Re-inventing The Alex
Comprehensively and breathtakingly refurbished, Dublin’s The Alex Hotel has been transformed into a leading all-day hospitality destination for the city.
Located in the Merrion Square area, The Alex Hotel, part of the O’Callaghan Group, and one of Dublin’s best established hotels, now carries the hallmarks of a strong, individual identity underpinned by good design to appeal to a new generation of visitors looking for increased dining and working flexibility.
The scheme was designed by 21 Spaces, with PARSON as main contractors.
Playful and not too formal, the design brief allowed for 21 Spaces to create the interiors and design all the bespoke furniture and fittings, much of it made by Irish craftsmen.
John Henry Boyle, founder and director of 21 Spaces, said: “The refurbishment of The Alex could not have been better timed. The demand on a central location and the demographic shift following the relocation nearby of multi-national companies such as Twitter’s European headquarters, has meant that since the redesign, The Alex has become a busy and lively all-day destination.
“The cultural and historical aspects of the former industrial area in which the hotel is located, and the tramlines that used to sit adjacent to the front door, informed and inspired the bespoke design and detailing throughout the renovation of this 105 bedroom venue.”
Reinterpreting key local influences of this regenerated area, particularly from the 1950s, has enabled 21 Spaces to create an individual personality, which gives the hotel context and resonance.
Moving the hotel’s entrance to the middle of the building opened up the space to natural daylight and allowed 21 Spaces to reconfigure the ground floor layout.
Where previously there were dormant areas, by changing the flow, 21 Spaces has maximised the use of every corner, creating different focal points, each with its own identity and purpose. Clusters of seats in varying quantities, along with new seating areas, have helped to increase interaction within the hotel, drawing in new visitors so that the location is used every day to full capacity.
An increasing demand for hot desk facilities led 21 Spaces to create a dedicated library and working area. Located to the right of the entrance, this inviting airy space with large windows has two long desks alongside an area of fixed seating.
Fashioned from solid walnut by Irish craftsmen based in Belfast, each desk proudly displays natural markings and cracks complete with butterfly ties, to create character and interest. Metal legs complete the raw industrial aesthetic.
John Henry Boyle commented: “Accents of walnut feature elsewhere; from the school-style chairs with stained walnut seating and flooring, to the locally inspired vertical walnut veneer pencil pleating on the walls. In a nod to traditional hotels, a series of newspapers hang suspended on walnut rods to encourage visitors to pop in and use the welcoming space.
“Against the wall, a locally made upholstered Kvadrat dark blue green textured banquette and small circular steel tabletops with brass detailing are accompanied by distinctive upright chairs upholstered with Kvadrat light pink seats and electric blue arm rests.
“An intricate bespoke bookcase running the width of the room, created from perforated polished steel panels and incorporating layers of horizontal LED lights, was made on site by a local craftsman and completes the overall design.”
In the new reception area, floor tiles reference local building geometric designs, as does the softly coloured triangle stained glass panel that sits behind the reception desk, with its smart brass countertop and locally inspired vertical walnut veneer pencil pleating base.
A variety of seating configurations and bespoke rugs, handmade locally by a factory in Dublin, add to the relaxed atmosphere.
A large customised ticker-tape sign runs the length of the lift area and references the defunct tramline that once operated next to this site. Adjacent is a private screening/conference room with extensive conference facilities and meeting rooms offered on the lower ground floor.
The former hotel entrance has been transformed in to a standalone location, The Steam Café, a fast moving coffee shop that serves nearby offices. This light and airy pared-back interior, with old-fashioned lobby doors and new floor-to-ceiling windows, puts the coffee centre stage.
A curved ash timber wall is juxtaposed against black and steel industrial pendant lighting. A slim banquette with a Kvadrat moss green base and a light grey upholstered backrest, combined with fixed circular tables made from recycled milk bottles, the top stained walnut in colour, gives the space its own identity.
John Henry Boyle said: “The dining area is a more refined space that combines mid-century detailing with an industrial twist through the judicious use of wood, marble, brass, steel, velvet and fabrics to give the area a sense of crafted luxury.
“To encourage use of the restaurant throughout the day, a new layout of smaller dining zones was designed, including the creation of an atmospheric lounge with stone blue walls and matching velvet banquettes, accompanied by soft light pink chairs.”
In the main restaurant and bar, dark turquoise velvet and striking maroon banquettes are juxtaposed against soft pink and blue textured fabric chairs, while vibrant pink walls unify the overall colour scheme.
Grounding this space, and referencing the local industrial heritage, bespoke black lighting tracks and pendant lighting have been judiciously used. Brass accents are found throughout, from the magnificent long brass bar countertop and brass task lights, to the brass edging on the silk upholstered wall panels.
A high level of detail is found is each of the 105 bedrooms and suites. Against a backdrop of soft coloured dusty pink walls, customised leather headboards, velvet cushions and soft wool throws from Foxford Woollen Mill in Mayo, and large circular metal mirrors are combined with hand crafted walnut desks and chairs.
