LOH LIK PENG

Singaporean hospitality whizz Loh Lik Peng, founder of Unlisted Collection, has masterminded some of the world’s most dynamic boutique hotels, restaurants and bars, collaborating with architects, designers and chefs from Singapore to Shanghai and most recently Sydney.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What inspires your love of boutique hotels?
Our properties are usually located only in conservation buildings or buildings with a lot of character, which gives our guests an authentic experience of the city. I like these difficult old buildings. The original Sydney building housing The Old Clare Hotel was built in stages, starting from the early 20th century to the 1930s. It’s very complex and conservation listed, so the regulatory process was tough. I am delighted with the finished result and feel we’ve created something unique. 

ABOVE: Hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, founder and director of Unlisted Collection
BELOW: Heritage-modern rooms at The Old Clare Hotel, Sydney, including the Abercrombie Room (with freestanding bath), Clare Room and more contemporary Chippendale Loft. Local architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer adapted the original buildings

ABOVE: Original period details, from timber panelling to parquetry floors and cornices, feature in The Old Clare Hotel's two Showroom Suites (each with a restored bar as a bedhead) and pendant lamp-sporting C.U.B. Suite, located in the former brewery boardroom

What was your design vision for The Old Clare Hotel?
I liked the idea of working in an old brewery with a strong local heritage. I was really attracted by the raw industrial feel of the building and the locality. My vision was not to over-restore it, but to maintain the grittiness and the industrial, urban feeling of the building while respecting its unusual history. You can still see and feel its original character even as you sleep in the most comfortable of environments. We have cleaned the old lady up nicely but I hope she still retains the atmosphere of her brewery and pub past.

ABOVE: Design details in The Old Clare's 62 rooms include desk lamps made from salvaged car jacks by Margate's The Rag and Bone Man; Reclaimed naval search lights; and custom-designed pendant lights by PSLab, referencing the building's industrial elements and black steel

Which details are you particularly proud of?
I hope people just appreciate the original features of the hotel and some of the interesting heritage rooms. The Old Clare Hotel has these amazing art deco curved windows, original timber panelling and intricate plaster air vents. The structure is all macho bricks, steel, concrete and big timbers and I love that industrial character. We worked with some great collaborators too.

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ABOVE FROM TOP: Automata restaurant offers casual fine dining under chef Clayton Wells, with industrial-chic design by Matt Darwon (aka Matt Machine), including chandeliers upstairs made from aircraft engines; Kensington Street Social eatery, helmed by UK chef Jason Atherton, features rough-luxe interiors by Shanghai's Neri&Hu; Curvy The Clare bar stays true to its pub roots; The Rooftop Pool and Bar offers views of the Brutalist UTS Tower and Jean Nouvel's One Central Park residential skyscrapers, with living green walls by Patrick Blanc

Tell us about the restaurants and bars launched alongside the hotel.
We have two very special restaurantsAutomata and Kensington Street Social – on site, and we also have a Rooftop Pool and Bar and revamped heritage bar The Clare serving some of the best cocktails in Sydney. 

ABOVE: Current show 'Vile Bodies', at Chippendale's mod-Sino White Rabbit Gallery until 5 February 2017, features Zhang Dali's disturbing installation 'Chinese Offspring' (2005) in the atrium; Level 2 displays Su Xinping's outsize image of clasped hands 'Untitled' (2015) and Hou Chun-Ming's vibrant 'Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea' (2008). The birdcage-hung teahouse serves tea and dumplings

What attracted you to the hotel's location in Chippendale, in Sydney's inner-south?
Chippendale is filled with interesting designers and galleries, such as contemporary Chinese art showcase the White Rabbit Gallery, which I find really inspiring. I’m excited by Chippendale’s authentic and local feel. It’s a very low-key neighbourhood that has its own thing going on and its own local scene. I hope our guests just go and explore Kensington Street and the wider area, as they have so much to offer.

ABOVE: Unlisted Collection stays include opulent Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, East London; Quirky Wanderlust Hotel in Little India, Singapore, set in an old school; and The Waterhouse at South Bund in Huangpu, Shanghai, a concrete former 1930s army HQ and warehouse transformed by local architects Neri&Hu with light minimal interiors 

What's your design philosophy?
I’m inspired by authentic locations, places that have a sense of localness, grit and edge. I've sited previous hotels in town halls, old schools and old warehouses – and having one in a former brewery appeals to me very much, especially since the Carlton & United Breweries has such a long association with New South Wales and Sydney. I’m fascinated by unloved heritage buildings in these vibrant local neighbourhoods and I think The Clare/C.U.B. and Chippendale have this character in spades.

