A canvas of colour and creativity
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