Elgin Hall: A summer escape for British aristocracy redefined for modern travellers

Mixing old-world charm with the needs of contemporary explorers, the Elgin Hall in Dalhousie tells the tale of the bygone Victorian era.

Built in 1857, the Elgin Hall is a quaint boutique hotel nestled in Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh. Before its restoration, it was a vintage British villa with a distinctly colonial feel to it. The structure is a take on the bygone British culture in Dalhousie, and the purpose of making the hall was to speak of a complex and contradictory architecture based on the richness and ambiguity of old and modern experience, including that very experience which is inherent in art. The core idea was to recreate and restructure what was present back in the day into the needs of today’s world through careful and patient restoration by founder Kavish Khurana.

With the extravagance of European grandeur, Dalhousie was a city of great importance to the British corporation in India. The design story for Elgin Hall initiated change over time by rewriting an architectural essay through this spatial amalgamation of the old with the quirkiness of Art Nouveau glitz. Originally, a summer escape for the British, the property was named after the diplomat, Lord Elgin. While restoring the boutique hotel into a familyfriendly luxury retreat for the current century, the aim was to retain the historical significance of the space, while seamlessly adding modern signature touches. Conceptualising the ambience of the retreat, Kavish personally picked elements of the interiors, from the colour scheme to the sculptures, linen, upholstery, and even rugs.

“Before restoration, our vision was to keep the Victorian essence intact, while playing with pastel colour palettes, and to restore its historical identity. We kept the framework of the architecture intact while refurbishing the property to as it was before. We gave floral touches in the upholstery and made sure that the immediate vibe of the place takes one back to the English era. At the same time, the property was rebuilt to be well equipped with modern amenities to meet the luxury needs of modern travellers,” says Kavish.

Retaining the original oldworld elegance, every room has been ornamented with custom-designed pieces — crisp white furniture, chesterfields, tufted chaises, exquisitely crafted light fixtures and premium accent pieces — all inspired by the Victorian era. For the tea room and library, the original elements of the building remain untouched, preserving its classical charm. Floral upholstery, classic English teacups and fine chinaware heighten the look of the tea room. Right from the rustic design, to its fine selection of furniture and serene colour palette, everything has been thoughtfully put together to achieve a flawless look. Each area follows a harmonious design language, boasting of a lush colour palette and impeccable finishes. The colour story for the boutique hotel features combinations in pastel hues like mint, white and light blue. Meanwhile, vibrant furniture pieces and accessories in bright tones add pops of colour to the space.

 Kavish says, “The simple idea was to create a distinct aesthetic and architectural style that connects to the city people and poses its stand by the use of a striking colour palette inside out. The Elgin Hall with its unique old facade design creates an everlasting effect on passersby and invites them into a magical, expertly crafted world, whose spaces are framed to treat the eyes. With work on the existing wooden framework and wrought iron ideology, the Elgin hall realises the importance of old gold ideology and bears minimum changes made to the original design and material palette from a century ago.”

 Each element at Elgin Hall is reminiscent of oldworld luxury. It is built to keep the Victorian feeling alive. The property’s seven rooms — Rustic Brown, French White, Sunset Grey, Ocean Teal, Lyon Mint, Opal Blue and Soft Taupe — have their own identity which sets them aesthetically apart. However, barbecues, lazy brunches and British-themed high tea ceremonies in the private lawns fenced by mountains have been also put in place to not overlook the modern needs of travellers who often find themselves lost in the Victorian architecture.

Elaborating on their needs, Kavish says, “Modern travellers seek an experience while they are on vacation. Travel is not only restricted to spending leisure time in a place. It has become a worldwide runway show. The nomad millennial lifestyle and workspace is often on-the-go, so whether in an airport, train, Uber or in a restaurant or hotel, the modern traveller needs a curated experience to fit their fast-paced environment.”

Dalhousie is a beautiful tourist attraction, yet lacks luxurious home-stays. A favourite with the British, this place was one of the usual summer retreats for them during the colonial period. The weather in summers is very pleasant and was fancied by the British then, and the town still retains its oldworld charm. Named after Lord Dalhousie, its sprawling colonial-era buildings, liberally scattered throughout the town, are a testament to Dalhousie and Victorian charm. To make sure that the restoration process doesn’t harm that old-world charm, sustainable luxury practices have been put in place at Elgin Hall.

“A project that realizes the importance of polishing, reusing and re-establishing an old concept in a fresh perspective to provide luxury to hospitality definitely ticks the sustainable criteria. With no new bricks, no new additions to the existing structure, the net consumption of new material is almost nil and with the revival of the century-old structure, it is a beautiful case of sustainable luxury in today’s world,” says Kavish.