A conversation with Justin Salisbury from Artist Residence
After taking over a family run hotel in Brighton, Justin Salisbury has steadily nurtured and grown his chain of Artist Residence hotels to be a total of five by mid-2018. Their quirky design style and approachable and warm welcome have given them a loyal fan base and in this blog we chat to Justin and hear about some of the lessons he’s learnt along the way.
You’ve referred to yourself as “the accidental hotelier”. Has there ever been a time when you wished you’d followed your original path in becoming an accountant?
Haha, some might say I’d dodged a bullet by not becoming an accountant! Joking aside, it’s been a real roller coaster ride and sometimes as we’ve grown there have been odd blips when I’ve wondered what else is out there! I mean Artist Residence is literally all I’ve ever done as I started out when I was 19 years old!
On a serious note, I really love what I do and more so that I get to share it with my wife, Charlotte (pictured with Justin above). My sister, Lavender has joined recently so it’s great to have a lot of the family on board!
At Further Afield we love that you reach out to local artists for help in creating exciting and quirky spaces in your hotels. How do you go about finding artists who fit with your hotel culture?
Art has always been a really important part of Artist Residence’s identity. After all, it’s how it all started 10 years ago when we had lots of artists come in and paint here, there and everywhere! Over time, our relationship has changed when it comes to art and we’ve moved away from just murals to using art to compliment simple rustic design. The most important thing when it comes to working with artists is that they like what we like. Our simple philosophy is that art needs to make you feel good or happy! Life’s too short! A bit of humour can lift someone’s day.
It’s a bit like choosing a favourite child (!) but do you have a favourite Artist Residence and why?
That’s a very difficult question and the answer is I’m very fond of them all maybe for different reasons! Brighton because that’s where it all started; Cornwall because it’s such a beautiful part of the world; London because that’s really where we learnt most about how to design and Oxfordshire probably because it’s in the countryside and I do like a bit of peace and quiet these days!
2018 sees the opening of a new Artist Residence in Bristol. Do you have a list of places you’d like to open hotels or is the acquisition of new properties more organic?
We do take a very organic approach to finding hotels. Unless you’ve got a huge budget you can’t really pick and choose exact places/locations. My wife hates me because I spend a lot of time looking at properties on the Internet – you might say it’s a bit of an addiction! For those of you out there who are looking at buying hotels, you might be surprised how many buildings have been forgotten about that just need some love!
Other than your own hotels, do you have a favourite hotel or hotels?
I really like the Pig Hotels. The first time I went to their original one in Brockenhurst It really was a magical experience. Robin Hutson really is a master. I think Soho House are amazing at design and I kind of have a love/ hate relationship with them because they’re so goooood! The Standard hotels have this weird and wonderful feel about them, particularly in their public spaces. It’s as if you never know what’s around the corner……The Hoxton are pretty neat now at nailing that city centre neighbourhood feel. I really like places that balance the needs of the hotel traveller whilst also hitting the spot with a local offering!
You must be incredibly busy. How do you relax?
Hmmmmmmm….. good question. We have a 2 year-old now so we’re very lucky to be able to spend lots of time with him at the weekend! I also like to keep fit and play tennis…
What’s been your biggest life lesson since opening your first Artist Residence in Brighton?
As you grow a business, you learn many lessons as you’re basically navigating a map in the dark. You start to get a feel for things and eventually feel like you’ve got the hang of it – whatever that may be. I think the thing that’s always constant regardless of what stage you’re at in your business, is that people are always your best or your worst asset! That’s the area you really need to focus on.
Read more about two of Justin’s fabulous hotels on Further Afield: