A thor­oughly mod­ern ren­o­va­tion un­der­taken by the Yax­ley fam­ily has turned a his­toric bank build­ing in Corowa into a luxury ho­tel and spa, filled with the essence of old world glam­our.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Anita Mcpher­son pho­tos D23 Pho­tog­ra­phy, Sue Davis, Ririn Yax­ley

The Yax­ley fam­ily has turned a his­toric bank build­ing in Corowa into a luxur y ho­tel and spa, filled with the essence of old world glam­our.

A VENUE which em­braces the so­phis­ti­ca­tion and ele­gance of a by­gone era - a time when Greta Garbo ruled the sil­ver screen and Bing Crosby dom­i­nated the air­waves - has opened its doors to guests in the main street of Corowa.

Wel­come to Circa 1936, an art deco in­spired luxury ho­tel es­tab­lished on the site of a for­mer bank by hus­band and wife team Kevin and Ririn Yax­ley, who met in Pa­pua New Guinea where Kevin was man­ag­ing five star prop­er­ties.

The cou­ple re­turned to Aus­tralia in 2012 to raise their two young daugh­ters and cre­ate their own op­u­lent es­cape for guests, which would re­flect their motto of pro­vid­ing 19th cen­tury ser­vice in 20th cen­tury style, with 21st cen­tury fa­cil­i­ties.

Their ex­haus­tive search for the right prop­erty in which to es­tab­lish the first in what will be a se­ries of Circa ho­tels, took them to dozens of towns, be­fore they dis­cov­ered the di­lap­i­dated, two storey bank built in 1936 in the clas­sic, art deco ar­chi­tec­tural style.

Although in state of com­plete dis­re­pair, a two year ren­o­va­tion was un­der­taken and Kevin says no ex­pense was spared in the cre­ation of their $1.75m “mi­cro-style” ho­tel and day spa.

“We love old build­ings but so of­ten we can fall short, be­cause of the com­mer­cial re­al­ity of a limited bud­get, that we don’t al­low a build­ing to re­alise its full po­ten­tial,” he said.

“We were lucky that we had enough money to al­low us not to take any vis­i­ble short­cuts.”

The ren­o­va­tion and in­te­rior de­sign smacks of the cou­ple’s per­sonal style, mix­ing sleek, con­tem­po­rary de­sign with fea­ture pieces cho­sen from their pri­vate col­lec­tion, or sourced from some of their favourite places in the world.

Kevin says in some ways the fin­ished prod­uct has ex­ceeded his ex­pec­ta­tions; he’s pleased to see how well the care­fully cu­rated pieces work in the space and how tak­ing the odd risk has been worth it.

“The re­al­i­sa­tion of the vi­sion was brought about by hav­ing courage, and then hav­ing the com­mit­ment to spend what was needed to re­alise it,” he said.

Kevin said the de­ci­sion to make Corowa their home came about after con­duct­ing some thor­ough re­search into the town, in­clud­ing its prox­im­ity to other ma­jor pop­u­la­tion bases.

He said Corowa “ticked a lot of boxes” in­clud­ing its prox­im­ity to the pop­u­lar Ruther­glen wine re­gion and other at­trac­tions in the North East, and he hoped to soon see more new busi­nesses come to “the beau­ti­ful town”.

“We’d like to think our show of con­fi­dence in the town will en­cour­age other peo­ple to fol­low suit,” he said.

The prop­erty it­self ex­udes old world charm from the mo­ment guests are greeted at the door by the im­pec­ca­bly dressed hosts and their team of staff. >>

Guests and the pub­lic are wel­come to come in and en­joy re­fresh­ments dur­ing the day, se­lect­ing from 12 dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of tea, or per­haps in­dulging in iced tea mixed and served from an art deco trol­ley at their ta­ble.

De­lec­ta­ble desserts such as the choco­late ganache cake and “meringue moun­tain” are all home­made, gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned and pre­sented with lash­ings of fresh cream on Circa’s own de­signer crock­ery.

Even wa­ter comes jum­bled in a glass jug with ice, straw­berry, or­ange and fresh mint, served with a linen nap­kin at fea­ture ta­bles made from pet­ri­fied wood.

Savoury of­fer­ings in­clude del­i­cate tapas made to or­der from sea­sonal ingredients, while a broad range of all lo­cal wines can be se­lected from a rack in the re­stored bank vault.

Guests can re­lax in the lounge with a cock­tail and lis­ten to grand piano, ad­mir­ing the spec­tac­u­lar “Pen­nies from Heaven” art­work sus­pended above, which was com­mis­sioned for the ho­tel to re­flect Bing Crosby’s 1936 hit song.

Up­stairs there is a choice of three, grand-sized suites of­fer­ing su­per king size beds, each with lav­ishly-sized, fully tiled bath­rooms with un­der­floor heat­ing, walk through show­ers and in­dul­gent, free stand­ing bath­tubs.

All the rooms are light-filled, spa­cious and im­mac­u­lately pre­sented with crisp linen and feather pillows, of­fer­ing cou­ples se­duc­tion, so­phis­ti­ca­tion and an un­de­ni­able “wow” fac­tor.

Down­stairs there is a day spa ad­ja­cent to the lounge which of­fers a wide range of ser­vices in a pri­vate suite which has a ham­mered cop­per claw­foot bath­tub as its cen­tre­piece.

The spa uses the Yax­leys’ own line of skin­care prod­ucts, cre­ated by Ririn Yax­ley and in­spired by her up­bring­ing in a small vil­lage of East Java.

Circa 1936 ap­pears to ex­em­plify the part­ners’ strengths and tal­ents, meld­ing Ririn’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the spa in­dus­try in Bali with Kevin’s ex­ten­sive back­ground as a hospi­tal­ity pro­fes­sional.

“The way that we do things is the more tra­di­tional form of ho­tel keep­ing – it’s just what we want to do,” said Kevin.

“The style of our ser­vice - whether it’s the way we dress, the at­ten­tion to de­tail, the qual­ity of what we serve, is the way it might have been in the 1800s – the style of the build­ing is cer­tainly 20th cen­tury, but the tech­nol­ogy and fa­cil­i­ties we of­fer are very much to­day.”

To find out more about Circa 1936 visit www.circ­a­ho­

“The way that we do things is the more tra­di­tional form of ho­tel keep­ing – it’s just what we want to do.” - Kevin Yax­ley

FINE DE­SIGN / In­te­rior fit­tings have been care­fully cu­rated, in­clud­ing the pet­ri­fied wood ta­bles sourced from In­done­sia.

DE­LI­CIOUS / Cof­fee, tea and a se­lec­tion of home­made desserts and savoury tapas are avail­able daily in the ho­tel’s lounge.

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