Street Smarts

Do your homework. Howarth Litchfield and IHG flip a former college building into a hospitality haven that reflects Hotel Indigo’s neighborhood ethos.

Forget night at the museum. Paying tribute a nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site and a building’s collegiate past shouldn’t be a history presentation. When it came to designing the recently opened Hotel Indigo Durham in the U.K., local architecture firm Howarth Litchfield created an atmosphere where guests are encouraged to brush up, not button up, with bold punches of color and a few quirky details that would work as well in a luxury dorm room as a grand lecture hall.

Hotel Indigo Durham | Howarth Litchfield, Henry Reeve | InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Hotel Indigo Durham, designed by Howarth Litchfield and InterContinental Hotels Group's Henry Reeve. All photos: Courtesy of InterContinental Hotels Group. 

Occupying a Grade II-listed building dubbed Old Shire Hall, the hotel structure was originally home to the Durham County Council offices and later served as a university administrative headquarters, housing the vice chancellor’s office until 2012. The designers took cues from the neighborhood—including its namesake university, heritage site comprised of a cathedral and castle, and charming 18th- and 19th-century houses—as well as the red brick and stone Victorian building itself, with its domed tower, decorative columns and arched windows, to create the hotel’s old-meets-new look.

Hotel Indigo Durham | Howarth Litchfield, Henry Reeve | InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)
Hotel Indigo Durham | Howarth Litchfield, Henry Reeve | InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Throughout the hotel, the design team incorporated nods (some subtle, others not so much) to academia and the cathedral while retaining the structure’s most coveted architectural details. Striped chairs, casegoods reminiscent of Scandinavian style, industrial lighting fixtures and framed artworks give the public spaces and 83 guest rooms an approachable, residential vibe. Leather upholstered headboards with shelves lined with books, reading lights topped by green shades, vintage microscopes and side tables resembling trunks play up the collegiate theme. Old maps of the city, tapestry-style cushions and chairs that recall the look of vintage church pews round out the inspo trinity.

Hotel Indigo Durham | Howarth Litchfield, Henry Reeve | InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)
Hotel Indigo Durham | Howarth Litchfield, Henry Reeve | InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

Three distinct room types, from academia-inspired accommodations decked out with the university’s official purple hue to grand suites with tapestry detailing, are spread across four floors. Wood flooring; oak furnishings; a muted palette of mustard, sage and gray; and bathrooms clad in gray and stone tiling reinforce the residential feel without compromising the brand’s functional ethos.

Hotel Indigo Durham | Howarth Litchfield, Henry Reeve | InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)
Hotel Indigo Durham | Howarth Litchfield, Henry Reeve | InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)

While Howarth Litchfield created the hotel’s interiors, a bulk of the design was led by Henry Reeve, director of design and innovation at InterContinental Hotels Group (Hotel Indigo’s parent company). Beyond wrapping up the Durham project, Reeve has had a busy season, with the Hotel Indigo flag set to increase its footprint with openings this year in London (1 Leicester Square and Aldgate), Milan and Stratford-upon-Avon in the U.K. Overall, there are 20 Hotel Indigos due to debut in Europe over the next three to five years.