played with texture, contrasting the tones of the flooring and the built-in furnishings, and with materials, as seen in the tiled service counters with acid-treated zinc tops, the green slate floors and the bespoke seating in natural and black-stained oak. “The building’s exterior uses loads of black timber, so that also becomes our starting reference for the choice of material.”
The wall behind the deli counter is therefore clad in black-stained rough timber board, while an adjacent wall boasts the original red brick, left exposed. The industrial-looking shelves behind the deli and bakery counters are composed of welded mild steel, while the wooden signage and the stumps beneath the staircase have been salvaged from the estate’s grounds.
A majestic spiral staircase leads to the upper level. The stair’s black-painted aluminum nods to the black steel roof trusses that have been left exposed in this dining room, which leads out to a generous terrace. The restaurant has scooped a number of accolades, including the Best Café or Fast Food Award at the U.K.’s prestigious 2012 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards.
Coach House is located at Hatfield House on Great North Road in Hertfordshire, England.