A professional resource for the design curious

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

Suite Spot: Sebel Pier One

At 101 years old this finger wharf in Sydney’s Walsh Bay has emerged from a painstaking facelift with brand new suites and a sleek new event space offering. Leanne Amodeo reports.

Suite Spot: Sebel Pier One


June 17th, 2013

With harbourside views to die for and a brief that called for ‘casual luxury’ the Sebel Pier One is surely an interior designer’s dream. Lucky then for Bates Smart’s Brenton Smith and SJB Interiors’ Jonathan Richards that both directors got the opportunity to work on the recent Sydney hotel refurbishment.

end of pier suite sebel pier one bathroom bates smart

Ensuite bathroom at the northern end of Pier One, Walsh Bay

For Smith what overwhelmingly informed Bates Smart’s design of the seven new suites across the second and third levels was the building’s existing structural elements. “We wanted to celebrate the inherent characteristics of the building so we pulled away as much plasterboard as we could to identify the parts that make it what it is in terms of a working pier,” he explains.

sebel pier one suites indesignlive bates smart

Bates Smart designed suites on the historic Pier One finger wharf.

suite timber exposed timber beams sebel pier one bates smart

Heritage exposed timber beams and vaulted ceilings

In referencing the rawness of the building’s historic Walsh Bay wharf location the exposed timber beams provides each suite’s fit out with its most resounding expression. Their weathered ‘crudeness’ is a wonderful accent in an otherwise restrained and elegant design.

sebel pier one suite balcony west facing

The unrivalled combination of postcard views and historic luxury accomodation

The modesty of the furnishings and finishes also lends an appropriately relaxed beachside aesthetic without appearing contrived. “It was certainly about being respectful of the architecture,” Smith says. “However we didn’t want to theme it to the point where they became overtly themed rooms.”

sebel pier one ensuite bates smart walsh bay

Ensuite with retracting walls to offer unhindered harbour views

This considered approach is also evident in SJB Interiors’ design for the ground floor function and events spaces. The Water @ Pier One and the Dawes Point Room fit outs feature exposed timber columns and steel trusses in a concept that discreetly responds to the building’s general context.

sebel pier one cocktail set up

Water @ Pier One in cocktail mode

“We were inspired by the harbour at night – glittering lights in an otherwise indigo blue/black abyss,” Richards explains. “So we wanted dark surfaces that shimmered in the light and the lighting to be small point sources rather than oversized chandeliers.”

water at sebel pier one

The Dawes Point Room

The resulting material palette includes polished black terrazzo floors, dark coloured paisley patterned carpet and black stained cedar wall panelling. It’s a clever colour scheme that not only reduces the glare from the harbour but also provides a surprisingly neutral backdrop for any given event.

water pier one block our blinds

Water @ Pier One in presentation mode with rapid block-out blinds

wedding mode pier one sebel

Water @ Pier One in wedding mode

As the flashiest element of the whole refurbishment the carpet brings a sense of vitality and movement to the vast ground floor facilities. But as Richards rather amusingly admits, it almost didn’t go ahead. “The client nearly vomited when I presented a heavily patterned paisley carpet!”

water at pier one bar entry

Bar and entry hall at Water @ Pier One event centre

Both Smith and Richards nailed the brief with their respective designs and the cohesion that exists between each of the fit outs is to be commended. That each of the interiors can also hold their own against the harbour’s natural beauty is quite the accomplishment.

private gantry balcony sebel pier one walsh bay

A historic elevated gantry once used to bridge the gap between pier and ship has been converted to this expansive private balcony

Bates Smart




Sebel Pier One



INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed