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Woods Bagot’s Ovolo The Valley is anything but boring

Here’s a hotel that puts you at the centre of its live theatre. Ovolo The Valley appeals to the independent, spirited traveller seeking a little more customised curation from their hotel stay

  • Ovolo The Valley by Woods Bagot.

Iconic late artist David Bowie once said: “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” Bowie may have enjoyed a trip to Ovolo The Valley. The boutique hotel opened in November 2018 and radiates with glorious personality. With multilayered, sensory interiors designed by Woods Bagot, Ovolo The Valley warmly welcomes guests offering them a surprising and artful journey, inspired by its location.

Historically, Fortitude Valley is one of Brisbane’s most vibrant cultural hubs, revered for its alternative nightlife and diverse entertainment options. Development has boomed in the past decade, attaining the locale a heightened level of elegance, while still vibrating with its undeniable edge.

“Ovolo is an agile brand, unconstrained by traditional standards; each hotel very much has its own personality and style,” explains Eva Sue, Woods Bagot principal and project lead. “The company’s brand ethos celebrates fashion, art and music, and embraces the uniqueness of each hotel’s locale.” When Sue and her team were tasked with refurbishing what had previously been The Emporium hotel, it was an inspiring opportunity to write a bright new chapter in the hotel’s story. Sue was briefed to experiment and play, while simultaneously embedding all of Ovolo’s values into a sophisticated interior design concept.

“The design celebrates Fortitude Valley’s dualities – the rich colours of the streets and laneways, its social and cultural diversity. It also provides a counterpoint to that urban realm by creating whimsical and immersive moments within. Ovolo The Valley provides an unexpected oasis for guests,” Sue explains. The refurbishment includes 101 guest rooms and suites, two ‘rock star’ suites that pay homage to David Bowie – a master of reinvention, the lobby and reception area, lift lobbies, corridors, boardroom and a rooftop pool.

When guests transition from outside into the hotel, the lobby is intentionally like a continuation of the urban realm, with its bold artworks, and sumptuous sofa beckoning guests to sink in. Surrounding velvet-covered stools hint at the relaxed social atmosphere. Layered and contrasting materiality frames the communal space, reflecting the multi-faceted nature of Fortitude Valley, and the personalities of those who journey through it.

The highly visual and tactile qualities of the lobby are a striking demonstration of the project’s commitment to Ovolo’s ethos. Despite the rich visual approach, Woods Bagot was constrained by budget and timeframe, and had to be resourceful. In the suites, bedheads, writing desks and luggage consoles feature bespoke joinery that plays with scale, colour and form. “We created modular designs that fit across all the different room typologies. It was a smart balance between buildability, beautiful detailing and the finish itself,” Sue describes. Suites also feature bespoke wallpapers referencing Australian flora by textile artist, Liz Casella.

The design team worked with art consultant Kathleen Wilson to ensure original pieces by local artists were featured throughout the guestrooms, lobby and communal areas, enriching the guest experience by urging a deeper interaction within the space. As guests move into the ground floor lift lobby, for example, a colourful gorilla sculpture peeks out from a separate nook, inviting closer inspection.

All Ovolo hotels offer two signature rock star suites and for The Valley, Sue and her team felt that honouring David Bowie would capture guests’ imaginations: “He is undoubtedly one of the most inspirational cross-disciplinary artists of recent times and we thought that had nice synergies with the overarching concept of The Valley. The rock star suites offer playful yet sophisticated experiences that take the Ovolo guest by surprise. Each has 1970s-inspired velvet lounges and a gold bar for those who dare!” This is certainly a hotel where uniqueness is celebrated, and personality prevails.

Photography by Dion Robeson. Art curation by Kathleen Wilson.

Want know what products, finishes and fixtures were specified in this project? Read the Dissections here.

Lobby artwork: Gregory Hodge, Dancer, 2015, Acrylic on Paper mounted on PVC.


Artwork in one of the ‘Rockstar’ suites: Daniel R. Watkins, Fad Diet (photo by Max Doyle), 2018, Oil and Graphite on Linen.


Artwork: Barbara Kitallides, Jungle Series, 2018.

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