Revamped hotel The Fleming sports a nautical design that mirrors Hong Kong history.
Back in 2006, when Hong Kongâ€™s highest-ranking tennis player John Hui opened The Fleming in buzzy Wanchai, it took the form of a chic business hotel, with simply styled rooms and a combination of glass, LED lighting, and minimalistic decor that made it unashamedly modern, as though it had been transplanted straight from New York or Frankfurt. No longer. Fresh from a 12-month facelift, the reinvented 66-room property celebrates the quirks of Hong Kong by tapping into its maritime heritage, with hints of Chinese culture and the cityâ€™s industrial heyday in the â€™60s and â€™70s.
Hui and his childhood friend Jason Cohen tasked Maxime Dautresme, co-founder of local creative agency A Work of Substance, to come up with a design that was unique to Hong Kong. In turn, Dautresme drew much of his inspiration from the iconic cross-harbor Star Ferries. While the ground floor is given over to Osteria Marziaâ€”a high-ceilinged restaurant specializing in Italian coastal fareâ€”a short elevator ride from the entrance leads to the cozy first-floor reception and lounge, where a pair of plush seats echo the reversible benches found on the upper deck of a Star Ferry. Mahogany chaises piled with cushions are an invitation to peruse the hotelâ€™s selection of Asia-centric coffee table books, or look though the floor-to-ceiling windows into Osteria Marzia below. The restaurant bathrooms down the corridor are worth a visit purely to see the floors inlaid with 50-cent coinsâ€”once the cost of a harbor crossing.
Upstairs, doors with rounded corners and an abundance of wood and brass fittings complement a color palette dominated by bottle green, splashes of navy blue, and white. Each room door has built-in signage akin to a shipâ€™s telegraph, with the setting for â€śClean My Roomâ€ť in place of â€śFull Steam Ahead.â€ť That attention to detail extends to the light switches and low armchairs that wouldnâ€™t look out of place on the deck of an ocean liner. The industrial touches are perhaps a little harder to spot. There are torch-like light fixtures clamped to the wall, while multi-paned screens of corrugated acrylic recall the windows of high-rise tenements built in the â€™60s and â€™70s. And being Hong Kong, subtle references to Chinese culture abound: the bollard-inspired nightstands are tinted an auspicious red, some rooms repurpose Cantonese opera costume chests as TV stands, and custom-made bathroom amenities dispense mandarin-scented body soap and ginseng-mint shampoo. Aside from channeling the eclecticism of its home, itâ€™s entirely fitting that The Fleming has made such a bold departure from its previous identity. Reinvention, after all, is in Hong Kongâ€™s DNA.
The Fleming; 41 Fleming Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong; 852/3607-2288; doubles from US$204
This article originally appeared in the December 2017/January 2018Â print issue of DestinAsian magazine (â€śSea Changeâ€ť).