Following a one-month closure and redesign, we find out the inspirations behind the new look at Bingham Riverhouse in Richmond, London and how mother and daughter duo Ruth and Samantha Trinder’s drive to stay current has paid dividends for the business.
Bingham Riverhouse is one of the last few remaining family-owned boutique hotels left in London, and following a recent rebrand – although owner Samantha Trinder would rather it not be described as such – business is thriving.
In 1984, formidable Ruth Trinder, who had arrived in the UK from Kenya to train as a nurse, and her husband Bill were looking for a place to live when they came across a B&B perched on the River Thames. Not one to shy away from a challenge, they decided to embrace the new business venture and moved into the neighbouring annexe with their children.
The Grade-II listed building needed to be renovated, and the aim was to achieve three stars and begin building a reputation in the area and further afield.
Trade was consistent for almost two decades until 2001 when Ruth had a change of heart and wanted to sell up. “I was running four nursing homes at the time as well and I couldn’t cope,” she tells BH. She called a family meeting and her daughter Samantha, who had little hospitality experience, stepped up to take over operations.
Fast forward a few years and whilst browsing the shelves of Waterstones, Samantha found the first copy of Mr & Mrs Smith and devised an idea to create Richmond’s first boutique hotel. The following years were spent fine tuning the business model and growing the hotel’s customer base as a luxury, boutique hotel.
In February of this year, evolution came again and The Bingham launched under its new guise, Bingham Riverhouse. Moving with the times has been an integral factor in the success of the boutique hotel and one of the key reasons the business continues to do so well.
After a month’s closure in January, the hotel’s new look was unveiled. The aim was to create more of a Soho House-esque feel, where people can come and go, using the space how they would a private members club.
The new design also pays homage to the building’s history, with the walls fit-to-bursting with stories from its literary past. Bingham began life as two Georgian townhouse in 1821 when Lady Bingham moved in. Perhaps the most intriguing residents however were aunt and niece Katharine Harris Bradley and Edith Emma Cooper, who lived at the house from 1899 to 1914. Lovers, as well as relations, they wrote poetry under the pseudonym Michael Field before dying within one year of each other around 1914. The house then became a hub of creativity for figures such as Robert Browning and W B Yeats until it fell into neglect.
Now Bingham Riverhouse is ready to go after a new customer set and begin its next chapter. We sat down with Ruth and Samantha to find out more about the project and further development plans on the horizon.
How did the hotel originally find its place in the market?
Samantha: “Prior to Mr and Mrs Smith and the like, luxury hotels were always thought of as big, country house hotels; there wasn’t a market for small, independent properties until then.
“We needed a lot of help. At the time there was help for small businesses from the Government and part of the Business Link initiative any small business could have an advisor visit three times a year. Well the first thing our guy Ashley said was that we needed a business plan. So I downloaded the business link template and named it ‘Making Richmond’s First Boutique Hotel’. It just goes to show you don’t need a hotel degree or anything.
“Then we gave this business plan to the bank, they liked it and it then allowed us to extend the mortgage – I think we got £1.2m quite easily. So that gave us the funds to carry out a refurbishment and in 2006, we went from 23 bedrooms to 15, making all the rooms doubles, and changing it from this old look to a contemporary Mr & Mrs Smith. We did it slowly over two years, including the restaurant, the bar and events space.
“Now, 13 years later, we’ve done it again and rebranded to Bingham Riverhouse.”
What was the aim of the redesign this time around?
Samantha: “It’s always been place where people celebrate and a romantic house so we wanted to celebrate the poets more (Katharine and Edith). It’s also being aware of how things have moved on and bringing back that homeliness and using the history of the house a bit more.
“It’s meant to be very relaxed, so you can sit and enjoy the space; not so formal, more chilled.”
How long did the whole process take?
Samantha: “I’ve got a wellness studio and yoga centre in Richmond which we opened in 2016. It’s an eco wellness escape. Then a year later, the idea of updating the Bingham, came about. We worked with a couple of guys who do branding and identity called That Thing and they interviewed us and our guests and together we came up with the concept.
It took a while trying to find an interior designer, but we found Nicola Harding, whose previous work includes the Garden House at Beaverbrook. Then the project took about three or four weeks when it started, and was headed up by Hipgrave Construction who were amazing.
“The design now uses more light pastels, deep jewel tones and clean lines, while the three-AA-rosette riverside restaurant has a new marble bar and lounge.
“Fiona Rassell of Storm Training came in to provide some training for all the staff too. You can do all the interiors but if the team don’t live and breathe it, it’ll be worthless. We had a Michelin star at one stage, so now the service style has changed completely.
“We then had two weeks of service training and porudct knowledge, followed by a weekend of soft opening. We also installed a PMS and Epos systems at the same time and introduced new uniforms, so it really was a relaunch – although we try not to say that word! It does feel totally different in terms of the mindset and energy.”
What challenges have you experienced in the business in general during your ownership?
Samantha: “As we grew as a business, investing in our team has been crucial. Our general manager has been here six years, that’s a priority to make sure the team is well looked after. It’s easy to get a better paid job but to have a place where people feel valued – people see me around, they know they aren’t working for a big corporate organisation that is just trying to squeeze every penny out them.
What’s been your best year in terms of growth?
Samantha: “We had one of our best years in 2010 because I
think we got a lot of benefit from being a middle-ish market hotel. With people
not going abroad, we had some banks entertaining here because they couldn’t be
seen to do it in a lavish setting. We benefited along the way where people
weren’t spending. In 2010 we got the Michelin star too and that really put the
restaurant on the map and that was the aim.
“We’ve always had year on year growth.
“We now want people to come for the vibe of the restaurant too. The atmosphere has been a bit up and down trade wise in the week – weekends are always busy – but one of the reasons for the changes was for that, because it was seen as a special occasion but we are now more of a house feel.
Would you invest in another hotel?
Samantha: “Yeah definitely, my mum is a serial entrepreneur.”
Ruth: “I love the challenge!”