Uber cool hotels for your next staycation

The Great Madras: The hotel uses a mix of pastel colours and wallpaper that effortlessly combine retro and Art Deco styles with the building's heritage structure to create a charming interior that evokes the 1930s.ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

Is a holiday really a holiday these days without some envy-inducing snaps to put up on social media?

Sites such as Instagram are all the rage, so it is no surprise that more hotels are upping their style quotient and offering travellers more than just a bed and breakfast.

Be it high-end or boutique, hoteliers are increasingly aware of the camera-readiness of their design themes and are laying on more special touches to keep guests happy.

The Great Madras

The Great Madras, which opened its doors last month, might be Singapore's answer to the idiosyncratic The Grand Budapest Hotel, created by film director Wes Anderson.

The 35-room property in Madras Street, Little India, shares more than just a similar sounding name with the whimsical 2014 movie - it seemingly echoes the same colourful sense of disaffected whimsy in its decor.

It is a testament to the ambition and vision of MES Group, which is behind the hotel.

The group, which also owns and runs The Daulat boutique hotel down the street, bought what was then the Madras Hotel with the aim of opening up the building to create an environment that was unique and inviting to everyone.

"We didn't set out wanting to echo the vibe of The Grand Budapest Hotel, but seeing as we own another property which has a more modern, contemporary look, we decided to do something different with the decor for this hotel and let the style of the building guide our design," says Mr Shaik Mohamed, an MES Group director who overlooked the 10-month construction project.

Working with Mr Peter Sim of architectural and design practice Farm, the team stripped the building of its dark windows and opened up the ground floor to create an open-concept reception space that looks out onto the street. The ground floor also features a retro-style barbershop and restaurant, called The Great Mischief, which serves tapas dishes.

The design concept uses a mix of pastel colours and wallpaper that effortlessly combine retro and Art Deco styles with the building's heritage structure to create a charming interior that evokes the 1930s.

Worth a special mention is the custom-designed wallpaper used as a backdrop in the reception and restaurant space on the ground floor. Hand-drawn by the team at Farm, the colourful design features cartoonish interpretations of numerous local landmarks and icons, such as Capitol Theatre, Gardens by the Bay, SBS buses and a plate of chilli crab.

The Instagram-savvy traveller will find plenty to snap. Plastered throughout the hotel - at the entrance, along hallways and above the cute splash pool on the second floor - are fun neon-lit slogans such as "Easy like Sunday morning" and "You had me at hello", which will undoubtedly make for great pictures.

The rooms, which are priced between $90 for a hostel room and $200 for one with a bathtub, are basic but feature beautiful interiors in creamy shades of pastel.

Overall, the hotel is a charming addition to a heritage neighbourhood and succeeds in its attempt to celebrate a bygone era.

Hotel G: The gym is designed to look like a vintage boxing gym.ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

Hotel G

Many people walk past Hotel G Singapore's open-concept wine bar Ginett in Middle Road without realising there is a 308-room hotel sitting right above it.

This is exactly what the team at GCP Hospitality - which owns Hotel G Singapore and other properties in cities such as Bangkok, Pattaya and Yangon - was gunning for when it bought Big Hotel and refurbished it into Hotel G Singapore.

Instead of placing the lobby on the first floor, the first two levels of the hotel were opened up and used for the dining concepts Ginett and burger joint 25 Degrees.

The decision created high ceilings and an airy, inviting feel that do not seem anything like a stuffy hotel dining concept.

Inside, the hotel - which officially opened in February last year - takes inspiration from Singapore's lively city vibe, featuring an urban, industrial theme with lots of fun and quirky twists.

The lobby features a variety of takes on bowler hats and hat stands, which can be found not only in physical form throughout, but are also whimsically painted onto the backdrop of the reception.

The three room categories - Good, Great and Greater - all have grey wallpaper reminiscent of concrete slabs, but are kept from feeling uninviting, thanks to beautiful dream-catchers that hang above each bed.

The handmade creations, which feature either feathers or rainbow streamers, are a fun and youthful twist on the use of a chandelier as an accent piece in the bedroom.

A particularly well-thought-out space is the gym on the third floor, which is designed to look like a vintage boxing gym. Wallpaper and subway tiles in an unexpected deep sapphire tone give the space a grungy feel, with framed pictures of vintage bodybuilders adding the perfect quirky touch.

With its eclectic design, it is not surprising that the hotel was the official partner for Singapore Design Week last year, while this year, it was named Design Hotel of the Year for Singapore by online travel trend site Travel & Hospitality.

Prices start at $140 for a Good room and can go up to $200 for one of the four Greater rooms.

Hotel Mono: The hotel is almost completely monochromatic, from the reception (above) to its rooms.PHOTO: HOTEL MONO

Hotel Mono

Chic is the name of the game for Chinatown boutique hotel Mono, which opened in November 2016.

Featuring 44 rooms across seven categories, the hotel is, as its name suggests, almost completely monochromatic in its colour palette.

Housed in a row of six shophouses in Mosque Street, near the bustling Chinatown Point, the space stands out from the vividly coloured buildings that surround it, thanks to its simple white and black exterior.

Though little change has been made to the Rococo-style windows that make up its facade, stripping them of colour gives the building a modern twist.

