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Category: Australia

QT Sydney: The Designer Statement Hotel

Very designer, definitely avant-garde, somewhat sexy and absolutely unforgettable. I stayed at QT Sydney, the talked about CBD hotel located in the historic Gowings department store and heritage-listed State Theatre…

Very designer, definitely avant-garde, somewhat sexy and absolutely unforgettable. I stayed at QT Sydney, the talked about CBD hotel located in the historic Gowings department store and heritage-listed State Theatre on the corner of Market and George streets. Location wise, QT Sydney nailed it, positioned central to the popular shopping strip and a nice stroll away from Sydney’s waterfront, the Harbour.

The restoration of both buildings and the curation of a new, bold and eclectic five-star hotel was no easy feat. The State Theatre is one of only two surviving theatres in Sydney and its interior mixes eclectic elements of Gothic, Italian and dramatic art décor while the Gowings department store is more plain in nature, with open and expansive space, big windows, high ceilings, open corridors and sandstone walls.

Photo courtesy of QT Sydney

Photo courtesy of QT Sydney

The acclaimed design team, Nic Graham & Associates was responsible for the curation of public areas and Indyk Architects designed the rooms. They spent months gathering art pieces from auctions, eBay, yard sales and op shops in order to achieve the classy vintage and quirky designer look. The aim was to marry heritage elements, such as the beautiful timber flooring, elaborate golden columns and ornate shop display cabinets with contemporary luxuries such as oversized bathtubs, designer bespoke furniture and cutting edge installations.

With 200 guest rooms and 12 unique designs, one will never be bored. I stayed in a room above the State Theatre building. The dimly lit hallway with glowing numbers above each room is a gentle theatrical prelude to the room itself. The room was spacious, with a short hallway leading up to a sprawling bathroom seamlessly overlooking a small study and an island bed facing a tall window. The lighting was different, somewhat dramatic casting shadows on art pieces and designer objects and playful bowler hat lamps hung from the ceiling – all as a reminder of the State Theatre’s former glory.

QT Sydney_RoomQT Sydney Room

The deep red and burgundy bold tones subtly dominate the room, as seen in the plush pillows, rug, hexagonal carpet and curtains. Every element in the room is intentional and specifically designed for the space – from the minimalist wall installation, to the old-style minibar, to the slick wardrobe and the red and orange-stained glass cabinets. Almost all the furniture is bespoke, the QT Collection as it’s called. I especially loved the cool wooden pill-shaped cot complete with bespoke bed lining, duvet and tiny pillows. While the room shouts contemporary, the original timber flooring gently subdues it and gives it a habitable feel.

QT Sydney RoomQT Sydney Room

The expansive bathroom is accentuated by an oversized, perfectly round bath tub and separate shower and toilet. The bathrobes are black instead of the usual white and the spotlights in the dark stone bathroom add to the suave mood. Standing at the sink, I noticed a quirky object, a black hand holding a small magnified-mirror – very avant-garde indeed. These display objects are spotted throughout the hotel such as mannequins decked in 1920’s styled dresses and miniature animal coat hooks – a fitting reminder of the old-school world of glamour.

QT Sydney BathroomQT Sydney BathroomQT Sydney Coffee Place

Outwardly the two buildings remain distinct and as is. QT’s lobby is understated and can be easily overlooked. Perhaps that is why the hotel has taken to a “look at me” approach when it comes to choosing front-line staff. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Market Street, you will not miss pretty girls dressed in presentable dark sexy outfits complete with the bold redhead look. They are given the title ‘Director of Chaos’, these pretty girls audition for the role and are accepted as ‘casts’. Not just your regular hospitality crew, the staff at QT is dramatic, over the top but every bit professional. They leave you with a lingering sense that you’ve just stepped into a show and about to live in a set.

Photo courtesy of QT Sydney

Photo courtesy of QT Sydney

The ‘drama’ continues, in the lift – intelligently fitted with a sensor to detect the number of people in the lift, the music in the lift changes according to the crowd. If you go solo, lonesome tunes like ‘All By Myself’ and ‘Are you Lonesome Tonight’ come on. Duos in the lift get more romantic and happy tunes such as ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘You’ve Got a Friend’. In the presence of three or more, groovy and upbeat tunes take over.

On entering the reception, the hall opens up to an array of beautifully handpicked and curated furniture. There is so much attention to detail from the unconventional yellow, magenta, blue colour palette chosen for the furniture to the circular coffee tables in different sizes to the featured wall of vintage luggage pieces.

QT Sydney Lobby QT Sydney Lobby QT Sydney Lobby QT Sydney Lobby QT Sydney Lobby QT Sydney Lobby

QT Sydney is a celebration of old and new. It has definitely succeeded in its attempt to stand out. The designers have not only done an immaculate job at transforming the space into a luxurious abode, it has created quite a ripple effect when it comes to story-telling. QT Sydney is one of those hotels that is talked about, years, and even decades to come.

