Ten minutes with Matt Hulme, from Dynargh Design

The founder of Dynargh Design and the man behind Watergate Bay’s latest launch talks touchpoints, trend-avoiding and sustainable shopping.

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The founder of Dynargh Design and the man behind Watergate Bay’s latest launch talks touchpoints, trend-avoiding and sustainable shopping

How did you get the Beach Lofts project at Watergate Bay and what was your brief?
This is my fourth project for Watergate Bay, and follows on from previous projects I have completed for the hotel. The Beach Lofts are Watergate’s premium rooms, so the brief was to amplify that factor and make each one feel extra special. They view directly out onto the beach, and one of my first moves was to incorporate a step down into the seating area, so that when you look out from the bed, nothing blocks the incredible views of the sea.

Tell us about the design process for this project?
We started with the concept of ‘surf in, surf out’ style rooms, like ski chalets but on the beach. The process involved lots of conversations with the hotel’s operational team, to make sure what we were suggesting enhances the guest experience but was also achievable for the staff. For example, the rooms are separate from the main hotel, so we included a private pantry for fresh drinks, pastries and snacks. There’s also a host station where guests can make reservations and get butler-like service, which adds to the exclusivity of a Beach Loft stay.
What inspired the choice of materials and colours?
It was impossible not to be influenced by the proximity of the beach, but we were determined to steer clear of seaside cliches. Instead, we took a subtler approach focused on texture and earthy tones. I was particularly keen to introduce recycled elements, be it with reclaimed wood floors or terrazzo tiles, but to do it in a sophisticated way. The idea was to prove you can make sustainable choices that feel luxurious, and without it looking too ‘hippy retreat’.

How important were the architectural details?
There are two types of architectural details at play – the big statement features, like the restored old beams that we left exposed to create an industrial vibe, and the cosy fireplaces that scream intimacy. Then there are the smaller details, like the cabinet handles, switches and sockets, which are less obvious but equally important. It’s no longer acceptable to specify standard white sockets, and why would you when you can choose beautiful fittings in matching finishes that bring the space together in harmony?
Why did you choose Corston?
It was their dark Bronze finish that first drew my attention, and I really appreciated the fact that the exact same finish is available across every product line, so I could get that all-important design cohesion without having to shop multiple suppliers and waste hours trying to match finish samples. When I’m specifying the touchpoints of any space, a quality feel is also essential, and something that Corston has really nailed. Switches need to click nicely, cabinet knobs need to be shaped to fit comfortably in the hand, and sockets should sit securely to the wall, not wobble when you remove a plug. In commercial spaces like this, durability is extra important. Guests rarely respect hotels like they would their own home, so I was also looking for backplates that won’t show fingerprints and switches that are easy to wipe clean. 

What environmental considerations do you make in your work?
Sustainability is everything and this has really been brought home in recent months by Covid and Brexit, which has highlighted how reliant we have become on cheap, expendable imports. I think we all need to take individual responsibility and be more aware of where and how things are made, and also think carefully about reusing and upcycling before sending anything to landfill. Fortunately, the interiors industry is really getting on-board, which helps to make sustainable choices. At Watergate Bay for example, the majority of the textiles contain recycled plastic bottles, as do the room signs, and many of the light fittings were reused, because there was nothing wrong with them. Besides, old, time-worn items give a room character and soul, and help take the clinical edge off box-fresh furnishings.
What’s your top interior design tip (besides hiring a professional!)?
With your home, the décor has to be personal. There’s nothing worse than trying to replicate a room from Pinterest or a brochure – it often just looks contrived. I’d recommend starting with one or two pieces you have always admired and working the rest of the scheme around them. Take your time and build up the look gradually based on what you love, not the latest trends. And don’t listen to anyone else – if you want a pink sofa, go for it.

What is your favourite project to date and why?
The Cookie Jar in Alnwick, Northumberland. It was my first project for ex-Malmaison CEO Robert Cook, and his wife Debbie. Their brief was “we like blue, go for it!”. It was a really nice experience to have that level of trust, and I enjoyed creating individual schemes for each of the rooms. The idea is that you could stay there every year and get a different experience every time. The pressure was on to complete the job in just three months, but I felt a huge sense of achievement when it won an award in 2019.
How would you describe your own design style at home? After 16 years in hotel design, I definitely look at things differently than a residential designer, and this is reflected in my own home, near Bude. I’d describe it as slightly ‘member’s club’ – or a very lived-in hotel!

Falmouth School of Art graduate Matt Hulme cut his design teeth at Urban Outfitters, Hotel du Vin and Malmaison, before establishing his own practice, Dynargh Design, in 2011. Based on the Devon-Cornwall borders, the team have designed and decorated some of the most desirable hotels in the UK, most notably Another Place in the Lake District and Cornwall’s Watergate Bay.

Watergate Bay Hotel, watergatebay.co.uk
The Cookie Jar, cookiejaralnwick.com