Sumptuous interiors recipient of this year's Sir Osborn McCutcheon Award from the Australian Institute of Architects (Victorian chapter), the expansion of the Mahogany Room at Crown is a jewel box of interior finishes behind a fluted glazed facade. Designed by Bates Smart, the emphasis is on light-filled interiors framed by views of Melbourne's skyline.
"The key drivers in the design were space and amenities, with detailing you would find with high-end retailers," says interior designer Jeffery Copolov, a director of the practice responsible for the interiors who worked closely with fellow director, architect Kristen Whittle, who focused on the architecture with its distinctive fluted glazed and sandstone facade.
Bates Smart previously designed the Mahogany Room in 1997. This time the brief included a new restaurant at ground level, social spaces on the first floor and a nightclub on the third level. "We had to extend the building's footprint, but we didn't want to create a series of dark and cavernous spaces," Copolov says.
Like the other top-end retailers at ground level, the entrance lobby to the Mahogany Room is adjacent to the portico.
Clad in gold aluminium (exterior), the understated lobby offers a taste of what's above. "We looked at luxury products, from bags and accessories, at the start of the design process," Copolov says. Behind the reception desk, a leather wall in an intricate basket weave could easily be transposed into the finest designer bag.
The bespoke carpet, with a ribbon-like pattern, also suggests the quality of finishes of the world's leading ateliers.
"We set ourselves a high benchmark, working with artisans and craftspeople both here and abroad," says Copolov, who worked with lighting designer Stephen Hennessy on many of the more monumental installations. The beauty of leather continues in the lifts. "It's not just the tactility. It's also the smell," says Copolov, who likens the experience to being in a handbag.
On the second level is the Mahogany Room extension. Treating it as an outdoor room, Bates Smart inserted an atrium space between the original and new floor plates. And to capture an outdoor feel, there are vertical garden walls and cane furniture. To further create the casual outdoor ambience, there's also a tent-like pavilion, but instead of canvas, Bates Smart designed the structure using leather straps combined with spun aluminium. Even the annexe is formed by straps.
A similar approach was conceived for the Mahogany restaurant, although here the straps have been woven together to form a continuous surface from walls to ceiling.
Club 23 at the top level is as full of interior delights. Reflective treatments appear in the 35-metre passage, with hundreds of aluminium tubes on the wall in various hues of gold and bronze. "We treated this passage like a red carpet, keen to create that sense of arrival," says Copolov, who was also mindful of delivering robust finishes to stand the test of time. "With functions, such as a nightclub, finishes have to be durable," he says, pointing out the lustrous but washable wallpapers.
A sculptural installation adjacent to the bar suggests the work of great 1960s Melbourne architects Holgar & Holgar, known for their highly crafted and adventurous house interiors. "I was thinking of some of the great casinos in Las Vegas about the same time," says Copolov, who also designed a steel and glass wall behind this bar to conceal the kitchen.
The interior finishes are sumptuous, and the detailing comes from one with a fine eye. The aluminium wall sections that meander into the nightclub intensify in colour, with bronze and gold replaced with deep plums and reds for a more cocooning ambience.