ABOVE: Loh Lik Peng's design heroes include Danish architect Finn Juhl, whose 'Pelican' armchairs by Onecollection are available from London Scandinavian interiors store Skandium

Who are your design heroes?
My design heroes include Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen and Finn Juhl.

What's currently exciting you in design?
I’m really into small craft producers at the moment. I love handcrafted Japanese ceramics and Korean lacquer. 

ABOVE: Loh Lek Peng's must-sees in Singapore include heritage-modern hybrids the National Gallery Singapore, converted by studioMilou and CPG Consultants; and the National Design Centre by SCDA Architects, shown here illuminated at night

What should design fans see in Singapore?
The old Supreme Court and City Hall buildings have now been turned into the National Gallery Singapore, which showcases great architecture and South-East Asian art. I also love Singapore’s National Design Centre as it always has an interesting programme. Both have brilliant gift shops! 

ABOVE: Post Ranch Inn at Big Sur, California, sports wraparound ocean views

Where's on your travel wish list?
My all-time favourite resort hotel is the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California.

What's your social media of choice?
Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and Instagram because I love visual mediums. For news on our hotels and restaurants, follow Unlisted Collection.
unlistedcollection.com

Photos:
Various; Unlisted Collection (portrait); Aaron Pocock (National Design Centre); White Rabbit Gallery, courtesy of the artists and White Rabbit Collection

LYNDA GARDENER Curated

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She made her name with cult store Empire Vintage in Melbourne’s Albert Park, a sharp-eyed edit of vintage and industrial pieces, recently reborn as Lynda Gardener: Curated. As well as shopping the look fans can experience it in person too, thanks to Lynda Gardener’s four stylish stays in and around town. Having founded studio Gardener & Marks with a friend, Lynda has now gone it alone, offering interior design services under her own name.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

Tell us about your Melbourne store's new direction.
Since I was a very young girl, I’ve always searched to find that special one-off piece to treasure and give it a new home! I still do – it’s in my blood and is what I love. The new store is back to more old and a touch of new, and will constantly be evolving. I have always loved collecting and now that my personal storage is at overload, I have decided to delve back in and sell stock from my private collections, large and small, from country furniture to milliners’ hat blocks, crockery and industrial foundry pieces. Curated is all about one-off pieces sourced and salvaged over many years. As in my own home I do love a mix of old and a touch of new. 

ABOVE: Lynda Gardener with her cocker spaniel Jack ('Wallpaper Frocks' by UK designer Deborah Bowness)
ABOVE RIGHT: Vintage meets new at revamped Albert Park store Lynda Gardener: Curated in Melbourne
BELOW: New southside Melbourne boutique stay The Apartment St Kilda

What inspired the interiors of your latest Melbourne boutique stay The Apartment St Kilda?
I wanted something very fresh, white and light. The Apartment overlooks lovely green lush old gardens which belong to the building, so bringing lots of green in with foliage and indoor plants, lots of white paint and my love for the mix of old and new is what makes the space so special.

What about the interiors of your recently launched stay The Estate Trentham in country Victoria just outside town?
The Estate is very different again, a more Scandinavian influence – skins, rugs, lots of deep comfortable couches to laze on and lie in front of the fire and read, lovely old wool blankets and oil paintings. It combines old and new finds and lots of textures and layers. The Estate is also all about the garden, as we have gorgeous herb gardens that evolve and change yearly. Right now we are planting a tea garden there with our wonderful gardener, so guests can create their own brews and teas.

BELOW: Stylish stay The Estate Trentham, in rustic Trentham near Melbourne, combines subtle neutrals, textures and layers

ABOVE: Cosy-cool cottage getaway The White House, in Victoria's spa town Daylesford, near Melbourne, mixes pretty with industrial-vintage

What was the design style for your first two boutique stays, The White House in rural Daylesford and The White Room in Melbourne's inner-city Fitzroy?
The White House is a very cosy, warm rustic house with interiors with lots of layers and textures – wallpapers, rugs, throws, leather, linen and lots of it. 

The White Room is part of a former mattress factory and I wanted to keep a constant flow with industrial lighting and a mix of industrial furniture for a very white warehouse studio feel. It also features personal collections of art work, books and one-off finds.

ABOVE: White, grey and blue rule at industrial-vintage sanctuary The White Room, in Fitzroy, Melbourne

Where do you source decor pieces, and what do you look for?
I am pretty random and there is no one place in particular. I like being spontaneous and not planning too much ahead. I love to find pieces and then be inspired by them to create a room and look. Since way back I’ve been sourcing from local and overseas markets, and if I’m travelling I never miss a Sunday market. I also have fabulous contacts that I can turn to as well as my own personal collection that I have started to source specific pieces from for different installations. 

