Living's Emma Joseph finds a wealth of interiors inspiration at the newly refurbished The Eastbury hotel in Sherborne

Walking through the doors of The Eastbury, you could be forgiven for thinking you had arrived at a country manor house.

The warm, welcoming decor, described as "classic contemporary" by general manager Ian Crighton, features soft, muted shades mixed with darker, bold colours, and boasts a number of typically British features, including large stone fireplaces, a full-size snooker table and a chess game set up by the window in the charmingly named Morning Room.

Yet this delightful, 21-bedroom residence – which was once a private home – is situated in the heart of the characterful market town of Sherborne.

Awarded a prestigious AA four-star status following a recent refurbishment, the hotel boasts its own two AA rosette restaurant; a spectacular walled garden and a number of dog-friendly rooms. This summer it is also due to open five garden rooms designed as Victorian potting sheds, as well as a "Hobbit-style" luxury spa.

The re-style, by interior designer Kathleen Fraser, was overseen by owner and hotelier of 40 years, international entrepreneur Peter de Savary. PdeS, as he likes to be known, grew up in Dorset and has a particular fondness for Sherborne, so he leapt at the chance to acquire the property in February last year.

The result of the transformation is cosy and comfortable, yet effortlessly classy.

This may be a hotel, yet the team clearly want it to feel more of a home from home - indeed the chic style is one that any property owner can be inspired by.

The residents-only Morning Room is dominated by an orange check sofa, while games including a chess table and dominoes are set up ready for playing, alongside books on shelves and a huge brick fireplace, encouraging time for relaxation.

For a more formal setting, The Library is available as a private dining room. A large table seats 12 and converts to a snooker table for post-dining entertainment, with the dark green walls and wine coloured chairs offering a sophisticated, gentleman's club air.

As we round the corner and head towards the Seasons Restaurant, we pass a wall of original windows, opposite which a basket of cosy, tartan blankets awaits those wishing to relax on the outside terrace.

The bar area is nothing if not striking in its decor. The stonework walls are set off by a leopard print carpet, while the walls are adorned with work from PdeS's private collection, The Age of the Golden Illustrators. Leather stools sit up at the bar, which offers a range of local gins, cocktails and wine - also from his own range.

On Friday and Saturday nights, a pianist adds to the ambience of the main restaurant, off of which leads the Garden Suite function room, seating up to 50 people for special events. Those wishing to host a wedding at the venue can also opt to hire the hotel exclusively, and ceremonies can even be performed at a number of locations throughout the grounds.

The decor in the communal areas is classic and understated, but the design really comes into its own in each of the 21 bedrooms.

Named after plants and flowers, each of the rooms is entirely unique - with the exception of the complimentary bottle of sloe gin, which awaits every guest.

Cowslip, for example, screams decadence. A gold, gilt mirror is positioned over the bed, while matching gold, silk curtains frame the windows and a free-standing bath in the corner of the room is shielded by an ornate Oriental screen. Even the mugs on the chest of drawers are individual to each theme, sourced from a charity run by PdeS's daughter.

Hot water bottles are placed on every bed but these too, I'm told, are designed to compliment the colour scheme in each room.

Lily, a garden view room, has a dark wood, four-poster bed as its centrepiece, softened by the floral wallpaper and artwork, which serves to bring the outside in. Honeysuckle is different again, with a more contemporary feel and accent splashes of dark red.

Sycamore is one of four rooms built more recently and has a more modern vibe. A sliding door leads to the bathroom, while an oversized lamp provides a focal point in the corner.

Possibly the most impressive room is Yew - PdeS's personal favourite and where he most often chooses to stay, with his beloved dog Monty, when he visits roughly once every three weeks.

A dog-friendly room with direct access to the garden (doggie visitors are also treated to dog beds, treats and a dog's dinner created by the chef), Yew features one of PdeS's original beds, a £30,000-plus four-poster which dates from the 1700s and was previously at his property in Littlecote House, a country house estate near Hungerford in Berkshire.

Brought from his home to The Eastbury, the bed was refurbished with a new mattress and curtains, and now sports a regal gold and duck egg theme, echoed in the rest of the room's decor and complimented by woodwork and beams in tonal colours.

It's easy to see why the hotel is attracting guests from London, as well as Bristol, Bath and even overseas, who are searching for a relaxing rural retreat, but this style of decor could work equally well in a private home. Which is exactly what PdeS had in mind.

"We haven't finished it and decorated it as a commercial hotel owner would," he explains. "I've done it as though it's my own home – a lot of the things are antiques or my own. The clock in the drawing room is from the 1700s from a Swedish castle, I've owned it for many years.

"It's not what you would call your normal hotel finish. It feels like a private home. I'm thrilled to bits with it. It's really turned out even better than I hoped it would."

PdeS is keen the hotel will help to put Sherborne on the map.

