Located in the heart of Kent, Boys Hall is a recently restored boutique restaurant and hotel with beautifully considered interiors. We photographed our autumn table imagery in their private dining room, the Drawing Room; a cosy space boasting sage green walls, a large wooden table that seats 18 guests, and a magnificant ornate fireplace complete with wood burning stove. To coincide with our new tableware launching and the release of our autumn imagery, we caught up with co-owners Kristie and Brad Lomas to find out more about Boys Hall.
Image: Mark Anthony Fox for Boys Hall
How did you discover Boys Hall?
When we left London in 2019, we were looking for our next project, but never imagined it would be right on the doorstep of where Kristie grew up. When the estate agent sent us Boys Hall, we knew it was perfect. A 17th century Jacobean Manor steeped in history and an easy 35-minute train ride from London - the perfect getaway destination. We had been inspired by The Pig group of hotels, and we wanted Boys Hall to feel a similar sense of openness and accessibility, not exclusive like some of the other places we experienced.
What is the history of the building?
Boys Hall comes with historical anecdotes of a rather higher calibre than most period buildings – even those in the same grand old Jacobean mould. There was the time that Charles I rocked up for an overnighter when fleeing Oliver Cromwell (all relatively short-lived, as it turns out), or the visit from diarist Samuel Pepys, whose oil portrait now presides over the drawing room.
Boys Hall was built by Thomas & Margaret Boys in 1616 and has since entertained royalty, knights and the literati, sheltered fleeing Kings and clergy, facilitated smugglers in the cellar’s underground tunnels, concealed hoards of gold, courting drama, romance and tragedy for over four hundred years.
The estate remained with five generations of Boys’ and eventually passed to the Knatchbull family. Thereafter the house exchanged hands fairly frequently which has led to a house steeped in history.
There’s even a bit of Boys Hall treasure tucked away in the British Museum, after 17 gold coins were found under the floorboards here in 1972.
Image: Boys Hall
How would you describe the interiors of Boys Hall?
Inigo described it well in an interview. “At every turn, Kristie and Brad have smartly leaned into the generous scale of the place and there’s a sense of generosity in its plush armchairs, sized-up lamps and lofty upholstered headboards, which are paired with the kind of mattresses you make a point to ask about the next morning (Hypnos, of course).”
It was important that Boys Hall felt like a home-from-home, with cosy, comfy-luxe interiors and heritage features, but with the opportunity to be a little bolder in design and colour due to the sheer size of the rooms.
Throughout the building, we used shades of green and bold patterns to bring the garden indoors and create a calming atmosphere – especially in the restaurant space and drawing room. In contrast, as you go into the pub and you’ll find the more fiery, dominant colours of reds and purples, alongside original wood cladding, to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. For the bedrooms, we wanted each to have their own unique character, taking inspiration from the local area and the people that Boys Hall holds close to its heart. You’ll find both classic & modern furnishing as well as all the little luxuries you could want for a cosy retreat to make you feel right at home.
We kept a lot of the original brick and oak in the infrastructure of the building, and so we tried to partner this with soft natural textures throughout including soft touches like terracotta pots, wicker baskets and plants.
Image: Boys Hall
What were your inspirations when designing the interiors?
When we chose our fabrics, we worked with Linwood, Lewis & Wood and Sanderson who often work from archives and so it inspired us to look at 18th Century colour palettes and graphics.
We were also inspired by the surroundings of Boys Hall and the calming atmosphere it created, so we wanted to ensure that we were bringing the outside in by using natural colours and textures.
How did you blend old and new when designing Boys Hall?
Nearly all our furniture is either vintage or upcycled, adding to the authentic feel of the building, but redesigned to house all the modern amenities of a hotel. One of our favourite examples is our C18th pair of lounge chair which we re-upholstered in bold fabric (Linwood Omega Velvet in ‘Mantis) or similarly painting an antique sideboard in a modern and dramatic colour (Neptune’s Rhubarb)
The bedrooms, designed with the help of Kagu Interiors, feature all the luxury modern amenities you’d expect, from spacious bathrooms with rolltop bathtubs and drench showers, combined with original fourposter beds and a wonderful array of vintage furniture and eclectic finds from antiques markets.
Image: Rebecca Hope for Rebecca Udall
We love the wooden wall panelling. Is this an original feature, and what other original features of the building did you keep?
Restoring this beauty has been a love affair since the start and we never wanted to knock it about too much, only strip it back to what made it magical in the first place. We wanted to ensure we kept a lot of the original features which include the master suite’s original 17th century panelling, part of which is from Windsor Castle that was gifted by King Charles I himself when he was fleeing England.
