The Artist Residence is more than just a hotel - it is a long-term project, a vision shared by a group of young artists with an infectious passion for their field. This is a fun, youthful hotel where the artwork, largely local, takes precedence over all else. It is true to say that it is lacking in facilities, but what it lacks in services it more than makes up for in terms of location, originality and above all sense of purpose. It has large, clean, well decorated rooms, an intriguing collection of antiques and a staff highly committed to the cause. The hotel is more suited to couples or groups of friends simply because of the concept and setup of rooms, although kids are allowed at the owners' discretion. Still not the finished article, this property is destined to become a hit with those seeking something different from their hotels/
The Artist Residence has a brilliant location right in the middle of the row of houses at the back of Regency Square, looking directly onto the West Pier (that's the burnt one!). It is just a few minutes' walk from the centre of town and the main shopping streets, with Preston Road's plethora of restaurants the next street over. The North Laines and South Lanes are a little further away but still accessible on foot. Trains from the station, a 15 minute walk or five minute taxi ride away, serve Gatwick airport (30 mins) and London (50 mins on fast train). If you are arriving by car, you will find several public car parks in the area, including one beneath the square.
The Artist Residence is the creation of a small group of creative types all in their early 20s who took over an old-fashioned B&B and gave several local artists 'carte blanche' to create a unique bedroom each. The idea was to create an outlet for the strong urban art scene in Brighton and to expose those not usually susceptible to this kind of art to a new style. With little budget and even less hotel experience, they opened just over a year and a half ago and are constantly in the process of creating, renewing, rethinking the hotel as budget permits. In the basement of the hotel are the artists' quarters, a space offered to a local artist free of charge for two months where they can concentrate on their work and give something back to the hotel. This is a private space with living quarters, although it is open to the public during the fringe festival. Following the success of their pop-up café during the festival the team will continue to serve tea and cakes in their gallery space just in front of the reception.
Housed in a regency townhouse, like many a Brighton hotel, the interior of the Artist Residence is in stark contrast to its formal, sober exterior. As if to underline what the hotel stands for, guests are obliged to pass through the small gallery space just in front of the reception before they check in. Working on a rotation basis, the pieces here are intended to showcase local talent and act as a teaser for what's to come elsewhere in the hotel. Check in is done over a tall desk at the back of the property by one of the artists come hoteliers while the rest of them toil away on their iMacs (for lack of space the area also serves as an office). A smattering of seating, some of which is a legacy from the previous property) and several works of art decorate the reception area while other random objects lying around (ladders, bits and pieces on the piano behind the desk) highlight the fact that this is very much a work in progress. Throughout the hotel, up the stairs and along the corridors, are canvases and paintings by a variety of local artists, while the painted doors of the rooms break up the white washed walls. The public areas of the hotel are well kept and clean and property is quiet being set back from the road. Bear in mind that this is a townhouse and therefore the staircases are fairly narrow. Try and avoid bringing heavy, bulky baggage as getting to the sixth floor without the aid of a lift may be quite challenging for some.
There are 17 rooms in total at the Artist Residence, 10 of which are painted feature rooms. Each one is completely different from the next in terms of decoration, however several categories of room are available starting with the double non-sea view. The walls of room number one, painted by Matt Sewell, depict a hilly foreground and a mountainous background with a road criss-crossing the terrain, while the exterior of the bathroom has been turned into a giant bus making its way along the aforementioned route. The room is furnished simply with Ikea furniture and includes a desk with a couple of chairs, bedside tables and lamps and a double bed with leather headboard and leaf motif bed spread. Amenities include tea and coffee facilities, flatscreen television on the wall and an open wardrobe. The bathroom, which is accessed through small double doors and which has not been given the same makeover as the room, features a shower with bench, hairdryer and Be Kind toiletries from Gilchrist & Soames. Also available in this category are triple rooms or family rooms with a double and a single bed. The junior room is the first of the sea-view ones and is available with or without balcony. Looking out onto Regency Square and the West Pier, they have a little less space than the previous category but this is compensated by the views. Lennard Schuurman's New Atlantis room has the same amenities as the double non-sea view while the room signed Hutch, the best known street artist in Brighton, is described as "glorifying the spray can with a bit of 50s erotica". Mel Sheppard's superior sea view room was the first to be conceived and is a magical storybook told in multicolour and boasts a round bed, bathroom with tub and the same great view of the sea front. Other rooms in this category include Andy McLynn's version of the Brighton sea front in a simple blue and white mural and Pinky's trippy journey to a surreal world which includes prints for sale. If you'd prefer a room which is a little sober then other non-painted ones are available such as the suite with its low four-poster bed, antique furniture and mish mash of objets d'art purchased by the mother of one of the hotel's founding members at a local auction house. A crash pad is also available for up to six guests featuring a similar mix of styles and very soon a bed that folds up into the wall to gain extra space.
The hotel does not have a breakfast room, although a 'breakfast in a bag' is left outside guests' rooms every morning (included in the room rate) and contains a pastry, a piece of fruit, a cereal bar and a fruit juice. Following the success of their pop-up café during the fringe festival, the hotel will continue to serve tea and cakes in its gallery.
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