Inside, this contemporary take on a heritage building continues with basic rooms featuring beds with stark white sheets and black metal frames.

One of the standouts is the loft room, which can sleep up to five people and features double beds on both the first and second floors, which are connected by a chic black staircase that gives the whole space a cool geometric feel.

To add a pop of colour, bathrooms in some rooms feature tiling in unexpected accents, such as pastel pink and brown.

Overall, though, the vibe of this boutique hotel is upmarket sophistication.

With prices starting at $140 and going up to $320 for the loft room, it will not make too much of a dent in your pocket.

And although it is a basic hotel that does not provide much more than lodging, it presents the perfect backdrop for those sleek and minimalist Instagram staycation photos.

Yotel: Guests can use machines to self-check-in. Robots Yoshi and Yolanda deliver water or room service to guests.ST PHOTO: ALVIN HO


Most people expect beautiful design in hotels that boast huge rooms, but Britain's Yotel brand is here to show that compact spaces can be devised just as creatively.

The 610-room hotel - Yotel's first in Asia - opened last October and sits smack in the middle of Orchard Road, behind Shaw Centre.

But it boasts more than just a great location. It is created to feel almost science-fiction-ish, with its spacey white, purple and lime-green palette and designs inspired by airline travel.

Keeping true to its inspiration, the reception area is called Mission Control, staff members are called Crew and rooms are labelled Cabins.

Instead of checking in and out at a reception counter, guests can use machines to self-check-in, speeding up the process.

Upstairs, the rooms are compact - somewhat akin to a snug first-class suite on a plane - but cleverly designed, featuring smart beds that can be used as a sofa or reclined, with the touch of a button, into a queen-sized bed.

Despite being small, the room features everything from an ironing board to a minibar, a pull-out desk and umbrellas, all stored in hidden compartments throughout the room.

Some rooms feature an extra bunk bed - using the high ceiling in the snug space effectively - to cater to larger groups or families.

One of the fun, unexpected elements is the use of robots, a duo dubbed Yoshi and Yolanda, that are programmed to deliver water or room service.

It is slightly gimmicky, but having a robot buzz your phone and deliver you water adds to the Jetsons feel of the hotel and ties in quite nicely with the air travel-themed design concept.

Room prices start at $200 and can go upwards of $400 for a suite.

Six Senses Duxton: While no structural changes were made to the hotel, the interior's traditional Chinese elements and black, yellow and gold palette (above) hark back to the days when opium dens lined Duxton streets.PHOTO: SIX SENSES DUXTON

Six Senses Duxton

Six Senses Duxton officially opened its doors today, but it already seems to be building a community with its neighbours.

The 49-room hotel is the first urban outlet for the ultra-luxe chain better known for its resorts in far-flung destinations such as Fiji and Ninh Van Bay in Vietnam.

Nestled along a row of trading houses in Duxton Road, the hotel is working with local businesses to create a communal feel.

Case in point? The loose-leaf tea in each room is sourced from a neighbouring tea house and the in-house traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner - from a TCM business across the road - will be on-site daily to offer consultations and remedies to guests.

The in-room wellness packs also feature local elements such as Tiger balm, as well as nutmeg oil to soothe stomachs - a throwback to the nutmeg plantations that once covered the Duxton area - and traditional tinctures that can be drunk for energy in the morning and restful sleep at night.

"What we wanted to offer was a different take on design and wellness, one that was born out of our location and connects the dots with people such as shopkeepers and business owners who work in the neighbourhood," said Six Senses chief executive Neil Jacobs.

In line with the building's conservation status, no structural changes were made to the hotel. Instead, acclaimed British interior designer Anoushka Hempel used traditional Chinese elements and a black, yellow and gold palette to create a hotel that is dark, seductive and full of character - while harking back to the days when opium dens lined Duxton streets.

All through the hotel are elements that pay homage to the area's colourful past.

The hanging blinds with the Chinese characters for "prosperity, status and longevity" not only greet guests when they enter the hotel, but also evoke the mysterious entrances to the smoky Oriental gambling dens of yesteryear.

The calligraphy wallpaper featured throughout the hotel is from Ms Hempel's personal collection and depicts a land contract from 1865, signed five years after the building was constructed in 1860.

The in-house Yellow Pot restaurant features large gold fans and yellow pottery - which inspired its name - and offers a menu of modern Chinese cuisine.

Adjacent is an Art Deco-style lobby bar serving cocktails, including the hotel's welcome drink, Escape To Kaifeng, which comprises Tanqueray gin and housemade chrysanthemum cordial.

Several rooms in the hotel feature four-poster beds, with the ones in the seven Opium Rooms standing out for their elaborate Chinese antique-style carvings.

For those prefer a lighter colour palette, Ms Hempel added three Pearl Suites that are designed, as the name would suggest, in a glossy white theme, with marble bathrooms and two mother-of-pearl chests of drawers in the bedroom.

The chain's second property, Six Senses Maxwell in Cook Street, is due to open by the end of the year and will feature a pool and spa.

Guests staying at either property will be welcome to dine and enjoy the services at either hotel.


This story was first published on The Straits Times. Click here to read the original story.