THE NICOLINI LOUNGE
We planned a similar make-over for what used to be the Nicolini Bar only to discover there were structural problems. The same water leaks from the top floor had soaked all through the internal stone walls, causing the beams and joists to rot where they connected with the stone walls. This meant the ceiling, which we had started to repaint, was not stable and had to come down.
The ceiling was found to be resting on just two beams, being about 10% of the original support network of beams and joists. The rest was just hanging in the air. So the original ceiling had to be dismantled and re-built from scratch with massive new steel support joists. You can see some of this work here and on the link above.
This used to be a very cold room because there was nothing between the stone walls and the wall panels. So we put in loads of insulation as you can see from the pictures on this page. This means, once the fires are lit, this becomes quite a wam and cosy room in winter, which it never used to be.
Most hotels have a waiting area or reception room for guests to sit down and relax in, upon arrival. The original Nicolini Bar, being next to the reception desk, was never used as a bar as people preferred the cosier Patti Bar. Clearly though, previous owners had thought to have one function one end of the building and one function the other, hence two bars.
The Nicolini bar was never used, and also because it was permanently open as part of the public access areas, it was impossible to leave it stocked and keep an eye on the wine and spirits all the time. Some people were caught nipping behind the bar and helping themselves at functions! So I initially decided to halve its size and make the bar area lockable, with the rest of the room predominantly as a lounge. But once we discovered the amount of work that needed doing, we went the whole way, taking the room back to the bare stone and giving it a complete make-over.
An old stone arch had been completely covered with some rotten wooden shelves. We initially tried repainting the wood panelling and considered replacing the shelves, but as everything turned out to be plagued with dry rot, it was decided to take the wood out completely, back to bare stone. We were surprised to find the arch within an arch arrangement hidden behind all the wood shelving and panelling.
Once upon a time there had been a set of double doors between the breakfast room and the Nicolini lounge, covering the interesting arches. We found the stonework had been hacked away to make space for the double wooden doors' frames. Quite why such interesting archwork was done only to be panelled over is a mystery. The stonemasons of the day went to great trouble to do an interesting arch, only for the Victorians to cover over everything with wood panelling.
In place of the old bar, we have now reinstated the fireplace, having discovered the chimney opening.
We spent some weeks buying up loads of chesterfield sofas, Queen Anne high-backed chesterfield chairs and low club chairs, one set a time. The typical householder has one of each and as we have some 26 Chesterfields, this meant driving all over the country over several weeks collecting three pieces at a time. We bought them all on E-Bay at an average spend of £350 a set. Probably the most economical part of the Nicolini room refurbishment.
We have converted this room into a nice new reception lounge that guests can relax in upon arrival.