Lancashire Interiors - The Rooms, a boutique B&B in Lytham
- Credit: Archant
The seaside landlady is no longer a dragon and the successful B&B is chic and sophisticated. Roger Borrell reports
Having people to stay can be a pain or a pleasure depending on how house-trained they are. But when you let them lounge in your luxurious, super-sized beds seven days a week you either require the patience of a saint or, as Jackie Stratton says, ‘you really need to like people.’
It’s obvious Jackie does. She and Andy had spent years travelling the world importing high-end giftware and posh artificial flowers so they’d seen the inside of an awful lot of hotel rooms.
In an attempt to give their lives a change of pace, they decided to create the sort of place they would like to stay in. They took an attractive, if outdated, Victorian terraced house in Lytham, dismantled the inside and ended up with one of the UK’s finest bed and breakfasts.
If you’ve ever puzzled over the word ‘boutique’ when applied to a small hotel or guest house, head to The Rooms in Church Street. It’s an object lesson in uber-cool meets comfortable. And if you happen to have a million and a bit to spare, you could be the next seaside landlord or lady of The Rooms. Jackie and Andy are moving on to new challenges.
The business will celebrate six years this summer. It caused quite a stir when it opened because it had been a decade since anyone in Lytham had opened a place with letting rooms. The word was that there was a covenant on many parts of Lytham – most of it a conservation area – and the town fathers looked down their noses at such establishments.
None of this fazed this couple who sailed through the planning process and hired local architects and builders to spend a small fortune on what had been a large, seven bedroom family home.
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The staircase was pulled forward to provide more space across the back of the house, a modern kitchen with a vaulted ceiling was created and the rest of the ground-floor housed a smart breakfast room, a separate dining room for the owners or guests and a bright living space with doors onto a substantial garden and patio.
Jackie always had an eye for interior design and she mixed the neutral with natural and added splashes of colour with statement pieces of wall art and a striking set of dog paintings in the living area. ‘We always wanted a dog but we felt we couldn’t in a guest house, so this was the next best thing,’ she says.
They eventually compromised when a cat followed them home one New Year’s Eve. After a fruitless search for the owners, the newly-named Eve became a non-paying guest.
They laid attractive marble floors throughout the ground-floor and went for leather, wood, metal and glass for many of the furnishings and fittings. ‘We wanted to create something that was timeless,’ says Jackie, who grew up on the Fylde.
‘I don’t believe it will date – obviously it will need decorating and furnishings renewing, but in 20 years time the core of the house won’t look old fashioned.’
On the two upper floors, there are five letting bedrooms plus the owner’s bedroom so, if you live out, there could be seven letting rooms, which range in price from £125 a night to £160 for the extra-swish Room One. Each is individually styled with big beds, entertainment systems, top of the range linen and luxurious, modern bathrooms. Room One has a free-standing oval bath from which you can watch the large-screen TV. There are several clever touches throughout, such as the hidden wardrobe spaces behind false walls.
The Rooms rapidly gained wider attention – Lancashire Life was an early visitor in 2008. However, even we defer to The Times of London when it came to really spreading the word.
‘I took a phone call from The Times asking us to send them some pictures of the place,’ recalls Jackie.
She asked if they were coming to review her B&B and her heart leapt a little when she received the answer: ‘No, we’ve already been.’
Jackie needn’t have worried. The Times ‘Mystery Guest’ described it as a ‘super-slick new breed of B&B with wifi, flat-screen TVs with satellite channels, digital radios, iPod stations’ and eventually named it as that year’s top UK B&B.
An impressive 15 breakfast choices from around the world, including Madeira kidneys, Toulouse sausage or haggis black pudding plus a welcoming glass of fizz, have also brought praise from The Good Hotel Guide and Alastair Sawday’s B&B bible.
‘We have a brilliant young woman who really looks after the place for us,’ says Jackie. ‘You can be as hands on as much or as little as you want. We have an occupancy rate of 80 per cent and we aim to appeal to all types – honeymoon couples or Mrs Miggins, from Llandudno, who is visiting relatives.
‘The great thing about Lytham is you have everything on your doorstep. Drop your bags and kick off into town where there are great pubs and eating places.’
The property, which is on the market with Lytham Estate Agents at £1,050,000, could be turned back into a family home. ‘That’s not difficult to do,’ says Jackie. ‘But it would be nice if someone could keep it as a guest house. Lytham seemed to fall in love The Rooms.’