What's your design philosophy?
Mix old with new. Make your home your own by putting your own stamp on it, either with something you love to collect or perhaps a colour or tone you love and stick with it, like collections all in white, or a cluster of landscapes on one wall to create a feature. I like the house to flow from the front to the back and to stick to a colour all the way through – for instance white, greys, or a black and white room. The Estate is all about browns, mushroom and whites, just naturals. 

ABOVE: Sleeping two, The White Room's open-plan bedroom/study/kitchen opens up to an airy courtyard terrace

Where do you get inspiration? 
From everywhere and anything, it changes all the time. These days I find inspiration on Instagram, with so much fantastic food for thought rolling around every minute of the day. I love it as I do Pinterest, another great source of inspiration for me. I still buy my favourite interior magazines and coffee-table books, which I pile up and love flicking though often. Other people, mainly all the great stylists out there, continually inspire me, as does history and architecture. I am a great wanderer and love being randomly inspired by something I may have walked by many times, however on a different day, thinking about different things, it will stand out.

Who are your design heroes? Or which era, aesthetic, building or interior has influenced you the most?
Once again I have so many – I probably love a little something from every era, generally anything old and with character. However, that is about to change with a new build in the making for next year. I can’t wait as that’s a true challenge for me.

BELOW: Touches of green, from plants to vases and art, liven up boho beauty The Apartment St Kilda near Melbourne's bay

What's currently exciting you in design or style?
It excites me that so many looks and styles are going around and really no one way or another is right or wrong. We are so lucky to be able to create any look we want and not have to stick with trends that are ‘now’ or short term. I love Scandinavian, and yet I love very bohemian styles currently too. For me it depends on the space you are decorating and which way it tends to lean. Some places just speak to you instantly and that’s the way I tend to go.

Where's on your travel wish list?
Copenhagen is next on my list. I have never travelled to Denmark and I am keen to check out the city and its surrounds. I’m excited by Danish design’s use of simple clean lines, and their interior style and architecture. I just want to roam the streets, eat, look and discover.

What's your social media of choice?
Instagram as I find it almost relaxing flicking through everyone’s lives all around the world. It’s instant and fast yet so, so inspiring seeing so many creative people doing something different every day, or in fact every hour!

BELOW: Deli-cafe Oxford Larder in Melbourne's inner-north Collingwood is one of Lynda Gardener's favourite new spots for a snack

What are your top Melbourne tips?
I have always lived in Fitzroy and I can never get enough of it. I am forever excited about visiting a new cafe, bar or store. Gertrude Street, Smith Street and all the back streets of Collingwood are my favourite spots. My current faves are Marion wine bar in Gertrude Street – I love the interior and the casual dining/drinking feel oozing style. Café-deli Oxford Larder in Collingwood is my little local favourite, which is owned by very good friends of mine. An old stamping ground is Babka café on Brunswick Street for its great food, bread and cakes – the best! I don’t think it has changed in any way for the past 30 years and it has had the same owner from day one. Baker D. Chirico in Carlton is known for its outstanding fit-out, styling and, of course, delicious bread, food, desserts and staff. Neighbourhood Wine, hidden in the back streets off Nicholson Street, also has great food.

Lynda Gardener: Curated is at 63 Cardigan Place, Albert Park, Melbourne. See websites in Q&A for Lynda's four self-catering stays

Pictures: Lisa Cohen (select shots)

NERI&HU

Founding partners of acclaimed Shanghai architecture and design practice Neri&Hu, husband and wife Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu are also creative directors of Chinese furniture label Stellar Works and have crafted elegant modern products for a host of top global brands.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy?
At Neri&Hu we believe in architecture and design as a powerful cultural force. We prefer the subtext over the obvious, and the poetic over the utilitarian. We always start with a concept and research it in depth, looking for traces and signs that inspire us. We are still too young to have a distinct language, so we flow in many directions depending on the specific project, but we always explore layering, transparency, texture, framing and materiality. Questions of culture and aesthetic philosophy concern us deeply and we also want to relate what we do to everyday life.

What do you each bring to the party?
Lyndon is more of a creator and Rossana a critic, which is a good combination.

