Matfen Hall Hotel
Five-star tiling at luxury Northumberland hotel
Nestled in the idyllic Northumberland countryside is Matfen Hall – a country mansion originally built for Sir Edward Blackett in the early 1800s. The impressive Jacobean-style mansion has a three-storey seven-bay entrance front, plus a full-height Gothic hall.
Since 1999, it has been used as a high-end hotel and was expanded in 2004 to add a spa and increase to 53 bedrooms. Guests are promised “ultimate opulence” during their stay, and the venue has won multiple awards over the years – including the ‘favourite stately home wedding venue’ accolade at the 2020 UK Wedding Awards. Since being bought by the Walwick Estate Group in 2020, Matfen Hall has been undergoing a multi-million-pound refurbishment.
Carefully considered design
The new owners have had to ensure the Grade-II listed property retains its Gothic architecture alongside modern elements, forward-thinking innovations and the optimum comfort that comes with a five-star establishment.
Working with Doonan Architects and design agency Incognito, they aimed for a “thoughtful and stylish” transformation and makeover, which has resulted in a blend of history, luxury and modernity. The heart of the building – the historic Great Hall – has been meticulously restored to its former glory, while a new bar with a mezzanine has also been created, along with upgrades to The Cloisters Bar and Restaurant and a state-of-the-art kitchen.
A phased approach
Work began on transforming the bedrooms towards the end of 2020, during a period of enforced closure owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, and phase two began in September 2022. The hotel, excluding the golf facilities, was then closed for a further six months to ensure that guests’ safety and experience were not diminished during the period of disruption.
Phase two was completed in summer 2023, and the third and final phase of the works – which involves the renovation of the remaining bedrooms as well as the golf club – is being carried out into 2024.
Renovating Matfen Hall to a five-star standard involved the careful selection of contractors and suppliers.
The main contractor, DP Builders Ltd, appointed tiling specialist W Rodgerson & Sons (WRS) – with whom they have worked for over 20 years – to provide new tiling in all ensuite bathrooms, as well as the flooring in the upper and lower courtyards, to help create the stunning Cloisters Bar and Restaurant, and two public bathrooms.
Both companies worked in collaboration with the architects, designers, and owners of the hotel to select the right tiles to reflect their vision and match the building’s heritage. For the ensuite bathrooms, they chose porcelain marble effect tiles, which were fixed to the floor and walls.
Meanwhile, 900 x 900 x 14mm octagon and dot Italian porcelain tiles were selected for the bar, restaurant and Upper Courtyard to match the existing tiles in the Great Hall. This included the stunning newly formed spiral staircase, complete with solid brass step nosings.
When it came to applying the tiles, WRS specified products manufactured by Saint-Gobain Weber. Having worked with Weber products for more than 10 years, the team knew they would be ideal for meeting the high-quality and performance standards suited to this hotel. “We have a fantastic working relationship with Weber and are so confident in its products that it was a no-brainer to use them for this project,” said Neil Rodgerson, partner at WRS.
As it’s such an old building, a lot of preparation was needed to guarantee a smooth finish. The team began by priming the walls and floors using weber PR360, which reduces bubbling, aids the flow of levelling compounds, and offers good alkali resistance and adhesion properties in both wet and dry environments. They then applied weberfloor flex – a fibre-modified, self-smoothing floor levelling compound to the floors – to varying depths of 5mm-40mm. It is quick drying and can be tiled on after just one to two hours.
Tiling could then begin on the walls using weberset rapid SPF – a rapid-setting, extra flexible tile adhesive for walls and floors. Before applying the tiles to the floors, the WRS team installed an uncoupling membrane using weberset rapid SPF, to help prolong the life of the floor and prevent any lateral movement from the old concrete slab penetrating through to the tiles. During the final stage, weberset rapid SPF was used again to fix the tiles to the floors. In total, around 2500m2 of adhesive was required to achieve a quality finish throughout.
“The tiling in the courtyard included some complex and time-consuming details, not least because the design was an octagon tile with an inset,” said Kate Wilson, the architect on the project. “The WRS team were required to cut around the hexagonal stone columns, chamfered steps, work with handrail base plates, and add nosing details in the courtyard extension and the spiral staircase.”
Despite this, by using Weber products – which are quick to set – WRS delivered an immaculate job ahead of schedule.
“As always, we received a fantastic level of support from Weber throughout this project,” added Neil. “The Weber team always provides accurate and reliable technical advice in a timely manner; their response times are particularly impressive. It was great to know that, should we have needed it, we’d have had their support to rectify any issues.”
As a result of the refurbishment work, in November 2023, Matfen Hall Hotel won Best Recently Renovated Hotel in the UK, Europe and the Mediterranean at the 2024 Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence.
Weber’s tile fixing products are manufactured in facilities in Bedfordshire and Shropshire, ensuring product quality, conformity and availability, with reduced transportation costs and CO₂ emissions