How many bedrooms are there, and do any common themes run through each of their designs?
There are currently 5 suites, each with original super-king beds (some four-poster), spacious bathrooms and idyllic window seats overlooking the estate. There are 4 smaller bedrooms, though still luxurious and stately sized. Each is individual in design and feel, with their own unique character taking inspiration from the local area and the people that Boys Hall holds close to its heart.
The Ernest Room, for example is named after Major Ernest Bengough-Ricketts owner of Boys Hall in the late 1800’s – quite a character, a well-travelled man with a Masters in Heraldry – and therefore designed with traveller-esq inspiration; porthole-style mirrors and persian inspired fabrics of far-away lands. While Margaret is one of the softer, more feminine and elegant bedrooms playing homage to “Margaret Boys” – featuring floral & fauna print curtains and wallpapers -inspired by the lady of the manor who likely wandered the gardens.
All rooms feature drench showers, fluffy towels, Roberts Radios, fine English linen on Hypnos beds, deliciously nurturing toiletries, locally roasted coffee complimented by a range of Debonair teas and infusions, complimentary water, wi-fi (convenient for those must-do emails), and of course, homemade treats from the kitchen. The interiors are a combination of Farrow & Ball hues (Green Smoke, Preference Red, Ball Green), bold fabrics from Lewis & Wood, Linwood and Sanderson and a wonderful array of vintage furniture and eclectic finds from antiques markets ensuring no two rooms are the same.
What are your personal favourite details of the design of Boys Hall?
It was all such a labour of love that it’s hard to choose a favourite, but I love the restaurant because it’s something we built brick by brick from the ground up and it’s the space that is used the most intensely – the pressure was huge to get it right. We were responsible for every single element. We spent weeks and months honing down what we thought would make the perfect space to gather, socialise, eat and drink… but it went from pen to paper to reality so it’s a space that we are most proud of. It was designed to have full garden views and maximum amount of light. With glass walls on both sides, guests are surrounded by sky and greenery, and a calming atmosphere can be felt from rustic oak beams and huge willow lanterns. The lighting goes from a glorious flood of light in daytime to a warm sunset glow in the evenings.
Image: Boys Hall
The gardens of Boys Hall look just as beautiful as the interiors. Did you work with a garden designer/gardener and what was their brief?
We lived in Boys Hall from 2019 and the garden was a huge lockdown project for us. It became a whole new passion of mine to restore the house and grounds themselves.
The lovely façade was so overgrown with wisteria that you couldn’t see the windows; the rest was a jungle, with brambles “like triffids”. I wanted to bring the garden back to life and was inspired by the specimens that were placed there before, so I started to propagate the original flora and fauna. I discovered several roses hidden beneath the overgrown foliage and so reinstated the original rose garden with 30 different species. Cutting it back revealed areas of identity…. The forest area, the rockery, the rose garden … and so I continued to plant specimens to suit the terrain.
The courtyard garden was created from scratch. Having just returned from France and with our ever increasing climate in Kent I was inspired to plant in a similar way – small pockets of beds and giant pots. The courtyard garden is the closest garden to the restaurant and kitchen so I knew herbs and edibles would play a huge part in the planting. I chose the paving layout specifically to leave a centre section of garden that directed your eyes to flow through the centre of the restaurant. It made sense for the surrounding walls to be planted with floriferous climbing roses and clematis. I narrowed my colour palette to green, white & purple and then started by choosing the evergreen ‘base’ plants (predominantly Bay trees & Rosemary bushes because I adore their smell, taste, aesthectic and they’re very hardy plants. Followed swiftly by some robust and tall perennials such a verbena bonarensis, and nepeta, as well as varieties of lavender, salvias and the ultimate showstopper geranium – Rozanne. For blasts of white as well as a brilliant annual filler I love cosmos, they look gorgeously frothy alongside mounds of chives, sage & mint – oh and a little splash of yellow from the statuesque fennel – which makes a brilliant cut flower in the restaurant.
The food and drinks at Boys Hall look incredible. Who is the head chef/sommelier and what is the inspiration behind the menu?
The Michelin guide has recently named Boys Hall as among the inspectors’ new favourites, highlighted for its eye-catching design and brilliant wine list. Our current Sous Chef – and soon to be Head Chef – Charlie has helped to create delicious menus centred around seasonal, local produce from the Garden of England with daily changing dishes taking influence from home-cooked favourites, elevated to new standards. Since opening, we have since implemented a kitchen garden and produce.