In Style + Design

Inside the Perth’s Melbourne Hotel $40 Million Refurb

Country town or major city, the pub hotel was once the preferred choice of lodging for tourists, businessmen and touring musicians; but the pub hotel was quickly superseded by the introduction of the stand-alone motel and later, the reasonably priced, modern hotel. By the time the 1980s and 90s rolled around, the era of pub accommodation had well and truly come to its end.

Left dormant and in the shadows of more celebrated hotel openings for some 25 years, the pub hotel was almost just a relic of the past. In more recent years, the hospitality industry has returned their focus to iconic corner pubs, reviving them and bringing them in to the current era of accommodation.

From the complete refurbishment of the Tradewinds Hotel on the Swan River in Fremantle, to the facelift and rebrand of the Cottesloe Beach Hotel, Perth has seen its fair share of iconic and historically significant pub hotel rebirths; the latest being the complete restoration of the Melbourne Hotel on the western end of the CBD.

Originally built in the late 1800’s, the Melbourne Hotel reopened in March of this year after a mammoth $40 million-dollar facelift. It’s listing on the state and city heritage registers meant that the original hotel façade had to remain intact during the refurbishment, but behind the façade a whole new hotel took shape.

The result? A modern, boutique hotel bursting with vibrancy, but one that still pays homage to its long and important history in Perth.

The corner lot on Milligan and Hay St is now home to 73 hotel rooms, a 3-level glass roofed conservatory, 4 restaurants and a rooftop bar.

From the street, the Melbourne Hotel looks much like any other refurbished 19th century corner hotel. A new lick of paint and some new glass has freshened the exterior, but all the character and opulence of the building is still there in the great big arching windows, original architraves and cantilevered wrap around balcony.

At the front of the building, the modernised front bar De Baun & Co, has also kept a good portion of its original fabric in the facelift – from its original dimensions and location in the grand building, to the dark jarrah floorboards. It even underwent a name change to pay homage to the original owner of the hotel, American born hotelier John De Baun.

Past the front bar, into the heart of the hotel and on the cusp between the original building and new construction, the blend between old and new starts to change. Tasked with both bringing the hotel back to life and expanding the existing site, the design team at Buchan worked hard to maintain the history of the building, even where new construction was required. A fine example is the sleek glass roof of the conservatory, marble floor of the lobby and illuminated concierge desk, all perfectly contrast the main historic feature of the space, the 3-storey distressed concrete feature wall that houses the hotel’s high end Cantonese restaurant, Grand Orient.

On top of the existing 22 rooms of the Melbourne Hotel, there were 51 new hotel rooms constructed on the expanded site. Finished in a clean-cut and sophisticated style, the atmosphere of the new hotel rooms differs entirely from that of the refurbished rooms on the heritage side of the hotel. Dark plaster walls, angular lines and shades of grey give the contemporary rooms a more business feel, while accents of leather and wood add a touch more warmth.

But, there is no denying that the 22 refurbished rooms have an element of warmth and charm that can’t be replicated in the modern constructions. Located on the second and third floors of the original portion of the property, the heritage rooms each showcase a different component of the unique history of the building.

Perhaps the best showcase of the heritage features are the grand, arching doorways of the suites on the second floor. Highlighting the lofty ceilings and filling the rooms with plenty of natural light, the arched doorways also provide suite guests with exclusive access to the iconic wrap around balcony.

Between the heritage and the contemporary wings of the hotel, no two rooms have the same dimensions, furnishings, look or feel. There are just a few places where the rooms overlap in ambience and aesthetic, including the white marbled bathrooms, the provision of L’occitane amenities, grey wood accents, high-tech features and the luxurious white linens.

But that is about where the standardization ends, and that is where the charm in the space lies – in its non-uniformity.

A boutique hotel at heart, the refurbished and carefully preserved Melbourne Hotel expertly balances both a heritage-laden existing wing and a sleek new wing of accommodation, and delivers them seamlessly as one hotel. It oozes the charm that a brand new business hotel lacks, but still has the fresh, clean feel expected of a modern day stay.

Rooms at the Melbourne Hotel start from $122.00 per night.

Published 17 July, 2018