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HOTEL DEBRETT, AUCKLAND
Saturday 07 Jan 2012
Hotel DeBrett began life in 1841 as Auckland's first hotel, The Commercial Hotel. In 1959 it was extensively refurbished by Dominion Breweries and renamed Hotel DeBrett. It was given a facelift in the eighties before eventually becoming a backpackers, before becoming derelict then closing completely in the early nineties.
The present owners Michelle Deery and John Courtney bought the hotel with the aim of turning it into a boutique hotel with retail stores remaining on the ground floor.
It was very important to the owners to retain and build on the character and eclecticism that DeBrett had developed since its construction and to recycle and feature some of the hotel's existing materials. This was borne out of their long-term investment vision, their understanding and preference for owning historic buildings and their passion for architectural quality, retail and guest comfort. They also brought an in-depth understanding of the needs of frequent high-end international travellers as well as an innate sense of style through previous experience in the fashion and art fields. Their brief was to achieve the ambience and elegant comfort of a stately English country home.
Idea and Solution
To complete this project, the services of three Auckland design practices were needed. The interior public spaces (atrium and restaurant) and the exterior treatment and lighting were designed by Gascoigne Associates Ltd, who also consulted on the retail spaces and services. Mitchinson Simiona Limited completed the new façade design, general architectural and structural works and Martin Hughes Design designed the guest suites and library. Clients Michelle Deery and John Courtney were heavily involved in the design process including choice of furniture and fittings.
Buildability issues had to be researched to ensure products were fit for purpose, and some furniture items designed and manufactured as site-specific elements. Operational requirements were questioned and ratified to ensure a seamless approach to the total guest experience, from arrival on the pavement to ensuring good night's sleep.
To retain and build on the eclecticism that DeBrett's had developed over its many changes in its 150 year history, Gascoigne Associates combined elements of the neo-classic exterior, art deco foyer and bar with modernist touches. The glassed roof was created by combining two existing light-wells and removing part of the roof of what was once Delmonico's restaurant. The walls feature exposed original finishes and balcony detailing replicating the hotel's exterior prior to the 1959 refurbishment. Both the atrium and dining room feature recycled copper, salvaged from various hot water cylinders and waterproofing membranes. These have been re-used as light fittings and a water feature. Recycled glass lampshades were also re-used after having nearly 50 years of nicotine scraped away. A new fireplace was formed at the base of an existing chimney and modern lighting, sound system, air conditioning and fire safety measures were added.
The retail tenancies remain largely unchanged due to standing leases, but sprinklers, common signage and a more cohesive shopfront treatment were added. The existing exterior was stripped back, painted a single colour and lit to emphasise the building's existing architectural features.
The guestrooms were designed as suites, with separate spaces wherever possible for entertaining, sleeping and bathing. The bathrooms were also broken into separate modules, allowing privacy to the toilets, showers and bath areas. No two rooms are the same, be it in layout or the selection of finishes, as a true reflection of the individual boutique nature of the property. The furnishings were individually selected and collected, with contemporary pieces, fifties styling and art deco elements. A New Zealand flavour was retained in the artefacts and artwork chosen.
Corridors were treated with a colourful carpet (designed by Michelle) set against warm white walls and ceilings, providing a fresh approach to the circulation areas. These feature Art Deco inspired wall lights in opal glass and chrome.
Flexibility was required to ensure the hotel could meet a variety of uses and events. The restaurant and atrium lobby were treated as individual spaces, but they can flow together depending on the type and size of function being hosted.
Copper panels teamed with a variety of timbers and metallic surfaces were used to create a "lived in", and welcoming effect. A rich Portuguese stone tile was teamed with a strongly grained timber floor. This helps to visually soften the spaces and compliment the more modernist glass and steel finishes in the new atrium. This combination of styles and finishes has helped to create an inviting and unique new hotel on the Auckland hospitality scene.
The hotel has been very well reviewed and received by the public. It has received a number of architectural and interior design awards. The restaurant also continues to win awards while the atrium regularly hosts Auckland's most chic events. The hotel is often fully occupied, with many guests returning regularly to make hotel DeBrett their Auckland home away from home.
Studio Gascoigne Limited