Bristol has appalling buildings of the kind only city planners of the 1960s could have imagined. So it’s a relief to drive to Grade I listed Portland Square, laid out around central gardens, with St Paul’s Church in one corner – and the artists’ residence in another.
This gorgeous building was once a boot factory, then a squat for many years, and the smart people behind the boho chain of shops (it’s the fifth) have managed to retain a keen sense of both.
There are steel beams and pulleys here, exposed brickwork and wooden joists there, wacky artwork on the distressed walls (most involving phrases like “party like it’s in 1999” and “if it’s not weird, I’m not interested”), a beautiful steel elevator shaft, concrete floors.
The Inspector checks into the Bristol Artists’ Residence, which is located on a corner of Grade I listed Portland Square in a ‘magnificent’ building that was once a boot factory and then a squat for many years.
Pictured above is the Inspector’s “Factory” room, which has high ceilings, two large sash windows, a small black Smeg fridge and a Roberts radio
This image provides a glimpse of an adjoining plant room
“There are 23 rooms, ranging from tiny broom closets (look into the distance at Boris Becker) to two large suites,” writes the inspector. Above, the hotel’s “Loft” room
The rolltop bathtub in the ‘Loft’ bedroom. “Bringing this building back to life is truly heroic,” says the inspector
If you thought industrial chic was on the decline, think again.
There are 23 bedrooms, ranging from tiny broom closets (look into the distance at Boris Becker) to two large suites.
Only a few rooms are taken when I arrive on the Tuesday evening after the bank holiday – so the friendly young man in charge offers to upgrade me to a ticket with a bath. But on arriving in the room, it turns out that the sheets have not been changed from the previous occupants.
“Oops,” he says, and we walk back down the seagrass hallway to my original “Factory” room, which has high ceilings, two large sash windows (three if you count the one in the hall shower stall), a small black Smeg, a refrigerator, a clothes rack with big hangers, and touches like a phone charger, a “deep sleep” pillow spray, and a Roberts radio.
Pictured is the hotel’s “Club Suite”. Double rooms are available from just £125 per room.
“The atmosphere is such that if you can’t have a good time here, you won’t have a good time anywhere,” the inspector says of the hotel.
The inspector notes that there are “goofy artwork on the distressed walls (most involving phrases such as ‘party like it’s 1999’)”
There is plenty of space on the ground floor. One area has a ping-pong table and a photo booth — and the long wooden bar (with “Snog” written above it) wouldn’t be out of place in a cowboy movie. Yes, it’s a bit artificial in places (a lollipop-shaped sign says ‘gone to sea’) but the vibe is such that if you can’t have a good time here, you won’t have a good time anywhere .
Plans are underway for a proper restaurant. For now, there are pizzas and several starters. Got three (sticky chicken wings, smoked bacon Caesar salad, rosemary fries) – all delicious.
This last artist residency is a triumph. Few people would have embarked on such a daring restoration project. Reviving this building is truly heroic.
Artist Residence, 28 Portland Square, St Pauls, Bristol, BS2 8SA.
Double rooms are available from just £125 per room. For more information call 0117 4288440 or visit artistresidence.co.uk.