Cowley Manor Experimental: 9 Design Ideas to Steal (Alice in Wonderland Edition)

Dorothée Meilichzon is renowned for designing playful hotels throughout Europe, from city spots like Grand Pigalle Hotel in Paris to seaside resorts like Montesol Experimental in Ibiza, but she had never tackled a rural property until she overhauled a 1695 estate in the Cotswolds. Reminted as Cowley Manor Experimental, the newly-updated hotel is her take on an English countryside getaway—complete with modern influences.

“I want to do projects that are contemporary,” says Dorothée, who founded France-based studio Chzon in 2009. “Even if they’re in classical buildings, they have to talk about the period we’re living in.” That’s why she leaned into graphic patterns (most notably checkerboard), groovy silhouettes reminiscent of the ’60s and ’70s, and a whimsical color palette of blues, greens, and reds.

But that doesn’t mean Dorothée ignored 300 years of history. She incorporated the estate’s many past lives, including its role as the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, into the aesthetic. And, of course, she maintained the government-protected architectural details like original wood paneling and an ornate staircase. The mix of eras and styles is what Dorothée refers to as “joyeux bordel,” or a happy mess.

With that, here are nine design ideas worth borrowing.

Photography by Mr. Tripper.

1. Pay homage to history.

the key to cowley manor’s enchanting interiors is the centuries old 14
Above: The key to Cowley Manor’s enchanting interiors is the centuries-old structure itself, which provided Dorothée with a character-filled canvas on which to layer her modern finishes and decor. “Sometimes we have to cheat because the historic buildings are in poor condition or the space is not the best, but this one was very, very charming already, so we had to do no magic, just interior design, and bring the building into 2023,” she explains.

2. Riff on a well-known trope.

instead of the overdone circular hotel lobby sofa, dorothée created an inv 15
Above: Instead of the overdone circular hotel lobby sofa, Dorothée created an inviting seating area by arranging upholstered club chairs back to back.