First Look: 9 Stunning Design Elements We Love At Raffles Hotel Singapore
“Magical”. That was the first word that comes to her mind, as Alexandra Champalimaud fondly recalls her first impression of Raffles Hotel Singapore. “It’s in this beautiful white, it’s almost like a tiered cake, it’s so pretty and so well-done,” shares Champalimaud, the founder of New York-based practice Champalimaud. “There is a certain magic in this journey that you make from the front (of the hotel) to the back, and all the way around.”
Reopening on Aug 1, Raffles Hotel Singapore now features a refreshed interior spearheaded by Champalimaud.
Realised in collaboration with a team of restoration partners including Aedas Singapore, Beca and Studio Lapis, the interior makeover features spaces that bring together elements reflecting the hotel’s storied history; from the hotel’s early beginnings in the late 1880s to its previous renovation during the 1990s. The hotel now comprises of a total of 115 suites, ranging from the 495sqft Studio Suite to a pair of Presidential suites that span approximately 2,798sqft each.
The biggest changes were made in the hotel’s lobby, as well as the various restaurant and bar areas to reintroduce a sense of dynamism to the property. “We want people to come and use the hotel lobby and the main building more and more,” says Champalimaud. “It’s about bringing the beautiful hotel from the 19th century up to the 21st century and moving forward.
What we’ve done is contemporary and nostalgic. It’s got some touches of Peranakan details, Malay-Chinese influences.
“Raffles (Hotel Singapore) has always been a centre of entertainment in Singapore, where important guests have been received,” agrees Edmond Bakos, partner and managing director of Champalimaud. “We try to highlight that notion of creating spaces in the lobby that would feel intimate, charming and social. What we’ve tried to do with the redesign is to invite people back into the property, to introduce more relevant social spaces into the lobby; a way of creating a catalyst for social engagement within this beautiful space to highlight the charm and magic that Raffles is.”
Here, Champalimaud and Bakos discuss the meticulous details that contribute to the hotel’s remarkable transformation:
1/9A Grand Impression
A sense of lightness in the hotel lobby is conveyed with the off-white palette and the lofty heights of the three-storey space. Here, one of the first objects that catches the eye is the chandelier—a sparkling statement piece introduced by Champalimaud Design, that draws your eye upward to the lofty heights of the space. This chandelier became a mini project on its own, an undertaking that was several years in the making.
“We felt that having that central chandelier would be an important element to our new concept, and we wanted to create a piece that felt timeless and contemporary,” explains Bakos. It features a constellation of dazzling crystals, accompanied by glass sculptures in the shape of lotuses, as well as floral motifs engraved on the underside of each metal branch.
The chandelier is just one of many bespoke creations specially made for the hotel. Other details include the bronze screens with faceted glass that “create that beautiful refraction of light”, as well as the wooden furnishings and smaller lighting pieces at the lobby.
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2/9A Visual Feast
Among the hotel’s most notable dining venues include La Dame de Pic, which opened in July. Housed within the main dining room of Raffles Singapore, the 46-seater conveys the old-world charm of its historic venue while bringing together elements inspired by Anne-Sophie Pic’s culinary philosophy. “We wanted it to embody the same air of timelessness that’s found throughout Raffles Singapore,” says Bakos, who considers the restaurant among his favourite spaces within the hotel.
Its pastel palette draws cues to the chef’s favourite hues and is paired with furnishings in rounded proportions that echo the arched portals and French windows of the dining room. A mix of leather, wood, gold trimmings and floral accents completes its graceful look, while drawing attention to the peony bas-relief on the ceiling. The dinnerware is stamped with Pic’s name; these delicate plates are specially handmade for the restaurant by the artisans of Jars Céramistes, a ceramic brand from the south of France.
The focal point of the space is a gold chandelier comprising of discs with laser-cut spades. It references the name of the restaurant, which is a play on Pic’s last name—it means “queen of spades” in French.
(Related: La Dame De Pic Makes Its Asian Debut At The Raffles Singapore)
The hotel’s botanical inspiration is subtly referenced throughout the interior, as seen on the art pieces commissioned for the property, along with the recurring foliage motifs in earthy tones that adorn the bespoke rugs, lighting pieces, accent walls and other decorative elements within the property.
“We had this notion of Singapore as the ‘Garden City’, and Raffles Hotel Singapore is known for its beautiful garden courtyard,” says Bakos. “This pulls a bit on the tropical nature of the island, we’re taking that but making it sophisticated by doing it in dark colours,” Champalimaud elaborates. The frond pattern also references the Travellers palm, which is the emblem of the hotel.
Besides the visual connection to Singapore’s tropical climate, several partitions and iron gates were removed to open up the space to verdant views of the outdoor areas. Some of these iconic iron-grill gates now take pride of place as decor elements at the Raffles Arcade. Seating was also reintroduced to the outdoor areas by the Palm Court.
