The Warehouse Hotel

Regina Winkle-Bryan • Photography courtesy of the Warehouse Hotel • May 9, 2017

Photos: The Warehouse Hotel

In 1895, when Singapore was established as a tax-free haven by the British government, its nascent roots as a global city began to form. Warehouses along the Singapore River stocked with fragrant spices were stop-off points on the Straits of Malacca trade route, and set in an area of intrigue, where secret societies, underground activity, and liquor distilleries were rampant. The new Warehouse Hotel, a renovated centennial spice depot featuring 37 rooms nestled under a striking triple-pitched roof, embraces this past while blazing a trail to the future.

To transform the faded building into a striking riverfront address, the debut hotel from local F&B specialists Lo + Behold Group, homework was a must. “The first thing we did was dig through the archives to understand the building’s history, which had three phases: it was first a spice godown [or warehouse], then an illegal distillery, and finally it was converted to a disco in the 1980s,” explains Chris Lee, founder and designer at locally based Asylum Creative, who was responsible for the makeover. “We wanted to keep the integrity of the original building, so a lot of the materials we used echo the past.”

Existing exposed brick frames the hotel’s entrance, where six windows allow natural light to flutter in. Inside, Lee opted for a shotgun-style open layout in the lobby, a vast area framed in three rows of squares done in a white cement finish and uplit—inspired by the Brutalist architecture in vintage futuristic films like Metropolis and Blade Runner—anchored by gray tile floors, and broken up by rows of leather sofas in milk-chocolate hues. Along one wall, a line of chairs fronts an illuminated bar topped in black quartz and fronted in varying shades of green terrazzo and marble, while a simple black reception desk of wood veneer and split leather sits nearby, backed by a copper screen. Aluminum pulleys suspend above, a dramatic installation that also draws the eye up to admire the building’s high ceilings with exposed metal beams, while one of the building’s original towering black gates punctuates one end of the space.

“The building had a great history, but I wanted to leapfrog in time to cast a futuristic projection on the space,” explains Lee. “We also added some old-school glamour to create a cozy and comfortable environment.”

Guestrooms are imbued with light and double-height ceilings, complemented by muted tones for a look that is calm yet urban. Engineered oak covers the floors, while black, silver, and gray bespoke rugs woven in India and headboards padded in fabric soothe hard angles and finishes, such as wood veneer and locally sourced granite. Mirroring the layout in the hotel’s communal areas, guest bathrooms are open: sinks are set in copper metal frames inset with dark stained walnut near desks or adjacent to closets housed in the same exposed system, and showers and toilets are partitioned away behind acrylic doors. “We wanted the rooms to be very comfortable and a familiar space,” says Lee. “[Throughout the hotel] some of the elements still reflect the industrial nature of a warehouse, but we also used materials like leather and green marble to add a layer of luxe to the space.”

The hotel’s rooftop infinity pool affords heady views of the river and the contemporary skyscrapers that rise up beside it, becoming a favorite watering hole for visitors and locals alike, partly thanks to the hotel’s central location, says Lee. “It enjoys all the charms of being on the fringe of Robertson Quay—a lot of bars and restaurants line up along the river, and nearby areas, such as Tiong Bahru and Club Street, have a lot to offer culturally as well.”