Chapel House is a strikingly stylish boutique B&B townhouse in Penzance, run by hands-on owner Susan Stuart. Built on the ‘open house’ concept and opened in 2015, the comfortable feel fused with clean, cool design and informality help make Chapel House one of the smartest B&Bs in Cornwall. We catch up with owner Stuart to discover what makes Chapel House such a success.
Six years ago, charity chief executive Susan Stuart acquired the old Penzance Arts Club building which was to become Chapel House. She then began a two-year renovation project with architect Keith Bell to open a new boutique B&B with an ‘open house’ concept at its core.
The Georgian building is bursting with history, having been originally built in 1790 and lived in by Admiral Samuel Hood Lindsay, who ran the Penzance naval base during the Napoleonic War. Its picture perfect setting is in the old part of the town, opposite the church and looming over the main promenade with views over the harbour and Mounts Bay.
Now the stylish boutique townhouse has been loving restored, with contemporary design pops entwined with nods to previous guests who have used the base as a home over the years. While the design takes inspiration from its seaside perched location, the subtle hint to the coast featuring greys, greens and blues shakes off the traditional take on nautical style.
The high ceilings and white-washed floorboards and walls are lifted by natural light and modern paintings from local artists, with mid-century Danish furniture and antiques sourced by Stuart herself bringing the space to life.
The property is home to six bedrooms, each designed differently with carefully selected furniture and with a simple style to accentuate the building’s Georgian features. Some have standalone bathtubs while toiletries are supplied by local Penzance producer, Nuff Stuff.
It’s a B&B, so while there isn’t a fancy fitness studio or spa facilities, the open house concept is really something striking a chord with travellers right now.
As expected, the food offering isn’t extensive, but Stuart runs a supper club on Friday and Saturday nights, which she tells us, have been ‘hugely successful’. “Only one couple requested their own table, and it didn’t really work for them,” she says. Menus are put together and cooked by Stuart, who sources the best local ingredients on the doorstep of the property to create a sharing-style feast: Think pan fried brill with Cornish potatoes, saffron bread and butter pudding and Cornish asparagus with homemade hollandaise.
“We’re currently talking to a couple of local chefs about collaborating out of season when their opening times may be limited about hosting suppers at Chapel House,” she says.
Breakfast continues along the homely theme; guests pad down to the open dining space at the bottom of the house and help themselves to fruit, pastries and home-made smoothies served up on the kitchen island. Hot food options are available from a flexible cooked menu and then served up by Stuart or one of her staff.
It’s a B&B, so while there isn’t a fancy fitness studio or spa facilities, the open house concept is really something striking a chord with travellers right now. Allowing guests to come and go as they please, relax in the two living rooms and take advantage of the ‘bar’ stocked with spirits like Sipsmith, makes the whole experience hugely relaxing. There is no pressure to wear something specific, or fit in with the way the business operates, guests are encouraged to treat Chapel House as their own holiday home.
In November 2016, Stuart acquired the neighbouring building to Chapel House and began the next phase of development for the business. Plans were put in place in April 2018 to transform the adjacent building into two new suites and install a wood-burning hot tub.
Stuart adds: “The buildings were originally part of Chapel House and until the 1960s dilapidated outbuildings which a previous owner of Chapel House converted to a house for their retirement. They add a new contemporary element to Chapel House and offer the opportunity for guests to use either as a suite or for longer stays to self-cater.”
Next year and beyond Stuart plans to develop the surrounding area around the new suites to capitalise on the views, the extra space and the gardens.
The garden and courtyard area came with the suite building,” explains Stuart. “The garden benefits from day long sunshine, is sheltered from the wind and has views across the harbour to St Michaels Mount. The garden is also idea for al fresco lunches and suppers. We also plan convert an outbuilding to create a small treatment room for massage, aromatherapy.”