Royal Hotel interior corridor
Royal Hotel ceiling lights and details

Royal Hotel

The Royal Contrast

The Roy­al Hotel in the his­toric town of Pic­ton, Prince Edward Coun­ty (PEC), reimag­ines a land­mark Vic­to­ri­an hotel and rein­states it as the anchor of Picton’s down­town thor­ough­fare. Over a decade, the hotel was com­plete­ly trans­formed and brought back to life as a nexus for both locals and guests of Pic­ton and PEC’s bur­geon­ing food and wine region, becom­ing a des­ti­na­tion for archi­tec­tur­al and gas­tro­nom­ic delight. A key chal­lenge was not only restor­ing the lost lus­ter of The Roy­al but ele­vat­ing it to a glo­ri­ous 21st cen­tu­ry ver­sion of itself that pro­vokes curios­i­ty and pride in PEC.


Most hos­pi­tal­i­ty offer­ings in the Coun­ty are mod­est in scale and lever­age being in the coun­try­side. The Roy­al intro­duces a grander scale of hos­pi­tal­i­ty for both guests and locals, albeit one that still feels con­nect­ed to the con­tem­po­rary rhythms of the region. When the project start­ed, the cen­tral stair­case was lined with a lush car­pet of green moss, and ear­ly in the plan­ning phase, the roof caved in. The design team began by sal­vaging and restor­ing three of the hotel’s brick walls, and recon­fig­ur­ing the rear to add ter­races and open the inte­ri­or to increased nat­ur­al light. They estab­lished 28 guest rooms, a spa, gym and sauna, as well as a series of hos­pi­tal­i­ty offer­ings at grade that span from street-front counter to rear gar­den and pool. The for­mer hotel sta­bles, sit­u­at­ed behind the main build­ing, were also rebuilt to estab­lish the Roy­al Annex, which hous­es five guest suites suit­able for fam­i­lies or extend­ed stays.

The Roy­al’s exten­sive his­to­ry dates back to the 70s, where it was THE place to see live music. In the 80s it was a light­less dance hall, and the 90s over­saw it become a room­ing house.

The Royal’s street-front café, par­lour, and library must shift from bright and live­ly dur­ing the day to low-lit and atmos­pher­ic at night, pro­vid­ing com­mu­nal spaces for local res­i­dents and hotel guests to gath­er, work and strike up con­ver­sa­tions. In place of a grand lob­by bar, a cus­tom armoire in the par­lour opens to reveal a “shake it your­self” cock­tail bar, remov­ing the phys­i­cal delin­eations between the hotel’s front and back of house and also cre­at­ing appro­pri­ate func­tion­al­i­ty for the infor­mal­i­ty of the locale. The design­ers put atten­tion into cre­at­ing a retractable walled porch that enables the fine din­ing restau­rant to expand and con­tract with the sea­sons and hotel events. The patio over­looks a land­scaped gar­den ter­race with a fourth bar and fire­place patio, beyond which lies a swim­ming pool.

Architecture details of the Royal Hotel
“We essen­tial­ly dis­as­sem­bled the build­ing, abstract­ed its parts, and then rein­stat­ed them like instal­la­tions” Pina Pet­ri­cone

Play­ing on the expec­ta­tions of the hotel’s name, his­to­ry, and con­text, the design team embraced the quin­tes­sen­tial tropes of a Vic­to­ri­an rail­way hotel by iso­lat­ing them, abstract­ing them, and then rein­sert­ing them to cre­ate a rich con­trast between the ‘gen­teel’ for­mal­i­ties of British tra­di­tion and the ‘real’ infor­mal­i­ties of rur­al Ontario. In the hotel’s main din­ing room, the typ­i­cal Vic­to­ri­an ceil­ing rosette is atyp­i­cal­ly rein­ter­pret­ed to emu­late the under­side of a mush­room. Through­out, ref­er­ences to apples, pears, ducks, and chick­ens punc­tu­ate the hotel expe­ri­ence, dis­tanc­ing it from the building’s but­toned-up past and giv­ing it a new cur­ren­cy that sig­nals guests to enjoy a slow­er, more relaxed approach. It’s this “roy­al con­trast” that sparks curios­i­ty and treats guests to an expe­ri­ence that is trans­port­ing yet deeply root­ed in the hotel’s local con­text.

Architecture details of the Royal Hotel - Column
The quin­tes­sen­tial ceil­ing rosette is rein­ter­pret­ed as water rip­ples in plas­ter, anoth­er nod to the hotels past.

Ves­tiges of the orig­i­nal hotel’s for­mal dynam­ic still find cre­ative expres­sion, but in ways more like­ly to delight con­tem­po­rary trav­ellers. Scal­loped bath­room van­i­ties in the guest suites, “wrin­kles” along the edges of the din­ing room’s har­vest table, and the parlour’s undu­lat­ing fire­place sur­round mim­ic starched linens being pressed into ser­vice in sur­pris­ing new ways. This pet­ri­fi­ca­tion of tra­di­tion­al Vic­to­ri­an tex­tiles emerges as one of the hotel’s foun­da­tion­al design con­cepts, guid­ing key mate­ri­als and motifs.

“ ‘A hotel should be com­plete­ly trans­port­ing,’ says Pet­ri­cone. ‘To work in an exist­ing build­ing and bring it to life again’ was a goal at which the archi­tects more than suc­ceed­ed.” Pilar Vil­das, Archi­tec­tur­al Record

Tar­tan is ren­dered in stone mosa­ic tiles in guest room bath­rooms, her­ring­bone white oak floor­ing inset like a rug guides guests down a hall­way, and wood-framed cross-stitched vinyl mesh used for the guest room head­boards recalls the dec­o­ra­tive threads of unfin­ished embroi­dery still stretched and bound by a wood­en hoop. The design team’s research into the hotel’s his­to­ry demon­strat­ed that it was always a quirky place, and the inte­ri­ors reflect this with a respon­sive design that’s both aes­thet­i­cal­ly provoca­tive and intel­lec­tu­al­ly engag­ing.

