Discover this recently renovated luxury B&B in the Yorkshire Dales. Owner Fiona Gardham reveals the process behind the unique interior design and how you can add value to your guest experience.
Yorkshire. Rolling hills and winding rivers. The epitome of English countryside.
Wake up in Wensleydale and explore all the stunning surroundings and local heritage that the Yorkshire Dales has to offer.
The House at Hawes, a recently renovated B&B, offers four wonderfully unique bedrooms in the heart of the National Park that TripAdvisor recently named the best in Europe.
We spoke to Fiona Gardham who owns The House at Hawes with her husband Tim to find out about the renovations, interior design and the process of adding value.
Previously, Fiona and Tim owned a B&B which they sold in 2011. After taking a break from the hospitality industry and doing some travelling, they bought their new b&b, Eighteen97.
In late May last year, they decided to sell Eighteen97 so they could purchase somewhere larger. When the B&B sold within two days, Fiona found herself on the hunt for their new property.
“We wanted somewhere that had a mix of absolutely gorgeous countryside but also had better facilities within walking distance,” said Fiona.
“At The House at Hawes, we’ve got lovely views, but if you walk two minutes down the road you’re in Hawes which is the highest market town in England.”
Fiona described the property as “needing work” and “stuck in the 1980’s” when they first bought it, but it was a functioning B&B and offered them the perfect lockdown project.
After moving in on 28th September 2020, Fiona and Tim hoped to open by November, but the global pandemic that has dominated our day-to-day lives for the last year thwarted their plans.
“Lockdown two and three meant things didn’t go quite to plan, but when we do open, it’ll be marvellous,” said Fiona.
Initially, the 6 bedroom B&B will open with four rooms available to guests. Fiona said: “We’ve concentrated on the larger rooms first of all because they will be the ones that bring in the best return.”
Fiona and Tim have transformed The House at Hawes from a standard B&B into a unique Yorkshire retreat exclusively for adults.
“We’ve had a whole new heating and water system fitted so that we’ve got a pressurised water system so that guests are able to enjoy a nice rainfall shower,” explained Fiona.
“All the en-suites have been made slightly larger and have been completely refitted. And the electrics have been overhauled so we now have more sockets and USB ports on the bedrooms.”
Fiona explained that they used local contractors for the work they did on the house before they started to decorate and focus on the interior design.
Surrounded by beautiful English countryside, it’s no wonder that Fiona and Tim wanted to create a beautifully luxurious retreat to complement their location.
“We’ve really tried to play on the Yorkshire heritage,” said Fiona, “There’s so much around here!”
The four rooms that currently await their first guests are The Snug, The Parlour, The Library and The Music Room.
Fiona said: “The Library has a twist towards James Herriot, a well known Yorkshire author, and his book ‘All Creatures Great and Small’.
“The Music Room has the Swaledale anthem on the wall. We’ve also tried to use some local artists and the bedside lights in The Music Room are made by a lady in South Yorkshire who up-cycles things to make lights out of them.
“She’s also made me some lights out of Jame Herriot books for The Library.”
In the entrance porch, guests will also find a light fixture that has been made from a milking cluster that would have been previously used in a milking parlour.
“We just try to do a few little quirky things and each room has a little bit of a twist,” said Fiona.
“I think it’s a great idea these days to try and get stuff that’s a bit quirky and will make people smile. I think people need that at the moment.”
One of the great things about the interior design process at The House at Hawes, was the effort Fiona and Tim made to highlight the local area.
Fiona said: “I found a milking churn from the Hawes Dairy in the garden and we’ve turned that into a lamp table!
“We also have a really big hallway and on one of the walls, we’ve got Ordnance Survey wallpaper which is a map of Swaledale and Wensleydale.
“It’s something for people to look at and they can use it to plan their day.”
Yorkshire heritage and the local landscapes played a huge role when it came to designing the rooms.
The Snug is themed around Kit Calvert, the man who rescued the Wensleydale Creamery, home of the Wensleydale Cheese which was made famous by none other than Wallace and Gromit.
“It’s not hard to get inspiration when you’re living in such a beautiful part of the country,” said Fiona.
“We’ll also provide a mix of different breakfasts and what we’re going to call a ‘Great Yorkshire Breakfast’. We’ll have a twist on our food towards where we are, for example, we’ll do things like the Wensleydale rarebit or make a breakfast burrito but using Wensleydale cheese to emphasise our surroundings.”
