Beaverbrook Coach House and Spa
Cherkley Court, Leatherhead
2016 – 2018
"Designed by renowned stained-glass artist Brian Clarke, the Coach House is a work of art in itself, with vibrant and uplifting flower-themed stained-glass panels and skylights as well as ceramic tiles and mosaics made by Clarke to reflect the power and beauty of nature – the hills and woods that you can see for miles – all around. Water runs along rills; there is a feeling of comfort, energy and surprise. It’s the antithesis of the bland and soulless hotel spa. As well as six treatment rooms, each with a garden, and a wet spa, including an “English Bath House” (hammam), there are three pools – two outdoor – including one for children. The huge indoor pool recalls a Thirties lido."
In his design of the spa at Beaverbrook Country Hotel's Coach House, Brian Clarke has created a total work of art: mouth-blown stained glass, Venetian mosaic, drifts of handmade ceramic cornflowers and poppies, tile work, and his paintings and prints all appear throughout, conspiring to produce a unified effect through light and colour, together with integral elements including the ceramic reception desk and spa fireplace.
“When they asked me to create an artistic environment for the spa at Beaverbrook the idea appealed to me greatly because I consciously seek through my art in buildings to uplift the soul – and the spa historically, since Roman times and before, has sought to do the same. I derive considerable pleasure from thinking that the combination of the environment and the treatments that people receive there take away the weight of contemporary life which is often so grim.” – Brian, 2018
In the entrance to the spa, a ceramic reception desk by Clarke (with a matching fireplace within the spa itself) sits beneath a ceiling of stained glass oak leaves and printed panels of line-drawn new leaf, and behind it one of Clarke's freestanding stained glass screens of cherry blossom. In the transept of the spa, the ceramic takes the form of a floor-to-ceiling grid of tiles, penetrated by ceramic poppies that interrupt and overlap with the regular rhythm of the rectilinear matrix, a decades-long exploration in Brian's work. Starting life as watercolours, the hand-made ceramic poppies, cut to lock into the grid of tilework, were engineered to respond to the rich light of the stained glass skylights. Below these are ceramic rills constantly flowing with water, and the light and sound combine with the surrounds to make the spa a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’: both work of art and environment in itself.
Clarke's design for each of the six treatment rooms takes as its visual inspiration a flowering plant found in the estate’s surroundings, with complementary stained glass windows and Ventian glass mosaic roundels designed for each, paired with his watercolour paintings of roses, wisteria, cherry blossom, daffodils, wild poppies and primroses displayed through the common parts of the spa. Stained glass skylights in the hammam and its treatment room make the space softly glow. For the pool house, Clarke designed a ceramic frieze of bespoke green tiles which wraps the room, punctuated by blue ceramic cornflowers. Seen from the water, the combined effect is like looking out at a field of grass – and occasionally the flowers rise above the line of green or below it, and a few are even set underwater into the bottom of the pool itself, or cluster on the pool house floor as if fallen there, water-jet-cut so they fit precisely into the surrounding material. The pool was winner of the 2019 UK Pool & Spa Awards 'Commercial Project Of The Year'. A major oil painting from Clarke's Cherry Blossom series can also be found in the Japanese Restaurant of the Beaverbrook house itself, and on the main stairway stairway hang several unique stained glass works from his Spitfires series.
“Clarke’s mosaic roundels set in each therapy room floor introduce, through their multiple facets and natural imagery, an intricacy upon which to focus and meditate: they are an artistic and intriguing take on the practice of placing a bowl containing flowers under the therapy table, in order that, when looking down through the face-cradle, a client has objects on which to contemplate.” – Amanda Harrison