Royal Hotel & Royal Annex
The typ­i­cal grand ceil­ing lantern is now ren­dered as an eccen­tric, dense mush­room under-cap using light, acoustic sculpt­ed fins, and dew-like Boc­ci pen­dants

The design team drew inspi­ra­tion from the building’s for­mer state of dete­ri­o­ra­tion, reimag­in­ing it with the utmost refine­ment to evoke a state of sub­lime decay. White oak mill­work that resem­bles exposed wall studs, inlaid mosa­ic tile off­set to mim­ic a rug that has slipped out of place, and rip­pled ceil­ing rosettes play­ful­ly ref­er­ence the hotel’s once dilap­i­dat­ed and water­logged state. The appear­ance of con­struc­tion-grade mate­ri­als and ele­ments seem­ing­ly left exposed dur­ing the recon­fig­u­ra­tion deep­en the nar­ra­tive. Guest room fire­places are clad in flut­ed con­crete pan­els as if await­ing their pol­ished mar­ble cladding, and gild­ed indus­tri­al-grade met­al is used to rein­state two quin­tes­sen­tial Vic­to­ri­an design ele­ments: the hotel’s exte­ri­or balustrade and the ele­va­tor cages. By embrac­ing the imprint of time on the his­toric build­ing, The Roy­al pays homage to its past and future lega­cy.

At its best, design is a prac­tice of care and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate real, last­ing, impact­ful change. The Roy­al repur­pos­es a derelict, 19th C. Vic­to­ri­an mer­can­tile build­ing through a process of sur­gi­cal restora­tion and state-of-the-art upgrades. The building’s new enve­lope, includ­ing new win­dows cus­tom designed to emu­late the orig­i­nal win­dows but now with high-per­for­mance glaz­ing and seals, expo­nen­tial­ly improves the structure’s ener­gy effi­cien­cy. The project breathes new life into the vin­tage struc­ture and allows new inte­ri­or inter­ven­tions to work with build­ing envi­ron­men­tal sys­tems to increase R‑value and fresh air exchange. The barn-like Roy­al Annex, a new build on the site of the for­mer sta­bles, is clad in sus­tain­able dark Kebony with a zinc roof; with an art gallery on the ground floor and guest suites for extend­ed stays above, adding fresh func­tion­al­i­ty with­in the property’s exist­ing foot­print.

Royal Hotel mosaic patterns
The colour palettes of the pet­ri­fied Vic­to­ri­an ele­ments are appro­pri­at­ed from the building’s façade –buff brick, clay brick, and green slate.

The goal is dura­bil­i­ty — a last­ing struc­ture resus­ci­tat­ed to thrive into the next cen­tu­ry.

Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the building’s sen­si­tive restora­tion prompt­ed the local com­mu­ni­ty to estab­lish a his­toric preser­va­tion man­date. The Roy­al now serves as a bench­mark for future her­itage con­ser­va­tion efforts in the area, demon­strat­ing how alter­ations to his­toric prop­er­ties and new con­struc­tion can con­sid­er and respect the spe­cial char­ac­ter and attrib­ut­es of their sur­round­ings while ele­vat­ing its per­for­mance and con­tem­po­rary con­tri­bu­tion to Prince Edward Coun­ty.

The Roy­al has been fea­tured wide­ly in pub­li­ca­tions in Cana­da and the USA, and recent­ly was one of two Cana­di­an projects fea­tured in Conde Nast’s 2023 Hot List. It is also the recip­i­ent of sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al awards, notably Canada’s 100 Best, AZ Awards, Hos­pi­tal­i­ty Design, and The Restau­rant and Bar Design Awards. Since open­ing its doors to the pub­lic, it has received crit­i­cal acclaim by the Globe and Mail, The Toron­to Star, Archi­tec­tur­al Record, Cana­di­an Archi­tect, Azure Mag­a­zine, Water­shed, and The Plan, among oth­ers.

Royal Hotel 3D Render of Room
Named for the vari­ety of local apple species in Prince Edward Coun­ty, each of the 28 suites is slight­ly dif­fer­ent.

Project Facts

  • Client

    247 Main Street Pic­ton LP

  • Location

    Pic­ton, Prince Edward Coun­ty, Ontario

  • Size

    31,000 sq.ft.

  • Status


  • Sub-Consultant Team

    Struc­tur­al, Mechan­i­cal, Elec­tri­cal — EXP

    Her­itage — ERA Archi­tects Inc.

    Land­scape — Janet Rosen­berg Stu­dio

    Art Con­sul­tant — Tatar Art Projects

    Acoustic Con­sul­tant — J.E. Coul­ter Asso­ciates Ltd.

    Kitchen Con­sul­tant — Trend Food­ser­vice Design & Con­sult­ing

    Pro­cure­ment Con­sul­tant — P360 Con­cepts Inc.

  • Fabricator

    Kate­ri­na Tomp­kins
    Punch­clock Met­al­works
    Bar­low Wood­work

  • General Contractor

    Struc­ture Corp
    HADY Con­struc­tion Asso­ciates (build­ing shell)

  • Renderings

    Office In Search Of

  • Photography

    Gray­don Her­riott
    John­ny C.Y. Lam
    Jeff McNeill
    Greg Pacek

  • Artist / Graphics

    Graph­ic Design — BLOK
    Art — Greg Pacek