"Sherborne is a magical town," he says, "it's not really known as much as it should or could be. It's a lovely place for people to visit, the high street is absolutely delightful, lots to see and do and beautiful walks.

"I love Sherborne and Dorset speaks for itself. I grew up in the West Country – my father lived in Dorset from the age of about 11 and I grew up in Dorset and Somerset. just near Beaminster. I had a home for over 50 years in the West Country and had businesses there.

"It's very close to my heart and it's what I call "on the way to the Cary Arms", which belongs to me, down on the beach in Babbacombe, Devon. I get offered hotels every week – I've probably handled over 75 hotels in my life, but I was easily convinced by this one.

"I love the building, I love the garden and I was intrigued by the fact that you feel as though you're in a country house in the middle of the countryside – I thought that was a really lovely touch."

The Eastbury Hotel, Long Street, Sherborne 01935 813131 Five more potting shed garden rooms. They are designed like Victorian potting sheds. So from the front you won't see your rooms. Oak on the front, moss and seeded roofs. Like a garden on the top. They've got a large window on the roof sand doors at the back, so very private. Should be ready for the summer.

They will all have new, high end fittings in them.

26 capacity. We were 22, we've converted two of the single rooms to a large double, so currently 21. We only have one executive single, the rest are luxury doubles and beyond.

Peter de Savary bought the hotel in February last year. The main refurbishment took place in October and November last year. All the rooms have been updated since then. Mostly bedrooms, also reception areas and the restaurant area.

So the hotel was awarded four star rating from the AA inspector last last year. We were three star, so it's now four star.

The restaurant is a two AA rosette restaurant. We are aiming to be three, possibly by the end of the year. The goal, ultimately, is to make it a five-star hotel.

It started out as a private residence. It had 27(?) acres out the back, which have been sold off over the years. It was a hotel in the early 1900s.

The owners Paul and Nicky King still own a bistro in the town. It was just a town hotel.

Peter de Savary has got a number of other properties which are all individual. They are all offering a luxury experience to guests. When he came to Sherborne and had a look at the hotel it suited his ethos pretty well as having a country house hotel in the middle of Sherborne.

Sherborn is a little down with a lot of character. He wanted to make it a focal point in the town to encourage visitors to come and stay and enjoy the town and visit the castle and the abbey etc.

Seasons restaurant - open to locals as well. High end restaurant for people to come and have great food. Trip Advisor ratings are always very high, five-star reviews.

Matt Street, executive chef. Been here for about 7 years.

We are still in the process of doing that. We've got some ideas about the restaurant moving forward in terms of what the menu will be.

We are adding a sap. That's going to be a luxury spa. Hobbit style, based on the look of a hobbit house. It will fit in in the garden. It will be modern inside, but it will fit in in the garden.

The biggest thing that guests say is that they didn't realise this was here. The garden and everything else.

It started in October/November, finished December 18 (the refurb). We held a cocktail reception here. Mr de Savery held a reception for local dignitaries and guests - 95 people.

There are no major changes in structure. Right now the focus is on the new garden rooms and spa.

There's an intention to put a tropical butterfly house in the garden. There was a tropical butterfly farm in Sherborne, which has now closed down. Mr de Savery is working with the owner of that. They are working together to bring something back to the area. Also having British butterflies that guests can release in the summer. Give our guests more of an experience.

Historically, it had a lot of corporate guests. We are moving more to an experience-based set-up. So guests can stay for a couple of days.

A lot of independent shops, the Sherborne Indies. It's seen as an independent high street. Here, it's thriving. There are new shops going in all the time. But they're small, independent shops.

That historically has been the case in Sherborne, so that's something that's continuing.

He has a design lady that he's worked with for 40 years. She has fitted out all of his other hotels, so they have a standard of finish. They're all very different.

Cary Arms & Spa, Devon, right on the beach.

He has been a hotelier for 40 years. Five star B&B, Cheltenham. It has some similar touches. But he doesn't like the word "corporate". he doesn't like anything to fit the normal model. It has to fit the expectation for guests.

As soon as he saw the hotel he had a vision for what he wanted. He's one of those guys that is very particular - attention to detail. He looks at the seams on the chairs to make sure they're all level, so he's very particular.

He has the ultimate say. Every piece of artwork, every piece of wallpaper he will have an input - every piece of furniture that we put in.

I think it's classic contemporary. There's some contemporary touches, but it's a classic feel. Elegant. In keeping with the age of the hotel. We've not done anything to make it ultra contemporary because that wouldn't fit into Sherborne.

Two hrs 20 by train direct from Waterloo. We are promoting it as a weekend retreat for Londoners, but also people from Bath and Bristol who want to get to the countryside.

£170 double up to £350 for a night. that includes a full Dorset breakfast.

It's kept its character.

Croquet set up on the lawn. In the summer there will be giant chess and badminton. Registered owl nesting boxes, sculptures in the gardens.