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18 Jun 2018

21 Spaces complete 'playful' redesign of Dublin's historic Alex hotel
BY Kim Megson

Historical references have been evoked in the new renovation, which has “playful and informal” bespoke design and detailing throughout

Historical references have been evoked in the new renovation, which has “playful and informal” bespoke design and detailing throughout
photo: 21 Spaces

Interior design studio 21 Spaces have completed an extensive refurbishment of one of Dublin’s most established hotels, The Alex.

The 105-room hotel dates from 1990 and played an important role in the growth of the city. It is situated in Merrion Square, adjacent to the former industrial area.

These historical references have been evoked in the new renovation, which has “playful and informal” bespoke design and detailing throughout. Floor tiles and stained glass panels reference local building designs, while a large customised ticker-tape sign references the defunct tramline that once passed the hotel. The former hotel entrance, meanwhile, has been transformed into a standalone location with its own separate identity, The Steam Café.

According to 21 Spaces founder and director John Henry Boyle, the project was conceived to appeal to a new generation of visitors looking for increased dining and working flexibility.

“The refurbishment of The Alex could not have been better timed,” he said. “The demand on a central location and the demographic shift following the relocation nearby of multinational 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 property is part of the O’Callaghan Hotel Group.

In their own words

21 Spaces on their design concept

“Moving the hotel’s entrance to the middle of the building opened up the space to natural daylight and allowed us to reconfigure the ground floor layout. Where previously there were dormant areas, by changing the flow, we 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 has 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 us 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.

“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. In order that the restaurant is used 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 four banquettes accompanied by soft light pink chairs. 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 dusty pink walls, velvet cushions and soft wool throws from Foxford Woollen Mill in Mayo, large circular metal mirrors are combined with hand crafted customized walnut wardrobes and leather headboards made by O’Donnell Furniture Makers in Cork. Ground floor details such as the vertical pencil panelling are referenced in the fluted water glasses together with brass detailing in every room. Carefully chosen artworks help to give interest and individuality to each space.”

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