CHECK­ING IN

The Flem­ing, a re­vamped Hong Kong ho­tel that chan­nels the city’s nau­ti­cal and in­dus­trial her­itage.

DestinAsian - - DEPARTMENTS - BY JAMES LOUIE 41 Flem­ing Road, Wan­chai, Hong Kong; 852/3607-2288; the­flem­ing.com.hk; dou­bles from US$204

Back in 2006, when Hong Kong’s high­est-rank­ing ten­nis player John Hui opened The Flem­ing in buzzy Wan­chai, it took the form of a chic busi­ness ho­tel, with sim­ply styled rooms and a com­bi­na­tion of glass, LED light­ing, and min­i­mal­is­tic decor that made it unashamedly mod­ern, as though it had been trans­planted straight from New York or Frank­furt. No longer. Fresh from a 12-month facelift, the rein­vented 66-room prop­erty cel­e­brates the quirks of Hong Kong by tap­ping into its mar­itime her­itage, with hints of Chi­nese cul­ture and the city’s in­dus­trial hey­day in the ’60s and ’70s.

Hui and his child­hood friend Jason Co­hen tasked Maxime Dautresme, co-founder of lo­cal cre­ative agency A Work of Sub­stance, to come up with a design that was unique to Hong Kong. In turn, Dautresme drew much of his in­spi­ra­tion from the iconic crosshar­bor Star Fer­ries. While the ground floor is given over to Os­te­ria Marzia—a high-ceilinged res­tau­rant spe­cial­iz­ing in Ital­ian coastal fare—a short el­e­va­tor ride from the en­trance leads to the cozy first­floor re­cep­tion and lounge, where a pair of plush seats echo the re­versible benches found on the up­per deck of a Star Ferry. Ma­hogany chaises piled with cush­ions are an in­vi­ta­tion to pe­ruse the ho­tel’s se­lec­tion of Asia-cen­tric cof­fee table books, or look though the floorto-ceil­ing win­dows into Os­te­ria Marzia be­low. The res­tau­rant bath­rooms down the cor­ri­dor are worth a visit purely to see the floors in­laid with 50-cent coins—once the cost of a har­bor cross­ing.

Up­stairs, doors with rounded cor­ners and an abun­dance of wood and brass fit­tings com­ple­ment a color pal­ette dom­i­nated by bot­tle green, splashes of navy blue, and white. Each room door has builtin sig­nage akin to a ship’s tele­graph, with the set­ting for “Clean My Room” in place of “Full Steam Ahead.” That at­ten­tion to de­tail ex­tends to the light switches and low arm­chairs that wouldn’t look out of place on the deck of an ocean liner. The in­dus­trial touches are per­haps a lit­tle harder to spot. There are torch-like light fix­tures clamped to the wall, while multi-paned screens of cor­ru­gated acrylic re­call the win­dows of high-rise ten­e­ments built in the ’60s and ’70s. And be­ing Hong Kong, sub­tle ref­er­ences to Chi­nese cul­ture abound: the bol­lard-in­spired night­stands are tinted an aus­pi­cious red, some rooms re­pur­pose Can­tonese opera cos­tume chests as TV stands, and cus­tom-made bath­room ameni­ties dis­pense man­darin­scented body soap and gin­seng-mint shampoo. Aside from chan­nel­ing the eclec­ti­cism of its home, it’s en­tirely fit­ting that The Flem­ing has made such a bold de­par­ture from its pre­vi­ous iden­tity. Rein­ven­tion, af­ter all, is in Hong Kong’s DNA.

Clock­wise from top: The Flem­ing is sited in the heart of Wan­chai, one of Hong Kong’s nightlife hubs; sig­nage on room doors is styled af­ter a ship’s tele­graph; in­side an Ex­tra Large room.

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