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ABCD

New Majestic Hotel

Case Study
New Majestic Hotel

New Majestic Hotel Design Case Study 1


ABCD
New Majestic Hotel

Table of Contents

Page

1 World Outlook: Boutique Hotels 3

2 Introducing the New Majestic Hotel 4

3 Standards: Global meets Local 6

4 The Process of Brand Building 7

5 The Design Process: Infusing Lifestyle with History 8

6 A Design Oriented Organization 10

7 The Business Model: Attracting the Discerning Traveler 11

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New Majestic Hotel

1. World Outlook: Boutique Hotels

An increasing number of travelers today want more than just a manufactured experience. While
comfort and convenience are still important, they want to be “surprised” with new concepts and
high-culture. Boutique hotels are coming to the rescue of these trendy travelers, bringing
together art, fashion and history in their design to ensure a lasting impression.

The boutique hotel concept, while relatively new to the Singapore market, was invented in the
early 1980s. The first two boutique hotels, opened in 1981, were the The Blakes Hotel in South
Kensington, London and the Bedford in Union Square, San Francisco. The Blakes was designed
by celebrity stylist Anouska Hempel. Bedford was the first in chain of 34 boutique hotels
operated by the Kimpton Group, one the eminent players in the boutique hotel industry.

The definition of a boutique hotel varies considerably but the following primary characteristics
can be agreed upon by the majority of hotel owners and operators:

• Architecture & Design

Style, distinction, warmth and intimacy are the defining characteristics of


the architecture and design of boutique hotels. These features attract a
niche of travelers who are looking for a unique experience. Boutique
hotels do not follow a specific standard but have clearly defined themes.
The Library Hotel in New York for example offers a distinct theme, from
music to romance, in each of its rooms. Many hotel owners are also
revitalizing older hotels, as in the case of the New Majestic Hotel.
However, success still depends on the owner’s ability to combine chic
elegance with historic detail.

Love Room, The Library Hotel, NY

• Service
The characteristic which boutique hotel owners feel distinguishes them from larger brand-name chains is the connection
which guests are able to develop with staff. Most of these hotels ensure that staff acknowledge guests by name. This begs
the question of whether there is a certain size which defines a boutique hotel. Generally it is felt that a boutique hotel
should not exceed 150 rooms, although there are those such as Ian Schrager, founder and president of Ian Schrager
Hotels, who believe that the term “boutique” is more reference to the approach and attitude towards the hotel design.

• Target Market
Boutique hotels generally target customers in their early 20s to mid-50s. These individuals are also likely to be in the
mid-to-upper income range.

(Lucienne Anhar, HVS International)

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New Majestic Hotel

2. Introducing New Majestic Hotel

“….there was this small, small little hotel in the wrong part of Chinatown…that was for sale and I
thought….there are no really kind of cool boutique…small little boutique hotels in Singapore and I could do
something with that.”

(Loh Lik Peng, Founder & Owner, New Majestic Hotel)

The New Majestic Hotel, situated in the heart of Chinatown, is an exciting blend of Singaporean
culture, art and design. The concept of, “Singapore Art” while initially hard to fathom, is
quickly winning over its sceptics.

Its owner and creator is Loh Lik Peng, a former lawyer turned hotelier. The New Majestic Hotel
is his second foray into the boutique hotel business after the widely acclaimed Hotel 1929, at
Keong Saik Road.

The hotel features a dramatic all-white open concept lobby


with vintage Compton fan

The highly-rated Majestic Restaurant is a modern


interpretation of one Singapore’s favorite dining rooms

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New Majestic Hotel

The 30 rooms in the New Majestic feature an exciting array of designs. Some have floor-to-
ceiling mirrors; others have aquarium-like bathtubs in the middle of the room, four-poster beds
suspended by poles from the ceiling or a garden terrace with an outdoor tub. 9 of Singapore’s up
and coming artists were commissioned to create site-specific artwork to ensure that the entire
thematic, visual experience is achieved. These artworks range from joyful pop-art pieces to
upside-down anamorphic messages and fuse with the vintage furniture to create a truly unique
experience.

