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Supervisor: Dr Timothy Brittain-Catlin


Research overview:

Michelle Behr’s research focuses on historic country houses converted to country house hotels during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  She will look at the country house hotel as a distinct building type shaped by the history, reputation and cultural characteristics of the country house and influenced by urban palace hotels.  Instead of being a post-Second World War phenomenon as popularly believed, there is evidence this new type of hotel emerged in the late nineteenth century and as early as the 1840s as her recent research suggests.  This will be closely examined and placed in context with wider economic, social and architectural impacts that contributed to this new typology. She will examine the pattern and scale of hotel conversions in urban peripheries, established tourist areas and isolated areas.  These lesser-known country houses were often overlooked in previous architectural studies, this research aims to provide a detailed study of the conversions with a focus on the architecture, interiors, and setting.  Local, lesser-known architects were often commissioned for the work, this appears to be a decisive break from the country house architects who were likely more well-known.  This study aims to  demonstrate that in most cases the country house hotel is not a ‘lost’ house or one ‘in decline’ as so often portrayed in country house literature, but rather the focus of enterprise and re-invention.



Michelle Behr began her PhD in October 2023.  She holds a Master of Science in Real Estate Development from New York University and a Master of Studies in Building History from University of Cambridge.  Prior to Cambridge, she worked as Director of Design and Development at Belmond, a luxury hospitality company based in London. During her time in NYC she worked for luxury hospitality firms,  she started her career at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.    Michelle is also a Trustee on the St Osyth Priory and Parish Trust and volunteers with the London based heritage charities The Georgian Group and SAVE Britain’s Heritage.