A complete refurbishment at the Station House Hotel in Kilmessan, County Meath, has placed the hotel in an excellent position for when restrictions ease.

History and heritage play a big role at the Station House Hotel. Operating as a guesthouse since 1983, the Station House Hotel served as a train line to Meath and Westmeath from 1862 before the line closed in 1947. The turntable that served as a turning point for trains returning to Dublin can still be found in the hotel’s surrounding environs along with several other original elements including the railway safe, fireplaces and the train platforms which stand outside the hotel’s front door.

Thelma and Chris Slattery opened the guesthouse back in 1983 and are still involved in day to day operations. Their daughters, Denise and Suzanne, now manage the hotel. All four have been involved in the extensive refurbishment which has seen the renovation of all public spaces, including the 19 bedrooms, Signal Restaurant and Platform Bar. “The refurbishment almost happened by accident. In 2019, I was sitting in the hotel one day with a friend who happens to be an interior designer. We were wondering what the ceiling would look like if we painted it. We decided to go for it and after that we just kept going,” said Suzanne Slattery, Manager at the Station House. Later that same year, a decision was made to refurbish all 19 bedrooms, including the two-room Signal Suite, the original signal box for the station along with the former stationmaster’s quarters, now the Grand Suite.

The hotel’s library, originally the main station’s toilet, still features original antique bookcases, sash windows, fire guards and tables. Locked for years, shutters in the Grand Suite dating back to the 1800’s have been renovated and opened up. The entire room has been painted green, with yellow doors. “It took Ronan Houlihan in Millimetre Design a while to convince me that painting the whole room green would work. He insisted it would make the furniture really pop out, which it does. It’s great working with people who know what they’re doing, it makes you that bit more adventurous.” The Slattery family continue to work with Millimetre Design, this time on the Carriage Suite or function room where weddings are held. “The Carriage Suite should have been finished by March but with the current lockdown, it was delayed. Hopefully it will be finished by the end of April and that will be the last phase of the refurb.”

Throughout 2020, a number of intimate weddings were held at the Station House. “I’ve always thought the Signal Restaurant in the main building would be the ideal venue for a small wedding. As it turned out, Covid forced that to happen. So our weddings became smaller but still really beautiful.” Once Level 5 restrictions lift, the Station House team will be ready to open fully to the public. “We’ve got a new website on the way, new wines on the menu and new people joining our team. We’re also relaunching the Signal Restaurant with the emphasis very much on locally sourced food. It will almost be like what it was in the 80’s, when everything was sourced locally.” Although closing the hotel has been far from ideal, it has given Suzanne and the team a chance to look at the Station House through a different lens. “You’re normally so busy with operations that you never have time to think through the changes you’d like to make. Since closing in March 2020, we’ve certainly had that time and we’re delighted we’ve been able to implement them. Now though, we really can’t wait to reopen!”

The Slattery family worked with Millimetre Design and local interior designer Noreen Lawless on the refurb. The interiors now feature hand-woven jute rugs and suzani cushions made to order by From Jaipur with Love, an Indian artisan company founded by Irish designer Elizabeth Morrison along with fabrics from Christopher Farr, Pierre Frey, William Morris & Co and Harlequin. Artworks from local artist Deirdre Hoffman hangs on the Station House’s walls while Mullan Lighting in County Cavan supplied some of the hand-made lighting.

“Meath is such a beautiful county and for me, it was important to bring a lot of colour inside the Hotel. We wanted to make it modern and fresh but not so modern that it would lose its country house charm. When I first spoke with Millimetre Design, I said I don’t want it to look like a hotel, I wanted it to look like a beautiful home, a place you’d love to go and stay with all the modern amenities you’d find in a five star hotel.” It still feels like the Station House, says Suzanne, but it’s a much fresher space. “There was quite a lot of heavy wood and dark furniture before the renovation. That’s all been replaced and it just feels so much lighter now.”