5 lessons in creating drama in your interiors, from hotel designer Charlie North

Charlie North is a master of neutral color ornate textiles – as exhibited in the new Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh

Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh
(Image credit: Gleneagles Townhouse)

It is hard to recreate a hotel’s ambiance in your home, but following the launch of the Gleneagles Townhouse, we’re certainly tempted to try. The new designer hangout amid St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh is a trove of decorating ideas – from the regal canopies in the bedroom to the unconventional use of mirrors in the members' club. 

Charlie North, the designer behind Gleneagles’ interiors, and Vice President of Interior Design at Ennismore, sat down with H&G to share five key interior design tips from the city’s most luxurious new opening. This is how to recreate the Townhouse’s style – anywhere. 

1. Place your plants to draw attention to architecture

Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh

(Image credit: Gleneagles Townhouse)

‘Palms were often used in grand spaces in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and so we also chose to use a combination of palms and banana leaf plants for their scale. 

'We strategically placed plants to fill gaps on the floor plan, but also vertically. We often use them to frame views and to draw the eye to other areas. For example, the palms in the centerpiece are a conduit to draw your eye to the glorious ceiling. I love big plants in the home – especially banana leaf and fiddle leaf figs – as long as they are maintained well. They aren’t hard to look after, but they do like routine.’

2. Make a statement with upholstery in the bedroom 

Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh

(Image credit: Gleneagles Townhouse)

‘The upholstery focuses on contemporary takes on traditional pieces, both in the shapes of the furniture and on the patterns and colors in the fabric

'Much like the rooms at Gleneagles, color is important to us, but we use a modern approach, and we deliberately took layers of small traditional patterns out of the design in the early stages. We love the canopy which helps give a sense of grandeur to the bed, but without needing a four-poster frame in the room. Again, we’ve used contemporary fabrics so the canopy doesn’t feel dated or twee. It reads like a confident statement. 

'There are so many styles of curtains and pelmets, it’s worth doing your research and choosing a style that suits your home, and your ceiling height. I always take curtains all the way to the ceiling regardless of the window position, to make the room feel as tall as possible.’

3. Flirt with textiles in the dining room  

Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh

(Image credit: Gleneagles Townhouse)

‘Despite the scale of The Spence [the restaurant] it was hard to create an efficient layout. The central banquettes help ground the space and also fill a void, instead of having a sea of square tables. The restaurant designer's mission was to make sure there are no dud seats in the house – and everyone loves to sit at a banquette. 

'Upholstered chairs are a good way to bring upholstery into a dining setting, I avoid cushions unless the chairs are deep enough to take them comfortably. Don’t forget textiles can be layered on the table as well as off the table. Cloths, runners, placemats, and napkins all add layers of texture to your dining experience.’

4. Use mirrors to accentuate your space 

Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh

(Image credit: Gleneagles Townhouse)

Decorating with mirrors has played a large part in creating drama. ‘The mirrored ceiling serves three purposes: in the daytime, it helps bounce light into the room and really brightens and animates the space by creating reflections. It also helps give the illusion of a higher ceiling, particularly useful at Lamplighters which was rightly limited in height by planning permission. Thirdly, at nighttime, we get soft reflections of flickering candlelight which all adds to the ambiance and atmosphere. 

'I can’t imagine adding mirrors to my ceiling at home, but I always use mirrors to increase the sense of space in a room. Just like curtains, I always suggest making mirrors as tall as possible to help lift the perceived ceiling height. Mirrors really do double the size of a space. When you look in the mirror, look beyond your reflection and you’ll see your rooms from new angles otherwise impossible to see.’

5. Play with neutral paints – then add color through material  

Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh

(Image credit: Gleneagles Townhouse)

'The Gleneagles Townhouse is a listed building, and The Spence has many valuable features which are heavily protected. I never much liked the color of the full-height granite columns, especially as they fought so much with the strong dark red paintwork on the existing ceiling. When we introduced a dusty pink color to the room and lightened the ceiling color, the tones complemented each other perfectly and the columns became a thing of beauty, no doubt just like when they were constructed. 

'It’s never easy to choose paint colors for your home. I tend to stick to neutrals in rooms with natural light and let the sun do its job to create different shades of warmth at different times of the day/year. You can then introduce multiple tones of color through textiles and art to give layers and depth to your home.’

Whether you’re looking to curate the right place for your best indoor plants or how to balance room color ideas through textiles and paint – this hotel is the source of inspiration you’ve been waiting for.

Gleneagles Townhouse (opens in new tab), 39 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh EH2 2AD. You can discover more and book online.  

Megan Slack
Megan Slack

Megan is the News and Trends Editor at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes. As the News Editor, she often focuses on emerging microtrends, sleep and wellbeing stories, and celebrity-focused pieces. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.