S TAY I NG power

Ho­tels now are echo­ing the mood and ar­chi­tec­tural ver­nac­u­lar of the neigh­bour­hood, cre­at­ing more per­son­alised ac­com­mo­da­tion aimed at lo­cals as well as vis­i­tors.

Belle - - Business Of Design Right N Ow - Words STEPHEN TODD

A bath­room with gar­den out­look at United Places Botanic Gar­dens Ho­tel in Mel­bourne. Moroso ‘Re­dondo’ sofa in a gue­stroom at United Places. A geo­met­ric cop­per screen atop Syd­ney’s Para­mount House Ho­tel. The gue­strooms and pub­lic ar­eas at Para­mount House Ho­tel ref­er­ence the gritty site and colour­ful his­tory of the area. The sim­ple monas­tic en­trance of United Places.

THERE’S A NEW BREED of Aus­tralian hote­lier on the rise, a posse of savvy de­vel­op­ers who are us­ing the power of ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign to cre­ate to­tally be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ences.

In Mel­bourne, Dar­ren Ruben­stein made his mis­sion clear when he un­veiled United Places Botanic Gar­dens ho­tel – the first in what he in­tends as a net­work of UP es­tab­lish­ments – last May. A per­fectly formed, four-storey con­crete grid de­lin­eated by a fine out­line of brass, the struc­ture in­sin­u­ates it­self with quiet grandeur upon its gra­cious South Yarra streetscape. The en­trance is or­ches­trated as a gen­tle segue from the foot­path, its blue­stone paving and board-formed con­crete walls cre­at­ing an evoca­tive al­ley­way that ter­mi­nates not at a concierge desk but with a sooth­ing wa­ter and light sculp­ture.

“We wanted to avoid any­thing that would sug­gest an or­di­nary ho­tel,” says Ruben­stein. “The idea is to cre­ate a home-ho­tel ex­pe­ri­ence based around feel­ings of in­ti­macy and pri­vacy but with a su­perla­tive level of thought and ex­e­cu­tion go­ing into ev­ery de­tail.”

Up­stairs, the nine one-bed­room and three two-bed­room suites face ei­ther the lush Botanic Gar­dens at the front or a patch­work of Ital­ianate ter­races at the rear. Ei­ther way the set­ting is both ur­bane and serene. In the rooms, hand-scraped oak floors and hand-trow­elled walls are off­set by sump­tu­ous vel­vet drap­ery and quilted so­fas. A mir­rored shower pod di­vides the liv­ing and sleep­ing zones, its porce­lain slab floor en­hanc­ing the feel­ing of seam­less per­fec­tion.

In less adept hands this ex­treme at­ten­tion to de­tail could come off as over­bear­ingly ob­ses­sive, but un­der the nu­anced di­rec­tion of in­te­rior de­signer Sue Carr it ap­pears el­e­gantly non­cha­lant. The whole place is im­bued with a quiet con­fi­dence that is, all things con­sid­ered, très Mel­bourne. “In fact we get quite a few lo­cals com­ing to stay which re­ally adds to the homey feel of the place,” says Ruben­stein.

In Syd­ney, Mark Dun­don (owner of Para­mount Cof­fee Project), Rus­sell Beard (owner of Reuben Hills eatery) and prop­erty de­vel­oper Ping Jin Ng com­bined their ex­per­tise and love of in­ner-city grit to de­velop Para­mount House Ho­tel, a 29-room estab­lish­ment sited in the for­mer Para­mount Pic­tures stu­dios and bear­ing the beau­ti­ful scars of that par­tic­u­lar his­tory. De­signed by Breathe Ar­chi­tec­ture as an ode to the neigh­bour­hood, it reads as a palimpsest, with traces of pre­vi­ous lives seep­ing though the lay­ers of time. In the lobby, orig­i­nal brick­work and con­crete are thrown into re­lief by pris­tine new plas­ter­work, while cop­per chevron-shaped screens hint at the glam­our of a by­gone era. Up­stairs, the ma­te­ri­al­ity of the orig­i­nal build­ing slowly gives way to the new struc­ture housed within a geo­met­ric cop­per screen crown­ing the red-brick ex­te­rior.

“The whole Para­mount com­plex is a mi­cro­cosm of Surry Hills,” says Bon­nie Her­ring, direc­tor of Breathe. “We grab lit­tle pieces of the street tex­ture and fine grain and bring them into the ho­tel space.” Lower rooms fea­ture orig­i­nal sash win­dows, up­per lev­els are set back with an­gled ve­ran­dahs mim­ick­ing the ec­cen­tric­ity of the ter­raced hous­ing at street level. Plants and gen­tly fil­tered light heighten a sense of time­less­ness, as does the adroit mix of fur­nish­ings. “Each room of­fers a unique nar­ra­tive max­imis­ing the ir­reg­u­lar con­fig­u­ra­tion of the build­ing,” Her­ring says.

In Bris­bane, re­cently-com­pleted The Calile ho­tel sits like a chic bru­tal­ist be­he­moth amid the other con­crete and pale brick build­ings of the hip James Street precinct, some five kilo­me­tres from the CBD. Its de­vel­op­ers Cal and Michael Malouf also mas­ter­minded much of the lo­cal area with lo­cal ar­chi­tects In­grid Richards and Adrian Spence.

“It was about cre­at­ing some­thing that blends in rather than sticks out,” says Richards who dubs the style of the seven-floor 175-room struc­ture “gen­tle bru­tal­ism”. With its blocky vol­umes off­set by gen­er­ous vault­ing, arches and breeze block brick­work it evokes the splen­dour of 1970s Beirut, trans­ported to the sub-trop­ics.

Rooms are gen­er­ous; fit­tings are sim­ple, ma­te­ri­als hon­est – ex­posed ren­der ceil­ings, cork-lined walls, join­ery in hefty tim­ber. Ex­pan­sive bal­conies ex­tend sight­lines, their curved brass balustrades glint­ing in the sun­shine. “Since this precinct was pretty much torn down 10 years ago to start again, the ho­tel is in some sense about cre­at­ing prece­dent where none ex­isted,” says Richards. “We wanted to cre­ate some­thing that would last, that would be the mem­o­ries of the fu­ture for the fam­ily who owns the place and/or the peo­ple who come to stay.”

De­spite their very ev­i­dent dif­fer­ences, what these three ho­tels have in com­mon is that their own­ers – none of whom has de­vel­oped ho­tels be­fore – are de­ter­mined to cre­ate des­ti­na­tions which re­flect their per­son­al­i­ties, ex­pe­ri­ences, aes­thet­ics and be­liefs.

Rus­sell Beard ad­mits he “had no ref­er­ence points since we’d never done any­thing like this be­fore. It was all ed­u­cated guesses and gut feel­ing.” Cal Malouf reck­ons he and Michael “just took baby steps, test­ing the wa­ters as we pro­gressed”. For Dar­ren Ruben­stein, United Places is “a pas­sion project. It’s a cel­e­bra­tion of all I love – ar­chi­tec­ture, de­sign, food, and thought­ful lo­cal and lux­ury prod­uct.”

Each has cre­ated a highly idio­syn­cratic estab­lish­ment that re­flects their view of the world and the de­sire to share it with like-minded peo­ple. These are not places de­signed to please ev­ery­one, but tellingly, they are al­ready at­tract­ing a lot of lo­cals who book in for stay­ca­tions. Think of them as the homes away from the home you wish you had. unit­ed­places.com.au; paramoun­t­house­ho­tel.com; the­calile­ho­tel.com

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