Dramatic LED art walls are framed by restored art deco and baroque details, next to show-stopping spotlights and ornate gilt display cases. Welcome to the QT Sydney, Australia. While the facades have been restored to their former glory, inside is a striking mix of original features, curated digital art installations, eclectic artifacts and quirky designing mix of original pieces inspired by the retail and theatre history of the buildings.
Set within the historic Gowings department store and heritage-listed State Theatre in the heart of Sydney’s central business district, the surrounding area is brimming with culture, art, fashion, cuisine and design, while still being within easy reach of sandy beaches.
“This will be a fresh take on the luxury boutique hotel experience”
David Seargeant, MD of Amalgamated Holdings
Inside, the lower levels of both buildings are where the action is with the bar, street-side cafe and lounge spaces on the ground floor of Gowings department store. This connects to the first floor lobby in the adjacent State Theatre building.
These public spaces, envisioned as the main stage for locals and visitors to interact and mingle with the buildings’ rich heritage, plays with elements of the past along with an edgy contemporary design style. It does so by juxtaposing original facade features with graphic contemporary art, drops of drama and whimsicality through quirky pieces of furniture and pops of colour.
The restaurant, bar and late night lounge are expected to attract Sydney’s hot and happening crowd, particularly those in the fashion and entertainment industries.
Although the two buildings were both completed in the late 1920s, stylistically they are very different. The State Theatre is one of only two surviving theatres in Sydney that are designed by Henry E White and John Eberson, and mixes eclectic elements of Gothic, Italihn Ebean and art deco design. The Gowings department store designed by Robertson & Marks in 1912, has a vast and open layout, big windows, high ceilings, wide corridors and sandstone cladding. The conversion of the upper floors into a bright and chic boutique hotel experience did not affect the State Theatre, or the lower retail levels of the Gowings building, which have remained unchanged.
Four years ago, David Seargeant, MD of Amalgamated Holdings, one of Australia’s leading entertainment, hospitality, tourism and leisure companies, recognised a shift in what travellers were seeking in Sydney.
With over 30 years of experience in the hospitality and leisure industry and having worked as the GM of 16 different hotels, he saw great interest from travellers in high star ratings with a casual service style. Visitors wanted to stay somewhere hip and vibrant, rather than experiencing the reserved traditional service style – and so, QT Sydney was born.
He says: “This will be a fresh take on the luxury boutique hotel experience. Sydneysiders have a great attachment to these buildings, as do we, and we will be maintaining the historic street-level activities of theatre and retail. We are looking forward to restoring these heritage buildings to their former glory and creating a new, exciting hotel in the heart of the city.”
Details such as the original gothic features of the department store and, original artworks and fixtures in the State Theatre by William Dobell and Charles Wheeler, two of Australia’s most significant artists from the 1920s, are being thoughtfully restored to their former glory.
With the facades of the buildings returned to their former glory, the inside has fought to retain its old world appeal, while celebrating new technology, distinctive art mediums and cutting edge emerging artists. To ensure impact on arrival, QT Sydney’s team of art consultants, designers and architects worked to bring the history and rich fabric of both buildings together through an energetic collection of original artwork and cutting edge graphics.
Guests enter via the lobby of the State Theatre on the first floor, where the building’s theatrical past can be felt, with stage lights casting a glow over the reception and draping, heavy stage curtains leading them into the building.
The bold design of the hotel is set off by the historical features forming a space that serves not just as a lobby, but as a playground after dark. An imposing LED wall of digital art is a feature of the public areas within the hotel, adding a dramatic and intriguing display to these already-enticing surroundings.
Having earned a name for himself after delivering the vibrant and transcendent interiors of QT Gold Coast, designer and stylist Nic Graham was a natural choice for the public areas at QT Sydney.
Taking inspiration from the energetic location of the hotel, Graham and his team have thrown in their own brand of surprises within the luxury spa, restaurant and cocktail bar areas of QT Sydney to create a vibrant, playful space that gives a proud salute to its past.
