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Review: The Art of the New Majestic Hotel, Singapore
Boutique hotels are increasingly sought by travellers these days, as they provide individual and often quirky hotel experiences. A higher-end boutique hotel in Singapore that has been very well-received is the New Majestic Hotel. I had the opportunity of taking a look round the hotel recently, and I must say I was impressed.
It is so easy for a concept or themed hotel to overdo it, and seem pretentiously ethnic, or self-conciously modern. However, the overall impression I got from the New Majestic was a sophisticated blend of old and new that authentically represents the point of view and taste of a well-travelled person who loves the aesthetics of both east and west. I suspect that this is in no small part due to the hands-on involvement of its owner, lawyer-turned-hotelier Loh Lik Peng, known for his success with his first boutique hotel, Hotel 1929, and his penchant for collectible chairs.
New Majestic Hotel: At A Glance
- Boutique hotel with a funky feel, located in Singapore's Chinatown; opened in early 2006
- 30 rooms, each with a unique art installation (mural) by up-and-coming Singaporean artists.
- Branded conveniences such as Ploh bedding, Kiehl toiletries, Bose stereos and iPod docking stations, as well as LCD TVs and Wifi.
- Great for singles and couples with a love for modern and pop art; not so suitable for children.
- Also not for people whose sole purpose in Singapore is to indulge in a shopping spree (it is a ten-minute taxi ride. or fifteen to twenty minutes by train, to Orchard Road)
- Made Conde Nast Traveller Hot List of new hotels, 2006.
Just a block away from commuter train (MRT) station, a huge plus in Singapore where the train system is great!
New Majestic Hotel
31-37 Bukit Pasoh Road
What's so special about the New Majestic
One of the major attractions of the hotel is undoubtedly the fact that its rooms and facilities are carved out of four handsome three-storey Art Deco shophouses built in 1928, in an area notorious for being the place where wealthy Chinese businessmen housed their mistresses. Many older Singaporeans will also remember the very famous Chinese restaurant which used to be there.
Staying there, you are right at the edge of Chinatown, one of the more fascinating places to visit in Singapore. You will see shophouses where sedate businesses thrive during the day, and more risque establishments liven up the evenings. In recent years, quite a few hip restaurants and cafes have also opened up in conservation shophouses in the area, yet traditional stalls selling local favourites still do a brisk business. All in all, you will find an eclectic mix of businesses in this area.
Apart from the locale, the best feature of the hotel is undoubtedly its rooms, each different from the other, each featuring art or design created specifically for that particular room by Singaporean artists and creatives.
The room I got to check out...
Art integrated into the room
As I mentioned in the previous section, each room in the hotel is different, and has a different name which is displayed beside each door (Seems quite a few of the guests wander the corridors checking out the names and artists, with a view to requesting specific rooms the next time they stay at the hotel).
On my visit, the group I was with was shown a Premier Garden Room on the 2nd floor, named "one day I floated away", with a wall mural by Safaruddin Abdul Hamid (aka Dyn).
You get to the room either by lift (check out the bluish lighting in the lift, reminds me of the kind you find in clubs), or by walking up the staircase from the lobby. Either way, you approach the room via narrow corridors, passing the gym and the pool. If you had taken the lift, you would also have been greeted with a row of old cinema seats. Very nice!
The room itself is dominated by the stunning red-hued mural (see pictures). When I browsed the net, I realised that this is not one of the rooms that is often mentioned as a highlight of the hotel, but I loved it. It succeeds in being bold and charming at the same time. An interesting tidbit about the artwork: the cat is apparently a favourite motif of the artist, Dyn.
Looking around, it is obvious that the room is a study in great small space design. The desk, "wardrobe" and bar fridge run along one wall; with the shower and sink areas against the other wall. One wall has the mural, of course, integrated as the bed head to a very comfortable-looking bed. The fourth side gives you access to a small patio, an open-air area complete with one of the hotel's signature claw-footed cast-iron bath tubs, also painted red. This outdoor area is spacious, relaxing -- worth paying extra for, even if you never get round to using the bath.
What I like about the room proper is that it is comfortably modern, with high-quality furniture and fittings. No creaky beds, or leaky faucets here. And they have this great LCD TV right at the foot of the bed (something that would definitely tempt me to spend the whole day in bed!). If you are looking for a sense of spaciousness, though, you will not find it at the New Majestic. Here, everything is compact and cosy.
Some of the other rooms...
Apart from Safaruddin Abdul Hamid (aka Dyn) mentioned above, we find works by Andre Tan, Justin Lee, Lee Meiling, Heleston Chew, Tay Bee Aye, Miguel Chew, Kng Mian Tze and Sandra Lee. Their site-specific works for the New Majestic reflect something of what is happening on the contemporary art scene in Singapore.
