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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.