“We are looking forward to restoring these heritage buildings to their former glory and creating a new, exciting hotel in the heart of the city”
David Seargeant, MD of Amalgamated Holdings
Graham uses lighting as an essential tool to make a space feel different from morning to night and gives guests elements of wonder and surprise. Featuring a huge LED wall of digital art to harmonise the two heritage buildings, he displays an eclectic mix of remarkable and dynamic pieces to maximise the guest emotion and experience at QT Sydney.
Eclectic and quirky artefacts have been brought together from all around the world adding an unusual mix of interesting elements to the QT experience. Custom furniture, geometric patterns on the ceilings and floors and a splash of colours, are some of the highlights of the QT design, with a bold use of black and white, Yves Klein blue, magenta and citron throughout.
Set within two distinct buildings, there are many quirks and nuances across all 200 rooms of the hotel. A deep palette of reds, oranges, yellows and whites features throughout the 12 unique room styles. Retaining the original timber floors, the rooms in the Gowings building are bright and airy with eccentric touches and embellishments. The adjacent State Theatre rooms boast exclusively designed carpets and rugs, along with light, playful touches like bowler hat lamps and light fittings.
Guest room designer and stylist, Shelley Indyk, has worked with communities from diverse cultural backgrounds since the 1980s and brings over 20 years’ experience in architecture and design.
Indyk uses a palette of reds and oranges and hues of yellow to highlight the eccentricity of QT Sydney’s 200 guest rooms. Not a trend follower, she has fine-tuned the hotel’s eccentric and avant-garde brief to develop a unique, light visual language for these intimate guest spaces.
Indyk features Sydney sculptor, Morgan Shimeld and South Australian artist, Richard Blackwell, throughout the hotel.
The design team has played to the obvious eccentricities of the historical buildings, working around original features and enhancing heritage items, while giving a modern edge to the rooms with colour and funky design objects. Every element has been designed specifically for the space – from the design of wardrobes, bedheads and carpets, to the minibars, glass cabinets and materials, each room is individually tailored for a distinctly QT experience.
The dark stone bathrooms are accented by oversized signature baths and large separate showers with pin spot lighting ensuring the right vibe. The rooms and bathrooms are finished with eclectic and quirky collectables and pops of colour, making it an appropriate hub from which to explore the creative scene in the surrounding neighbourhood.
The Gowings Bar and Grill is a multi-faceted and bustling room with a market-type alley for the freshest of Australian ingredients, mixed in with artisan producers. The edgy contemporary art featured here gives the restaurant a distinct identity amongst the city’s main ingredients, mixed in with handpicked artisan producers. The edgy contemporary art featured here will give the restaurant a distinct identity amongst the city’s multiple culinary offerings.
Guests are ushered into the heart of the hotel through the door into the Gowings bar. Lounge spaces and bar areas evoke the energy of Sydney that is home to a special group of pleasure seekers and power players. Ceiling and wall graphics bring the room alive.
For a quick coffee or more casual bite to eat, Parlour Lane Roasters at the entry to the hotel is the perfect fix. It’s a European style cafe, with baristas serving some of Sydney’s best coffee, as well as quick, easy and social breakfasts and lunches. The Roasters turns into a bustling wine bar from the afternoon into the evening. The heritage tiled floors of the entry have been lovingly restored and the original ornate retail display cabinets have been reinstated to house artefacts and design pieces.
A touch of glamour has been introduced to Sydney’s local spa scene with a new designer spa concept, spaQ. The design cleverly uses colour and quirky features to mirror the heritage of QT Sydney’s location above two of Sydney’s most historical buildings. With its central business district address, spaQ caters to the busy corporate and his/her changing needs and desires.
For those bored of the boardroom, QT Sydney features conference spaces and state-of-the-art dining rooms for business meetings, events and parties. On the mezzanine level of Gowings Bar and Grill are three private dining rooms, featuring relaxed and sophisticated interiors that suit dining, meetings and major business events. Groups of two to 200 will be able to host their most important occasions and should take advantage of the unforgettable QT food and beverage experience on offer.
Public area designer and stylist Nic Graham & Associates
Guest room designer and stylist Indyk Architects
Art curation Amanda Love