INTERVIEW: Owner of Horwood House on challenges of transforming former De Vere venue into new luxury hotel

Horwood House

Karim Kassam is the owner of ZIZ Properties, the company spearheading the £20m transformation of Horwood House.

The former De Vere Horwood Estate is to relaunch on May 17 as a four-star independent hotel after a complete redevelopment of its 165 bedrooms, lounges and spa, as well as the introduction of two new dining concepts.

Horwood House was acquired by ZIZ Properties in December 2019.

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We caught up with Kassam to find out how the project was progressing and his plans to cement a new reputation for Horwood House.

What have been the main challenges of the renovation?

There have been many challenges ranging from securing the funding for the redevelopment of Horwood House during the pandemic to the supply chain of materials due to Brexit, and the general increases in freight charges from further afield. Cynergy Bank have been supportive and very much aligned with my vision of the potential of Horwood House. ICA, the Interior Designer and Architects, have been phenomenal in understanding the needs and working with the budget, working around these procurement hurdles. The project managers, Chandler KBS, have also been crucial to ensuring that the project is delivered on time and on budget.

What do you see as key target markets for Horwood House?

Horwood House has had a reputation as a conference and events venue as well as a Wedding venue; never capitalising on its beautiful grounds, the Leisure market or the local residents and community. We will be repositioning the offering around the leisure guests by introducing and promoting well-being stays as well as a diverse food and beverage offering for hotel guests and non-residents. We have created a destination casual dining space, as well as a full service Spa that is currently under planning and development due to open late summer 2021. Weddings and the conference market will continue to be a key target for Horwood House with a blend of modern facilities and reinstating the heritage spaces to their former glory.

How will you price your bedrooms and will this be a flexible rate?

 We will reach out to the burgeoning staycation demand that has come about from the Covid pandemic. Initially we are carrying a significant volume of carry forward bookings from the lockdown and welcoming the opportunity of delivering value for money. The product will be significantly better than the previous offer so will be a pleasant surprise for the previous rates. We have completely renovated the rooms and created some larger room types. The aim is to make Horwood House the premium destination for weddings, events and leisure guests in Buckinghamshire. The new rate will be uplifted for the new room types. Corporate guests can benefit from our new larger bedroom suites as they acclimatise to the new working from home ethos which offer a space away from home to work during the week.

How will the business look to capitalise on the staycation this year?

Our new room types offer families the chance to enjoy their stays as we have introduced rooms for families of three or four and created some interconnected rooms that can be sold to families of five. The development of the spa and leisure offering will be perfect for leisure guests to enjoy a high end experience throughout the year.

Can you give me some background on ZIZ Properties and its formation?

ZIZ Properties was established in 2019 with the intention of finding a great property, full of character, and potential to make it an all-encompassing offering for the corporate and leisure traveller.

What is the future for Horwood House and what other developments can we expect?

I believe there is so much more than we can build on or around the estate that will present opportunities to grow the offering. The leisure market will continue to evolve and so will the offering at Horwood but it needs to grow from a place of strength. Although there are many more plans for Horwood House, the first phase of this redevelopment of the site is to complete the refurbishment of the spaces that exist and then expand that in line with what the guests needs evolve to. The wellness offering is one that can grow significantly but I am keen to deliver on those before continuing to build on the great foundation that we are setting up now.

Will ZIZ Properties look to acquire more sites and grow a brand of hotels?

I am keen to get Horwood House completed and we are well on the way to delivering that. The new team that has been put together is truly exciting and once we have completed the works I will look for further opportunities where we can replicate the offering which will complement the ethos of Horwood House – a destination for the local community and a place to visit for business and leisure guests.

Tags : De VereHorwood Houserenovation
Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk


  1. Wonderful !
    After 18 years overseas with hotel groups including Intercontinental I have been a Leisure Member of Horwood House for over ten years.
    The imaginative innovations by Karim and his team in the current turbulence are superb and I wish them every success
    John Conneely

  2. It is a beautiful place. Fabulous renovation. Staff are clearly well trained and bought in and work with pride here. Gardens are also so pretty. Had a lovely coffee at Harry’s Bar. Fabulous interior design.
    Congratulations to the entire team that have worked on this and that operate the hotel.
    I can’t wait to come back with the whole family.

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