Location: UK 

Architect: Expedite Architecture

Interior Design: Franklin Ellis / Sweeney Ellis in association with IHG Interior Design Dept

Hotel Group: InterContinental Hotel Group

Construction:  Carter Lauren

Photography: Veerle Evens

The former Modernist-style 1950s House of Fraser store situated in the center of Exeter has been reconverted into a Hotel, The Indigo Exeter. The project aimed to include retail units, a Sports Bar, a Rooftop Bar, an Urban Spa, and 104 guestrooms spread across five floors. The hotel’s public areas, including a reception and signature lounge bar and restaurant on the ground floor, were designed to provide guests with an authentic and welcoming experience, offering a unique insight into the building’s history and Exeter’s culture.

The basement area underwent significant reconfiguration to create a relaxing spa facility with a focus on wellness, including hydro pools, sauna and steam rooms, treatment rooms, gym, nail bar, reception lounge, and changing rooms. Additionally, a sports bar, accessed through a separate entrance, was designed to provide an upscale feel of a members’ club with a diverse food offering.

The client aimed to create an exclusive standalone rooftop bar and terrace that offers unparalleled views of Exeter Cathedral and the City. 

The existing store plan was complex, laid out on split levels due to site topography. To achieve the client’s aspirations, the centre of the building was opened up by removing the existing lift, stair cores, and escalators. This created a lightwell to allow rooms to be centrally positioned with access to natural lighting. An additional story was added to provide penthouse guestrooms and a rooftop bar.

At the heart of the hotel’s design are the building’s unique history and Mrs. Colson, the widow, and milliner who opened a store at 33 & 34 High Street in 1792. The hotel’s reception area reflects the bygone store’s design language and the original Colson’s sign sits above the bar, reinforcing the sense of place. The guestroom designs played on Exeter’s fascinating architecture and quirky local ingenuity. One of the guestroom designs focused on the House That Moved, number 16 Edmund Street, or the Merchants House, one of the oldest surviving structures in Exeter that was painstakingly moved 90 meters up the street to make way for a new road. The third design narrative takes inspiration from Exeter Cathedral, which has the longest unbroken stretch of stone ceiling vaulting in the world.

The original 1950s building plan form is complex, resulting in various guestroom variations in size and shape that were challenging with regards to the distribution of mechanical and electrical services and FF&E fitout. Nevertheless, these elements contributed positively to the interiors’ unique design.