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Is This Australia’s Most ‘Fashion-Forward’ Hotel?

A former cinema in the old fashion district of Melbourne has been given a new lease of life as a luxurious, boutique hotel where the old and elegant fuses with industrial-chic to stunning effect.

One of the biggest challenges with designing a hotel’s interiors is finding furniture that suits that particular building’s character, location and clientele. But when Nic Graham of Nic Graham & Associates was commissioned to design the communal areas for the QT Hotels in Sydney, Canberra, Gold Coast and, most recently, Melbourne, the process was slightly different. For, as a furniture designer as well as an interior designer, Nic was able to create his own furniture.

To do so he collaborated with furniture manufacturer Stellar Works, which is distributed in Australia through Living Edge. Just like the QT hotels, Stellar Works’ furniture is characterised by an exquisite mix of traditional and modern design elements and Chairman Yuichiro Hori says that the company was established as a way of bringing different ideas together: Heritage and modernity, craft and industry and East and West. “Our aim was to inspire a renaissance in Asian aesthetics, taking the form, styles and motifs that have characterised Japanese design across the centuries and filtering them through the lens of the European traditions to create something new and timeless,” he explains.

Nic has created a bespoke range of furniture for all the QT Hotels and the recent Melbourne addition offers a seamless expansion of this range. Drawing out retro details with a light touch, whilst allowing natural materials and traditional craftsmanship to take centre stage, the QT collection is a modern day tribute to the mid-century movement and cleverly communicates quality without compromising its casual appeal. QT and its slender, contoured counterpart Chillax make warm, welcoming additions to any contemporary interior – embodying the laidback spirit of modern Australian life with a wink to the pragmatism of mid-century Scandinavian design.

“When I am designing the furniture, I always try to think about how I am going to extend that QT collection for Stellar Works and Living Edge,” says Nic. “I get excited about some of the new ideas that we are bringing together and for QT Melbourne, the collection has a vintage wink to it. You can see this in the details and the comfortable, unusual shapes. There is also a common theme with the framework on legs and arm detailing – in particular stud details and the metal work behind.”

When Nic is working on a hotel project he likes to explore the background of the local area for inspiration. Thus, in Melbourne it was all about fashion as the QT is located in the old fashion precinct. “I also gleaned some background from street stories in Melbourne, so laneways, graffiti and also being at the Paris end of Collins Street. So we’ve incorporated a little bit of a Parisian story as well,” he adds.

Nic also recalls how there were a couple of chairs in his office that they had reclaimed from a different project, which were perfect in style for the QT Melbourne but not in colour. So he found some street artists in Sydney and asked them to paint Parisian women on to the chairs in a style that expressed the sexiness of the QT brand. “The idea was that guests could sit in a chair and have a selfie or what not but, at the end of the day, it was about adding another piece of art – another discussion piece in the hotel,” he explains.

There are certainly plenty of conversation pieces in the QT Melbourne. Everywhere you turn there is something interesting or unusual to look at – inspired pieces in every corner! One of the biggest talking points is a wall covered with vintage trays scoured from op shops. Mirrors were specially made to put in each tray but the trays themselves are a nod to the French service of Pascale – the hotel’s fine dining, in-house restaurant. “It was a way of filling a void on a large wall but the reactions that people have when they look at the trays and see the little embellishments and engravings is quite special,” says Nic. “They are all the sorts of things that our nannas used to have and serve sherry on Christmas Day on a sideboard. I really enjoy adding touches like that.”

Out of the Stellar Works pieces he designed for this project, Nic’s favourite items are the high backed chairs, which add that extra bit of luxury and privacy for guests. In fact, how guests like to behave in a hotel had a large impact on how Nic both designed and positioned the furniture. As he explains, hotel guests often like to get away and be quiet but they get tired of sitting alone in a room; they want to be part of the action or people-watch whilst still retaining a sense of privacy. Thus, chairs need to be designed and arranged to facilitate this, with high backs for privacy in and around the ears, as well as some low, comfortable seating for socialising.

All the QT Hotels are very much about local culture, whether that be fashion, music, film or art; not just in the décor but through supporting local community by using Australian designed lighting, artwork and home wares. However, the hotels are also very much about finding a sense of humour in the area’s history and not being afraid to have a flirtatiousness or sexiness to them. And it is these features, along with the fusion of vintage and new, and the stunning Stellar Works pieces that ties the QT hotels together. So, whichever of the four hotels you visit, the décor will be wonderfully characterful with interesting quirks at every turn, yet always defined by the highest quality and luxury.

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