A can­vas of colour and cre­ativ­ity

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

I am well en­sconced at Tum­bling Stone, where bar­tender Liam is mix­ing me a Ne­groni, which he as­sures will be the best I’ve tried. It re­quires the orange peel to be scorched and he is not averse to adding an ex­tra in­gre­di­ent, if I would like. A re­cent cus­tomer re­quested a dash of bal­samic vine­gar.

Liam has been work­ing on the Gold Coast and wants to bring dash and flair, plus spir­its in­fused with “rad­i­cal botan­i­cals”, to his new mixol­ogy role at Tum­bling Stone Restau­rant & Bar, off the fore­court of The John­son, Bris­bane’s lat­est bou­tique ho­tel.

He is in the right place as the prop­erty, a cre­ative brand­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with ac­claimed ab­stract painter Michael John­son, is a mem­ber of the Art Se­ries Ho­tel Group, an Aus­tralian col­lec­tion that prides it­self on funky fit-outs and neigh­bour­hood cred. Flam­ing Ne­gro­nis seem per­fectly at home here, as do retro aqua­marine­painted Lekker bi­cy­cles lined up ready for ac­tion by the en­try, and cool mid-cen­tury in­te­ri­ors.

The prop­erty is in a re­vived govern­ment build­ing, un­til 2012 hous­ing Queens­land’s Depart­ment of Main Roads, at in­ner-city Spring Hill. After a three-year con­ver­sion, all ev­i­dence of work­ers’ cu­bi­cles and wait­ing rooms is gone and in their place are 97 self-con­tained one or two-bed­room suites, plus three pent­houses on the 16th floor, ac­cessed by pri­vate lift.

Olympic gold medal­list Michael Klim has de­signed the north-fac­ing lap pool on the fifth floor; at 50m long, it seems al­most like a mini-river be­side a re­sort-like deck, which is at­trac­tively set with loung­ing fur­ni­ture, a bar and chic ca­banas.

The com­plex also con­tains res­i­den­tial apart­ments and pent­houses plus “bou­tique workspaces” (fur­nished ser­viced of­fices, that is), suit­able for start-up busi­nesses, and con­fer­ence and event spa­ces off the long, bare lobby.

Vast public ar­eas make it feel like a su­perbly dec­o­rated but nonethe­less clin­i­cal of­fice build­ing rather than a pur­pose-run inn. The same slight feel­ing of dis­lo­ca­tion ap­plies to the other­wise im­pec­ca­ble Art Se­ries sta­ble­mate ho­tel The Lar­will Stu­dio, part of a com­mer­cial precinct in the Royal Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal at Parkville, Mel­bourne.

John­son’s works are lav­ishly dis­played, in­clud­ing sev­eral orig­i­nal oils on linen in the long lobby — Tuna Tuna, Oys­ter Line and Noc­turne Par­adise — but the 1967-built ed­i­fice also stands in homage to its orig­i­nal ar­chi­tect, cel­e­brated mod­ernist Karl Langer. The syn­ergy is out­stand­ing, with the lay­ered par­al­lel planes of John­son’s land­scapes and his marine im­agery of stri­ated reefs act­ing as coun­ter­points to the lin­ear na­ture of the grid-like ex­te­rior. The mid-rise re­in­forced-con­crete build­ing, as vis­i­ble a land­mark as you could imag­ine, was her­itage­listed in 2014 with some in­te­rior ex­emp­tions.

The trade­mark vivid colour of John­son prints in grey­painted hall­ways and pas­tel suites brings to life the other­wise monochro­matic decor al­though it is ir­ri­tat­ing that these im­ages are unidentified; the ho­tel’s so-called team of “art ad­vo­cates” could per­haps have had some clever lit­tle signs made up.

Two-bed­room suites are par­tic­u­larly well ar­rayed, with a long fur­nished bal­cony and iden­ti­cal en­suite sleep­ing cham­bers at ei­ther end of a spa­cious pale-tim­bered lounge and din­ing area pre­dom­i­nantly in greys but with the odd pop of cad­mium orange, surely lifted from John­son’s pal­ette. A smart mar­ble-benched open-plan kitchen and laun­dry closet fea­ture top-end ap­pli­ances.

Add flat-screen tele­vi­sions through­out (with in-house art chan­nel), well-dressed AH Beard sig­na­ture beds, good light­ing and a cargo of cush­ions in shades of indigo and soft blue. The in-room bar in­cludes a paint­ing set planted be­tween the crisps, pop­corn and jelly snakes; in the com­pact en­suites (no tubs) ex­pect Art Se­ries’ favourite EVO toi­letries with their trade­mark play­ful pack­ag­ing of the likes of rain hel­met (shower cap) and soap dodger (body wash).

And so to eat, which is an ex­cel­lent prospect at the


The John­son, 477 Bound­ary Street, Spring Hill, Bris­bane 4000; (07) 3085 7200; 1800 278 468; the­john­son.com.au.


Open­ing spe­cials from $180.

GET­TING THERE: air­port. About 25 min­utes from Bris­bane

CHECK­ING IN: Arts Se­ries Ho­tel Group afi­ciona­dos; two-bed­room suites are ideal for fam­i­lies.

WHEEL­CHAIR AC­CESS: Yes; se­lec­tion of adapted gue­strooms in two cat­e­gories.

BED­TIME READ­ING: Barry Pearce’s sub­stan­tial 2004 book on Michael John­son, with in­tro­duc­tion by Ed­mund Capon, sits on suite cof­fee ta­bles.

STEP­PING OUT: The city proper is within easy reach; Spring Hill Baths in nearby Torrington Street is a de­light­ful her­itage-listed swim­ming com­plex with 25m in­door heated pool and old-fash­ioned dressing cu­bi­cles.

BRICK­BATS: No wastepa­per bins in ei­ther bath­room of my two-bed­room suite and no milk in fridge; rock 'n' roll cof­fee ma­chine comes with two pods, which seems measly for ac­com­mo­da­tion that caters to four guests.

BOU­QUETS: The com­mu­nal ta­ble in the lobby, with con­vivial seat­ing and stacks of books, en­cour­ages min­gling; help­ful staff; Lekker bikes and branded Smart Cars for hire by the hour or day; free Wi-Fi ac­cess.

Art on show in a suite at The John­son in Bris­bane, top; Tum­bling Stone restau­rant, above right; 50m lap pool on the fifth floor, left

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