Singapore shows that anything goes when it comes to guestrooms for every style, taste and budget, finds Rebecca Lo
In recent years, many of Singapore’s hotels have taken a rather experimental approach in the design department. The perfect storm of a young population open to cutting edge concepts, a large pool of migrant builders, a welcoming climate for foreign investors and a steady stream of leisure and business travellers has put the Lion City at the foreground of groundbreaking design.
Despite being ranked as the most expensive city in the world to live in at the moment, Singapore’s guestrooms range from cosy to palatial. There are designs to suit all types of travellers on almost any budget, and the hotel’s concept filters to perhaps the most important aspect of every property: the guestroom.
Travellers may appreciate the spa, breakfast buffet or sun lounger by an infinity edge swimming pool, but it is the room they are paying for. In Singapore, where value for money is appreciated just as much as anywhere else, the guestroom is an accurate gauge of bang for the bucks.
And three of the city’s newest inventory – Sofitel So, Hotel Jen Orchardgateway and Hotel Clover the Arts – offer guestrooms that are appropriate for their price point, surroundings and target market, while delighting users with memorable aesthetics.
Ooh la la
No where is appropriate interior design more apparent than in the rooms of Sofitel So on Robinson Road. Open last summer, it is suitably dramatic and pays homage to French and Singaporean chic. While Accor brands each of its Sofitel So properties with a fashion celebrity, Karl Lagerfeld actually only designed the logo for Singapore – the stylised lion was interpreted on key cards and as a door knocker on every guestroom.
The rest of the spaces, including many of the art installations within the hotel’s 134 rooms, were courtesy of Singapore-based French/Spanish interior designer Isabelle Miaja, founder of Miaja Design Group.
Sofitel So is housed in a 1927 heritage industrial building that was used for the city’s cabling system. As none of its historic elements could be altered, Miaja had to work with the existing façade and internal structure, resulting in every room being unique.
“The hotel has a colonial feel to it and the owners themselves are not minimalists,” Miaja explains. “Asian hotels tend to be super modern and slick. Here, we wanted it to be bubbly and colourful. The So brand has zest; it’s different and artsy. We chose the 19th century Empire period as the concept; the time right after Napoleon was coroneted as emperor and when women dressed very extravagantly.”
The rooms are situated in the original building, dubbed the So Heritage wing, and a newly constructed portion, the So Hip wing; the two buildings are connected by a glass atrium where the lobby and concierge are located.
Each room includes lofty ceilings of around 11 feet with ceiling-mounted light boxes inspired by traditional European domed architecture. Drapes around the bed mimic the plush window treatment around French full height windows, with some leading out to private balconies. Bathrooms in the upper room categories such as So Lofty feature double sinks, a separate dressing table and sliding doors that completely open the space to become one with the guestroom.
Further adding to the Empire concept is an 18th century style bureau d’epoque desk paired with a contemporary chair, a painting of young Napoleon with whimsical catchphrases and a mini Eiffel tower.
“I like the graphic style of the Napoleon piece; it brings the portrait into today’s world,” notes Miaja. “Each of our art installations carries a message. We designed the Eiffel tower and had a French company called Merci Gustave make them. A lot of Singaporean couples opt for staycations. We thought it would be more romantic to include bathtubs for two in the So Lofty rooms.”
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts introduced its fresh, friendly and fuss-free brand of hotels with the unveiling of Hotel Jen Orchardgateway in September 2014. While it is rolling out the Jen brand across Asia Pacific in nine cities, Orchardgateway is the only purpose-built one in the first batch; others are former Traders being rebranded.
The 502-room hotel offers accommodations ranging from 27 to 66 square metres, with contemporary, neutral design by Singapore-based Tange Associates. Thoughtful touches include cushioned window benches for enjoying city views and a desk that continues into an adjacent counter for a larger working area.
Strategically located in the busy shopping and commercial district near Orchard Road, Hotel Jen Orchardgateway was created with Millennials as its target market. Wi-fi is free throughout the property and mobile charging stations are dotted around, while a PressReader app allows free access to 2,500 online publications – no more stained fingers as a result of flipping through the morning paper.
“The changes that you’ll see in Jen are mostly service ones,” says Mellisa Gilles, director of communications, Hotel Jen. “My favourite item is a laundry bag that can hold an unlimited amount of items for our wash and fold service.”
Art imitates life
In Chinatown, Hotel Clover the Arts opened in April 2014. The third Hotel Clover to open in Singapore, it is a 44-room property in a converted shophouse devoted to showcasing local artistic talent. Each guestroom is a singular and surreal experience where the boundaries are blurred between reality and fiction.
“As an incubator showcasing the artwork of both professional and student artists, we hope to make these art pieces accessible to the general public while providing guests with a glimpse into the private worlds of these artists,” says Louis Than, general manager, Hotel Clover the Arts.
Along with murals by students from Raffles Design Institute, Glasgow School of Art – Singapore Institute of Technology, LaSalle College of the Arts, Temasek Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic, the work of non-profit amateur group Singapore Life Art Society and professional graffiti artist Ceno2 can be experienced.
“By crafting the most iconic Singapore attractions on to public spaces like the lobby and the external façade of the hotel, the idea was to create a talking point to encourage guests and staff to mingle,” notes Ceno2. Larger than life, his Mount Fuji offers a view of Japan’s famed peak against a foreground of cherry blossoms.