Monkey Island Estate
The Monkey Island Estate, is now open in the historic village of Bray-on-Thames, Berkshire, following a detailed restoration and refurbishment by owners YTL Hotels.
The island, with an intriguing history dating back 800 years, has been the haunt of monarchs, aristocrats and artists, along with writers, famous performers and Berkshire locals.
Monkey Island has constantly reflected the mood of the time, from medieval religious power, serene Georgian privilege or restrained Edwardian leisure – even the joyous freewheeling 1960s.
It is a unique early 18th century fishing retreat built by the Duke of Marlborough, and noted for its famous monkey artworks.
Set across seven acres, the restored Monkey Island Estate consists of 27 bedrooms and three deluxe suites, all designed by the award-winning New York-based Champalimaud Design, who orchestrated distinctive interior design projects for YTL’s first British property, The Gainsborough Bath Spa, as well as Green Leaf Niseko Village and the most recently launched Ritz Carlton, Koh Samui.
Monkey Island is the perfect retreat for those wanting to take a foodie pilgrimage to the culinary excellence of Bray.
The only village in the world that lays claim to three Michelin-starred restaurants, including Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and the Waterside Inn, Bray has long been a destination for gastronomic-enthusiasts.
Below, Jon Kastl, Principal Designer at Champalimaud Design, provides a design narrative for the hotel.
“Our design is a very much a celebration and a tribute to the storied history of the island.
“We’ve looked to the two original structures on the island, the Temple and Pavilion buildings, which were constructed by Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough in the late 1730s, as inspiration for design vocabulary, but more importantly their innate joyfulness.
“The buildings were built as wonderful follies, beautiful decoration on this island setting.
“Large garden ornaments if you will, whose architecture and whimsy was much more important than their original purpose of fishing lodge and fishing temple.
“The delightfulness of the original buildings is very evident in the new interiors.
“We’ve melded garden elements throughout the new design, from the stunning botanical wallcovering in the entry hall, to the conversion of the Pavilion Room into a lattice covered conservatory, to the extension of the lounge and restaurant into the adjacent terraces and gardens.
“Our goal is to celebrate the soulfulness of the original Robert Morris Buildings.
“We’ve also celebrated the lore and anecdotal history of the island and some of its inhabitants, both human and otherwise.
“Of course the famed Andieu de Clermont paintings of the monkeys, dressed in finery and doing humanlike activities, have been retained and lovingly restored.
“These delightful Singerie paintings date to 1738 and are indeed a centrepiece of the renovation.
“Inspired by their whimsy we’ve introduced animals, birds and other exotic birds into our designs giving the monkeys some much needed friends.
“The upholstery fabrics, for the Monkey Lounge and Bar, are inspired by the clothing worn by the monkeys and pay tribute to their crimson and blue knee length coats.
“In more recent history the island has been home to a flock of peacocks.
“We of course miss these colourful birds and have paid them tribute through the use of peacock blue as the primary colour in our restaurant wallpaper and painted ceiling.
“These fanciful birds also make an appearance, in silhouette, in our bespoke wallpaper in the Garden Room.
“The lodging interiors are residential in scale and character and relate to the garden motifs mentioned above but are also influenced by the boats making their way along the river.
“We’ve been inspired by the cabins of river boats and have developed bespoke amenities and storage cabinets which would feel very much at home on the Thames.
“The furnishings are spirited takes on British classics.
“The palette is a comforting mix of warm greys, deep blues and caramels which nicely frame the colours of the gardens.
“The guest bathrooms, which we’ve made larger, are modern, fresh and have a spa like feel.
“In addition to the standard guest rooms, we have completed a full restoration of the Temple Building’s Wedgewood Suite, another of the Island’s historic rooms.
“The iconic ceiling remains the signature Wedgewood blue decorated with the contrasting white plasterwork.
“In addition to the renovation of the historic ceiling, panelled walls and wood flooring we’ve also added a contemporary bathroom and dressing room.
“A residences lounge has been added to the ground floor of the Temple Building.
“Nestled in this historic room guests have a beautifully appointed sitting room to gather throughout the day.
“The room, which was originally open air like a market stall, is a masterpiece of Palladian style architecture and will surely be a favourite.”