ABOVE: At The Waterhouse at South Bund, Neri&Hu transformed a Thirties army headquarters in Shanghai into a rough-luxe boutique hotel

How do you balance heritage and modern to create a new Chinese aesthetic?
For us, the redevelopment – or historic renovation – projects are extremely interesting. They allow us to try different ways of interpreting culture and history, something that relates to our identity as individuals and as a collective, and to explore the contrasts between old and new. They’re also a perfect way of preserving memory, as well as creating a sustainable environment to promote healthy reuse, rather than simply demolishing and rebuilding for commercial gain.

Which recent projects are you proud of?
We’ve just designed Kuala Lumpur's Sentul Contemporary Art Museum in Malaysia, which is about monumentality and preserving urban memory, and a creative agency's headquarters for Meiré und Meiré in Cologne, Germany, which merges architectural and institutional identity.

ABOVE: Industrial-chic interiors for Kensington Street Social restaurant at The Old Clare Hotel in Sydney team raw concrete and sleek wood with brass and glass louvres

Tell us about Sydney restaurant Kensington Street Social at The Old Clare Hotel.
We were inspired by Kensington Street Social’s setting within the former Carlton & United Breweries building. We reinterpreted the brewing equipment once used there by inserting two machine-like volumes into the space. The two machine boxes rest atop a continuous concrete landscape defining the footprints of the restaurant’s tapas bar and cocktail bar. The design also takes its cues from the ‘social’ motif of chef Jason Atherton’s restaurants and architecturally treats the interior as an extension of the lively Kensington streetscape, blurring the boundaries between inside and out. 

ABOVE: Neri&Hu's graphic 'Remnant 1' (red) and 'Remnant 2' (blue) rugs for Dutch brand Moooi Carpets reflect Chinese streetscapes; 'A Cabinet of Curiosity' cabinet and 'Utility' sofa for Stellar Works; 'Jie' rugs in celadon and blue for Spain's Nanimarquina, riffing on street tile patterns

What inspires you?
We are inspired by the mundane and the ordinary. The fabric of Shanghai and the everyday activities in and around the city are a huge inspiration. The Western architectural tradition forms the basis of our education, but culturally we are very much Chinese, and that influences our work especially in China. We also like to examine local culture wherever our projects are located.

What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
Paring down to the essence of things – not simply minimalism, but keeping only the necessary while still creating an enriching spatial experience. Also exploring new materials.

ABOVE: 'Ayi' coat rack/umbrella stands for Swedish firm Offecct; the red ash 'Ming' chair for Stellar Works reinterprets trad wooden Chinese seats; Conceived as 'little butlers', 2016's 'Ren' occasional furniture collection for Italy's Poltrona Frau was inspired by the Chinese character 'ren' meaning 'people'; Co-joined 'Together' chairs for Denmark's Fritz Hansen

Who are your design heroes?
There are many contemporary giants whose work we admire. Le Corbusier is still very relevant for studying form and spaces. Carlo Scarpa continues to inspire us with his details and composition, and Adolf Loos with his clarity and rigour. Of the architects practising today, we admire the work of SANAA, Alvaro Siza, David Chipperfield and Peter Zumthor. In terms of mentors, Lyndon's thesis adviser at Harvard Graduate School of Design was Rafael Moneo and he’s definitely played a big part in moulding his take on architecture. Both of us worked at Michael Graves, which taught us a multidisciplinary design approach.

Where’s on your travel wish list? 
Malawi, Istanbul and Prague [Rossana]. Argentina and Berlin [Lyndon].

TOP: A continuous clothes rail runs around flagship fashion store Comme Moi in Shanghai, which also sports cage-like custom-made cabinets; 'Dowry' cabinets and other signature pieces for Stellar Works; 'Jian' hooded sofa for Spain's Gandiablasco against the Pudong skyline
ABOVE: The 'Bai' pendant light family for Spanish brand Parachilna encases a Chinese lantern in a modern glass bulb; A lattice of brass rods creates see-through interiors at skincare brand Sulwhasoo's Seoul store

What’s the Shanghai design scene like?
It is being infiltrated with global energy and design influences on a daily basis, and the absorption rate is extremely high. The problem that comes with this phenomenon is that people are not that critical about what they see and use, so regardless of whether things are good/bad, appropriate/inappropriate, they are all being taken on here.

What’s your social media of choice?
Instagram, I like images over words when expressing myself [Lyndon].
Weibo if at all, but trying to boycott it right now! And Instagram [Rossana].
www.neriandhu.com

Portrait: Andrew Rowat Other images: Poltrona Frau and Sulwhasoo, Pedro Pegenaute; Gandiablasco, Dirk Weiblen

For more on Neri&Hu, see our earlier post on Stellar Works