York’s newest hotel offering is bound to whisk you away to somewhere more exotic and, only a year after opening, The Vices is making a name for itself, particularly on the interiors scene, Bethan Andrews discovers
There’s a new kid on the block when it comes to being in the running for Yorkshire’s best hotel, and a lot of the hype is thanks to the incredible interiors that perfectly complement a unique food and wine offering.
The Vices was founded by Daniel Curro and Moreno Carbone, with the former heading up the food and the latter the design. It’s full to the brim with design features such as handcrafted wooden floors by Listone Giordano, rough cut marble and stone floors by Graniti Fiandre, and incredibly artistic light installations by Davide Groppi. The bathrooms boast Aquaelite shower systems and crystal pieces by Antonio Lupi, and even an amber crystal bath. Clearly, something has gone very right in the design of this new Yorkshire hotel because The Vices was included in The Best 100 Places to Stay at the end of last year, with the review crediting the approach to interior design, in particular.
What’s quite amazing is that despite The Vices being heralded for its extraordinary approach to design and wowing the critics, Moreno’s background isn’t actually in interiors. As an engineer, it’s true that there may be a little bit of crossover between the two design worlds, but it’s a very personal project for Moreno, and one that concludes decades of interior fascination.
So how, exactly, did The Vices come about? “I’m someone who loves art and design, and who has had a strong interest in experience led hospitality, but mainly as a consumer,” he says. “My career had never actually crossed into hospitality though, but the idea of a design-led hotel concept, in York, kept coming up. I started to think about how I would tell stories through the design of each room with certain interior choices, textures and art. Daniel is a sommelier and chef, and when we started discussing how these elements could complement each other, The Vices York was born.”
For Moreno, a lot of his fascination with interiors and inspiration for The Vices came from his time in Rome. “I’ve always been attracted by the concepts of beauty and aesthetics, and more so by what could instigate an emotion, and ultimately give you pleasure,” says Moreno. “Growing up in Rome, I was lucky to be surrounded by – and to be able to experience – all sorts of different concepts of beauty, be it architecture, paintings, performance art, but also more underground contemporary movements. I’ve always found fascinating how art, and ultimately design, could capture those deep emotions and that pleasure, and how that was something that you could experience again and again, and how those emotions often grow and evolve with you.”
Naturally, it’s not just about the interiors at The Vices, but instead about how the interiors truly make a guest feel, or how they can change someone’s experience. “I want guests to feel comfortable first of all; I want them to feel like they’re visiting the special home of an old friend, but at the same time they have access to all the comforts, the unique experiences, and the carefully selected products they can find at The Vices,” Moreno explains.
“Guests not only have exceptional service and a personal experience in a very intimate setting, but they are also surrounded by beauty with bespoke pieces of interior design handmade by skilled craftsmen, dramatic illumination, relaxing and immersive bathrooms. Ultimately, they should feel spoiled. For me, it’s all about the experience and the emotions.”
Immersion is a central theme to the approach at the hotel, and Moreno has cleverly created immersive, art-led spaces. “I’ve been a collector of art for years, and I really enjoy pieces which cause the guests to stop and reflect. It was always clear that art would have had a central place in the spaces,” he says. “I then designed each suite around gender, and so I found that I was naturally drawn to certain pieces for certain spaces. The meaning behind the paintings perfectly complemented the story and use of each space. The Third Suite, for example, is themed around masculinity and strength with strong nods to the natural world. One of the pieces there is by Alessandra Maria, and it brought that vision to life beautifully.”
I ask what Moreno is most proud of when it comes to the final product. “Definitely the flow of space, and how different design elements interconnect distinct spaces,” he smiles. “Walking through the building you have both a sense of surprise, as each space was individually designed, but also a sense of familiarity as materials, designers and elements unify the narrative. Also having succeeded in the intent of giving the place a homely feel, it’s all about the perception of the people using the space.”
Naturally, when it comes to feeling proud, being included in Britain’s Best 100 Places to Stay by The Sunday Times was a huge achievement after only a couple of months of being open to the public. “It was certainly a big surprise to be included in such a prestigious national list, together with other important establishments, in less than a year from our opening,” smiles Moreno. “I believe we were the smallest place to be featured! But it’s also testament to the uniqueness of our offering, not only for York and the region, but nationally. The same is to be said of being added to the Michelin Guide. This is a huge achievement for us, and to see it so quickly has felt really rewarding.”
It’s clear that the city of York and the Yorkshire surroundings were also a massive element of inspiration for the hotel. “Before moving to York I lived in London, and I knew I wanted to move to a place that offered both a better quality of life and strong connections to heritage and history,” Moreno says. “It had to be a historic city, but I also wanted to still feel connected to the rest of the world. York ticked all the boxes, and I just decided to move here,” he says. “I love the history of the city, it’s palpable when you walk through the streets, but what I love the most is the contrast you get from contemporary businesses and initiatives. Not a city stuck in the past, but one that celebrates it, and also looks at how to exist in the modern world.”
It’s also the history of The Vices that helped Moreno create something unique and different to anything else out there on the market. “The building has a story behind it,” he tells me. “It’s a Victorian police station, and as you walk through the building you see nods to its heritage – the exposed cast iron pipes, and the curved cells which now form our kitchen and downstairs toilet. And yet, what you actually take in on first glance is a stylish and contemporary space. The architecture gives us depth. It takes modern design and backs it up with the heritage. So you have heritage, contemporary, quality, personality, exclusivity.”
As I wonder what’s next for The Vices in 2023, it’s obvious that both Moreno and Daniel are keen to keep pushing boundaries and putting York on the map. “We’re looking to continue establishing our presence and to deliver our vision to all our guests,” says Moreno. “We want to take our guests on even more interesting journeys, and to keep challenging their perceptions.”