Brighton has long stood out as a beacon on the South Coast, thanks to its large student population, colourful artist community and lively cultural calendar. But accommodation that aptly reflects the city’s cool credentials has been slow to follow.
That was until 2008, when twenty-something Justin Salisbury became an accidental hotelier. It all came about after his mother, owner of a rather tired seaside guesthouse named The Malvern, was injured in an accident involving a bus, forcing Justin to quit university in order to help out with the family business.
However, after spending time serving guests amid brown carpets, net curtains and Seventies-style woodchip wallpaper with his partner Charlotte Newey, Justin decided a change was needed. Rather than opt for a traditional makeover though, the couple invited local artists to use the hotel as a blank canvas and over time collected a range of modern prints from nearby galleries to hang on the walls. The result became the Artist Residence, which has since spawned an outpost in Penzance, with a third addition coming to London’s Pimlico this month.
The property sits at the top end of Regency Square, with views of Brighton’s seaside and the skeleton of the West Pier from its open-plan breakfast and reception room. The only thing to distract you from such a plum location is the art: a trio of full-wall prints by Brighton-based artist, Bonnie and Clyde, lines one wall; David Spiller’s Love is the Light depicts the Disney character Goofy on another; and a screen print of Audrey Hepburn by street artist, Pure Evil, sits by the entrance.
This space leads through to what was, until 2012, the George Hotel – an adjoining property that Justin and Charlotte acquired and rebranded as an extension, adding a further eight “House” rooms to take the total up to 23.
I was in a large suite – B2 – in the original part of the B&B, which had a separate bedroom and living area, fitted with four fold-down bunk beds for larger groups. Peeling paint, distressed mirrors and reclaimed floorboards created a consciously unfinished feel. For sea views and a private balcony, choose room 2 or 3.
Grab the papers and settle down at one of the long communal wooden benches, lined with old school chairs. The menu ranges from a Mini Full English, with eggs, streaky bacon and chipolatas from the Brighton Sausage Company; to American pancakes, with spiced berry compôte and a dollop of Greek yogurt. I went for the pan-fried mushrooms and halloumi with vine-roasted tomatoes and an English muffin.
There’s also the Cocktail Shack, with interiors created from reclaimed wood from the West Pier, which serves Aperol caipirinhas and more from 5pm.
... were absent for the weekend, which didn’t matter. The B&B functions more like a hotel anyway, with a team of young, enthusiastic staff on hand to offer recommendations and directions. Scattered around the reception area, you’ll also find handy fold-out business cards, which point towards the best bars, galleries and restaurants, plus miniature Rough Guides of the city, which are free to pick up and take away.
Start in the Lanes by browsing the city’s one-off boutiques: try Sass & Belle (01273 204927; sassandbelle .co.uk) for vintage gifts; Abode (01273 621116; abodeliving.co.uk) for homewares; and Art Republic (01273 766360; artrepublic.com) to replicate the look at the Artist Residence.
For clothes, seek out upmarket Tribeca (01273 673 755; tribeca- brighton.co.uk) and Sixties-centric Starfish (01273 680 868).
Finally, rummage through the maze of antiques and bric-a-brac that is Snoopers Paradise (01273 602 558) before dropping into Komedia (0845 293 8480; komedia.co.uk) for its must-see Krater Comedy Club, which has five shows a week (Thursday to Sunday).
To get a flavour of what the new Artist Residence in London will be like, drop into 64 Degrees (01273 770 115; 64deg rees.co.uk). Justin has teamed up with this high-concept eatery on Meeting House Lane to introduce a restaurant at the Pimlico property – transforming the success of the two previous B&Bs into a fully-fledged boutique hotel.
In the Brighton restaurant, diners sit at high tables surrounding a frenetic open kitchen, as a team of chefs serves up tapas-style small plates such as scallops with land cress and lardo (£9).
Artist Residence, 33 Regency Square, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 2GG (01273 324302; artistresidence.co.uk). Doubles start at £65, including breakfast.