The House at Hawes is full of uniquely individual features, from an ostrich head to the Yorkshire breakfast sign designed by Fiona’s husband.
“The nice thing about the lights for example, is that they’re all upcycled as well as being unique,” said Fiona.
“They’ve got a more ethical feeling about them. Things aren’t being wasted, but sort of repurposed.
“It’s the same with the milk churn, for example,” explained Fiona, “It’s lovely and local and goodness knows how old it is. I don’t know how long it’s been sitting in the garden, but now it’s got a new life as a table for a lamp!”
Redecorating, upcycling, or designing can be hard tasks to undertake, especially if you are starting from scratch and it can seem even more daunting if you have no experience in interior design or DIY.
Fiona says you shouldn’t be put off by a big design task.
She explained that an important thing to remember is that smaller hospitality businesses such as B&Bs, boutique hotels and glamping sites are so much more personal, so “don’t be frightened of expressing your individuality”.
“It needs to reflect your personality. Don’t’ be afraid of doing something that’s a little bit out of the ordinary,” said Fiona.
“You tend to find that the B&Bs that are a bit different or quirky, are much more successful.”
But despite this, how do you figure out where to start?
“Look around your local area. Look at the landscape and see what inspiration you can pull from that,” suggested Fiona.
“But also look locally for the artists, craftsmen and food producers. They are so much more individual than going to a high street shop to kit your property out with things other places will have.”
Although Fiona expresses the importance of individuality, she also strongly believes in quality.
“Where you can, always buy the best quality,” she said.
“I’m talking more about mattresses, bedding, pillows and things like that. They might not stand out, but people will remember if they’ve had a good night’s sleep or not, or if they slept on a really comfortable pillow.”
Laughing, Fiona added: “Don’t skimp!”
Aside from interior design, there’s still plenty you can do to impress your guests as well as adding value to their stay.
“Look at what you can add to your rooms,” said Fiona, “sometimes it’s the small things that make all the difference.”
Fiona puts a packet of biscuits, cakes or treats in each of the rooms for guests to enjoy. She said: “Our guests get a different homemade treat everyday. It’s small, but it’s something they remember. They love it and it adds value to their stay.”
If you don’t think homemade treats are your style, you can fall back on what’s available in the room.
Each of the rooms at The House at Hawes have Nespresso coffee machines, smart TVs, and bluetooth speakers.
Fiona said: “They might not necessarily look the best in terms of design, but they’re something people really like and appreciate.
“For example, we have silent fridges in the rooms, but they can be built into a cupboard so they’re not on display.”
Another increasingly popular option to add value to your guest experience is to partner with local businesses and suppliers.
“One of the things we do is offer ‘add-ons’ that people can purchase when they are going through the booking process,” said Fiona.
“We have a lovely local florist who does the most gorgeous bouquets and she can add champagne and things like that for special occasions so they are waiting for people on arrival.
“Another example is how we’ve linked up with a local chocolate shop. He will do anything so we’ve come up with a few different things like a treasure chest of retro sweets, a big bag of pick’n’mix, or a selection of luxury belgian truffles.”
Fiona said providing guests with a choice is extremely important.
“What works for one person doesn’t work for another. It’s about giving them a choice and that can make all the difference,” she said.
If you’re new to your local business community, partnerships may be hard to set up at first, but they’re a great way to add value.
“It’s important to get to know the other businesses and get to know what’s on offer,” said Fiona.
Not only are you potentially providing guests with additional things to purchase, but it’s also important to know your local area.
“Part of your role as a B&B owner is to tell your guests what’s available, so the more local knowledge you have, the better,” said Fiona.
“Take a deep breath and go see the local business owners. We’ve had an absolutely great response from everyone we’ve spoken to here, and building these relationships helps both your businesses!”
6 TOP TIPS FOR INTERIOR DESIGN
1. Use local artists & craftsmen for unique & individual items
2. Take inspiration from your surroundings
3. Don’t be afraid to express your personality
4. Don’t skimp – Buy the better quality products where you can
5. Quirky items that stand out & make people smile are great
6. Consider upcycling items & give them a new life
5 TOP TIPS FOR ADDING VALUE
1. Small things make all the difference – it doesn’t have to be big
2. Look at what amenities & appliances you can put in the rooms
3. Know the local area and what’s available
4. Partner with local businesses
5. Provide optional add-ons available to purchase via your booking system