Friday, 1 November 2013

Chilling out in Birmingham with Staying Cool

Rotunda, Birmingham
Rotunda, Birmingham
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.

View from Staying Cool Penthouse apartment, Birmingham

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 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)

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36 comments:

  1. Haha that's so funny. I'm not surprised you thought it was part of the furniture though. The apartment and building looks rather modern, so it could have just been a chair ;) I do love the idea of serviced apartments by the way. You get some of the comfort of a hotel, but also the independence and privacy of your own place. Great idea x

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    1. It was a far more comfortable chair turned the right way up. I think they had put it on its side to let the rain water run off.
      As long as you have plenty of nearby places to eat, serviced apartments can be a great way to visit a city.

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  2. So glad to hear you're sampling the delights of my nearest and dearest major city... hopefully you weren't waylaid by the Peaky Blinders...

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    1. Do you know, I did think of you when I was there. Only briefly, mind.... ;-)

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    2. You're lucky I've holstered my flatcap...! ;-)

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    3. Thank god for that! Anyway I decided to walk round Birmingham wearing a motorbike helmet just in case.

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  3. That looks fantastic! We have only stayed in a serviced apartment once, a few years ago in Barcelona and found it much more practical than a hotel and more than worth the difference in price. For som reasons I've not thought about staying in one in the UK but will definitely look in to it next time we plan a getaway.

    Still giggling at the thought of you fathoming out the seat!

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    1. We had a disappointing apartment in Paris a few years ago but we made the mistake of not choosing a location that had many places to eat. It was always a trudge to go out at night to find a restaurant. This place was ideal because everything was on the doorstep.

      Can't believe it took us so long!

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  4. Great for shopping but I can't imagine wanting to stay the night there. Perhaps that's because we are so close anyway. But totally great shopping! It's always heaving though. Much more crowded than London. Perhaps it's because it's all closer together. The Christmas German market is fantastic. Recommend it.

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    1. We had never thought to stay in the city either but it was great and, funnily enough, I loved it at night when the shoppers were thinning out and the lights were on everywhere. Yes, I've heard about the Christmas Market. Glad to hear from you that it's worth a visit.

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  5. wow the views are amazing and the chair well, looks much better after your hubby moved it ;) xxx

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    1. In the evening I was loathe to leave the room: I could have just turned the sofa round and looked out of the window all night.
      We did laugh about the seat - can't believe none of us sussed it!

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  6. I only live an hour or so from Birmingham but don't venture there very often by the centre is really lovely now. I love the story about the chair, that sounds like the sort of thing I would do! It looks and sounds amazing, the apartment looks really lovely.

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    1. We had been to the city once before to see the Harlem Globetrotters at the National Indoor Arena but didn't do any sightseeing at the time.

      It was a huge apartment. Great to have separate bathrooms too so no battles to use the facilities.

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  7. I wouldn't have wanted to leave! I love the interior design, that picture on the wall... and boy did I laugh about your balcony love seat! I remember seeing some fabulous architecture on my trip to Birmingham, definitely a place to revisit

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    1. They used some top designers so the furnishings were very chic. The artwork was fantastic - all Twiggy 60s style.

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  8. I have lived in the Midlands all my life so I remember when the Rotunda was a dirty old office block but would love to go and see it now! It looks fab!!

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    1. It's all residential for the first 18 floors - lots of young people shared the lifts with us - must be a great place to have a flat!

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  9. Well I never knew that this is what they had done to the Rotunda - I shall share this with my friend as she stays every Christmas. 1993 you say the threat of demolition - really - I remember that.

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    1. They had a book in the apartment about the Rotunda and its history and that's where I read about the1993 date. Fascinating place and so great it was eventually refurbished.

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  10. The seat story is hilarious... I am so glad English Heritage saved that building, you know what I am like about buildings like this, there is something special about them! That apartment looks super chic too! :)

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    1. Apparently when the residential apartments were released to the public during the renovation, they were snapped up very quickly. I agree, so glad it was saved.

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  11. I've never been to Birmingham but it looks great. I love the chair story - hilarious!

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    1. I'll write about what we got up to in the next instalment. It was a very vibrant city.

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  12. I hadn't realised Birmingham had become so interesting. Not sure how much use you could get out of a 20th floor balcony though.

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    1. The sun poured in during the day so it was great to open the patio doors when we came back from shopping to let the air in, even if we didn't fancy sitting out. I imagine some people love sitting out there but I was a scaredy cat!

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  13. Well you could have waved..........I'm only just outside the City..........and very happy that you enjoyed your visit.

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    1. I thought of you, Libby, as well as Steve! Did you not see me waving? :-)

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  14. Love the chair! And the place does look pretty cool. Lots to do in Birmingham too, so great tip for a good place to stay.

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    1. The city has lots of attractions and so much just a few miles out too. I must get round to writing up about the sightseeing we did to add to this.

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  15. It looks like a very swish apartment, you made me laugh with that outdoor chair!

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    1. I can't believe that none of us sussed it out. Not a brain cell among us.

      It was very swish - but relaxed with it - no standing on ceremony.

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  16. ha ha ha, still giggling about the chair! Shame you didn't get pictures really.

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    1. I did consider doing some retrospective shots to show you what we did but no-one wanted to show themselves up!

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  17. Looks like a gorgeous place... And I love the chair story!! xx

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