Ask me to pick an Australian establishment that single-handedly encapsulates what The Artful Lodger is all about? BOOM. Hotel Hotel is it.
I was invited to come and stay just after it opened in early 2014 and I must confess, I was dubious.
I mean, just how amazing could a hotel in Canberra be? Doesn’t everyone file our nation’s capital under ‘B’ for a bit ‘Blah’?
Happily, this naïve stereotype was given a spectacular smack-down at Hotel Hotel, and in just 24 hours my view of this tidily-planned city and its surprisingly edgy undercurrent was changed, forever.
Hotel Hotel is quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Every tiny feature has been upcycled, curated, creatively conjured and meticulously crafted. It’s almost exhausting contemplating just how much artful consideration has gone into its physical creation, which not surprisingly, took three years.
Here’s an insight into what I mean. Downstairs in the hotel lobby bar and kitchen, communal tables angular in shape and strewn with small press coffee table books invite guests to coexist. Above, two huge chandeliers salvaged from a mid-century Italian railway station add a metallic contrast to the concrete ceiling, where circular glass skylights offer a peek at the internal atrium above, filled with rescued Tasmanian ferns that were destined for clearance.
A mobile art installation of vintage ‘travelling suitcases’, collected by the owners sits on one wall, while over at the concierge, the counter is a neat pile of concrete supports that were used on the building’s construction site. See what they did there?
Each hotel room has been modelled on the Australian shack – an iconic institution that conjures images of dusty floors, corrugated iron, haphazard timber and a billy can on the rusty stove. Not exactly luxury digs. Not quite the stuff of high design nor gloating social media posts. But when a filmmaker (Don Cameron) is the creative force behind the theme, you can expect a dramatic twist.
In my ‘shack’, one wall was a corrugated clay and hemp mix, another recycled eucalypt strand board sealed with bees wax. It was bedecked with a king bed built from ancient oak salvaged from the Loire Valley, and opposite, a desk made from the same timber ran the length of the wall. This led to the lounge area, where I could have sat for days getting to know, and falling in love with, my digs. The furniture was a collection of original 1950s pieces, each restored lovingly, and the TV was disguised on a wall crammed from floor to ceiling with 38 precisely displayed artworks, collected by the owners over 10 years. Pendant lights had been upcycled from what were undoubtedly rather daggy vases into chic highlights, adding muted light, bubbly texture and rich colour to the room.
This Australian Shack took earthy authenticity and gave it an elegant makeover, complete with extremely comfortable bedding and a smorgasbord of design-lover’s eye-candy. The iron, kettle and safe were the only evidence to suggest I was in fact in a hotel room, and not on a photo shoot for an avant garde design magazine, the type printed on recycled paper. Even the minibar deserves kudos, crammed with local treats like organic cola and roasted almonds, stylishly sealed in a jar reincarnated from a beer bottle.
Thankfully, the great Australian Shack theme and its outhouse had been momentarily forgotten in the enormous bathroom. Instead, the scene is all Aesop products, twin rain showers and deliciously indulgent freestanding stone bath. Tick.
GO HERE IF
You’re in Canberra and have even the teensiest interest in design.
SIX WORD SUMMARY
Upcycled sophistication meets hand-made hospitality
There are too many to list! 56 Artisans were involved in this collaboration, a plethora of talented firms and individuals and I’ve only listed the main ones below. More can be found here.
From $285 per night, room only.