Google ‘Langham Auckland’ or ‘Cordis Auckland’ images, or run a search on Instagram, and you’ll quickly discover just how much the iconic hotel’s visitors love the building’s chandeliers, which feature predominantly in many photos.
So when specialist design firm Space Studio were called on to refurbish the hotel as part of its rebrand from the Langham to Cordis – a new five-star brand of the Langham Hospitality Group – the Auckland company knew the chandeliers would be staying, even if the brief was for a contemporary look.
And stay they did.
Shane Jolly, Cordis Auckland Hotel Manager, says it’s a mark of the success of the refurbishment project that Space Studio managed to incorporate the old world charm and classical style of the chandeliers into a new, contemporary look and feel that fits with the Cordis brand.
“It is one of the real successes that they managed to keep something as olde worlde as the chandeliers, but change the carpet and fittings to make it fit perfectly within the design,” Jolly says.
The rebrand has seen the grand dame of Auckland’s hotel scene given a new lease of life, with Space Studio redesigning and refurbishing 411 guest rooms, including suites, along with the hotel’s reception and Lobby Lounge, the 10th floor Club Lounge and corridors.
A sense of fresh air
The Auckland property is the first Cordis branded hotel in the Pacific, and joins other Cordis hotels in operation in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. A number of other sites are also planned for the new brand which, in Latin, means ‘heart’. Each hotel or resort will be individual in style, architecture and design, reflecting the location and culture of each hotel’s location.
Jolly says Langham Hotel Group was looking for a refurbishment that articulated the change of brand and modernised the hotel, while not losing the elements and charm that visitors and locals valued about the Langham.
“While the Cordis brand carries a more contemporary aesthetic objective than Langham, we did not want to lose the connection with the classical elements in the hotel that have become landmarks in themselves for visitors and locals to the hotels,” Jolly says.
“There are also some areas of the hotel that do not form part of the works so we are ensuring that the relationship to those areas is carried through in the new spaces.”
Dave Sweatman, Space Studio Associate Designer, says the existing classic design was used as the starting point for the new design.
“As the Langham, it was really rich and opulent, and the brief was to lighten the space and freshen it, so we stripped back some of the detail, making it more contemporary, and used proportion to exaggerate height, taking classical proportions and altering them in a more contemporary direction.”
Space Studio also looked to New Zealand’s natural environment for inspiration.
“A lot of overseas visitors come to New Zealand for fresh air, so we picked up on the silver skies for the colour palette, along with a little of the sunset hues of soft pinks and teals, to provide a sense of fresh air and lightness,” Sweatman says.
The fresher finishes and improved lighting – with custom light fixtures – have been used to increase the light level throughout the refurbished areas.
Natural materials, including stone and fibres, feature prominently, with heirloom furniture and art in the hotel restored to provide an ongoing connection to the history of the hotel.
Local benefits in bespoke furnishing
Sweatman says one of the things he’s most proud of is the furniture, fixtures and detailing. The majority of the furniture was custom designed.
“It was a huge process to monitor the manufacturing and insure that the manufacturers interpretations of our drawings were what we wanted and that the level of detail was there – that the upholstery was perfect and the execution was doing the detail justice,” he says.
New Zealand companies were used for the manufacturing of all public area furniture, including a large star-shaped ottoman that is a key feature of the reception area, along with headboards in all the guest rooms.
Sweatman says the project has had a positive spin off for local providers, giving them a better understanding of the process and quality and execution required to meet the expectations of a five-star hotel.
Jolly says he’s particularly impressed with the sense of space achieved in the rooms.
“Space Studio managed to retain all the features you need to have in a room, but by taking out some of the larger furniture and replacing it with bespoke offerings, mounting TVs on the wall and so on, they’ve created rooms which feel a lot more airy, a lot lighter.
“It’s a mix of the colour palette and taking out the big chunky pieces of furniture and replacing them with more svelte designs,” Jolly says. “The way that has been achieved has been one of the best attributes of the overall finished result.”
Jolly says the refurbishment has also seen the addition of plenty of smart new features, including USB ports in the bedside power points, to provide greater guest convenience.
“The Space team are fantastic when it comes to those sorts of things. It’s stuff you and I might not think of, but they do, as good designers should,” Jolly says.
As well as smart additions to provide guests with the technology experience expected in this day and age, the refurbishment includes ergonomic placement of switches and outlets, and items for dual usage.
“Space think about where someone will sit in a room and what they’ll be doing and how much space they’ll need and things like whether it’s a working desk or a desk guests will also be using for eating room service meals,” Jolly says. “And they check it’s the right height and that the chair is right for the use – it might need to spin but guests also want to sit on it and relax, so you bring in a chair that provides dual usage.
“We didn’t have to think about these things, and it was the little surprises and delights they put forward that was great.”
Working around an operating hotel
The hotel remained in operation throughout the seven-month refurbishment, creating some challenges for those working on the refurbishment.
With no major restructuring such as moving of walls or fitting such as plumbing able to be done, Space Studio focused on ‘modular’ ways of changing spaces, putting an emphasis on furniture and detail, rather than wholesale change.
“We looked at a lot of things that could be made offsite and it does alter your design. You design everything so that it can come in on the back of a truck and pop into place quite quickly,” Sweatman says.
Working to ensure minimum disruption to guests was also key, with furniture, carpets and other building materials delivered – quietly – at night.
“They would fill the hotel at night with wood and supplies in the areas being worked on, and then in the morning trades would come in and work would go on, without disturbing our guests,” Jolly says.
Jolly says guests aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of the refurbishment.
“The staff are very happy,” he says.
Room attendants, in particular, have seen big benefits from the refresh. Where the old furniture was large and heavy, in keeping with the older, classic look of the Langham, the new furniture is lighter and easier to manoeuvre around. The TV and minibar cabinets are elevated on legs making them easy to vacuum under, while bedside tables are now easier to get around.
“Not having to move furniture around so much to get cleaning done is a huge benefit,” Jolly says.
“We’re all very proud of the refurbishment – from the sales team showing guests through to front desk welcoming guests, everyone is proud to show it off,” he says.
Jolly says that integrating the colours and design into new areas of the hotel will also be ‘very easy’.
“It’s a timeless design that’s going to age well and that, for us, is the ultimate success.”
About Space Studio
Space Studio, established in 2004, is a specialist design firm with a focus on design excellence and exceptional project delivery in hotels, lodges and resorts. Space Studio serves its clients by providing innovative, responsive and commercially viable designs using collaborative methodology, and by offering the people, resources and expertise to deliver complex national and international projects from concept to completion. Key projects include major hotels and retail and commercial premises in New Zealand, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Western Samoa, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Tahiti and the United Arab Emirates.
For more information please visit: https://www.spacestudio.co.nz/