Lik Peng also commissioned 5 prominent Singaporean designers to personalise 5 suites. These
talents from the fields of interior and graphic design, fashion and film production, were given a
free hand to decide how they wanted to design the suites and what kind of message they wanted
to convey. Award-winning graphic designer Theseus Chan for example constructed his design
out of plywood. The box-like design is intended to show that living in Singapore is similar to
living within the confines of a box.

(Colin Seah, Ministry of Design)

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New Majestic Hotel

3. Standards: Global meets Local

“Being a designer in Singapore is all about getting out to a larger


market….As a designer I think it is important to always look in the
context…the wider context . Singapore is a small market….It can
have a Singaporean identity but you have to look at the wider context”

Lik Peng’s belief is that any venture he undertakes must be set in a particular context. Although
the business itself may inevitably take on some Singaporean characteristics, he feels that it is
crucial that the neighbourhood and history must not be ignored.

The New Majestic Hotel is intended to appeal to a niche market, who appreciate the rich history
of Chinatown and who desire the high-culture experience which it has to offer. The hotel has
been reviewed by several internationally-renowned travel and lifestyle magazines…….

“The cavalier glamour of the 1950s is in the air at Singapore’s newest hotel, a swish refurbishment called the New
Majestic. Like Hotel 1929, its more moderately priced sister property that still packs a big-style-per-buck punch, the
New Majestic’s strength lies in its visual DNA.” – Wallpaper

In 2006 it was listed by Condé Naste Traveller as one of the world’s most hospitable hotels.

The New Majestic was one of seven winners in the Designs of the Year category in the
President’s Design Award 2006.

“The New Majestic Hotel is an imaginative change-of-use of the traditional Singapore shophouse, and is an icon
amongst boutique hotels. It is an excellent example of design collaboration involving the owner, multiple creatives
and consultants. Owner Loh Lik Peng describes it as "a stimulating brew of local culture, design and the arts that
pries apart the moulds of convention."

New Majestic Hotel subtly captures changes in social perceptions, drawing reference from the site's history and
culture on one hand, and contemporary lifestyle on the other. Every space has been artistically designed with unique
qualities and features, and is at once exciting and reassuring. The design reflects the spirit of the times, which
appeals to a new breed of hotel consumers who value their individuality while seeking to network with others in a
setting to write home about.” – Citation for President’s Design Award 2006

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4. The Process of Brand Building

“Its really all about looking at the customer rather


than the location or things like that. In a way that
informs your location…but largely it’s about
saying…well for example 1929 is in a red-light area
of Chinatown. It’s a bit counter-intuitive….but the
way I looked at it was…this is THE most interesting
part of Singapore. This is a really local part…it is
totally not manufactured.” – Lik Peng

Lik Peng set out to build a distinct location which while being internationally appealing, still
exudes local charm.

“There is a certain level of design enlightenment among the global cosmopolitan travelers who are looking for a
certain kind of local yet global hospitality experience. It wasn’t a new standalone building; it was an existing pre-war
shop-house which yielded a incredible site and contextual opportunities because of the idiosyncratic way spaces are
made inside.”

- Colin Seah, Ministry of Design

With the stringent regulations of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the New Majestic’s
façade is preserved but with slight changes to freshen it up. This is entirely consistent with Lik
Peng’s intention to build businesses which are contextually relevant. His ideas reflect that of
well-known hotelier Ian Schrager: “I like the word subversive. The idea is to do something
contrary, something that violates the status quo, and as long as it is well-executed it works. If
it’s not well executed, then it’s just trendy.”

“We are in the entertainment business….I can


only sell a design once. Everything behind has to
work for somebody to come back a second time.
The place needs a personality, the staff needs to
have a personality, the design element can pay if
you do everything else right.” – Ian Schrager

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New Majestic Hotel

5 The Design Process: Infusing Lifestyle with History

The New Majestic Hotel is part of a conservation project and stands on what was known as
“Mistress Street”. The reconstruction of the hotel was led by DP Architects who spent 12
months refurbishing the 80-year-old hotel.

