Colonel Norman Macalister used to rule the roost at his beloved Macalister Mansion 100 years ago, when his small village of George Town, in Malaysia, was a tiny British shipping port. As time rolled on, the English left, and George Town has grown into a vibrant international metropolis that proudly displays its English, Chinese, Indian and native Malaysian influences. Here, the Colonel's mansion has been transformed from a prim and proper estate, into a quirky and sophisticated lifestyle destination for art lovers and adventure seekers.
Owners of the Macalister, Dato Sean and Datin Karen, teamed up with Colin Seah, principal of Singapore-based design firm Ministry of Design, to re-work the mansion into an 8 suite boutique hotel with 5 unique hot spots to socialize and dine. The owners are proud locals, avid art collectors, and well-known investors in the local restaurant scene, which is why it comes to no surprise that the duo helped Seah in nearly every aspect - from the specially commissioned art on the walls, to the personalized and intimate service, to the unique combination of historic beauty and present-day dynamism that characterizes the hotel.
Regenerating the historic colonial building wasn't easy. The owners wanted to reinvent the "hotel as a complete holistic concept, with all rooms, restaurants and lounge areas belonging to a single, unique vision." Under this philosophy, each space of the mansion needed to have its own distinctive aesthetic and ambiance, but working synergistically. Upon Entry, a fractal bust of Colonel Norman Macalister welcomes guests as a bow to the Macalister's history.
A turquoise scalloped canopy and ornate wooden doors open onto the reception area. There, the mansion’s original brick walls are exposed, reminding visitors of the building’s history while also showcasing contemporary art from local artists.
The Living Room Encompasses all day dining and provides a casual space to hang out, Seah restored and preserved the mansions original architectural features in this space, then added a playful color theme and an assortment of contemporary furnishing pieces.
Hanging plants reach their way down from the ceiling along with a collection of white and gold light fixtures to meet the artistic bistro-styled furnishings for hotel guests to enjoy herbal tea's and an international cuisine.
Directly adjacent to the Living Room is a game room for some more day time activities. Here, guests can crack open a book, shoot a game of pool, or watch a movie.
The Den is an intimate hideout with a wide selection of cigars as well as blended and single-malt whiskies. The dimly lit space provides a night time atmosphere for hotel guests with its intricate tri-color tile floor pattern that runs up the walls, a central black leather poof, and a Gothic styled chandelier.
The Bagan Bar showcases some of the more striking aspects of the hotel’s original architecture: an ornate archway divides the room, and two columns frame a bay window nook. However, the dynamic copper-clad bar and lighting sculpture bring the room into the 21st century. The Den is a place to relax and unwind with a glass of quality whisky or cigar. Specialist in Single Cask and Single Malt whiskies which are sourced from renowned distilleries around the world!
Visitors can access the hotel’s eight suites directly from the reception! Each suite is different from the next, from a privately commissioned love sonnet in the Bridal Suite, to the spiral staircase and turret room in Room 4, to the Grace Tan textile piece in Room 7 that pays tribute to the tartan colors of the Macalister clan.
Room 3, for example, boasts a wrought-iron balcony as well as a fabric collage by Malaysian artist Lee Meiling, while Room 8 features exposed truss beams from the building's original construction.
Wall art by Malaysia-based UK artist Thomas Powell examines the history of the mansion and commemorates the life and times of hotel namesake Sir Norman Macalister. A decedent pattern of tiny tiles help create a unique bathroom area which is provocatively open to the entire suite.
Photography: Design Hotels & CI&A Photography