- Article by Online Editor
- Photography by Felix Forest
- Designer Nic Graham
This article was originally published in Inside #74: The Winners’ Issue
A ‘shebang’ of designer flourish, QT Sydney, the latest from the Design Hotels group, is everything patrons could have hoped for and more. The project has been ostensibly split between public and private spaces, with Nic Graham responsible for the former and Shelley Indyk the latter. Stylist Anna Roberts, has added to both spaces an overtly commercial take on whimsy, which translates as a rather flat retail element; but that said, the bones provided by the signature designers are well resolved as is the input of art consultant, Amanda Love.
Spread across two heritage buildings, the State Theatre and Gowings in central Sydney, the aim has been to marry heritage elements, such as the elaborately artificial golden columns and walls, with a contemporary ambience. Graham has achieved this by pushing the theatrical element further with the addition of voluminous red drapes fringed with gold tassels in the foyer and a replication of vitrines in the ground floor cafe. There is also an acknowledgement of history with original glass (complete with cracks) retained in the restaurant, while an original Gowings door (opening onto a wall) subtly informs the introduction of the hotel’s 200 room accommodation.
The Graham-designed foyer melds a broad spectrum of elements well, with antiques and vintage motifs of luxury travel, including the ubiquitous stack of vintage luggage, providing cornerstones to highly contemporary aspects. With the brand identity sufficiently robust and having previously worked with the client on two other projects, Graham was given carte blanche with the Sydney installation. Moreover, the mutual sense of fun was an element Graham enjoyed exploring, as he explains: “The client has a strong sense of wanting to do things that are appealing and memorable for the guests and we provide the launch pad for that to happen.”
On entering the foyer, the eye is drawn equally to the eclectic array of bespoke furnishings, to the feature walls and to the eccentric collection of travel oddities Graham and his team collected over the past year. Reception comprises a dark timber counter with grandiose aspirations, but all elements of the sombre are dispersed by a wall of bright blue punctuated by video works. As Graham details, “The lips and the diamond, and the legs were a wink to the voyeuristic nature of a hotel room in the inner city.”
Effectively, the images make oblique reference to an era of Hollywood luxury, burlesque and the et cetera of a romanticised past of travel, while presentation and effect remains highly contemporary. Graham’s furniture is gloriously eccentric in the Alice in Wonderland vein, ranging from high-backed padded affairs in rose, to dimpled ottomans in powder blue. Grounding the whole is a bespoke carpet of large amorphous shapes in a variety of muted sherbet tones. His table, featuring a plethora of leg styles in the private lounge, is particularly charming and more so for standing on a soft plush expanse of houndstooth carpeting made unique by a pattern that shifts from outline to solid.
Bridging the gap between the foyer and Gowings Bar and Grill is a small landing featured by an exposed section of the original exterior wall of the State Theatre, which acknowledges the junction of the two buildings without being overtly sentimental. Of far greater visual effect is the LED wall featuring a video work by Daniel Crooks. Art consultant, Amanda Love, has excelled in her selection of works to ground the whole in the contemporary, while adding gravitas and depth to the overall experience. Especially noteworthy is the visual cohesion these art works bring via video art and where this particularly succeeds, is in the bar areas featuring the enticingly ambiguous text-based video work of Grant Stevens. These same works are featured in the rooms, continuing the ideas and dialogue from public to private.
The Guilt Lounge and private dining rooms follow the themes established in the foyer such as carpeting and the bespoke furnishings; however, the ostentation has been significantly contained. Where the foyer explored colour in large blocks of vibrant hue, the lounge uses colour as an underlying element. That said, the carpeted stairs leading from restaurant to lounge are a gloriously purple ascent amid a sea of timber and brass, followed by a feature lighting ensemble of brass tubes. On arrival above, the purple gives way to one of the many carpet variants of jewel like shapes embedded within a grey border. The size of these shapes varies between areas, as does the overall hue, which shifts from tonally clear to muted.
Graham has achieved a fine balance between grown-up and whimsy by teaming yellow and grey as the predominant shades for larger pieces in these softer lounging areas. Yellow lounges and chairs dot the informal areas while caramel and grey are used in the more upright dining areas.
Another unexpected and delightful visual tie-in is the reappearance of houndstooth as an upholstery fabric that continues to please when the chair is as comfortable as it looks. Similarly, the stealth black stools facing the matte black Olafur Eliasson-esque bar of hexagonally folded aluminium are also comfortable, if ever so sci-fi.
Indyk’s design for the accommodations plays with the same elements of fun and design excess as the public areas. Using palettes of grey/yellow and red/pink, Indyk allows the rooms to remain spacious with a minimum of clutter. By focusing attention on the bed via a large framed bedhead at one end and multi-coloured rug at the other, she creates a visual island within the space. The beds are undeniably luxurious in both proportion and sumptuousness and deserve the focus. The rugs, of octagonal colour blocks, work particularly well with the original timber floor adding both a textural variation and an opulent element. The bathrooms, clad in large, deep grey tiles, are well-structured and exude a high level of luxury.
SpaQ expresses these themes of luxury with a beautifully tiled and domed hamam-like space (Turkish steam bath) and private treatment rooms. Graham has excelled in delivering a suite of rooms that embody opulence without being unduly altered from the original. Particularly charming are the Mexican strung-leather chairs draped in black sheep skins. The result is an ambience nothing short of charming.
As a grand arrival gesture, the work Graham has done suits the location, clientele and heritage needs, while staying very much in line with the Design Hotels’ aesthetic. The custom furniture, artwork and carpeting are particular highlights and speak well for the longevity of the design, as does the simplicity of the main restaurant – a generally traditional Italian bistro. Indyk’s rooms are simple yet unabashedly luxurious and, moreover, entirely in keeping with the hotel experience of urbane traveller fantasy.