International design agency A Work of Substance—whose branding projects range from websites to interiors—spearheaded the renovation of the 66-room boutique hotel, which was built in the 1970s and is located in Hong Kong's vibrant Wan Chai neighborhood.
Nostalgic and refined, the hotel’s new design concept draws inspiration from the island's maritime locale and history—and more specifically, the iconic Star Ferry, which transported travelers across the harbor from Kowloon to Hong Kong.
On the exterior of the 14-story building, brass light fixtures and black powder-coated iron scaffolding that's been cast to look like bamboo shoots set the tone for the hotel’s cozy and luxurious interior.
During the day, the streets are trafficked by business women and men, and at night, the hip borough comes alive with a vibrant restaurant scene, according to A Work of Substance’s creative director and founder Maxime Dautresme. Since it's located near the convention center, the hotel has continuously been frequented by business travelers over the decades.
The design is inspired by the crafts of fishing and boating. In fact, the bar’s bottle display acts as a nod to lobster cages, while the lanterns draw inspiration from old-school, hand-blown fish floaters. The cobalt color found throughout the space takes cues from the Mediterranean Sea’s deep blue hue, and the banquettes are a riff on the Star Ferry’s seating as they flip from one side to the other.
Washrooms shared by the hotel and restaurant are luxurious with red lacquer walls, brass sinks made in Indonesia, and coin floors sealed with epoxy. "I wanted something really playful—and, I wanted to create a sentiment of surprise," says Dautresme.
Adjacent to the restaurant and bar on the ground floor is a long, narrow corridor that leads to the concierge.
On the first floor is the reception and lobby area with red key cubbies inspired by local post office boxes, and a nautical-inspired seating area for lounging.
The hotel’s narrow elevator was updated with red lacquer walls, along with a brass mirror and hardware. "It’s a small space but also quirky and fun," says Dautresme.
Throughout the hotel, doors echo the design of boat hatchways with curved frames and brass hardware. In lieu of "do not disturb" or "please make up my room" signs, each suite door incorporates brass hardware that guests can turn from the inside of the their room to easily communicate with housekeeping.
Guest suites are worldly with masculine and nautical touches. Sleeping chambers are decked out in a bottle green and cream color scheme as a nod to the Star Ferry’s hull, and wood paneling and brass hardware embrace the materials used aboard the boat. In-line with Cantonese design, bold pops of red and rattan furniture are also incorporated in guest rooms.
Wood skirting around the perimeter of each suite incorporates a narrow ledge to display artwork. It also includes light switches and plugs for electronics and provides guests with a place to empty their pockets.
Homey touches and curated objects include beautifully crafted water carafes, sculptures, books, and terrariums filled with Hong Kong’s unique flora, such as ficus, ferns, and moss. "We wanted something organic in the room," says Dautresme. "The terrarium is great because it lives independently and doesn’t have any impact on the room. It’s poetic in a way."
In the guest suites’ washrooms, glass panels provide privacy and transparency, welcoming in plenty of natural light. Brass sinks and herringbone marble floors add a bit of luxury.
Custom bath products inspired by Chinese herbs are a nod to early Eastern medicine and wellness and encourage guests to unwind in-between their travels and business meetings. The apothecary line includes scents such as sandalwood and amber that harken back to the heyday of Hong Kong’s bustling port.