From all that I have read, the most controversial rooms are those designed by Justin Lee ("Samsui Woman", "Da Jie", "Flag"). His designs are social comments expressed through his adaptation of iconic images as décor motifs.
Another idea implemented in the New Majestic is the handing over of five rooms to be designed by five of Singapore's most prominent creative talents, drawn from the fields of interior and graphic design, fashion and film production. The result? Rooms that reflect the taste, interests and personalities of their creators.
- "Wayang" (Glenn Goei, filmmaker) Inspired by Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern, this room is an Asian boudoir complete with crimson walls, polished lacquer furniture, burgundy upholstery, and large red lanterns.
- "Pussy Parlour" (Daniel Boey, fashion show producer) Neon lights, a brass four poster bed, mirrors, as well as fuschia crinkled linens and out-size French chandeliers give this room a naughty, sexy feel.
- "Fluid" (Wykidd Song, fashion designer) Minimalist in approach, this room is created out of space, swirls and simplicity.
- "Work" (Theseus Chan, graphic designer) A room designed out of lots of playwood, it is supposed to redefine 'living in a box'.
- "Untitled" (Patrick Chia, furniture designer) Designed to be a celebration of modern European design, with the prominent use of cement in the design.
There are essentially four room designs, each conceptualised to integrate well with the architecture of the hotel.
- Aquarium Room These rooms feature see-through "aquarium" bathrooms as the focal point of the room. Upon entering the room, the glass-encased bath area offers a visual window through to the sleeping space, balcony and beyond.
- Hanging Bedroom The bed is an inversion of the traditional four-poster -- it appears suspended by poles from the ceiling.
- Loft Room This room is split into two levels, with the bed accessible by a steep, narrow staircase.
- Mirror Room Well, this is self-explanatory, isn't it? Rooms with floor-to-ceiling mirrors.
I like to be pampered, so I appreciate the care taken in the selection of conveniences available with the room:
- contemporary furniture and fittings
- toiletries from Kiehl's
- bedding from Ploh
- LCD TV, iPod dock, Bose CD/Radio
- Free Wifi
- complimentary soft drinks
Understanding the different room types
- Premier Pool Room Murals span entire walls, forming the bed head behind the 'hanging bed'.
- Premier Garden Room Similar to the Premier Pool except for an additional area -- an outdoor garden area with a bathtub.
- Aqua Room Upon entering this room, the glass bathtub "aquarium" is a visual window to the sleeping space, balcony and views beyond.
- Junior Lifestyle Room These are mini-lofts, which separates the living area and the sleeping space in a compact space.
- Lifestyle Room These are the five rooms personalised by top creative individuals
- Attic Suite The Attic Suite boasts six-metre ceilings, sprawling loft beds and twin baths set in front of striking contemporary murals.
TIP: The New Majestic's online reservation site for the hotel offers excellent descriptions and pictures of the various types of rooms.
Retro modern lobby
The 'Hole' Scoop on The PoolClick thumbnail to view full-size
Most writers would probably have started with this, but the rooms are so interesting that I could not resist writing about them first.
Of course, I should mention the lobby, not least because it has quite a few interesting features. Care has been taken to incorporate heritage elements into the lobby, creating a kind of, though I hesitate to use the term -- it is so overused these days -- retro chic. As you enter, look up and you will see the exposed-concrete ceiling from the original 1928 structure.
What I did not like was the fact that, probably in trying to keep to the theme, the area is non-airconditioned, cooled only by restored vintage Compton fans. On a humid day like the one on which we went, the lobby is a bit too warm for comfort, in my opinion at least. At the back of the lobby, there is a curved staircase, inspired by the traditional shophouse external staircases.
Furnishings are modern eclectic, a mix of the owner's collectible chairs (dentists' chairs, iconic Hans Wegner and Verner Panton chairs, etc.), old lights used in film production, a brightly painted trishaw, and a modern art installation beside the staircase.
Another feature which must be mentioned is the pool. Not a large pool if you are a keen swimmer, but you should find it pleasant for leisurely laps. The major feature of the pool are the three glass portholes at the bottom which act as skylights to the restaurant below. That also means you can check out the diners, and vice versa.
Also at the hotel
This restaurant is helmed by award-winning chef Yong Bing Ngen. It serves modern Cantonese cuisine with western dining flair. Apparently, it boasts a 2000- bottle wine cellar. I have not actually been there myself, but the restaurant has garnered lots of good reviews. A definite must-try if you do not mind paying fine dining prices.
With its wood-stained interiors, stained glass ceiling, and old clocks turned into display cases on the walls, this bar is rather charming. Even more charming? Its dirty lychee martini which I got the opportunity to try.