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Warm wood tones, a restrained palette, noted artworks and demure furniture all contribute to revamped hotel The George's comfortable, uncluttered ambience

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Future proofing is a phrase often touted in terms of building design and sustainability. However, a commercial interior also has to retain its freshness and relevance down the years. The good news is that comfort, quiet tones and fine finishes never fall from grace.

Designed by architect Richard Dalman, the refittedreception, bar area and restaurant in boutique Christ-church hotel The George project this timeless flavour.

"In theory, hospitality interiors should be revamped every seven years or so, but in reality this often stretches to a decade and beyond," says Dalman. "Faced with a dated, over-crowded decor, emphasised by low ceilings, we were asked to create an inviting, upmarket interior that would still look the part in ten years' time.

"The low ceilings had to stay, so essentially we pared back and reorganised the spaces, finding a balance between the uncluttered and the comfortable."

Together with the low ceilings, parquet floors also ran through the ground-floor spaces. These were retained by Dalman for their warmth and sense of continuity.

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"Wood veneers on some walls were also retained, furthering this warmth, and we introduced new veneer surfaces to accompany them," says the architect. "Artworks by artist Ralph Hotere had previously been dotted around these rooms. These are now lined up along a single gallery-like wall that all guests pass en route to the hotel elevator."

The paintings' drama is enhanced by the brown, weave-like finish of the wall behind them. This feature surface provides a nod to the painter's Maori ethnicity and contributes to the overall palette.

"Off-white leather upholstery covers the chairs, sofas and bar stools in all areas, an appropriate balance to the use of wood and brown wall tones," says Dalman. "Two large, plush rugs based on designs by another New Zealand artist contribute to the overall look."

One of these, a dark rug, is placed near the picture gallery wall – the tone chosen to enhance and not detract from the ranked artworks. In front of the reception desk, a sunlit area under windows, the other rug introduces a vibrant splash of blue. Vases of fresh flowers are set out daily, providing other pin-pricks of colour.

The George's restaurant had also been a more cluttered, multi-coloured affair, and, again, Dalman gave this adjacent space a refined, simpler decor.

"With Hagley Park beyond the windows, we wanted diners to focus on the company, the food and the views in a restful, unobtrusive setting," he says. "One stand out element here, however, is a translucent onyx feature wall. This is back-lit, providing a subdued daytime feature and a beacon to passers by in the evening."

Subtlety translates well across countries as well as across decades. While the interior has a material and artistic emphasis that is decidedly New Zealand, The George's refined, monochromatic ambience would be equally at home in a plush Sydney or London hotel.

First published date: 18 December 2007

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Credit List

Location The George, Christchurch
Architect Richard Dalman, B Arch, BA, MNZIA, Dalman Architecture
Construction Bushnell Builders
Interior design Richard Dalman
Flooring Parquet floors
Rugs Dilana rugs designed by artist John Parker
Wall finishes Tawa veneer; onyx back-lit marble feature wall from Trethewey Granite & Marble; weave-textured feature wall
Reception, bar, and restaurant furniture Belle lounge chairs, Belle coffee table from Belle Interiors; dining chairs and bar stools from John Cochrane Commercial Furniture
Additional furniture DA Lewis
Lighting Artimide standard lamps from Accent Lighting
Artworks Ralph Hotere