General Manager Warren Miller has set about improving facilities at Over-Seas House since his appointment in 2019. The pandemic has provided an unexpected opportunity to get cracking on the work, with more to come in 2022

It has been a genuine pleasure to be part of the Royal Over-Seas League since I joined in October 2019. Little did I know that the majority of the time would be spent in lockdown, due to the Covid pandemic. With any crisis comes opportunity and we certainly have not been idle during the closure of the clubhouse. Together with the support of Central Council and dedication of an amazing team, we took the opportunity to invest into club facilities and provide a much-improved offering to our members.

The most notable change was to bring the catering back in house, after being outsourced for over a decade. We successfully negotiated an early exit from the contract with Grayson’s and after a vigorous tendering process to go with another catering company or bring catering in house, it was unaminously agreed by Central Council on the 15 December 2020 for the latter.

This led to us to review all the food and beverage areas, and it became evident that most of the facilities required much-needed investment. With only five months to build a team and complete all the works before reopening in May, it was an immense challenge. Our focus was to maximise our beautiful garden and offer a Covid-friendly space to dine in and meet safely with other members after over a year of lockdown. To achieve this, we redesigned the space and added more seating, purchased new parasols with heating and lighting, built a new outdoor Members’ Bar and Alfresco Kitchen, with a BBQ and pizza oven. Although many of the equipment deliveries were hit with delays, we managed to launch the Garden with our new offering with much success.

It is often the case that the works most needed happen behind the scenes, so to allow us to deliver our new menu and improved service into the Garden and Brabourne Room, we needed to redesign and replace most of the equipment in the Brabourne Room’s kitchen, which came at significant expense.

Other works completed during lockdown including the much-anticipated, yet delayed opening of our newly refurbished Willingdon Drawing Room as well as light makeovers of the Lobby, Bar, and Brabourne Room. We took the opportunity to refresh 40 of our bedrooms and are now in the process of scoping out the works needed to upgrade our main kitchen, which is essential in the relaunch of our Art Deco Restaurant on the lower ground floor, planned for 2022. Once these works are completed, it will allow us to offer much more to our members in terms of catering, and bring back fine dining to the clubhouse, which members have missed.

We have worked with designer Afra Affara to bring many of these new areas to life, who explains the thought process behind each room below.

Drawing Room

“My interior design journey at Over-Seas House began just before the Covid pandemic lockdown in the beautiful space of the Drawing Room. Each piece of furniture was specifically designed and made to be comfortable, practical and elegant, and to provide the club with seating that would give warmth to a ‘home from home’ space for its discerning members. Enjoying a newspaper, afternoon tea, a game of bridge, or catching up on email, are all daily Drawing Room activities now the renovation is complete. Central Council were so pleased with the results, that I was delighted to be brought back again this summer to tackle other tired areas in this beautiful and historical building.

The new carpet being created for the Brabourne Room

Brabourne Room

“Being asked to design a rug for the resplendent Brabourne Room, was both a pleasure and a project after my own heart. After all, I have been designing carpets for nearly 30 years, so having the opportunity to design a rug for one of my favourite rooms at Over-Seas House was like Christmas had come early!

“Again, like all the interior projects at the club, I’d come to expect that I’d be led by items that were already present. In this case, it was the pale, turquoise blue colour that was in abundance on the banquette and upholstered chairs. This blue element was added to seven more colours to produce the tones for a specially commissioned, romantic, peacock feather rug. This traditionally woven carpet would both add interest to the room and, more importantly, be able to provide some well-needed sound proofing to the space.

“The design was sent to a centuries old carpet manufacturer using traditional looms in the south of England, whose clients include the National Trust and the Royal household, amongst others. Following its production, and keeping to that love of using British,  traditionally made products, the Axminster woven rug was sent to be bound on the grounds of an old mill in a small village in Worcestershire. It’s a small artisan business run by generations of the same family, where Adam meticulously hand bound and finished the edge of the rug from his small workshop positioned near an old stream that had previously provided the water needed to power an old Victorian rope mill, still standing proud, but romantically derelict, a few hundred yards away.”

With only five months to build a team and complete all the works before reopening in May, it was an immense challenge

Restaurant

“One can instantly recognise that the restaurant was once a grand room with striking original Art Deco features. Being given this great opportunity to renovate the room, it was simply a question of allowing these elegant features to sing a beautifully composed melody. Complementing paint colours, wallpaper, and artwork were chosen, like a model’s make up, to simply enhance the room’s natural beauty.

“The starting point in this room was establishing which pieces were staying, and where to introduce new decorative items and bespoke items of furniture.

Both the recently purchased carpet and the upholstered carver dining chairs would remain, so it was a question of reintroducing these items, and using them as influencing elements for the design scheme. Each shade of colour would have a definitive purpose, that would allow the diner to distinguish the beautiful Art Deco lines. The current chair fabric, for example, was kept and complemented by a more vibrant and darker tone of the colour in the form of a shimmering velvet, which would give a subtle nod to the silk velvets worn in the form of flapper dresses, rich stoles and decadent long collared evening coats that were resplendent from that bygone era. This turquoise-teal colour was then put together with other fabric combinations to make cushions, upholster British, traditionally made, bespoke armchairs, which would further be enhanced with contrasting fabric finishes. 

A grand room with striking Art Deco feature… allowing these features to sing a beautifully composed melody

“All these additions were magnified with further elements that would give a deliberate complimentary nod to the the Art Deco influence of the room’s original features. These included imposing chandeliers and wall lights, shagreen panelled walls, mirror frames depicting Art Deco illustrations, and frosted, cloud like, curved glass partitions between the booths.

“Tapping into that wonderful style of a century ago, easily brought design ideas that would enhance the space, and create a room where one can dine, work, or lounge in surroundings that are sure to evoke the senses of that stylish and vivacious Deco age.”

WARREN MILLER

Warren joined the Royal Over-Seas League in 2019 as Resident Manager, having gained extensive hospitality experience at No. Ten Manchester Street Hotel, The Wellesley, The Lanesborough, and the Capital Hotel. He took on the role of General Manager in October 2021.

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