In 1958 the architect James Roberts was instructed to design a building that would fit onto a small patch of ground in the centre of Birmingham. It wasn’t quite wide enough for a normal office block so Roberts had to come up with a neat solution to the problem. Legend has it that as he sketched ideas he threw the rejected plans into the litter bin by his side. One day he looked at the bin filled with crumpled up paper, turned it upside down and there was his answer. The Rotunda was born.
Of course, this is all hogwash, but I do love a good story. The Rotunda, regardless of whether it was designed as an upturned bin or a candle (another possibility), stands 81m high in the heart of Birmingham and has been an iconic structure in the city since the 1960s onwards. Under threat of demolition in 1993, it was saved by English Heritage, given a Grade II listed building status in 2000 and then developers Urban Splash renovated it, creating residential flats and, on the 19th and 20th floors, stylish serviced apartments owned by Staying Cool.
We were heading for the 20th floor to review a Penthouse apartment on behalf of BritMums. We had decided to travel by train for a change which worked out perfectly as there was a direct train from Peterborough and the Rotunda is only a very short walk from the station. The location is superb. One minute my nose is pressed up against the window of Zara, considering a purchase or two, the next I’m zooming up the elevator to the top floor, opening the door and looking at this:
Pretty chic eh? A huge living area with two sofas, a fully-fitted kitchen, two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small hall area for hanging up coats. I had forgotten what a good choice serviced apartments are for city breaks. With so many restaurants in the vicinity, there isn’t a need for hotel facilities. What guests want, and what Staying Cool provide by the bucket load, is some home comforts: a fridge with real milk, a coffee machine, tea bags, microwave, a juicer with plenty of oranges, a selection of cereals, dressing gowns, large bottles of toiletries, Sky TV. I could even have ordered myself some midnight munchies or a massage…or both!
|Fully-equipped kitchen and, oh, the football’s on!|
Staying Cool have apartments ranging from small ‘Mini’ studios, through to one and two bedroomed apartments plus, of course, the Penthouse apartments which, although more expensive, have the added benefit of a large balcony. This IS a benefit, I kept telling myself, but, to be honest, it scared me witless whenever anyone walked outside. It’s windy at the top of a 265ft tower and, although the balcony rail is strong, I felt decidedly uneasy. Part of me wanted to shout, ‘Made it Ma! Top of the World!’, James Cagney White Heat style, the other part felt like James Stewart in Vertigo.
There were a couple of chairs, securely fixed to the floor of the balcony, which we thought we might try out but couldn’t fathom out how to sit in them:
Husband: “I think it’s a love seat. If I sit in one half and you sit in the other?”
I ventured tentatively onto the balcony, keeping as close to the sliding doors as possible, and eased my behind into one of the holes. It wasn’t at all comfortable.
Son: “I know! Place a foot in each hole and hunker down.”
That was impossible and I fell out.
Husband: “Erm, I’ve just walked round to look at the chairs on the balcony next door….”
With that, he picked up the chair, turned it 90 degrees and placed it back down so it looked like this:
Oh how we laughed. Eventually.
The apartment was at its best at night. Looking out through the vast picture windows when the skyline was all lit up was stunning.
In the photo above you will see a large, glass, curved building. Apparently this is going to be the new John Lewis department store, which is one more reason to visit Birmingham if you want some retail therapy. The shopping here is excellent and made the location of the Staying Cool apartments a real bonus. The Bull Ring shopping centre surrounds the Rotunda so, within seconds of exiting the building, you have Debenhams, Selfridges and every high street store imaginable at your disposal. A short walk away is The Mailbox where Harvey Nichols is located.
The apartments are very family-oriented and although my son was too old for the dressing up box and toys which are provided for younger children, he did appreciate the bag of sweets and, of course, made full use of the free WiFi and the Apple Mac in his room.
If you’re searching for accommodation in Birmingham that is funky, spacious and a little bit different, it’s certainly worth considering Staying Cool. The varying sizes of the apartments means there is something for most budgets. They also have apartments in Manchester and Barcelona which are definitely worth a look.
I’ll let you know what we got up to in Birmingham in the next post but, in the meantime, if you want more information and a few more photos, have a look at my review which is published on the BritMums website.
Staying Cool, Birmingham are offering a 15% discount for all readers of ‘Mum’s Gone To’ for their first booking at any of the Birmingham apartments, subject to availability. Use the code ‘MumsGoneTo1′ when booking online or via their guest reservations team.
My family and I stayed for two nights in a Roadster Penthouse apartment as guests of Staying Cool. All opinions and photographs are my own.
If you want to keep up to date with the latest news from the company you can follow them on Twitter @staying_cool, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/staying cool) or Instagram (www.instagram.com/stayingcoolapartments)