In Use - Project

The Voco Hotel, Melbourne

Staying at a hotel should be more akin to staying at home when you’re not at home, according to those who founded the Voco Hotels. It was an approach that was taken into consideration when Suede Interior Design was commissioned to create the interiors for a new Voco Hotel in Melbourne. Conceived by IHG, an intercontinental hospitality group, and designed by architects Elenberg Fraser, the two towers, with a hotel on one side and residential apartments on the other, will become a landmark at 380 Lonsdale Street, when the Brady Group development is completed next year. There are already a number of Voco Hotels, in London, Dubai, as well as Down Under: on the Gold Coast and in the Hunter Valley. “Our brief was to create something that felt comfortable, inviting to live in for a typical duration of three days, with a lack of pretention,” says interior designer Clifford Rip, director of Suede Interior Design. “It was important that people be comfortable enough to put up their feet on an ottoman and feel as though they could be at home,” he adds.

The designer’s brief also included the use of natural materials that were light but  provided a warm and cozy experience. “Nothing faddish,” says Rip, who took his design cues from the brief, as well as from Voco’s colour palette: soft greys, charcoals, smoky blues and a dash of yellow. The scheme also had to respond to the hotel’s urban setting, rather than, say, a resort context. One of the other triggers in the design was the company’s various bird mascots. Flamingos, for example, appear in Voco’s resort-style hotels, while the finch is aligned to city-based establishments. Melbourne’s gold rush days also triggered ideas, with the site for the new Voco located on the site where wagons were manufactured to transport the gold. ‘Free the Finch’, cages with open doors, and touches of golden yellow in the design pay homage to both the city’s history and the Voco Hotels at the same time.
In keeping with the brief to create welcoming home-like environments, all of the 220 rooms include plush comfortable sofas and generous armchairs. Carpets add a sense of warmth, as do the drapes, with fabrics sourced primarily from Zepel, not only in the guest suites, but also in the public areas and function rooms. “The Zepel range filled all our requirements, from the ease of cleaning to their fire- resistant qualities. And we found them also to be cost effective,” says Rip, who, like the company, was keen to source materials locally. “We often use a vinyl for a headboard, but the Zepel range offers the same degree of durability, and it’s finer to the touch,” adds Rip.  Here, the bedheads are fully covered in Zepel fabrics, fluted in form to add depth, and extended at one end to include a built-in lounge seat. “With the fabrics already fire resistant it meant we didn’t have to include an additional process once everything was installed,” he adds. Curtains were also used in the guest bedrooms to delineate and close off spaces, such as the bathroom. Although there’s a glass wall framing the bathroom to allow for natural light to enter from the bedroom, curtains can be used to screen this off when privacy is required. 
Within the podium level, bridging the two towers, is a series of porte cocheres, lobbies, lounges and even a ballroom. Each of these areas features the Zepel collection, from the hemp-like Bilboa range to the suede-like Warlock fabrics. Zepel’s ‘Pointillism’ sheer collection, features in the ballroom. Illuminated from above with concealed lighting, these curtains diffuse the natural light entering the overscaled floor-to-ceiling glass windows (on three sides). “Most of the time, these curtains are drawn, but we still wanted light to enter,” says Rip, who selected ‘shark’, a grey tone for the ballroom curtains. 
This latest hotel expected to be completed in March/April 2020 it occupies an important niche in the hotel market. Aimed at the 30 to 50 age group, looking for something that is both unique and welcoming, this design for Voco cleverly touches on the local history, as well as captures the broader marketing objectives of the IHG Group. “We wanted to make people feel as confortable in the social spaces as in their rooms, to feel cocooned and enjoy the experience of the spaces, as much as caressing the fabrics,” adds Rip.
Text by Stephen Crafti.