Singapore’s new Sofitel So brings high design—Chanel included—to the Lion City’s CBD
With its glassy Global 500 skyscrapers lining the shores of Marina Bay, Singapore’s Central Business District takes itself pretty seriously—that is, until the Sofitel So Singapore comes along with its grand opening August 29. Fearlessly florid, the hotel is the third outpost of French hotel group Accor’s Sofitel So brand, the fashion-centric younger sibling of the Sofitel family of hotels and resorts. The only boutique hotel in the area and a one-off escape from the staid surroundings, the hotel admittedly isn’t for everyone, but for those in want of sceney shelter in central Singapore, the So fits the bill in an ultra-luxe way.
The Look: A colonial gem with ionic columns and recessed balconies, the hotel is a reincarnation of the TAS building, a former telecommunications center built in 1927 by the city’s first architecture firm, Swan & Maclaren, and now a protected historic site. The repurposed result is a two-part housing works of old and new: the Heritage Wing with its larger rooms and suites, and the So Hip Wing housing smaller studios in a new addition, connected via a light-filled atrium overlooking the lobby. Each Sofitel So is a design cocktail of three parts: French, local, and that of a fashion designer, who in this case is Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld, responsible for the hotel’s lion emblem. Singapore’s only French design house, MIAJA Design Group, was commissioned for the interiors, outfitted with a buffet of trend pieces: a flashy bulb-lit hanging glass installation, welcome-drink station with liquor poured from vials, silent elevators with quilted walls, vases upon vases of orchids from florist Fabulation Co. arranged in the lobby across from a conglomeration of statement chairs—the one with antlers looks plucked from a Wes Anderson film set.
The Rooms: Use of space is a strong point here. The three-meter-high ceilings make even the smallest of the 134 rooms—25 square meters—feel spacious; dense carpet and heavy fabrics keep things quiet (earning bonus points for a city hotel); and above each bed, light boxes with renderings of French and Italian cupolas imitate skylights. Waxing technological, iPhone 5cs serve as room phones, and iPads control curtains, temperature, and the flatscreen, which serves as a personal butler of sorts: one can order room service, map out city hot spots, and play music all with a couple of finger swipes. The So’s design recipe is dished up in the details like golden orchids, the city-state’s flower, intermixed with golden bees, the symbol of the Napoleonic empire, and on the mantle, a Singaporean-history coffee table book leans up against Karl Lagerfeld’s hefty pages of the Little Black Jacket. And find every excuse possible to use the toiletries. Everything from all-natural crème de corps to mini eau de toilettes are scented with a perfume specially selected from France’s Grasse Perfumery called Urban Forest—one of those rare and perfect unisex aromas both darkly sophisticated and warmly familiar.
The Appeal: There’s something invigorating about returning to the So. Upon entering through the revolving door (which earns more bonus points for being large enough to negate those awkward waltzes with your luggage as you come in), the first thing that greets you is the Urban Forest–scented air, followed by a cheery staff member outfitted in Chanel. Near the check-in desk, skinny-tied businessmen have taken to La Bibliotek, a small bar designed by Lagerfeld’s team with cocktails from a resident mixologist and a collection of Lagerfeld’s favorite reads to be perused at any time. Across from the lobby Xperience Restaurant beckons with a mélange of patterned fabrics, nightly D.J., and open kitchen fronted with a 20-foot rose gold Molteni oven. Headed by Anne-Cecile Degenne, a French native who built a strong reputation for herself on Manhattan’s restaurant scene, Singaporean fare is reinterpreted into fine dining like chili crab tacos and a lobster risotto version of laksa with a generous amount of truffle oil, categorized on the menu by flavor and texture and leaving the course size up to diners—an organization so convenient that it makes you wonder why every restaurant doesn’t follow suit. Note, however, that you’ll have to get your spa glow elsewhere. Because of space restraints, the hotel forewent treatment rooms in favor of more guest rooms, but a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment and accompanying sauna lets you get your heart rate up after Degenne’s indulgences.
The Surrounds: Chinatown, Club Street, and Ann Siang Hill are only a 15-minute walk away, and the Raffles MRT station is even closer. Just outside the hotel’s front door is Boon Tat Street, which fills up each night with food stalls from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m., perfect for impromptu dinners and post-party late bites. If you need any recommendations, reservations, or directions, just stop by the City Guru desk in the lobby for an in-house urban expert at your service.
For those in the know… Head to the roof. With a wall of plants, a fountain, cushy seating, and sleek black bar, it’s exactly where nice nights should be spent. As the So is a short anomaly among the surrounding office buildings, the most spectacular view is seen by lounging by the gold-tiled infinity pool, tilting your head back, and looking up.
35 Robinson Rd., Singapore; 65/6701-6800; Sofitel So Singapore; doubles from US$250
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