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Old Town Chambers & Abbey Strand

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The Edinburgh Grand

  • A welcome gift
  • Complimentary premium Wi-Fi
  • Penguin Club for all ages up to 12
  • Chilled bottled water in fridge
  • Late check out subject to availability
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Q&A With Karen Brown Old Town Chambers Interior Designer


From the moment you set foot in the Old Town Chambers you are surrounded by luxury and you know you are somewhere special, and this is all thanks to our interior designer Karen Brown. Karen's vision for the building was to create a space full of character, which is stylish and still keeps those little touches of Scottish tradition and we and our guests just love it!

Find out more about Karen in this month's Q&A

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be involved with Old Town Chambers? 

My passion has always been for design and after studying for a BA(Hons) in Interior Design I went on to work for a number of local design firms and architects working on a wide and interesting variety of projects for a diverse range of clients. It was all great experience and I loved working as part of the team but felt like there was a niche for me somewhere between the ‘traditional role’ of the interior designer and the architect so in 2010 I set up Karen Brown Design and enjoyed the next four years working as an independent design consultant.  One of my first clients was Chris Stewart Group. I was appointed as their designer for various residential projects in Edinburgh and Elie prior to working on Advocates Close and Old Town Chambers.  I’m now full time with them heading up design and thoroughly enjoying the role.

How would you describe the style of the Old Town Chambers?

Old Town Chambers is full of character yet classically stylish with a refined simplicity to the detail and finish throughout, not to mention a wee nod to traditional Scottish interiors.

If it were personified who would exude this style?

This is a tricky question and some of my colleagues said I should be confident and say it would be Karen Brown but I think it would be more likely to be a cool, edgy actor with proud Scottish ancestry perhaps combined with the ghost of a colourful and mysterious character from Edinburgh’s past.

Where did your inspiration for this project come from?

I don’t think there was any one single thing but the impressive setting, existing buildings and history of the location were certainly an inspiration.  Chris Stewart had a strong vision for the overall development of Advocates Close so working alongside Chris I helped to develop the trademark design for the interiors we see at old Town Chambers today.

How did you achieve your vision? What (if any) were the challenges?

Working with the existing building was probably the greatest challenge but it is also what makes the scheme so interesting and unique.  Each apartment is different in its layout but also in its finish - whether it is the exposed stone, steel beams and columns to the impressive double height spaces.  We developed four palettes of materials and finishes which we applied to the apartment dependant on the feel we wanted to create to best enhance and complement the space.

It is the great attention to detail that raises five star establishments above the rest, give us some examples of this level of detail in terms of interiors and design?

To me this is the single most important factor in my job regardless of the project or budget – but for Old Town Chambers attention to detail was key to achieving the overall experience for the guest from the moment they open the door to the apartment with the welcoming pre-set lighting scene down to the detail of the interior palette of finishes and materials.  It is difficult to condense this detail into specifics as there was so much work involved but we developed a series of bespoke fitted furniture which includes the bed decks, booth seating, wardrobes, wall panelling, headboards and TV units.  These complement each space and sit alongside the loose furniture much of which is also bespoke such as the beds, sofas and dining tables designed to suit our requirements.

Do you have a Karen Brown signature? 

Interestingly my peers have commented that they can spot a Karen Brown Interior so I guess I must have!  However as each project I work on tends to be very varied from the last I would not like to think of it as being any one particular item or detail repeated but to think that it is my attention to detail which is my signature.

What is your favourite part of the process and why?

I love it all.  Design is a real passion for me, from the initial concept design through to the implementation and the finishing touches. Even more rewarding is to see others enjoying the spaces.

Local and independent suppliers were used for some of the soft furnishings within the apartments. How important is this? 

We established close working relationships with a number of local suppliers, manufacturers and specialists working closely with them to achieve the level of design, detail and quality we were looking for.  This was also very important given the extent of bespoke furniture within the apartments and we were able to develop the now signature range of items of furniture, sofas, beds, dining tables, cushions, curtains and rugs all made up for us locally. I think it would have been far more challenging to achieve the level of detail and service we obtained from further afield.

Which is your favourite apartment and why?

The Townhouse is my favourite - it’s a wee gem, there is nothing else like it.  It is impressive with its vaulted stone ceiling and large stone fireplaces and yet quirky with its winding staircase leading past heavy velvet drapes to the open plan bathroom with free standing bath tub.  Believed to be the oldest Townhouse in the Royal Mile it was a privilege to work on and is a must see!

Any top insider tips for guests staying at the Old Town Chamber?

The family apartments with the bed decks are quirky, especially for kids. The idea was developed from a combination of the traditional ‘bed recess’ and ‘box bed’ designs.  All the framed photography displayed in the apartment and corridor walls is of the site and buildings prior to and during the conversion.

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