Hotels That Feel Like Home: Bar Studio On The New Epitome Of Luxury
It’s the finer details that make a hotel stay memorable. Alongside impeccable service, the room has to be a liveable space that puts you at ease while having a sense of place that’s uniquely its own. These are qualities that design practice Bar Studio celebrates through each of its projects.
“We aim to redefine luxury as a subtle mix of comfort and artisanal craftsmanship while cultivating a feeling of place that harnesses local architectural themes, colours, and materials in a restrained way,” explains Stewart Robertson, principal and director of the Melbourne-based firm. “Our spaces are conceived with the well-travelled urbanites of the region in mind, who place value on quality time and seek spaces to live in.”
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Known for crafting elegant interiors that carry touches of local inspiration, the design practice oversees each project from concept to construction and completion. It also designs and produces furniture, fixtures, and materials for its hotel and resort projects, turning each property into what Robertson describes as “an elegantly edited escape”.
Recent projects by the firm include the Rosewood Beijing, the Park Hyatt Sydney, and the Grand Hyatt properties in Hong Kong and Melbourne. Here, Robertson discusses Bar Studio's design philosophy, and why residential-inspired design is becoming the new definition of luxury in the hospitality industry.
How would you describe the design ethos of Bar Studio?
Stewart Robertson (SR) Our design approach is all about the guest experience—and how we want the guests to feel in the space. It’s easy to design something that looks good, but it’s immeasurably more difficult to design something that feels good. Some spaces wow you in the first minute, but then start to disappoint. We want our spaces to be better the 10th time you experience them, rather than the first.
From master-planning the architecture and landscaping to curating the interiors, accessories and art, we define a holistic vision for our hotels, uniting the inside and out. Our restrained aesthetic is inspired by the Australian lifestyle and our home base in Melbourne. We have a grounded, family-friendly work ethic that is reflected in our projects, resulting in authentic environments that are approachable and inclusive.
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What serves as the starting point for any Bar Studio project?
SR We start by creating an interior architecture that works from all angles—a great set of bones that we can then dress. It’s about designing a great framework that allows other things to perform. Spatial flow is also key—it fosters continuity while allowing each area’s distinct personality to shine. From the moment you see a hotel, drive through the grounds, and step inside the property, it should all be one contiguous experience. Fluidity of navigation is an almost invisible, organic quality that’s vital to ensure smooth operations and on-point service.
Your hospitality projects embody a residential-inspired look. Why do you think such a style is increasingly favoured?
SR We believe today’s truly luxurious hotels must be warm, inviting and flexible, with a natural ease that entices guests to make themselves at home. We aim to capture an intangible spirit and soul that goes beyond superficial styling and provides a sense of place within a residential-inspired comfort. It’s not elitist design, where you don’t feel comfortable touching anything. It doesn’t feel like a resort or a hotel—instead, it’s designed as a residence, with all the intimacy, familiarity, comfort, and community that the word entails.
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Tell us about your recently completed projects.
SR We have quite a few hospitality projects this year, including the recently opened Rosewood Phnom Penh in Cambodia. We were tasked with creating a sense of place that draws from Phnom Penh’s colonial heritage through the contemporary lens of a global traveller, and to create a compelling reason to enjoy a break in the Cambodian capital. Another consideration was creating a distinct experience within the existing structure of the 39-storey Vattanac Capital Tower, the city’s first true skyscraper. The result is an urban sanctuary—a calming oasis and a retreat from city life.
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This article was adapted from a story in the April-May 2018 issue of Singapore Tatler Homes.