Ground floor details such as the vertical pencil pleats are referenced in the fluted water glasses, together with brass detailing in every room. Carefully chosen artworks help to add interest and individuality to each space.
Jade Metal Ltd
Jade Metal Ltd specialises in bespoke metal fabrication, standard metal fabrication and CE certified structural steelwork. The company has been in operation since 2002, although directors, Jimmy Hayes and Declan Hughes have been in partnership since 1987.
Over the years, Jade Metal Ltd has been involved with a collection of prestigious projects, including work for Google, Facebook, Riot Games, Nando’s, GBK, Zizzi, Aviva Stadium, OPW works, Bank of Ireland and PTSB Bank, amongst others. Most recently, the company has been involved with the work on O’Callaghan Hotels – The Alex.
Working on this project, Jade Metal Ltd manufactured the canopy over the hotel’s entrance doors, as well as the feature lighting and a feature mirror situated on the stairs. In addition, Jade Metal Ltd was responsible for the brass bar counters, brass and glass shelving behind the bars, the feature bookcase and the surrounding wall panels, the entrance doors and screens to restaurant.
Jimmy Hayes, Jade Metal Ltd, said:
“We valued our involvement with this project because we are passionate about what we do and the Alex Hotel is a great showpiece for us, as it is a very busy hotel in a great location.”
“At Jade Metal Ltd, we pride ourselves on the quality of our work, our service and of course, our customer satisfaction. Our work is constantly evolving, we utilise the latest machinery and tools to make innovative projects that best fit our customers’ needs, we strive for perfection and we are excited by a challenge.”
Art Loves is an Art and Creative Consultancy, specialising in creating, commissioning and sourcing site specific artwork for clients, taking projects from brief through to installation. Founded by Carrie Neely – who has extensive experience within the luxury design industry – Art Loves operates within the hospitality and corporate artwork sector, delivering stunning pieces of art throughout the UK and the Ireland.
Clients include Conrad Hilton, AC Marriott, The Mercantile Group, Kirbys Galway, The Glandore Group and Iconic offices, amongst others. Most recently, Art Loves has been involved with the work at The Alex for O’Callaghan Hotels.
On The Alex, Art Loves worked closely with 21 Spaces from the start of the project, using their interior vision and colour palette to produce site specific artwork, prints and ceramic installations using both their own in-house art and design team and local Irish artists. Art Loves’ artists created all of the artwork for the public spaces and the executive rooms and sourced a collection of vintage prints.
Giclee prints by Rachel Gallagher were embellished with gold leaf to create light in the restaurant snug, and a handmade 3D ceramic installation was created using The Alex colour palette by Clare McComish in the basement lobby. Their in-house team created the toned shelving installation in the library.
Art Loves sourced pre-existing monotone prints for the restaurant and Luke Stevenson’s stunning ‘Showbirds’ photographs which can be seen in the Lobby. The company worked on budget and project managed from start to finish, ensuring all artwork was delivered and installed to the deadlines.
Carrie Neely, Art Loves, said:
“We are very proud to have been so heavily involved in the finished look of The Alex, and feel the artwork compliments the interior design perfectly. It is fantastic to work with interior designers that understand the importance art has to a project like this.
“We feel that 21 Spaces started a major trend with their vision for this hotel and have seen the style replicated many times since. It really is stunning!”
“We really love a challenge and we pride ourselves in creative problem solving. With a huge portfolio of artists and suppliers as well as our in-house artists and designers, we also pride ourselves in fulfilling our clients’ vision of the end product.
“At Love Art, we are the bridge between the artists and the clients, and we speak both languages to ensure smooth management and delivery. We really love doing what we do, we are hugely passionate about art and we love making our clients happy!”
Bearfoot Flooring is a wholesale flooring distributor, specialising in the source of custom, solid, engineered and laminated flooring for Merchant, Trade and commercial fit-out sectors. The company has been in operation since 1999 and within this time has been involved in an array of prestigious projects including the Dublin headquarters for both Twitter and Google, as well as The Marker Hotel, Mount Juliet Hotel, Citywest Hotel and the Wykham Point apartment development.
Most recently, Bearfoot Flooring has been involved with 21 Spaces on The Alex for O’Callaghan Hotels. Working on this project, Bearfoot Flooring initially specified flooring to suit the project’s design requirements, before looking at various alternate options to better fit the required budget.
Ciaran Keely, Sales Manager for Bearfoot Flooring, said:
“We are extremely grateful and proud to have been involved in such a wonderful design and we look forward to continuing our strong relationship with all at 21 spaces.”
“At Bearfoot Flooring, we pride ourselves on choice, innovation, customer service and our ability to understand each client’s vision.”
