Revamped hotel The Fleming sports a nautical design that mirrors Hong Kong history.
Back in 2006, when Hong Kong’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 city’s industrial heyday in the ’60s and ’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 Marzia—a high-ceilinged restaurant specializing in Italian coastal fare—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 hotel’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 coins—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 ship’s telegraph, with the setting for “Clean My Room” in place of “Full Steam Ahead.” That attention to detail extends to the light switches and low armchairs that wouldn’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 ’60s and ’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, it’s entirely fitting that The Fleming has made such a bold departure from its previous identity. Reinvention, after all, is in Hong Kong’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 2018 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Sea Change”).