Luxuriously detailed and wrapped in natural textures of timber and stone, the 99 guest rooms at The Hotel Britomart in Auckland will be pockets of calm and retreat in the heart of the bustling dockside precinct.
“With this project, we wanted to rewrite the idea of five-star luxury,” says Jin Jeong, one of the team at Cheshire Architects who designed The Hotel Britomart. “We started from the position, ‘Here’s a handle. Would I like to touch this handle if I were a guest in this room? Does it feel special – not because it's blingy or made of marble or gold – but because it breaks your expectation of what you will find in a hotel?’”
That desire to surprise and delight guests led the Cheshire team to create little jewels of discovery within each room. When describing the mini-bar, for example, Jin lingers over details of the cabinetry texture, the commissioning of a custom artwork that is revealed when the door is opened, how the glassware is lit on the shelves, and the jigsaw of designing the drawers. “I don't know how many days we spent thinking about the mini-bar compartments and where to put the chocolates, where to put the teas,” she admits.
To create a sense of restfulness and escape, the design team lined the room interiors in wood and stone for an almost rustic effect. “Every room is like a private timber cabin in the sky, where you can come back after a day out and about in the city, climb into your bed and fall right asleep,” says Jin.
Hand-made vases commissioned from local ceramic artists, soft lighting that automatically adjusts according to the time of day, and linens in muted, earthy tones are organic details designed to give each space the feel of a private guesthouse.
Other details are subtle enough that they may even be overlooked – at least the first time a guest stays. The colour palettes of the rooms, for example, change depending on which side of the hotel the rooms are on. On the northern side, where the rooms are drenched in sunlight, the colours are bleached and blonded. On the southern side, where the rooms look towards neighbouring towers of the city, the palette deepens, creating warmth and enclosure.
“We wanted to emphasise what the daylight is doing, what nature is doing,” says Jin. “When a guest stays at a hotel for the first time, they might be in a room with the dark palette. But next time, they come, they have another room and realise, “Oh! This is different.”
With Cheshire Architects designing both the interior and exterior of the hotel, the team were able to knit elements together to create a seamlessly crafted experience. “You might see a herringbone pattern of bricks in laneway as you come in, and then see it again in the bathrooms,” says Jin. “Or you may pass a blue vase in the lobby, and then see that blue again in your room. There is always this kind of language – an unseen synchronicity."