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Brute reboot: interior design for Malmaison York unlocks the beauty of landmark brutalist structure 

Global hospitality design specialist Studio Moren is celebrating the opening of Malmaison York, a 150-room luxury hotel that boasts York’s highest rooftop bar with breath-taking views of York Minster and the historic city beyond.

Working closely with York-based developer North Star, Project Manager Gleeds and brand and operator Malmaison on behalf of the project’s funder Lothbury, Studio Moren’s interior design concept for the transformation of the former Yorkshire House building in Rougier Street takes inspiration directly from the 1960’s brutalist architecture of the existing structure, as well as York’s strong links with confectionary manufacturing.

Locally known as the Aviva building, the 1960s brutalist structure truly reflects the principles of the mid-century style and features eight levels of concrete floorplates, façade and waffle ceilings that have been sensitively retained and restored where possible as an integral part of the scheme.

"Our philosophy is to create original and unique designs specific to the requirements of each individual project. We draw our design inspiration from a building’s context and local neighbourhood to create spaces with longevity that are authentic and, above all, have character. Our design for Malmaison York sensitively retains and refurbishes this concrete building to celebrate the architecture and vibrancy of the sixties, unlocking the beauty of this once austere office block to create a truly memorable hotel."

Lindsey Bean-Pearce Head of Interior Design Studio Moren

Yves Klein blue painted concrete waffle ceilings feature in the reception, bar & restaurant and breakout spaces, and sit alongside bold block colour mid-century graphic inspired rugs and upholsteries. These stronger elements are accented by a more pared back base palette including terrazzo and timber flooring as well as black stained oak panelling and black lavastone bar fronts.

A bespoke feature acrylic rod chandelier welcomes guests into the reception, while brass ‘flower pot’ pendants by Sixties icon Verner Panton sit adjacent to the façade of the building throughout the bar and restaurant space. Studio Moren collaborated with Malmaison and art consultancy Elegant Clutter to develop the concept for the artwork which features extensively throughout the hotel, with inspiration taken from Sixties greats such as Warhol, Hockney, Lichtenstein and Yves Klein.

Both the reception and bar spaces connect to the signature Malmaison Work+Play in a new extension to the rear of the building.

The area features bookable meeting pods, extensive breakout spaces and self-service kitchens which all receive daylight from a centrally located clerestory.

The conference rooms and ballroom have been optimised to create divisible multifunctional spaces with feature marquetry veneer wallcovering and signature artworks.


Studio Moren, North Star and Malmaison spent considerable collaboration time building sample guestrooms to test the layouts and maximise the space within the existing building’s rigid concrete shell and core. Room layouts were designed to be wider rather than longer, allowing beds to be located opposite windows and take full advantage of the views of York Minster and the River Ouse.

"The idea behind the space planning of the rooms is to walk in and it be completely open. By deconstructing the standard box-like bathroom, and utilising the wide rooms we were able to position the beds opposite the windows and create a wide vanity with glazing above for privacy yet create openness and maximise the views and daylight for the guests at every level."

David Harte Associate Studio Moren

Within the guestrooms, dark stained maple millwork sits on grey marble tiling. Recycled coconut shell marmoleum-lined walls meet part-height glazing and amber-tinted glass shower enclosures. Tan leather upholstery is punctuated with black metalwork and bronze accents. Yves Klein blue, burnt orange, mustard yellow and the signature Malmaison pink – all key colours of the Sixties – are playfully positioned as accents throughout, whilst bold geometric patterns are applied in the wallcovering and fabrics to further bolster the link to the brutalist architecture and design of the 1960s.

Each guestroom has a feature artwork panel which conceals the TV, designed by Elegant Clutter which references the alchemy behind the making of the famous fruit pastille of the nearby Rowntree’s factory and is complemented by smaller brutalist architecture inspired framed pieces.

Rooftop Bar

The seventh floor of the hotel boasts Sora, a wrap-around destination restaurant and bar with panoramic views of York. The bar is purposely set lower to allow for guests to have uninterrupted views of York Minster when ordering beverages.

It is reached by a dedicated express lift lined in gold metal and a smoked oak floor. On arrival guests are greeted by a large bespoke moveable glass wall; designed meticulously with North Star’s joinery division, each fluted glass panel features a swivel mechanism to obscure or reveal the view beyond and create a bespoke view and artwork each day for guests.

Conceptually, the space is separate from the hotel, focusing on the industrial heritage and extensive green spaces of York. Nature inspired upholsteries and soft furnishings contrast against crittall dividing screens. The spaces are designed with the view in mind, with the main features – the bar and striped feature ceiling to the centre of the space directing the guest’s gaze towards York Minster.