FOR Alison Gray, the beauty of a serviced apartment is the opportunity it affords to grab a slice of luxury for as little as one night.
“There aren’t many places like this that can be booked for less than a long weekend,” she says, referring to The Rocpool Reserve apartments in Edinburgh, which she and her husband Malcolm opened to guests last July.
No strangers to property development, the couple have worked on a portfolio of buildings, including The Atholl, which they describe as Edinburgh’s most exclusive luxury hotel. Each suite is graced by a hi-tech kitchen (to which a private chef can be summoned) while collectively they boast features including a whisky room, Hermès wallpaper and a grand piano.
Located within the city’s West End, two of the three apartments are found inside a historic townhouse on Grosvenor Crescent (where a three-bedroom garden flat resides below a three-bedroom duplex apartment), while the third is a two-bedroom mews behind The Atholl, on Atholl Crescent Lane.
When Alison and Malcolm bought these properties back in 2005, they intended refurbishing them to sell. But they feared that the proximity of the mews flat to their already established hotel could devalue the latter, and ultimately took the decision to market all three apartments as short-term serviced lets.
The buildings that host these apartments are both listed, and the couple had to jump through several hoops before planning consent was granted. To such an experienced pair of developers this merely seemed par for the course and, says Alison, the refurbishment process was fairly typical of previous projects.
“Things always run over in terms of time and budget,” says Alison; “Old buildings always have some surprises in store.”
Grosvenor Crescent, which had housed the old land court offices, had lain empty for a while before the couple radically altered the floor plan. The garden flat, which now has a large lounge/dining area that spills through to a large kitchen, which in turn opens to the private outdoor space, has seen the most dramatic structural alterations. In the apartment above the original living spaces, intricate cornices were still in situ, and had to be preserved.
“It was a condition of planning that these spaces were kept intact,” says Alison, explaining that large sections of the cornicing had to be painstakingly reinstated.
Although the couple would have liked to make the apartments more energy-efficient by fitting triple glazing, they were restricted by planners and had to settle for repairing the existing sash-and-case windows. Nevertheless, the traditional features of these buildings belie the technology that has been subtly invested in their fabric.
“The electrics did cost a fortune,” says Alison, explaining that the lighting system, for example, allows residents to set lights to come on to welcome them home, while radiators can be controlled from a switch in the bedroom.
Alison worked closely on the look of the apartments with Edinburgh-based Ian Smith Design. Initially the apartments were finished to sell, but the interiors were readdressed when their current role was defined.
“The look, while still very contemporary, became much warmer and more personal,” says Alison. In the bedrooms, for example, upholstered headboards were custom made using tactile leathers and velvets, while floors in these rooms boast thick carpets.
Solid walnut, in a Hungarian stitch design, lends the remaining floors at Grosvenor Crescent a lustrous, high-quality finish, while lined oak features in the Atholl Crescent mews. Luxury wall coverings complement eco-friendly paints in muted shades to create an unfussy finish. Much of the furniture in which the couple had invested to help sell the apartments has been retained, although individual chairs have been reupholstered in designer fabrics to create feature pieces.
Bespoke kitchens in both apartments at Grosvenor Crescent are open plan to the living rooms and utilise pocket doors which allow the cooking facilities to be easily concealed and revealed. “It’s a simple way of providing separation between these two areas when it’s required,” says Alison.
Concrete work surfaces in the kitchens add an edgy “raw” feel, which Alison loves, while the equipment and gadgets are of the highest spec.
In the bathrooms, the Philippe Starck fittings complement sleek furniture by Hansgrohe and Victor Paris, and include eye-catching pieces such as “floating” sinks and contemporary-styled slipper baths. The use of tiles on the walls as well as the floors continues the sumptuous mood.
Alison sourced many of the original art and limited-edition prints that hang in the apartments in Spain. Pieces were carefully chosen to complement the scale of each space, which is something that Alison believes isn’t appreciated by visitors until they walk through the doors.
“People are generally pleasantly surprised when they arrive,” she says; “There is something very ‘New York’ about the scale of the apartments, especially the two larger ones at Grosvenor Crescent.” And with another pretty special city on the doorstep – it’s a non-hilly ten-minute walk into the centre of town – these apartments are about as glamorous as it gets outwith the Big Apple.
• Rates for low season (November– March) start from £395 a night. Tel: 01620 842144, or visit www.rocpool apartments.com