Canton chic

A host of world-class interior designers and restaurateurs have helped transform the InterContinental Hong Kong into a contemporary city hotel.

ANALYSIS, Design

The recent US$40+million redesign and refurbishment of the InterContinental Hong Kong has resulted in the hotel gathering global recognition at quite a pace. Earlier this year, Condé Nast Traveller magazine placed it on the Gold List of the Top Hotels in Asia.

Situated enviably on the Kowloon waterfront overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island, the 17-storey hotel has a sleek and contemporary design that permeates through every area.

A tour of the suite the hotel calls 'Asia's Most Spectacular Presidential Suite' and the design-led interiors of the renowned NOBU restaurant makes it easy to see why it deserves all the accolades.

NOBU

When NOBU opened in December 2006, its innovative cooking and oceanic-inspired design ensured a frenzy of attention ensued. Inspired by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa's memories of the Japanese countryside, the design process was directed by David Rockwell of the New York-based Rockwell Group, who has been responsible for the original NOBU in New York, and countless others scattered around the globe.

The design fuses traditional and modern Japanese elements and creatively utilises a vast amount of natural resources in the 432m² space.

The restaurant entrance is a wooden portal of stacked walnut timbers, with the walls and columns blanketed in tree bark-inspired etched bronze. The slatted wood leads to the bar, which boasts a surrounding of over 7,700 black river stones embedded into it. The 18.7ft bar is created from one Ficus tree that appears to float on glowing onyx. The tree was 155 years old when it was uprooted by Tropical Storm Prapiroon in August 2006. It stood approximately 25m high, the equivalent to eight storeys, and its diameter was 2m at its base. Every part of the tree was utilised in the design of NOBU, from the dense bar top and supports to the hostess station, and smaller branches were used in the sofa booths and wood panelling.

The backdrop to the bar is a graphic image of cherry blossoms by New York photographer/ visual arts artist, Michael Palladino. The image was then interpreted by Maya Romanoff with its signature use of iridescent glass geode beads in shades of magenta, lavender and aubergine. The image is split into large panels that both inject colour and reflect light back into the bar area.

The ceiling is the real talking point of the restaurant, as Rockwell has employed a radiant combination of aquatic and earthen tones of Venetian plaster (decorative stucco) layered by Silver Hill Atelier, a specialist in custom fine art murals and highly decorative finishes, and an unique use of discarded shells. Inspired by marine life and the movement of the ocean, over 450,000 'pencil' sea urchin shells provide a delicate rippling silhouette for the ceiling. Each sea urchin spine is hung individually from a hook connecting the spines directly to a wire mesh grid on the ceiling. It took 60 workers approximately 8,400 man-hours to assemble the spine design.

The terrazzo floor boasts a ripple effect that mirrors the ocean waves, while the walls echo the circular shape of bubbles, with custom-made bamboo embedded into black terrazzo. The open kitchen designed by Jimi Yui from Yui Design allows the flames to be visible from the wood-burning oven, and the scorched-ash sushi bar with a glowing onyx base maintains the feeling of warmth the kitchen design emits.

The entrance portal to the private dining area is wrapped in peen hammered bronze and the same Maya Romanoff cherry blossom panels adorn the walls. The custom-designed light fixtures are by Ted Abramczyk of New York and heavy lilac embroidered drapes allow diners to enjoy extra privacy if required. The attention to detail added to the creative combinations of aesthetic applications makes NOBU restaurant both a culinary and a design success.

The suite

In a bid to create one of the world's most talked-about presidential suites, the suites on floors 16 and 17 have been combined to create Hong Kong's largest presidential suite, at 7,000ft². Completed in late January 2006 at a cost of US$2.5 million, the transformation took 253 days and 76,120 man-hours.

The designer of the presidential suite and the refurbishment of all the rooms, Mr HL Lim of Lim Teo & Wilkes Designworks says: "When designing the InterContinental Hong Kong's Presidential Suite, the goal was to maximise the spectacular views from every room in the suite. We wanted to create a sense of spaciousness with a contemporary yet warm and inviting interior, with Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island as the backdrop."

The impressive vista provided much of the inspiration for the suite's layout with 693ft² double glazed window panels allowing panoramic skyline views from all the main living areas.

Approximately 160 tons of new materials were hoisted up to the suite, including Jerusalem Gold marble from Egypt, which was used for the flooring in the duplex living area, and the green African Butterfly marble from the quarries of Fujian Province in the Southern part of China used throughout the suite and in the master bathroom. Lim says: "The design in the marble is reminiscent of a Chinese painting with the look of brush strokes in the grain of the marble."

Walnut wood is used to inject warmth into the design, with walnut panels in the bedroom and walnut desk, side table and walls in the study. The artwork throughout was created by Chinese artists collated by the Beijing Long Mai Gallery, including the striking 'Nine Dragons' glass sculptures behind the desk in the study, which embraces the hotel's dependence on Feng Shui as the sculptures are designed to promote auspiciousness. Other adornments include the stunning hand-blown glass fruit bowl on the living room's coffee table, by New Zealand glass artists Ola Höglund and Marie Simberg-Höglund.

The soft furnishings include a red Damask accent fabric by Stroheim & Romann; sofa fabric by Lelievre, chair upholstery by Gretchen Bellinger and Jim Thompson silks for the cushions. The Roman sheer fabric curtains are by Swiss fabric giants Christian Fischbacher.

Selected lamps in the dining area and the study are by Holly Hunt in California and the lighting panel system is by German company Gira. Ensuring the suite is advanced in terms of technology as well as aesthetics, Lim opted for a 65" Sharp Aquos LCD Television, Bose entertainment systems, including iPod docking stations and a control panel by Lutron. Wireless Bang & Olufsen telephones are used throughout.

Lim has ensured the luxurious design details extend to the master suite too, cladding the ceiling and headboard in Edelman leather, while the feature walls have natural thatch products set in acrylic panels created by 3 Form in Utah, USA. Mother of pearl bedside tables and a console table adds a sense of decadence, although the height of opulence is reserved for the master bathroom, which has a remote control heated toilet with hygienic shower and dry functions from Toto in Japan. A Pharo Whirlpool Lugano 340 by Hansgrohe provided the large Jacuzzi and the Raindance showerhead, while the large overhead Rainsky was sourced from Dornbracht. A private steam room and sauna from Tylo of Sweden completes the 'virtual spa' experience.

The presidential suite costs approximately US$11,183 plus tax and service per night. It has been voted in the top ten 'most expensive hotel rooms in the world' by Forbes in 2006, and the list of quality suppliers and products makes the pricetag seem worth every cent.

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