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What was as important to the firm was to celebrate the unique context of Raffles Hotel Singapore, as a historic landmark in a tropical, multi-cultural city. “What we’ve done is contemporary and nostalgic,” says Champalimaud. “It’s got some touches of Peranakan details, Malay-Chinese influences.”
The Tiffin Room is a stellar example—it features a colourful array of tiffin boxes, displayed throughout the space. Its key detail is a pair of gold shelves, designed in the style of service trolleys writ large. “The metal work has been hammered to create this shimmering quality of light; these are the things that we enjoy doing,” says Bakos.
The tiffin boxes on display are as noteworthy as the metalwork. “Alexandra went around and tried to find different tiffin boxes and plates that would have the right character of the space,” shares Bakos. “She literally spent several days going door-to-door to find the right accessories, and another team member continued the search until we had enough of these things.”
Other new venues such as the Writers Bar take the hotel’s literary influence to heart with shelves of books; the hotel has also started a writers’ residency programme, and part of its creative initiative is the launch of travel writer Pico Iyer’s new book, This Could Be Home: Raffles Hotel and the City of Tomorrow.
Guests will also get to take a walk through time at a corridor featuring framed photos of the hotel’s most famous visitors, which include political figures, Hollywood stars and the literati from all around the world.
The original layout of each suite has been retained, featuring the tripartite composition that connects the parlour, bedroom and bathroom. Dark wood furnishings applied throughout the suite complete its cohesive look, while complementing the original wood flooring. Some of the suites will also feature pieces from the hotel’s collection of antiques that have been lovingly restored and selected to complement the brand-new furniture pieces.
“Having that parlour, that place you sit and have a drink; it’s (like) your own little living room space and it’s full of charm,” quips Champalimaud. Her favourite element in the room is the four-poster bed, which features a streamlined form, done in the same wood as the rest of the furnishings. “The bedroom has things that are very tactile, somewhat sensuous and very interesting, done in the same dark wood as the bed but they’re contemporary and of a nice size,” she adds. “And practical places to plug in your electronics if you have to.”
Most importantly, we created a beautiful mosaic pattern inspired by Perankan design patterns. That was an area that we felt we could elevate that sense of place.
— Edmond Bakos, partner and managing director of Champalimaud
Additionally, touchscreen controls allow guests to manage the lighting and entertainment amenities in the suite, while providing information on the hotel’s facilities at a glance. A small library of books by Singapore authors is another thoughtful touch.
Other Singapore-inspired elements include the geometric design of the floor tiles in the bathrooms of each suite, which draw influence from the traditional Peranakan-style tiles. “We changed the bathroom completely to create the bathroom that today’s luxury traveller expects, with a beautiful stand-up shower, bathtub,” says Bakos. “Most importantly, we created a beautiful mosaic pattern inspired by Perankan design patterns. That was an area that we felt we could elevate that sense of place.”
7/9At Your Service
With top-notch service as a cornerstone of Raffles Hotel Singapore, the design team also had to integrate these functional elements into the infrastructure and furnishings.
“From a design standpoint, it was rising to the occasion to figure out how to create a new innovative way of service that would become a part of what the Raffles experience was going to be,” says Bakos. “It’s something that we enjoy doing, working within a heritage setting and figuring out how to work within it, with deep respect and at the same time to elevate the guest experience in a way which is respectful and inspiring and relevant to today’s luxury traveller."
Bar carts and support pantries are evenly distributed throughout the property, so that the staff are able to answer to each request at a moment’s notice; whether it’s for additional cutlery or a refreshed jar of cookies in your suite.
(Related: The Italian Furniture Store You Should Visit At The Raffles Hotel Singapore Arcade)
The property also features a variety of event venues, including the new 300-guest Jubilee ballroom that was converted from a former theatre (Jubilee Hall). It’s an elegant space clad in a graceful palette comprising of blue and off-white tones that pair Chinoiserie-style detailing with modern forms. The Palm Ballroom, in contrast, is decorated with palm motifs as another nod to the hotel emblem.
9/9Restore and Renew
The biggest challenges of this project involved combining historic elements from over a century ago, along with elements from the previous renovation held during the 1990s. “A lot of things had to be done to undo and go back and fix the building that were not done well before. There were a lot of things that had to happen for the building to live another 150 years,” shares Bakos. “In some ways, that were some of the important things we did here to stabilise and renovate the fabric of the building.”
This is a place where people come to fall in love, this is where people build memories that will last a lifetime.
— Edmond Bakos
These include the Italian marble flooring, which were selected to replicate the flooring used in the nineties, which had to be combined with dark wood panelling that’s matched to the wood used in the early 1900s. “We try to augment it with adjacent finishes like the woods, which make the palette feel richer,” adds Bakos.
“We all felt the burden because it is a national monument,” shares Bakos. “We wanted to deliver something so that people would walk in and say ‘ah, nothing’s changed’ and at the same time be able to find a whole new series of experiences that are meaningful, respectful and moving for people in a very positive way—that this is a place where people come to fall in love, this is where people build memories that will last a lifetime.”
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