“Miami-inspired luxury on the North Cornish coast” is how design agency Absolute described their refurbishment project at the St Moritz Hotel in Trebetherick, near Rock. Absolute Founder and Creative Director, Helen Stephens, worked alongside Senior Interior Designer, Zella Packer, to bring the refurb to life, drafting in our help to create a trio of bespoke items for each room.

Our working relationship with Absolute has been longstanding, and it was a pleasure to assist Helen and Zella in curating their vision. We spoke with the women about the creative process, their favourite features and the future of interior design.

Helen and Zella

What’s the difference between starting on a blank canvas and remodelling an existing space? Is it hard to not be guided by what is already there?

H: Thankfully this project was pretty much a full rip out and start again! However, if we are tasked to work around existing finishes, then yes, they do inform our solutions as they need to feel part of anything new we install. Plus, we don’t like to take out anything for the sake of it!

Z: We often work on a mix of site locations; new build residential and purpose built commercial spaces, refurbishments for listed buildings such as old cottages, and existing hotels and restaurants, amongst others. We are lucky with the projects we work on as often I think that these spaces carry character and a range of internal materials, which add to the design rather than hinder it, therefore creating opportunity for a new space. I find it easy to see past the existing elements, and it’s exciting to envisage the future design!


Where does your inspiration for design come from?

H: Everywhere! From our surroundings, fashion, research… We have a massive library of books and magazines that span 30 years and I love to look back and take inspiration from great design eras. Art Deco and Mid Century are both influencing us right now.

Z: As a design agency we often work on a vast variety of projects, but the process runs in a similar way whatever the job. There is always a natural instinct or gut feeling of overall design scheme we think will work in the space. We then propose this to the client and refine further, pulling styling imagery, architectural photography, textures, materials and colour together to create the final design. With St Moritz, we wanted to work with their amazing Art Deco architecture and bring in a real ‘Miami meets Cornish coastline’ feel.


Why did you choose to work with Ne Plus Ultra on this job?

H: We love working with Ne Plus Ultra. They ‘get us’ and we work collaboratively to find solutions. Plus, they are great fun to work with and are bursting with passion for everything they produce!

Z: We love working with Dave and Nick. The two combined bring an incredible mix of furniture making with such a passion behind it. They’ve worked with us on a few great projects in addition to St Moritz, including Seven Stars, Penryn and our new Absolute HQ, making us a beautiful bar, reception desk and meeting room table! Together we plan, discuss and push ideas, which is the best way to work.

Do you often work closely with the furniture suppliers/ makers?

H: Yes, as much as we can. We love working with the wealth of talent that Cornwall offers us!

Z: There are so many incredible makers in Cornwall. It’s really great to go through that collaborative process on some of the key design features together and in person.


Do you prefer residential or commercial projects, and why?

H: Both as much as the other, but we love the fact that our work is pretty much equally weighted in both camps. This gives us a lovely mix of challenges.

Z: Personally I’d say commercial as often there can be a little more freedom and exploration. A boutique hotel gives us a chance to really push boundaries to give clients a unique experience away from the everyday home.


What is your favourite feature of the St Moritz redesign?

H: The simplicity, the bright and airy feel that we wanted guests to feel as soon as they walk in, and most importantly the Miami Art Deco inspired styling that compliments the hotels architecture.

Z: We love the bold use of colour on this project which was initially inspired by the colours of Miami, combined with a white base and softer, more neutral tones. We designed a wall panelling detail in the entrance hallways which has worked so well and creates an impactful entrance in a space that could often feel a little lost. Ne Plus Ultra worked with the Absolute Design team on the design and making of bespoke wardrobe, dressing table and hotel drink/mini fridge stations that feature in each room.


What do you think makes a room beautiful?

Z: Natural light in a room makes so much difference but not every space is blessed with this. Therefore using skilful design to enhance characteristics, style and the overall look and feel is key.

Are there any special features you always try to include in your interiors? A signature design feature?

H: Not really, as every project has a unique client, whether commercial or residential, and their brief leads the project. We like to think Absolute doesn’t have a design style as we are always creating solutions that are relevant to a location, the building and our client.


Do you choose function over beauty? Or the other way around?

H: Function always has to come first. Our challenge, and what makes great design, is to find the form and beauty as well!

Z: We always try to make both work simultaneously. I feel like good design isn’t one without the other and they have to go hand in hand to be successful visually and seamless for the after use of the client.


Do you have any emerging trend predictions for the interior design world in 2022/ 23?

H: Corduroy – like Boucle that just appeared and took the design world by storm. We are feeling the love for this 70s icon!

Z: There are definitely trends cropping up. The minimal whites and greys appear to be progressing into the Japandi look and feel; mixing natural materials, warm tones and well designed pieces. In contrast, the maximalist style is really soaring with the likes of Soho House championing this. We are seeing lots of mixes of patterns, bold colours, wallpapers and the combining of numerous textures.


To learn more about how we contributed to the St Moritz refurb click here.

Images by John Hersey Studio