Based in Maynooth, Co. Kildare, PARSON is a main contractor/management contractor specialising in commercial interior construction & fit out works. The company has been in operation since 2007 and is driven by one goal – to exceed expectations.
PARSON are proud of their list of clients and the unique projects their teams have completed over the years for clients such as Nandos, Tommy Hilfiger, Pizza Express amongst others.
More recently, PARSON was appointed by O’Callaghan Hotels to be the main contractor on The Alex in Dublin, where the company delivered a stunning refurbishment.
Speaking to Premier Hospitality, Eamon Groome, Managing Director of PARSON, said:
“As the project’s main contractor PARSON was at the core of the entire process working with the client’s design team to bring their vision to reality and coordinating with the Hotel’s team to ensure that disruption to their core business was kept to a minimum.”
“Starting from the lower ground floor, we conducted a complete refurbishment for the conference room and public toilets and then moved up to the ground floor where we relocated the reception, created a new bar & restaurant and constructed a new entrance to the hotel.”
In order to create this new entrance PARSON formed a new opening at a more central location of the building; the works included new steps and access ramp bridging an existing lightwell and new cantilever overhead canopy. The existing corner entrance and lobby was then transformed into Steam Coffee Shop ensuring that the site could really maximise its potential.
Commenting on the challenges presented during the refurbishment, Eamon said:
“Working on a live site is always challenging – especially when trying to keep disruption to an absolute minimum, but we had an experienced team who worked tirelessly at coordinating each major phase and the numerous mini phases of the project; all within the constraints of a tight programme and a live hotel.”
Since completing the project, the feedback from the client has been very positive and this is something the PARSON team are very proud of. The successful completion of The Alex has also led to PARSON being involved in another similar scheme for O’Callaghan Hotels – The Davenport Hotel.
“The majority of our work up until now had been restaurants, bars, offices and retail fit-outs so we are keen to expand our portfolio into the hotel sector.”
For more information about PARSON, please visit: www.parson.ie.
ODonnell Furniture Makers
ODonnell Furniture Makers are a leading bespoke furniture manufacturer and installer specialising in hotel bedroom casegoods for the four and five star hotel market. ODonnell’s manufacture wardrobes, vanity/TV/minibar units, headboards, desks and tables as well as wall panelling and doors for the hospitality and residential sectors.
ODonnell Furniture Makers is a 4th generation family-run business, with an extensive portfolio of projects having worked in conjunction with various hotel chains including Hilton, Crowne Plaza & Sheraton as well as independent hotel owners, main contractors and leading procurement companies.
The Alex was the first involvement which ODonnell Furniture Makers had with the OCallaghan group. The project was completed on time and within budget with bedroom furniture delivered from the state-of-the-art ODonnell factory based in the idyllic setting of Skibbereen, West Cork.
In relation to The Alex, ODonnell Furniture Makers created drawings for bespoke furniture in conjunction with leading Dublin interior architecture and design consultants, 21 Spaces whose concepts resulted in the eye catching scheme. The ODonnell team then crafted numerous feature items including headboards, wardrobes, wall panelling and an assortment of desks and tables.
As a testament to the success of this first collaboration OCallaghan Hotels have extended the relationship and have since appointed ODonnell Furniture Makers to two further refurbishments.
Managing Director Aodh ODonnell added:
“ODonnell Furniture Makers would like to thank OCallaghan Hotels for considering us for The Alex. Our relationship continues to thrive and we wish the OCallaghan family every success in the future. This type of repeat business and our unwavering commitment to our clients forms the foundations upon which we have built our business.”
Abbey Upholsterers Fit Out & Specialist Joinery
Founded in 1926 by grandfather, George Devlin, Abbey Upholstery is still a family-owned and operated business to this day. And because Abbey is guided by the same core values of trust, integrity, and quality that they first started out with, their reputation for manufacturing luxurious furniture to 5-star standard is unparalleled.
As a multi-award-winning upholstery and specialist fit out company, Abbey provide a bespoke interior design & fit out service to a wide and varied range of clients, including world-famous luxury 5-star hotels, exclusive private residences, and boutique restaurants & venues.
Although Abbey is best known for their work with some of the world’s best known 5-star hotels, they’ve also delivered great results for many high-profile clients in other sectors; these include top UK sports stadiums – including Wembley and the London Stadium – boutique hotels & restaurants, and private high-end residential projects. Because Abbey specialise in delivering full interior design solutions for some of the world’s best-known brands, they pride themselves on delivering a first class, 5-star service, every single time.
O’Callaghan Hotel Group, appointed Abbey to manage the manufacture and installation of bedroom upholstery and furniture, creating a sophisticated, innovative and striking space. Abbey’s brief in this project was to promote an eclectic retro feel with specially designed furnishings.
Abbey Upholsterers Fit-Out & Specialist Joinery Managing Director, Paul Devlin, said: “The Alex stands out. It brings clever savvy design to the Dublin Hotel scene.”