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Arts + Lifestyle

CF’s Art Hotel Series: No. 42 By GuestHouse Margate

In our Art Hotel Series, Millie Walton selects and explores the world’s best hotels for art. Home to noteworthy collections, cutting-edge design, or creative programmes – and often all three – this is the go-to list for the aesthetically-minded traveller.

Margate has long served as a home to creative people including, most famously, Tracey Emin, who in recent years has been on a mission to transform the town into an ‘artist’s haven’. The town, in east Kent, has also seen the opening of a small clutch of luxury hotels including No. 42 by GuestHouse Margate last summer – the perfect base from which to explore the many surrounding artist studios and galleries.

J.M.W. Turner once claimed that the skies over east Kent were ‘the loveliest in all Europe’ and, perched right on the seafront, this art-filled boutique boasts spectacular views of the beach and sunset from many of its bedrooms as well as its rooftop bar. 

The Concept

© Toby Mitchell 2023, Guesthouse Margate

No.42 is one of four properties owned by GuestHouse Hotels, an independent, family-owned hospitality group that prides itself on offering ‘luxury without stuffiness’. What that means in practice is everything you’d expect of a high-end hotel – beautiful interiors, good food and a great location – without the pretension of a traditional, grand five-star. It’s an approach that suits Margate well. Service is friendly and attentive, but also pleasantly casual and direct: you’ll feel like when you ask a member of staff for their tips on what to do, they’ll actually tell you their favourite places to hang out rather than just picking the most expensive restaurants or listing things from a pre-approved list.

Rooms come not just with dressing gowns and slippers but also beach bags and towels, bedtime books and toys for children and treats and blankets for dogs (who are welcome guests in any room category). There’s an old fashioned sweet trolley on the second floor of the main house which is open all hours with complimentary snacks for guests, while the new suites have their own built-in pantries. 

The Collection

Finding and buying art for any hotel is something of a dream job, but especially in Margate where the artist community is so embedded into the town’s identity. This has a lot to do with Emin, who moved back to the town after her mother died and opened an art school called TKE Studios, after her full name Tracey Karima Emin. The school offers residencies, affordable studio spaces, and puts on a regular programme of exhibitions, meaning that the town has become a hotbed for creative talent.

When it comes to art and design, the focus is firmly on supporting local talent, not just with the aim of capturing a ‘sense of place’ but to also pay homage to the creative community that lives and works in the surrounding area. Members of the Margate Design Collective, Jo and Jess, were commissioned to make the decorative bed valances, wardrobe drapery and upholstered seating, while the eclectic collection of artworks that hang throughout the restaurant, rooms and lobby are a mixture of original works and prints by artists from along the Kent coastline. Last year, the hotel also sponsored and played host to the inaugural Margate Art Prize, which was judged by Tracey Emin and saw some of the finalists’ works temporarily displayed around the building.

No. 42 has done a good job of selecting work that feels in keeping with the hotel’s whimsical atmosphere and nautical influences without being too predictable (although there are a few drawings of conches and waves knocking about). We were particularly taken with Margo McDaid’s painted plates in the restaurant and a swirling, brightly-coloured painting by Catherine Lette that was hung above the bathtub in our bedroom. Other featured artists include Nat Maks, Catherine Chinatree, Sian C Morgan, Trix Newham, Lisa Illustrations and Harriet Ferris.

The Design Details

© Toby Mitchell 2023, Guesthouse Margate

GuestHouse hotels describe the aesthetic of No. 42 as ‘a little nostalgic’ – we would add ‘romantic’ – which chimes well with the vibe of the old English seaside town. No. 42 sits just back from the waterfront in a tall, restored Victorian building with large windows (and a few balconies) offering sweeping views over the beach. Think plush fabrics in pale shades of pink and cream, scalloped edges, lots of warm lighting, dark-polished wood and glass-fronted cabinets filled with interesting and unusual objects. Everything feels light, airy and serene. 

There’s also a lovely little basement spa, offering special ‘treatments for two’ – one includes bathing in a saltwater-filled copper bath – alongside massages and facials. The ‘lessen your stress’ treatment – a massage targeting shoulders, neck and back followed by a facial – was one hour of total bliss. It was a nice touch to be given a bottle of rose oil to recreate the spa experience at home, with some tailored tips on how to practice everyday mindfulness. 

The Rooms

© Toby Mitchell 2023, Guesthouse Margate

There are 18 rooms in the main house, of varying sizes, each with its own whimsical seaside mural, hand-painted onto the wall behind the bed by local artist and illustrator Laura Ann Coates. We stayed in one of three newly-opened Lookout Suites, all of which are housed in a separate building, two doors along, and boast floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular views over the beach – and binoculars for spying ships out at sea.

© Toby Mitchell 2023, Guesthouse Margate

All of the suites have super comfy four-poster beds and roll-top baths in the bedroom plus two-headed showers in the bathroom for a romantic (and practical) bathing experience. The mini-bar – or pantry – is generously stocked with complimentary snacks including bags of pick ‘n’ mix, there’s a turntable with a curated selection of records and a pocket-sized guide to Margate by Hoxton Mini Press. It’s worth noting that these rooms (we can’t comment on those in the main house) are right next to a rather noisy late-night bar. Earplugs are provided and, for us, they did the trick, but the noise might bother lighter sleepers.

The Food & Drink

© Toby Mitchell 2023, Guesthouse Margate

Breakfast is a buffet affair served on the kitchen countertop in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Pearly Cow, with the option of ordering a variety of cooked dishes. During the day, the restaurant specialises in fish with a dedicated oyster menu offering baked, raw or mix and match. The seafood platter, a generous mix of shellfish and fish (whatever’s brought in that day from Rye Harbour) assembled in a giant shell, is our top pick, with a side of crispy chips and dijonnaise. For dessert, try the dark chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream or a cheese platter, showcasing a selection of Kent’s best. For something lighter, snacks and small plates are served in the lounge from lunchtime onwards everyday with afternoon tea on Saturdays while the rooftop bar is the top spot in the town for sunset cocktails.

Art in the Neighbourhood

Turner Contemporary's building was designed by award-winning architect David Chipperfield. Photo: Hufton + Crow, courtesy Turner Contemporary

Turner Contemporary’s building was designed by award-winning architect David Chipperfield. Photo: Hufton + Crow, courtesy Turner Contemporary

Just a few minutes’ walk from No.42 is Turner Contemporary, named after Margate’s associations with J.M.W. Turner, who went to school there (the gallery is built on the site of his former boarding house). The gallery puts on an impressive programme of exhibitions and is currently hosting, until September, the first institutional show in Europe to be dedicated to the American abstract painter Ed Clark. Also close by is Carl Freedman’s museum-grade space which, this summer, will be presenting a show of recent work by British artist Vanessa Raw who paints dreamy, intimate scenes of women in same-sex relationships; and Quench Gallery, an experimental not-for-profit project space curated by the artist Lindsey Mendick. The Crab Museum (not strictly art) is also well worth stopping by if not for a whistlestop tour through the history of decapods, then for its depiction of crabs as 1920s fascists and trade unionists – it’s better experienced, than explained.

Lead image credit: © Toby Mitchell 2023, Guesthouse Margate
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