Thursday, 18 September, 2014

Published May 31, 2014
Home & Garden
Banking on a themed edge
New hotels are infusing their real estate with a distinctive character that sets them apart from cookie-cutter options. By Tay Suan Chiang
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(Above) A bed in Xperience restaurant, which is the restaurant's interpretation of the chef's table ; the luxurious bathroom; the So Loft room;  the Lion's Seal by Karl Lagerfeld which is found on door knockers as well as bathrobes; uniforms are designed by Singaporean designer Frederick Lee, and Karl Lagerfeld. - PHOTOS: YEN MENG JIIN

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'We wanted the hotel to be a blank canvas for talented artists and students to showcase their expressions of art, while guests can enjoy art right here in the hotel.'
Teo Kok Hwee, CEO of Hotel Clover The Arts. The art on the walls currently are the work of graffiti artist, Azlan Ramlan

Sofitel So Singapore

35 Robinson Road

A NIGHT at the Sofitel So Singapore is like a night in Paris - but without the Eiffel Tower or the 14-hour flight.

In the hands of designer Isabelle Miaja, the hotel - which opens today - is an elegant mix of Parisian chic and Singaporean style, with touches of old and new. It also exemplifies the Sofitel So's DNA - boutique hotels characterised by the contemporary design of famous architects, with additional touches by celebrities from the world of fashion, design and art. The Singapore property is the third addition to Sofitel So's stable, which has outposts in Mauritius and Bangkok.

French national Ms Miaja - who is the founder of the Singapore-based MIAJA Design Group - has left her design stamp on nearly all areas of the hotel, from the lobby to its restaurant, Xperience and naturally in the 134 rooms. "There are lots of details in the design, so that guests never tire of the look," she says, and where possible, she throws in "elements of surprise".

The rooms are divided into six categories and designed to resemble Parisian apartments, but with local accents. For example the bespoke coffee tables in the rooms come with a map of Singapore printed on them, and the image is reflected on the ceiling.

Each inviting Sofitel MyBed features a headboard with a contemporary interpretation of Singapore's national flower, the orchid.

In addition, bespoke light boxes, set above each bed, feature images of palatial glass domes inspired by the traditional architecture of Europe and modern buildings in Singapore. "When you open your eyes in the morning, the dome is the first thing you see, and it gives you a little connection with the outside," says Ms Miaja.

The art pieces in the hotel also reflect this mix of French and Singaporean cultures. A painting of Napoleon takes on a cheeky stance with the late French leader declaring that all roads lead not to Paris but to Singapore. The higher category rooms come with bath tubs that resemble beds, and "his" and "hers" amenity kits.

The rooms are divided between two buildings - a conservation 87-year-old building, and a new extension. Working on the heritage building was a challenge for Ms Miaja. Structural walls and existing pillars had to be kept, so "the sizes of the rooms were always changing, and there is no standard one-size room," she says. Keen-eyed guests will notice the extensive use of the hexagon throughout the hotel, from the motif on the lobby floor to the mirrored art installations in the lobby and on the lift landings. Due to its shape, France is often referred to in French as l'Hexagone, or The Hexagon. "Again, it is to show the French side of the hotel," says Ms Miaja.

In keeping with the brand's DNA, Sofitel So Singapore worked with fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld on the hotel emblem. Taking inspiration from Singapore's history as the Lion City, The Kaiser designed a lion emblem. The Lion's Seal, can be found on a range of products in the hotel, such as the bathrobes, key cards and even on some of the room doors.

General manager, Tony Chisholm, says the hotel will appeal to guests who are "looking for a difference, and who want to be engaged."

To celebrate its opening, Sofitel So Singapore is offering a staycation from $599++ for two persons, inclusive of a champagne brunch on Saturday, and a morning-after all-day breakfast on Sunday with two glasses of champagne

Relax in an oasis of foliage and light

Holiday Inn Express Singapore Clarke Quay

2 Magazine Road

STEPPING into this newly opened 442-room hotel is like entering a green oasis, a welcome respite from the suffocating humidity and heat that can overcome both tourist and seasoned local alike.

Natural light pours in from the partially glassed ceiling above the loft-like lobby, but it still feels cool. Lush greenery flourishes just outside the hotel, while bubbling water fountains in both the public walkways and the lobby blur the lines between outdoors and indoors.

