Designed by eco.id architects, Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong pays tribute to the rich Peranakan heritage.
As one of the youngest brands of the InterContinental Hotels Group, Hotel Indigo is being promoted as “the industry’s first branded boutique hotel experience”. Each Hotel Indigo property weaves its immediate neighbourhood story into its design DNA to reflect the local food, art and culture that can be found within the immediate area, which is why no two hotels are alike.
Its latest property, Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong, designed by eco.id architects, follows the same concept and is largely inspired by the vibrant Peranakan culture, which has significantly shaped Katong’s past and present.
Peranakans, also known as Straits Chinese, are early Chinese migrants who blended the Chinese way of life with South-east Asian and Western customs in the Malay Peninsula.
“Everything about the Peranakans is colourful,” says Carol Chng, director of eco.id architects. “From the architecture, home decoration, traditional dress, ceramics and even down to their traditional desserts, Peranakans are very sociable and hospitable, so we want guests visiting and staying at this hotel to feel like they are being invited into a Peranakan home.
“Like entering a secret garden, the experience starts at the entrance to the hotel, and continues through the doorway within a vertical garden wall to reveal our Peranakan home.”
Intentionally discreet, the doorway offers no immediate view of the hotel interior from the street, creating a warm and intimate space within the hotel for guests and residents to mingle.
Chng tells designMENA that authentic elements of Peranakan culture are brought to life in a collage on the rear reception wall. These include: the classic combination of white and blue designs featured on China porcelain vases; the candy-coloured floral design of Peranakan ceramics; the purple batik prints (a wax-dyed fabric), inspired by the traditional Nonyas’ ladies and kebayas (a traditional blouse and sarong with lace embroidery); and the intricate lattice design of timber privacy screens.
To further compose an authentic, inviting atmosphere, the design team used the motifs commonly found on beautiful Peranakan ceramic tiles for the flooring and ceilings.
“Within every traditional Peranakan home stood one or more large jars that held functional, yet decorative roles. With majestic dragon motifs adorning its clay structure, the jars contained water, preserved food such as century eggs, or were used as planter pots for herbs and spices,” explains Chng.
To preserve a resemblance of the Peranakan way of life, large jars are stacked to form vertical columns as an installation in the lift lobby – a refreshingly local design twist. The lift indicators are presented in the form of wall lanterns, which traditionally adorned the doorways of Peranakan homes.
The Pavilion is Hotel Indigo Singapore Katong’s living room.
“The Peranakans are hospitable people, and the concept of the Pavilion is generated by that,” adds Chng. “A glass-walled courtyard, the open-plan space is decorated with an eclectic mix of furniture inspired by crocheted doilies and quilted mats that Peranakan grandmothers used to carefully craft with fine details. At the centre, a cluster of pendant lamps collected from the neighbourhood hang above a large communal table. A selection of local games made popular in the past can be played here, such as ‘Five Stones’, inviting guests to explore childhood memories shared across generations in the Katong neighbourhood.”
The other feature of the Pavilion is the refreshment counter, inspired by street stalls affectionately referred to as ‘Mama’ stalls by locals.
The team also created the “Me” space, a private area in the Pavilion partitioned by standing folding screens. The screens and high-backed chairs contribute to the aesthetics of the room and provide guests with a comfortable area to relax.
Commenting on her favourite design features, Chng says: “We really had fun designing the hotel interior as we tapped into our own childhood memories and gave them a modern twist. One of the most satisfying rewards was to hear locals recognising the abstracted elements and reminiscing. If I have to name the favourite design feature it will be the stacked dragon pots installation at the reception lift lobby and the dragon motif bathtubs in the guestrooms. Both are inspired by the clay dragon urn that almost every Peranakan household used to have.”
One of the challenges for Chng was incorporating so many different features and elements of the design, which are not standard items bought off the shelf.
“These had to be custom made, and initially the client had reservations as there were no precedents. Fortunately, things turned out nicely,” she says.
Baba Chews all-day dining restaurant occupies part of a conservation building built in the colonial era of Singapore. Delivering a nice contrast from the old to the new, the former Joo Chiat police station, built in 1928, has been a rich source of neighbourhood stories and lent a special note in influencing the design of the hotel’s bar and eatery.
“The interior of Baba Chews highlights a balance of inspiration from colonial and Peranakan influences,” she says. “Colonial influences are made noticeable by the use of black and white tiles at the centre counter, ceiling panels and cornice, skirting details and leather tufted sofas. Peranakan influences can be seen on the colourful seat upholstery, mosaic peony artwork and the design of the pantry cabinet.”
The activity zoning of the guestrooms mirrors the layout of traditional Peranakan homes, which are longer and narrower in design, revealing different areas as guests move through the space. Privacy ensues as one steps deeper into a Peranakan house; the living area of the room is presented first, followed by the sleeping area and finally the bathing area.
With minibar armoires made to resemble traditional display cabinets, carom game boards used as coffee table tops, sofas structured like cane furniture and rugs constructed in a beautiful patchwork design, the guestrooms further amplify the charm and colours of surrounding neighbourhoods.
Other notable features include the custom-made freestanding circular bathtub, decked in a dragon motif, enamel basin bowl and Singer sewing machine legs supporting the vanity counter.
Chng comments: “An authentic local experience is enhanced by the central feature of the guestroom, the wall mural. Local artist and illustrator Don Low created the pieces to reflect a typical scene in the streets of Katong, telling the story of the food, art and culture that both shaped the neighbourhood and continues to be a central part of its modern-day character.”
Eco.id architects and design is headquartered in Singapore and has offices in Bangkok and Shanghai. Some of its flagship projects include W Retreat and Spa, Maldives, Conrad Koh Samui Resort and Spa and The Stones Hotel – Legian in Bali.
“As architects, we conceptualise an idea to provide an identity through design – due to this creative architectural origin, 70% of our portfolio includes interior design services on top of the architectural design,” she says.
Chng shares her thoughts on the main trends she anticipates in hospitality design and explains that today’s travellers no longer just want a bedroom with a good shower but are looking for a connection to the locality of their destination.
She says: “The way we approach hotel design is to ensure that each product is unique in response to the brand, the targeted guests, the locality in terms of culture and geography. A personal touch may just make the guest return.”