This year’s President’s Design Award held at the Istana on 17 July saw the prestigious ‘Design of the Year’ being awarded to The Warehouse Hotel. True to its name, the boutique hotel occupies an 1895 (once functioned as a spice warehouse) godown on the banks of the Singapore River. The heritage building was meticulously restored by local cross-disciplinary firm Asylum, retaining its louvre windows, cornices and mouldings that coexist alongside industrial furnishings such as a custom-made light in the lobby made of wheels and pulleys.
While stunning, The Warehouse Hotel is just one of the many hotels housed in a repurposed heritage building, a recurring trend in hospitality design. Instead of high rise skyscrapers and state-of-the-art architecture, the past years have seen hoteliers repurposing age-old buildings that are filled with character and soul while preserving the heritage of the building at the same time.
From a former working sugar mill to a 1940s film studio headquarters, we take a look at some of the most beautiful converted hotels around the world.
Situated on Commonwealth Street in Sydney’s Surry Hills suburb, The Paramount House Hotel is set within the former headquarters of film studio Paramount Pictures and an adjacent warehouse, restored and linked together with a two-storey extension. The project was helmed by Melbourne-based Breathe Architecture, who turned the 1940s heritage-listed Art Deco building into a trendy boutique hotel which melds its light-filled atrium, high ceilings and timber beams seamlessly with contemporary elements such as terrazzo tiles, indoor plants and stunning bathtubs made from native blackbutt wood — a variety of hardwood from Australia.
The QT Sydney Hotel, carved out of the historic State Theatre and Gowings department store buildings from the 1960s, is a contemporary boutique hotel blending Gothic, Art Deco and Italianate architecture with quirky interiors. The S$89 million dollar refurbishment by Woodhead Architects resulted in a 200-key hotel (including 19 suites) that celebrates the building’s history while embracing new technologies and showcasing contemporary art and cutting-edge design at the same time. Under the leadership of interior designer Shelley Indyk, each room is unique, with an excellent art collection curated by art consultant Amanda Love, including steel wall sculptures, video art and line works.
Nestled in the dramatic karst terrain of Yangshuo, China, Alila Yangshuo occupies a century-old former working sugar mill. The luxury hotel, which opened mid last year, celebrates the rich history of its industrial past while seamlessly blending into its breathtaking surroundings. Helmed by architect Dong Gong of Beijing-based Vector Architects and interior designer Ju Bin of Horizontal Space Design, Alila Yangshuo provides 117 rooms, suites and villas employed in a neutral colour palette and making use of organic materials like bamboo to bridge the gap between the property’s industrial past and contemporary luxury.
Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum is a stylish boutique hotel in Italy housed in a converted 13th-century convent (the Saint Catherine’s Convent). The hotel is set at the highest point of the town, overlooking Assisi and Mount Subasio, while the in-house spa is deeply set in Roman excavations. Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum is the perfect marriage of design and history, blending fascinating archaeological remains from the 1st century AD with whitewashed walls, brick arches, and wooden beams.
Housed in an intricate maze of 25 connected Golden Age canal houses in Amsterdam, Pulitzer Amsterdam is a hidden gem under the Preferred Hotels & Resorts portfolio. The iconic hotel underwent a major refurbishment in 2016 by South African designer Jacu Strauss, who previously worked at Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio.
The creative director brought a modern touch to the hotel by using jewel tones, rich materials and unconventional decorative items, such as trumpets mounted on the walls of one of the Collector’s Suites. The beautifully-appointed rooms feature historic details like wood beams and exposed brick, yet retaining a contemporary feel thanks to a colour palette incorporating muted colours with vibrant accents such as lime green, slate blue, purple and mustard yellow.