BUILDING a hotel within a restored shop house is not a new industry practice in southeast Asia. And rightfully, hotels use the blend of “modernity and heritage charm” to their advantage, drawing visitors in by the lure of their peeling walls, hardwood flooring, and ornate embellishments.
But the historic New Majestic Hotel under The Unlisted Collection doesn’t solely rely on the charisma of its shop house façade; the space is completely redesigned to marry period furniture in the lobby with clean, white lines and raw, unfinished ceiling. It’s “heritage chic” with emphasis on the chic.
The hired design team came up with four room “ideologies”, each of which are wildly different to the other. I spent a night in the elusive Aqua Room, the room that uses a bathtub encased within glass doors as its star feature.
The tub sits in the middle of the room, and is the first thing you see as you enter, like a prized art installation. It’s only fair that you, like I did, spend most of your stay submerged in foam. Because it wouldn’t be fair to the Aqua Room if you didn’t. No it wouldn’t at all.
The loftier Attic Suite has a separate living area and ladder access to a queen bed. But just like the Aqua, the beds and other amenities are simply back-up features around the matching his-and-hers vintage cast iron bathtubs. Once again, emphasis on bath time.
For the alternative couple, the Mirror Room is a trippy patchwork of mirrors that start on the walls and ribbon up to the ceiling before returning to the bedhead. “Watch and be watched”, they say.
Meanwhile, the Hanging Bed Room has walls splashed with loud murals thoughtfully integrated with the layout of the room. All artworks are original pieces by notable Singaporean artists, some that include Lee Meiling, Safaruddin Abdul Hamid, Heleston Chew, and Tay Bee Aye.
As a bonus, there are also five design-concept rooms that give Singaporean personalities free rein to design their own rooms. The personalities employed for the project – a fashion designer and film director included – used influences like Zhang Yimou and David LaChapelle to draw inspiration.
Location wise, New Majestic Hotel has got it down to a tee. Situated in the heart of Chinatown and just two minutes from Outram Park MRT station, New Majestic manages to simultaneously embrace and isolate itself from the bustle of Singapore.
Directly next door is André, what’s largely considered to be the best restaurant in Singapore, and one of the best in the world. The entrance to the restaurant is narrow and inconspicuous, but all the better to add to the hotel’s mystery.
As it is, New Majestic Hotel is an indefinable beast in Singapore’s boutique hotel scene. There’s a reason it’s kept afloat all these years – not least because of its slightly mad obsession with bathtubs and mirrors.