Intimate courtyard spaces sprawling with greenery not only soften the look of the building but also bring light deep into the hotel's internal spaces, opening it up for maximum ventilation. Hotel guests are invariably drawn to these spaces which offer reprieve as well as a glimpse of the outdoors.

In an unusual move, the corridors leading to the rooms and even the hotel gym are naturally ventilated, cutting down on the need for air-conditioning. Guests will also notice that the floor-to-ceiling glass windows are set at a slight angle, but for a reason. The hotel's key architect, Gabriel Chen, a director at RSP Architects Planners & Engineers, explains that each window pane tilts and inclines at an angle to keep the room away from direct sun exposure. The result - rooms that are naturally bright, but yet are still shaded.

Outside, the combined geometries of the tilt and incline of the angled windows project a diamond-like facade design, making it the hotel's distinctive feature. These features, together with other energy-efficient designs of the air-conditioning, water, lighting and heat recovery systems provide a potential energy savings of about 30 per cent annually, and potable water savings the equivalent of five Olympic-sized swimming pools each year. No wonder, then, that the hotel was awarded the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark Platinum award in 2013.

Michael Blanding, InterContinental Hotels Groups' (IHG) director of corporate responsibility for Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Greater China, says that managing the environmental impact of the hotels without compromising the guest experience is important for the company. IHG owns the Holiday Inn Express brand.

In 2009, IHG launched IHG Green Engage, an online system that tracks the use of energy, carbon, water and the management of waste in all its hotels worldwide along with the associated costs. "We've seen lots of benefits to date. For example, in the last year, we achieved a 2.4 per cent reduction in carbon per occupied room globally," says Mr Blanding.

The hotel group has now set itself a five-year target to further reduce the carbon footprint and water use per occupied room. "The group is also continually seeking ways in which to influence the design, construction and operations of our hotels to minimise all areas of environmental impact."

Room rates are now going at a special rate from $180++ per night.

Rooms with a view - on the walls

Hotel Clover The Arts

58 South Bridge Road

BOOKING a hotel room is usually a no-brainer - pick from single or double and if you're lucky, your choice of view.

Not at Hotel Clover The Arts. If you're the indecisive sort, good luck, because you don't just pick your room type but the style of room - all 44 of them, that is.

The hotel, which opened last month, prides itself on having individually themed rooms, so no two look alike. "As an advocate of the arts, we wanted to create a platform to showcase local art," says the hotel's CEO, Teo Kok Hwee. "Singapore's art scene, although flourishing, is still relatively young and conservative. Many artists, especially those who are amateur, will find it difficult to find an outlet for their works. We wanted the hotel to be a blank canvas for these talented artists to express themselves, and for guests to enjoy art right here in the hotel. At the same time, we hope to raise awareness for creative talents and different art forms in the local community."

In place of conventional paintings or sculptures, murals appear on nearly all the walls in the hotel. Even the back facade comes adorned with a jungle theme, complete with a five-storey waterfall and butterflies flitting around it.

The art is the work of well-known graffiti artist, Azlan Ramlan, better known by his nickname, Ceno2. The graffiti artist also left his mark in the lobby and along the corridors, as well as in some rooms. One of which is a breathtaking mural of Mount Fuji, set amid a clear blue sky, crystal clear waters and cherry blossoms. The hotel also held a competition for students from art and design schools, "some of whom have really great flair but who often do not have as many opportunities and platforms to show their work," says Mr Teo.

The winning mural was created by three students from Raffles Design Institute, featuring a vintage travel journal encapsulating several attractions in Singapore, including Marina Bay Sands and Universal Studios. To get the words on the mural the right thickness, the students even used eyeliner to enhance their work.

The hotel also roped in members of the Life Arts Society, a non-profit organisation aiming to create greater awareness in local art, to create some of the murals.

Some of the other rooms feature scenes of Singapore, as well as nature and wildlife on the walls. Murals are done in different styles, from retro kitsch, urban street art, Pop Art vibrancy and line art minimalism. Guests staying in any room will receive a postcard with the corresponding artwork which they can take home. The artists were given an open brief to create their murals, except for one condition - nothing gothic or scary.

"Themed hotels add dimension to the overall hotel experience with a different perspective and also to provide an alternative option when it comes to hotel choices," says Mr Teo..


Room rates at Hotel Clover The Arts start from $235++. Pictures of the 44 rooms are listed on its website, so guests can take their pick