The Macalister Mansion in Georgetown, Penang in Malaysia, member of Design Hotels, is a fine example of a contemporary and fresh boutique hotel where modern design meets British tradition in which further Chinese, Indian and native Malaysian influences provide for an idiosyncratic and urbane lifestyle destination that nods both to Penang's colonial past and to its flamboyant present.
Honoring Sir Norman Macalister, one of the first British Governors of Penang, the Macalister Mansion boutique hotel is very much in keeping with the concept of an old English mansion. Add laid-back elements such as ''…good food, fine drink, engaging conversation, soothing music, a good night’s sleep or simply lounging by the pool....'' and you have the friendliness and the warmth of an actual home where each space has been thoughtfully designed and styled.
Owners Dato Sean and Datin Karen worked together with Colin Seah of Singapore's renowned Ministry of Design to renovate the 100-year-old colonial mansion. Whilst focusing on preserving and restoring the building’s heritage characteristics and original elements, newly added modern-day amenities and contemporary design touches provide guests with an imaginative, social, yet narrative experience. Seah’s clever integration of this experience into the design spans a multitude of elements; from the property’s branding and identity, the showcased art, the architecture, all the way through to the interiors – each one and all of them unique, in a playful way.
A clever fusion of the past and the present dominates the design scheme – from the driveway, guests are awed by an eight-foot fiberglass fractal bust sculpture of Sir Norman Macalister which proudly introduces the hotel’s affinity with modern art. Venturing inside underneath a turquoise Chinese fish scale pattern canopy, guests walk through an original decorative entryway to the copper-clad reception desk where a video installation further reinforces the arts connection.
Each of the EIGHT rooms has been individually designed and features its own bespoke artwork and design elements – ''….from the privately commissioned love sonnet in the Bridal Suite, to the spiral staircase and turret room and the Grace Tan textile piece that pays tribute to the tartan colors of the Macalister clan.'' The rest of the hotel has been equally well thought-out where the historic columns, staircases and archways have all been painstakingly restored and incorporated into the new, fresh interior.
Two restaurants offer casual or fine dining options – one of which vividly whisks diners away into an Alice in Wonderland theme where pastel toned animal sculptures crafted from calcium carbonate keep diners company under the sheer awning which hovers above. Graphic mosaics in gold, purple and red are complemented by furniture upholstered in dark midnight blue in the cigar-and-whiskey-perfect Den. In the Cellar, a glass of fine wine or champagne can be enjoyed in the copper-clad bar setting with its diagonal red and black floor pattern and mantel lined with antique books and portraits all complemented by mostly mid-century modern furnishings.
The interplay of the modern and the traditional are undoubtedly the highlights of this boutique hotel where the blend of heritage and fashionable design is so seamless and natural, it’s as if the two always existed.