Lake District interiors - Cedar Manor Hotel
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 April 2014
They fell for each other in a blizzard on Langdale Pikes and now run a stylish hotel at Windermere. Eileen Jones reports
He was a tough, worldly-wise climber fresh from Everest base-camp, with years of Lake District hiking behind him. She was a petite beauty consultant and fine jewellery expert who had spent years tripping along Kensington High Street. And the two of them were alone in a blizzard on a bleak February day on the Langdale Pikes.
Were this a Mills and Boon novel, our hero would have swept her into his arms and carried her to safety. ‘In fact, she beat me to the summit, even though she’d never been on a fell before in her life, danced down the mountain, and showed no signs of aches and pains the next day,’ says our hero. It was a defining moment in the romance of Jonathan and Caroline Kaye. Not only did it put a seal on their relationship, but she joined him in a love affair with the Lakes.
Ten years later they are living the dream, running the stunningly beautiful Cedar Manor Hotel which looks across Windermere to the hills of their adventure. They bought it in 2007 and turned it into a delightfully quirky country house with a contemporary twist, constantly revamping and innovating with the help of local designers and craftsmen.
It’s a labour of love with a great deal of fun along the way. ‘Pleasure shouldn’t be a serious business,’ says Jonathan. ‘That’s not to say we don’t take it seriously.’
He’s a host with an easy manner having spent ten years running the legendary Raffles nightclub in Chelsea. His family, from Birmingham, spent a week every summer at a hotel by Ullswater. It was a converted monastery with basic facilities. ‘Over the years, the proprietor learned about fine dining and married an interior designer. They transformed the place, and year by year we made that journey with them. That’s when I decided what I wanted to do with my life.’
After his degree course, Jonathan worked for hotels across the south of England until he spotted tiny advert for a nightclub manager. ‘It was so elite, they didn’t name it,’ he says. He became manager of Raffles, transforming it in 10 years into a top quality nightclub where celebrities and royalty were welcomed discreetly and the champagne flowed.
It was during this time that he met Caroline, a single parent working as a beauty consultant for Estee Lauder at John Lewis, at their flagship Peter Jones store, and at Harrods. Her career proved invaluable in her future life, offering the opportunity to develop a natural sense of artistry and style. As she soon discovered once running the Cedar Manor, she was also happy to tackle painting and decorating on a grand scale.
But at first she was a city girl and if Jonathan was to entice her to share his dream, she needed to fall in love with Lakeland. Hence her dramatic day in snow and hail. ‘I’d never done anything like that before,’ she admits. ‘I really loved it, and realised how fit I was. But when I got back to work on the beauty counter on Monday my colleagues were astonished – my face was raw and peeling with the effects of wind and snow.’
Nevertheless, she was hooked on the Lakes and the man. And by the time she and Jonathan had a daughter of their own, Elizabeth, they were ready to make the life-style change, head north and find their dream hotel. ‘It’s named after the cedar tree in the garden, a Himalayan species that seeds only once every 40 years, and it happened last year,’ says Caroline. The house was built in 1854, designed by the same architect as the neighbouring St Mary’s Church.
That notion of keeping it local applies still, with the Kayes determined to use the best local designers, craftsmen and products. The evidence is visible throughout the hotel, in the individual rooms with their distinctive names and matching views – Claife Heights, Wansfell, Crinkle Crags – but is showcased ultimately in the detached Coach House suite.
Here is sumptuous luxury with every possible attention to detail. The carpet is made from a Herdwick/Swaledale blend from Cumbria Carpets. The flooring is oak from RR Stone at Staveley. The furniture is made to fit precisely by Andrew Smith’s team at Lakeland Fells Furniture in Windermere. That’s everything from a dining table concealing a remote console for the TV and computer connections in the ‘conference’ suite, to the mirror-surround for the astonishing bathroom with its twin spa bath, colour changing lights, twin basins with Philippe Starck taps, and platinum leaf bath design by Alison Tordoff.
Andrew also built the hide-away conference facilities, for the Coach House can also be booked for meetings and presentations on a daily basis, as well as for private dinners for up to 10 guests or wedding breakfasts.
The individual touches are obvious throughout the hotel: iPod docks, hand-made chocolates, environmentally friendly cosmetic products. Cedar Manor has a gold standard ‘Green Tourism’ award, recycling whatever they can along the way. The Coach House has delicate chandelier-style lighting in the bedroom, though none so dramatic as the recently-installed Bombay Sapphire chandelier in the main hotel, made with glass from gin bottles.
All bear the hallmark of Alison Tordoff, the designer from Fidget based nearby in Bowness, who has played a key role in stamping the distinctive mark on the Cedar Manor style. She designed a bespoke ‘bookend’ wallpaper for a reception room where Caroline and Jonathan are displaying the work of local artists, jewellers and craftsmen. Look at the book titles, and you can see that Jonathan and Caroline’s sense of humour has proved that style can be fun.
They are having the time of their lives, and so are their guests. For 51 out of 52 weeks in the past year, the Cedar Manor was voted top hotel in Windermere on Tripadvisor. And the best hotel interior in the Bloomburg International Hotel Awards went to Fidget and Alison Tordoff for her work on the Coach House, lounge and Crinkle Crags bedroom at the hotel.
Guests may come to the Cedar Manor for a quiet rest; they are more than likely to go home feeling inspired.