Elton Group’s sustainably produced timber veneer creates a welcoming ‘home away from home’ for travellers at Next Hotel Melbourne that references the rich artisanal history of Collins Street.
November 16th, 2001
When the Next Hotel brand approached Woods Bagot to create a new flagship hotel as part of retail and dining precinct 80 Collins Street, they asked for a “modern business retreat”. It needed not only to meet the practical needs of travellers in terms of modern business and leisure amenities, but also be a welcoming space where guests wanted to relax and spend time – and warm, tactile finishes, such as Elton Group’s Eveneer timber veneer, are at the heart of this approach.
“We wanted to avoid a corporate, masculine fit-out and create little moments of joy,” reveals Bronwyn McColl, principal at Woods Bagot and leader of the Regional Hotel Sector. “I was travelling back and forth between Brisbane and Melbourne during the design phase, and it was interesting to draw on my own personal experiences of living in hotels. The thing I craved and missed most was those moments of home.”
The 255-room hotel has a layered material palette with a crafted touch that feels more domestic than commercial – think richly textured timber, ceramic, opulent textiles, and leather. While this kind of domestic softness was key, finishes also needed to be able to stand up to the harsh realities of a hospitality environment. “Hotels and restaurants are demanding commercial environments, are constantly cleaned and yet need to maintain their luxury appearance,” explains McColl. “So, it was about finding a beautiful duality of craftsmanship and durability.”
Focusing on this narrative, the Woods Bagot design team approached Elton Group to provide timber finishes to complement work from local ceramicists and artists, sumptuous rugs, and eclectic furnishings. The product used throughout is Eveneer by Elton Group, in the dark shades of Ravenna and Havana. The sustainably produced timber veneer offered consistency over the large expansive spaces, yet also the ability to create a finely detailed finish.
The timber veneer is also a nod to the “Paris end” of Melbourne’s famous Collins Street, which has long been a hub of creative activity, with couture ateliers, furniture makers, and pottery studios; and the past life of the site itself as a horse bazaar in the 1800s. “We wanted to bring wood into the project and celebrate local makers and craftsmanship,” says McColl. “That’s when we started to look at Elton Group. The Eveneer range has such a beautiful richness and depth to it, and it really helped to evoke that bygone era and celebrate the craftsmanship.”
The Elton Group’s Eveneer is part of the identity of the hotel from the moment of entrance. A narrow corridor, which echoes the city’s famous laneways, leads from Little Collins Street to a tiny “hole-in-the-wall” seven-seat cafe and concierge point on the ground floor. The diagonal form of the dark timber veneer panels references the geometric exterior panels of the façade at a smaller scale, and mirrors the use of Eveneer in the level-two reception and Club Lounge, creating a journey that draws guests into and through the hotel.
The use of Eveneer timber panelling continues on level-three at La Madonna, a day to night dining and drinking enclave. The timber veneer is complemented by solid timber joinery around the cocktail bar, referencing the history of the spirit Amaro and the process of barrel ageing. The detailed timberwork is also a nod to the tack walls that would have been found in the horse bazaar, and the fit-out of the high-end Collins Street boutiques in the 1950s heyday of the couture industry. “We could see all these beautiful synergies coming through,” says McColl. “The Elton Group products allowed us to create these beautiful moments.”
Eveneer also gave the design team peace of mind, with standard panel sizes and a high-end finish that ensured consistency throughout. This was particularly important as the project was delivered during lockdowns, and site inspections had to be done virtually.
“We went on a journey with Elton Group,” says McColl. “Once we had solidified what the narrative needed to be, they were able to talk us through what products would be best suited. It was lovely to have that partnership and explore different options.”
woodsbagot.com, eltongroup.com, nexthotelmelbourne.com
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