As I was earnestly trying to lose some calories on the cross-training machine, I tuned into Malcolm Gladwell on TED speaking on Spaghetti sauce (I watch Jamie Oliver as I eat dinner too!). I was fascinated by his stories on why and how horizontal segmentation in the food industry came about. In the past, scientists were deep in search of universal truths but in the recent times, it is the study of variability that captures them. The thought patterns in Science have trickled into the food industry, bringing forth creations to suit different taste palettes.
Beyond the food industry, I see it impacting the hotel industry. I remember when I first heard about boutique hotels many years ago. While surfing the website of the Hotel Fox in Denmark, I recall drooling over the images of each and every room. It never occurred to me then that this concept of Boutique Hotels would materialize in Singapore. Over the last ten years, boutique hotels like 1929, New Majestic Hotel, Moon Hotel and The Scarlett have sprung up in tiny pockets of real estate. One of the most talked about recently, is ‘Wanderlust’; brainchild of homegrown hotelier Loh Lik Peng, who also owns 1929 and New Majestic Hotel.
Thanks to Wahidah, Sales and Marketing Manager of Wanderlust, I had the opportunity to take a tour around the establishment. I made my way there on a rainy afternoon, directing the taxi driver with Google Maps and I finally found the place right opposite a ‘Kopi-tiam’ (local coffee shop).
As I stepped into the lobby, I felt like I was transported back and forth in time, getting glimpses of the past but peeks into the future all at the same time. On one end, the décor blends into where the hotel is situated – ‘Little India’, steeped in history and flavour. The ‘old’ is juxtaposed against the futuristic lamps and sofas. It creates a familiar feel, but with a distinct panache. Later, I learnt that Asylum, a local creative company, designed the lobby along the theme of “Industrial Glam”.
There are only 29 rooms in Wanderlust, spanning 4 thematic levels. The rooms have been in hot demand; on the day of my visit, I could only explore 3 rooms – the “Jimi Hendrix” room designed by :phunk Studio in line with the theme “Eccentricity” and two rooms designed by fFurious which are meant to thematically reflect the concept of “Creature Comforts”. All the rooms created by DP Architects were full; perhaps most patrons were intrigued by the question (and, the thematic name of the rooms)“Is it just Black and White?”.
What fascinated me was the signage. I’ve been a typography buff since I was a kid. I remember when I was in primary school, I’d spend many hours just tracing letters of different fonts. Wanderlust gives a taste of typography heaven. Each signage is customized, ranging from neon fonts to script typefaces. Each level is different, and so is every room. The level of customization and amount of creative freedom given to the companies is amazing. Even the soft toys in the some of the rooms were created from scratch and have names!
If you’re looking for a room that combines neon colours inspired by song titles, go get a room on level 2 (For Beatles fans, there’s a room called Yellow Submarine). If you prefer the origami, pop-art mono feel, head to level 3. If you’re in the mood to entertain some monsters and pretend you’re in another universe, then level 4 is the place for you. If you’ll like to see the full spread of rooms, you can click here.
Beyond the individuality expressed in the corridors and rooms, customization is applied in all the aspects right down to their lamps! The Art Deco inspired lamp was designed by fFurious and was custom made, just for Wanderlust. Each room comes with a Nespresso machine (coffee lovers rejoice!) and Kiehl’s toiletries. After creating such a wonderland, the staff at Wanderlust pride themselves on remembering every guest’s name and making their stay warm and cosy – akin to staying with family. Even the in-house French restaurant is one that serves hearty family portions with communal seating arrangements.
This is what keeps Wahidah going. Her own story is interesting. Initially, she was working with New Majestic Hotel, but she decided to take up a stint with the Millenium Copthorne group. She returned to working with a boutique hotel as she loves cultivating deeper relationships with the people she works with. At Wanderlust, their motto is “Happy People”, where they create a positive environment for staff, and of course, for their guests. Wahidah admires Lik Peng for his foresight and guts – who would have thought that a boutique hotel would thrive in Little India? Her favourite place is the outdoor Jacuzzi pool, where the colours just make her smile.
If you’re looking for a whimsical, madcap and playful experience, Wanderlust is your playground. For locals, book early when the public holidays are around the corner. Rooms were all snapped up for Valentine’s Day. Room rates start from S$199 and do check their website or their Facebook Page for any specials.
This article can also be found at Jael’s blog at http://jaelchng.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/wanderlust/