Coach House, Hatfield House
Friday 24 May 2013


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Coach House is a 6,000 sq ft restaurant and café at one Britain’s most historic sites: Hatfield House, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I. The brief for SHH was to create a new dining space, enlarging and transforming a very basic tea-room facility, set within a 19th century coach house setting, to create an environment with day-long appeal, which would encourage re-visits; become a destination venue for visitors and also appeal to local office tenants. The design had to create single, flowing, integrated space out of formerly disjointed areas and support a huge volume of customers, without feeling like a fast-food canteen.

Challenges included a tight budget and timetable, with all works to be completed during off season. The service aspect was also particularly demanding in terms of the budget, with new air source heat pumps, all new electrical services and hot water boilers required, which necessitated an upgrading of the electrical sub-station.

The guiding design principle was for the restaurant to look at home in its nineteenth century setting, whilst at the same time being undeniably contemporary. The key to achieving this was selecting materials with direct reference to those used in the surrounding buildings and using them in an honest, simple and almost hand-crafted manner. The significance of the site in English history is reflected by the sourcing of almost entirely English furniture, fixtures and fittings.

The honest material language also carried through into graphic communication. Wood was salvaged from trees felled by the estate’s foresters during winter grounds’ maintenance, for example, with the stumps then used as support plinths for external hanging signs, and dressed wooden blocks for internal signage and menus.

The 2-storey combined space now flows with ease, with new feature staircase offering glimpses of upper storey, leading to roof terrace.  In spite of huge volume use, a spacious feel has been retained. 

Helen Craddock, Concessions Manager at Hatfield House commented: “From the display of food to reducing queues, the whole space flows and works very well for both staff and customers. Customer response has been fantastic - often the first word you hear them say is ‘wow’! Compliments come in constantly, not only on the food and the service, but the design and the feel of the restaurant too. Turnover has increased by over 20% compared to last season.”