“When you come in, there is a shock effect of what the past is like…the big grand staircase is white and full of
movement upwards and it shows aspiration and hope.” – Tai Lee Xiang, DP Architects

The rooms, designed by Colin Seah of Ministry of Design reinvent the idea of a hotel room. The
original 50 rooms were reduced to 30, each with a unique style. Collaborating with local artists
and designers, what was previously a place to rest has been transformed into a distinctly local,
visual adventure.

“For the New Majestic Hotel Project, the brief was hotel designs for the future. MOD conceptualized the brief with
the consideration of the new generation Singaporean hotel user who see hotels as places to party. It was not a
question of cultural, but the revering of the local. Addressing the way people live” – Colin Seah, Ministry of Design

Much care has been taken to retain elements of the original Majestic design. Some of the
guestrooms still have balconies and the original stained glass windows have been restored.
However, modern comforts, such as a plasma TV, Kiehl bathroom amenities and 280 thread
count bed linen are still very prevalent (Hotel Management Network, 2007).

Five Guest Designers


A much talked about part of the design has been the work of five of Singapore’s most
established designers in customizing the five of the hotel’s suites.

1. Glen Goei – Film & Theatre Director – “Wayang Room”


Inspired by Zhang Yimou’s, “Raise the Red Lantern”. An Asian Boudoir with crimson walls,
black lacquer furnishing and red lanterns hanging from the ceiling.

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2. Daniel Boey - Fashion Show Producer – “Pussy Parlour”


Features a French chandelier, neon lights, crinkly pink linen, a brass four poster bed and
mirrors.

3. Wykidd Song - Fashion Designer – “Fluid”


The room is all about space, swirls and simplicity.

4. Theseus Chan – Graphic Designer – “Work”


The predominant use of plywood is meant to redefine “living in a box”.

5. Patrick Chia – Furniture Designer – “Untitled”


The extensive use of cement is meant to celebrate modern class European design.

Other Local Designers


Justin Lee is behind the most controversial of the rooms which include, “Samsui Woman”, “Da
Jie” and “Flag”. He sends strong social statements by using iconic images in the décor. Other
local designers who were involved in the hotel design include Safaruddin Abdul Hamid, Lee
Meiling, Heleston Chew, Tay Bee Aye, Miguel Chew, Kng Mian Tze and Sandra Lee.

(Hotel Management Network, 2007)

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New Majestic Hotel

6. A Design Oriented Organization

“..for me in terms of how I view design…I think it’s a very integral part of how I run my
business simply because if you look at my generation…its very highly mobile. I realized
that…how people viewed design, how they viewed culture….was changing…there was
less walls between those things and for me looking at design was really a part of
communicating with people about how I wanted the project to be. Really the whole idea
of design for me was very collaborative because…I wanted to involve as many creative
people as possible from many, many different fields.” – Lik Peng

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7. The Business Model: Attracting the Discerning Traveler

Financial Management

They main draw of the New Majestic is its focus on art and high-culture. Lik Peng has dedicated
much time and effort in enlisting the services of local artists and designers to ensure that these
goals are met.

“The way I go about looking at returns on investment…particularly for artwork…I go about it in two ways. I look at
it as part of the overall project and I say if I put this much into it…and I think of what I should be able to
sell….whether its room rates or the other little different products that we do and that’s really how I calculate. And
there are some parts of it that …you can never justify in pure returns.” – Lik Peng

While Lik Peng acknowledges that there is no robust way of calculating the returns he makes
from investing in art, he feels it forms the intrinsic part of the project. It is his belief that these
unquantifiable, emotionally appealing aspects will pull in the discerning traveler who will be
willing to pay higher than average room rates.

The key factor in ensuring the sustainability of such a model is identifying the permanent and
transitory elements of the art pieces and achieving a balance in terms of the cost and overall
benefits received.

“… I have always thought that the people who would stay with us would appreciate the fact that we were in the
wrong part of town.” – Lik Peng

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