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Two Adults, A Baby, Four Bags & An Address To Golden Grove B&B

It was late. Not midnight late, but late enough. The sun was no more and the neighbourhood silent. We arrived in MacDonaldtown station from the airport, after an 8-hour flight….

It was late. Not midnight late, but late enough. The sun was no more and the neighbourhood silent. We arrived in MacDonaldtown station from the airport, after an 8-hour flight. The place is dead quiet. With us are four bags, a baby in the pouch and an address to ‘No.30, Golden Grove Street, corner of Abercrombie Street.’

The train roared on leaving a thunderous echo on the tracks. We exited the station and decided to let our instincts lead us. Thankfully, our instincts weren’t put to the test (I fear, we would’ve been walked for ages!). We stopped a cyclist that was zooming by and he accessed his google maps to give us directions. Bless him!

Sydney_Macdonaldtown

We arrive at No.30, a prominent stair canopy rising up from the street and a glass door at its entrance with a Kookaburra image etched on it. We led ourselves in and Lloyd Suttor, who had been waiting up all night for us greeted us with a warm smile. He briefly showed us around and excused himself so that we can retire for the night.

The apartment is beautiful, tastefully decorated. It was warm and cosy and instrumental music piped in the background. It felt like home. Famished and a little disoriented, going out for dinner was not an option. Thankfully, Lloyd had stocked the kitchen with bacon, eggs, bread, yoghurt, juice, cereal, fruits and cans of soup.

Dinner satisfied our hunger and it warmed our soul to know that Lloyd planned ahead and anticipated our need. It’s one of those moments that you will remember a place for – like how you remember home. There’s always food, anytime.

SONY DSC

The spacious self-contained studio apartment is a split level unit with the bedroom and lounge rising up from the kitchen. The stylish modern décor is splashed with green, grey and white hues and refreshing floral elements. On the walls are intriguing art pieces by Tony Twigg, an Australian who draws inspiration from Asian cultures in Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia. The art pieces on display in the apartment are made up from recycled elements collected from these countries.

Golden Grove Tony Twigg

Golden Grove B&B was nothing close to stylish when Lloyd bought over the property in 2010. Previously, a dilapidated student accommodation providing shelter to nearby university students, the building was quite worn out. Lloyd took on this retirement project with gusto.

Hospitality was never on his portfolio, until now. Lloyd was more of a creative person, one with lots of ideas and ways to make magic happen. He was one of the brains and actors behind the well-known Flying Fruitfly Circus, the only Australian full-time circus academy for young people. His retirement project had one condition – it had to involve people. He enjoyed meeting new faces and sharing stories.

We sat around the breakfast table over morning tea as Lloyd told me more about how Golden Grove came to be. Right next to us beyond the glass shutters is a pretty roof top garden and a turbine spinning away. “Sustainability wasn’t quite on my list when I first started tearing this place down. It was Duncan Bond, my architect who introduced earth-friendly elements into the reconstruction,” said Lloyd.

Golden Grove

“I’m sure glad he did! Now the apartment is self-warming and cooling as a result of perfect ventilation. Hot water is powered by solar panels, the garden roof top provides cool to the apartment below and there is plenty of sunlight flowing in from the glass window.” Guests may even overlook these elements, but Lloyd made sure he made a mention in the apartment compendium as a way to educate guests.

Rooftop garden

Golden Grove has two studio units for short-term and long-term rental. “The units are often filled up with people working in Sydney for short stints, parents of students from the university and academics.” It is no surprise the B&B receives repeat guests, as it really feels somewhat, like home.

Located in lively Newtown, one of Sydney’s flourishing precincts, there is always something happening round the corner. Known for its shopping strip, vibrant coffee culture and creative spaces for contemplation and ideas, Newtown attracts both young and old, free-spirited artisans and young families. We had time to stop by Carriage Works, one of the many community galleries in Newtown. This former railway workshop was the hub for Australian-made carriages. Its external red bricked walls and clouded glass windows makes a for a perfect photo backdrop and its high ceiling interior is suitable for any kind of art installation.

We saw the installation by Christian Boltanski called “Chance”. A giant film reel filled with photos of babies whirling from one end to the other on a massive steel structure. Each photo represented a life. At the end of the steel structure was a giant LED board with numbers ticking by – in green are the number of births and red the number of deaths, at the current time. A reminder of the rhythms of life as it unfolds.

Carriage Works

A meaningful installation and a timely reminder to life live to its fullest. This was the chapter that kick started my one and a half months travel to Sydney and New Zealand. Thanks Lloyd for such a warm, welcoming stay.

More stories to follow…

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