This week, while on a three day styling project in Sydney, I revisited one of my favourite city locations. A place I had dropped into frequently when I lived there many years ago... Gowings department store in George Street.
I had known it as a Sydney landmark, a menswear institution for hundreds of thousands of men and their families who had been flocking through its doors since the stores opening in 1912. It was the place to buy menswear clothing essentials, iconic Australian brands such as Bonds and RM Williams (I bought my first pair of RM boots there when I was 21) Australian soldiers were clothed there during the war years. There was even a barber shop where a 'short back and sides' cut was the order of the day.
Sadly, in January 2006, after three years of successive losses, Gowings closed it's doors for the last time, taking with it generations of memories for Sydney shoppers.
In recent years, however, the Gowings building has been transformed. The Design Hotel group has opened QT DesIgn Hotel Sydney - and I was fortunate to stay there on my stay this week.
An article in The Australian newspaper by Christine Mcabb explains it all...
"The scene is set by a streamlined art deco sign above bustling Market Street where dapper porters, sporting berets and jeans, wait on the pavement.
This is hotel as theatre. Staff have been cast not recruited, and all front of house personnel, from the bowtie-clad concierge to the red wigged “Directors of Chaos” visit hair and make up each morning before clocking on.
And “uniforms” are courtesy costume designer Janet Hine (the woman behind Dame Edna’s final frock).
The hotel’s 200 guestrooms occupy the building above the State Theatre and the old Gowings department store linked through the first floor lobby. Entrance is via the glittering former State Theatre shopping arcade where even the lifts get in on the act, kitted out with LED digital art (a feature throughout the hotel) and adjusting muzak according to the number of passengers on board (solo travellers might be serenaded with ‘Are you Lonesome tonight?’).
Local designers Nic Graham and Shelley Indyk have teamed up to deliver playful, stylish but eminently comfortable interiors that incorporate many of the buildings original features (a century old urinal in the men’s loo for example) and take into account the specific idiosyncrasies of each individually styled guest room.
The low ceilinged lobby is scattered with bespoke furniture and dominated by an installation of vintage luggage. The guest lounge is dotted with large velvet ottomans and the wall lined with artfully stuffed cabinets of curiosities (in fact the hotel shop selling all sorts of stylish objets d’art).
Each design-focused guestroom is different (in the Gowings building the original department store floor boards have been retained), decorated in rich reds, oranges, yellows and white, but all share certain features: an incredibly comfy ‘Gel’ bed, cleverly curated ‘artefacts’, quirky bedside lamps (in the guise of top or bowler hats, book binders or vases), an excellent mini bar (stocked with healthy snacks), Nespresso machine and a welcoming martini tray.
Where to eat
Under director Robert Marchetti and executive chef Paul Easson (ex Mebourne’s Rockpool Bar & Grill), food will be a feature at QT. On the ground floor the Parlour Lane Roasters café morphs into a wine bar after dark. Upstairs, the all-day dining Gowings Bar & Grill is the antithesis of your usual hotel eatery, a buffet free zone (in the mornings bar staff front to mix smoothies) featuring a huge open kitchen fitted with wood fired ovens and an impressive glass fronted seafood room where a giant yellow fin tuna (delivered weekly) hangs to be cut as needed. Room service is equally innovative, served in a bento style box for easy, in-bed dining."