In Travel

Seaside Views & Slick Interiors: Inside Newly Revamped The Sebel Manly

The success of The Sebel Manly has long been tied to the sun, sand and surf that is just metres away from the boutique hotel’s front door. That view is the only thing that has not changed about the newly transformed hotel, which has had the sort of first-class facelift that may well have inspired actress Zsa Zsa Gabor.

The late Hollywood starlet was one of many high-profile guests who sashayed through the front door of The Sebel when it opened its doors in 1963.

The Sebel Manly general manager hotel operations, Accor Vacation Club, Phil Reid, says Manly Beach is still “the place we all flock to when we’re showing visitors around our harbour city”. And now, with the glitzy makeover of The Sebel Manly, he says the hotel is finally doing those iconic seaside views justice.

The Sebel Manly

“Manly really is a unique place. There is this sense of old-fashioned community here combined with residents who have a high net worth and are therefore fiercely protective. They have this sense of ownership over the hotel and they have been very vocal from the get-go about how it should look,” Reid says.

Stand on the balcony of your hotel room on any given day and you will see Brazilian backpackers playing beach volleyball in skimpy bikinis, tourists scoffing fish and chips and gleaming Ferraris swerving around straggly-haired surfers hot-footing it into the surf.

The Sebel has long been a playground for the rich with Hollywood’s Golden Age star Bette Davis and superstar Elton John also finding safe harbour in the hotel, staking their claim to the idyllic coastal hideaway because the staff respected their privacy.

The Sebel Manly

The paint dried on the newly refurbished walls of The Sebel Manly on August 12. Since then, Reid says the boutique hotel has been fully booked. He says the quality of the design, fixtures and fittings and casual luxury of the hotel has, thankfully, also captured the hearts of local residents.

First impressions count

The heroes in the hotel refurbishment are undoubtedly the hotel foyer and forecourt of the pocket-sized property, which creative director at In Design International, Penny Del Castillo, says now serves as a stylish meeting spot for hotel guests. Although Del Castillo is now based in Melbourne, she spent a lot of time in Manly, which helped her understand the design brief provided by the hospitality brand.

“I have this giant storyboard in my head comprising of snapshots of my travels. I then translate those moments into a specific location, in this instance, the Northern Beaches. I was fortunate to have lived in Sydney for some time and spent plenty of weekends in Manly, so when I came onboard I was able to draw from that bank of knowledge about the architecture, lifestyle and surrounds,” she says.

Del Castillo took what was a really dysfunctional and dated relic and made numerous dynamic changes throughout. “The hotel had outdated Baltic pink granite tiles right throughout and a foyer that was not functional or appealing. Following the renovation, the hotel now looks serene, soulful, sophisticated, warm and inviting. It is a comfortable aesthetic,” she says.

While the hotel was once let down by its rooms, Del Castillo says it now flaunts its beachy vibes and colonial flourishes in a more stylish and subtle way.

“The first time I met Phil [Reid] he said, ‘Did I mention the hotel needs to be spec-tac-ular?’ I think we’ve achieved that in spades. I’m so proud of the hotel. From the moment you step into the foyer and forecourt, The Sebel has a resort-style feel, which amplifies that ambient check-in experience,” Del Castillo says.

Shape shifting

The stylish main entrance has a double-stepped octagonal coffered ceiling to the welcoming guest lounge, which features greenery and comfortable furniture, to the nine-piece pendant light installation designed to replicate bobbing sea life.

To deliver the transformation within budget – the 12-week renovation cost $2.6 million – Del Castillo left as many structural elements as practical. “Despite the fact The Sebel had been around for 35 years, it had good bones. It was well built so we could just focus on the upgrade,” Reid says.

The Sebel Manly

Each one of the ambitious new rooms is pared back with a coastal mix of chic tones and a sophisticated nautical palette and include an image of the iconic Sea Nymphs sculpture taken by photographer Ilya Genkin. Charcoal, soft whites, oak and midnight blues marry well with the warmth of timber, softness of carpet and upholsteries accented with hints and highlights in brass. There is also a dome-shaped mirror that references the retro bus shelters right outside the window.

The sparkling bathrooms are another step up for the 4.5-star hotel, featuring earthy floor walls and a stunning round mirror and washbasin, with wall hooks ideal for drying wetsuits and Biology Smart Skincare toiletries.

Although the rooms in The Sebel all come with a fully equipped kitchen with all Westinghouse appliances, Manly Wine Restaurant & Bar is on the same premises and can be accessed via two automated doors leading off the foyer.

(All images: The Sebel Manly / Damien Kook)

Published 26 November, 2019