Storied design a wonder for Wellington hotel - Spaces NZ
Storied design a wonder for Wellington hotel

Storied design a wonder for Wellington hotel

Big ideas and a touch of whimsy means magical interiors for guests to get lost in, in this refurbishment of a landmark Wellington hotel.

Words by Cassie Doherty

Naumi Studio Hotel Wellington is a destination. And thanks to inspired design by Material Creative, it’s also a journey in itself.

“We’ve got a good relationship with the client,” says Toni Brandso, who founded interior design studio Material Creative alongside Liv Patience. “This is the third project we’ve done for Naumi Hotels so we really knew their design style and how they worked.”

The hotel group has a strong identity including experiential design and philanthropic programmes.

Toni says one particular brand concept is the Naumi lady. “So we decided to create a narrative around her being this literary bohemian and custodian of the hotel, who fits in with Wellington’s Cuba Street landscape. She's kind of eclectic and has a seafaring husband. They collect treasures from all over the world and it’s curated in this wunderkammer of a hotel.”

The idea was to go all out: maximalist but not chaotic. And the site itself was an inspiration.

“We wanted to pay homage to the Edwardian building, and also the golden, romantic age that it was derived from. So really making the most of the existing ornate moldings, and using dark deep colors that stemmed from that era.”

The Naumi Studio Hotel Wellington on Cuba Street occupies an Edwardian building, an era that was the inspiration for the storybook interiors by Material Creative.
Material Creative weaves a tale from the moment guests step into reception, with rugs based on artwork by Karl Maughan by Designer Rugs. The floral and gold leaf wall mural was created by Haley Brown of The Art Dept and the photograph is by Ross Brown.
“There were already arches in all the doorways in the building, so we replicated them throughout to tie that through,” says Material Creative’s Toni Brandso. The flower lights and the oversize sculpture were created by Angus Muir Design.

In the first of two stages, Material Creative has designed guest rooms, the restaurant and bar, and public areas such as a reception, lobby and parlour.

The story begins as soon as you set foot on the carpet in the reception: it’s woven with the bold florals of a painting by New Zealand artist Karl Maughan. “It’s like an Edwardian garden that flows into the rest of the space,” says Toni.

In the adjacent lobby, a large Angus Muir floral sculpture continues that theme. “It's very wild – oversize flowers just hanging over you as you sit at that little banquette seat.”

The parlour joins the reception and lobby with the lounge bar.

“I had just been to Paris, and stayed at a hotel that had this beautiful indoor courtyard where guests waited before they went to their rooms, or to meet up with friends. And it seemed such a lovely idea to have an Edwardian reception room. We designed it to be a light and bright departure from the other deep, moody spaces.”

The fresh look of the parlour. Covid-19 caused product supply issues, which meant much tweaking to the mix of colours and materials. The fringed poufs are by Houtique and the green chair is covered in Mokum Water Lily fabric from James Dunlop Textiles.
Material Creative’s favourite element, the buffet table. The dried flower display is by Floralcentric.

The breakfast buffet is one of Toni’s favourite areas. “That lilac iridescent tiled buffet table with the chandelier over it. It's just amazing. We had Gartshore, our main contractor, order the Bisazza tiles before they even signed the deal. We couldn't miss out.”

In the hotel restaurant, Lola Rouge, the client showed even more of an adventurous side.

“They pushed us to go deeper. The cuisine is pan-Asian, a little bit spicy, so with every iteration we kept going darker, moodier and more lush.”

The private dining area is floor-to-ceiling red. “We've tried to treat every surface to create an experience around every corner.”

The bar seen from within the hotel restaurant Lola Rouge.
All the timber work in the bar area has been stained a bespoke purple hue. The cabinet of curios continues the theme of the Naumi woman and her sailor husband.
The Mullit dining chairs are by Sancal and The Arc Dept created the custom resin dining tables.
The pendants in the private dining room are by Houtique. “In the nick of time, they arrived pretty much the day before the opening,” says Toni.

The story of the Naumi woman and her husband continues in the guest rooms above. Each level is a different colour, and as you move down the corridors, the tones change. “So it’s like you’re moving through sunrise and sunset.”

Creating such a fanciful world without going too far takes a strong hand.

“It was fun to design. In the initial stages we had presented two concept options, just to feel out where we're heading. Then once that was signed on, we put together a full concept. Then we had weekly design meetings with our client Gaurang Jhunjhnuwala and the Naumi team to make sure we captured every aesthetic detail, and that everything was also operationally stacking up.”

Of course not every project looks like this, says Toni. “For each client, our goal is to design something that suits them, creating the unexpected and bringing people together. So this hotel really embodies these ideas. People love it and want to be in the space: it feels good.”

Images: Samuel Hartnett

The corridors to the guest rooms. The plaid carpet is a nod to the age of the building, and references threads of the Silk Road, part of the sea captain’s literary tale.
The bedhead fabric in the guest room is by James Dunlop. Every bathroom is in one of four different colourways.
The Carmen pendant in the executive suite is by Harto.
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