As Raffles Singapore re-opens its doors with a new era in store, it seems appropriate to begin with an overview of its remarkable history to date.
First opened on 1st December 1887, the hotel was originally a 10-room bungalow leased by the Sarkies Brothers from Armenia. Throughout the 1880s, some of the hotel’s earlist guests included Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham, thereby establishing a legendary literary tradition that continues today.
Following extensions in 1890 and 1894, a three-storey main building in late Victorian Italianate Revival style replaced the original bungalow in 1899 – truly establishing the hotel as a local landmark.
Over the course of the 20th century, Raffles Singapore played host to a series of guests, events and iconic moments that, when collated, create a rich historical and cultural tapestry to be rivalled. In August 1902, for example, the last tiger to be killed in Singapore was shot whilst in the hotel’s Bar & Billiard Room, while in 1915, Hainanese bartender, Ngiam Tong Boon created the iconic Singapore Sling.
Having last undergone a full restoration in 1989, the time was right to rejuvenate the hotel, and who better to undertake such a task than acclaimed NY-based firm, Champalimaud Design. The team has worked meticulously for the past six years to refresh and embolden the design direction of the hotel, introducing renovated F&B offerings and updating the accommodation.
As a national monument, the design team had to be mindful of preserving the original colonial architecture, but these restrictions didn’t intrude upon their plans to reimagine the public spaces.
Increasing social engagement and creating a sense of flow within these areas was key. The new reception and lobby lounge – complete with a curated dining menu – now acts as an elegant gateway to the hotel’s F&B spaces.Adopting a more contemporary sensibility, the team have focused on maximising scale through the careful curation of custom furniture in sumptuous shapes, ornate screens, locally sourced heritage antiques and impactful lighting.
Accessible via the hotel’s main entrance, the Tiffin Room has been part of the hotel’s history since 1892. Both the client and Champalimaud Design were thus keen to preserve the Indian culinary traditions that have made the restaurant so famous. The British Colonial shell of the space has been tempered through soft coloured wall panelling and custom furniture, wrapped in buttery neutrals reminiscent of the coconut, ginger and cinnamon notes associated with the local cuisine.
“The team has worked meticulously for the past six years to refresh and embolden the design direction of the hotel, introducing renovated F&B offerings and updating the accommodation”
Large ovalesque chandeliers, custom-designed by Champalimaud, hang from silver-leafed ceiling coves, while colourful displays of antique Chinese dishes and tiffin boxes reference the restaurant’s storied past.
Moving through into the hotel’s formal dining room, Le Dame de Pic, Champalimaud has enhanced the air of timeless elegance. The 56-cover restaurant features soft pinks and rich plums, matched with grey clay tones and metallic accents. The lighting – as with all of the hotel’s public spaces – takes centre stage here. A gold chandelier, composed from tiers of discs with laser-cut spades, adds an enchanting creative statement within the room.
The hotel’s vibrant steakhouse, Butcher’s Block, has a different tone altogether. Here, hyper-social dining was key to the redesign, with a multitude of different seating options to cater for diners of all types. The rather more robust interior feel is achieved through a dark, velvety cobalt blue palette, complemented by large bold brass furniture, fixtures and accents.
Positioned in the corner of the hotel, The Writer’s Bar offers another distinct depature in design from the other ground level dining spaces. Sexier and moodier in feel, the space is awash with layers of dark hues. Chocolate walnut floors, palm frond wallpaper and grey upholstery create a sense of intimacy and warmth, while the library coves have been stocked with a carefully curated selection of titles.
Champalimaud opted to ground the bar with two focal points – a sculptural bar inspired by modernist form, and an oblong chandelier composed of egg-shaped gunmetal spheres.
The Long Bar – a favourite amongst hotel visitors – has been given some eye-catching updates. The original ‘long bar’ and spiraling staircase have been preserved, in addition to the newly-restored palm-shaped ceiling fans and slatted colonial window shutters that the space is known for. New additions include some punchy geometric floor tiles, butterscotch leather high back barstools, ribbed black and white rattan chairs and marble-topped tables.
Aside from the hotel’s F&B offering, the guest accommodation was another crucial area of focus for Champalimaud. With their palette of rich blues, terracotta reds and shades of white, alongside teak floors and vertiginous ceilings, the guest rooms offer guests a harmonious sanctuary.
Cues have been taken from the existing architecture, with colonial references complemented by serene Chinese and Indian accents. An ornate, locally-produced British Colonial style bed with a carved headboard acts as the centrepiece to each room, while dark chocolate wood furniture adds to the luxurious feel. Choice pieces, such as a vanity and trunk-inspired mini bar, complete the look.
The two palatial Presidential Suites – The Sarkies Suite and The Sir Stamford Raffles Suite – take this idea of sanctuary, and the British Colonial frame of the hotel, to the next level. Similar in size and styling, one suite draws guests in by way of a light stone blue bas relief inspired by Singaporean orchids, while the other features alluring dark aubergine tones.
Once inside, guests are escorted to the suite’s Grand Salon, where a collection of large antique and modern furniture pieces offers a charming and intimate space in which to entertain. Graphically patterned ceilings, gilded trimmings, antiqued panelling and Italian strung drapes add layers of depth.
Next to the Grand Salon is the dining room, which houses a sculptural statement table, campaign-style leather chairs, a large scale lustrous mirror and a host of bespoke accessories.
Champalimaud has opted for bold, dramatic finishes within the Master Bedroom, not least the four poster bed framed by a bronze-clad floating wall inset with a Singaporean orchid motif. Antique bedside tables and sculptural lamps soften the look, alongside elegant mouldings, a sumptuous silk rug and dark wood floors.
The master bathrooms have wow factor to match, clad almost entirely in large slabs of Bianco Dolomite marble on the walls and floor. A carved marble bath tub sits beneath an exquisite hand-blown Murano glass chandelier, alongside a brass-legged vanity, gold-framed mirrors and Murano glass sconces.
Even taking into account Champalimaud’s vast industry experience and creative flair, the level of prestige and affection surrounding Raffles Singapore is undeniable. Despite this level of expectation, the team has delivered on every level, accentuating all of the hotel’s wonderful attributes and architectural mastery, whilst enlivening its offering and safeguarding its standing for many years to come.