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February 12, 2018

The Biggest Hotel Transformations of 2018

By Lauren Jade Hill

Each year brings with it a number of highly anticipated hotel openings and 2018 is certainly no exception. But among this year’s grand openings, it’s some of those making a return that stand out the most, with renovation projects and major upgrades that promise an even more luxurious stay. These are the biggest hotel transformations of 2018.

Raffles Singapore

One of this year’s most talked about hotel transformations is undoubtedly Raffles Singapore. This heritage-rich hotel has been going through a sensitively phased restoration since February 2017 and is now approaching its completion and greatly anticipated reopening, which is scheduled for the second half of 2018. This major update will include the introduction of three new suite categories: the Residence Suites, Promenade Suites and Studio Suites. Located in the Raffles Arcade, the Residence Suites will each take on the name of a local cinema from the mid-1900s, paying tribute to the time this neighborhood was best known for its movie theaters. The two Promenade Suites—the Lady Mountbatten Suite and Lade Sophia Suite—will then overlook Beach Road from the front of the main building. The hotel will also reveal the extensive work carried out on the Raffles Arcade, which is to house the brand new wellness sanctuary Raffles Spa, and the hotel’s famous restaurants and bars are also undergoing a revamp; home of the Singapore Sling, the Long Bar is being refreshed, along with the North Indian restaurant Tiffin Room and Writers Bar, which is being expanded. The award-winning interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud is playing a role in this major restoration project.

University Arms, Cambridge

This landmark hotel in Cambridge first opened in 1834, making it the university city’s most historic hotel. Since shutting its doors two years ago, the hotel has been amidst major renovation, which is excitingly due to come to an end this summer. Involving a collaboration between the accomplished architect John Simpson and Swedish interior designer Martin Brudnizki (The Club at the Ivy, Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood London, Annabel’s and Soho Beach House in Miami can be counted among the designer’s previous projects), and reportedly costing around £80m, this launch comes with particular intrigue. With the ambition to create a venue that matches the beauty, ambition and vibrancy of the city it’s in, the hotel is endeavoring to reflect Cambridge’s literary spirit. As well as incorporating a library, the hotel will be home to a new destination restaurant and bar helmed by the award-winning chef Tristan Welch who previously worked under Michel Roux Jr before going on to work at the three-Michelin-starred restaurant L’Arpege. This summer, a public art project will be unveiled on the parkland this hotel overlooks (Parker’s Piece), to celebrate the hotel’s reopening.

Singita Pamushana

Coming to the end of a significant design transformation, Singita Pamushana is on track to reopen in May 2018 with bold new interiors designed to bring guests even closer to the surrounding wilderness. Located within Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe, the lodge is celebrated for its vantage point overlooking a lake and the surrounding landscape, which consists of 38 different habitats and ecological zones. This diverse environment teems with wildlife and is home to a particularly high concentration of black rhino. The reserve’s ancient rock art sites then give insight into the history of the local Shangaan culture. The new design of this lodge references this region’s cultural identity while fusing contemporary design with African patterns and retaining Singita’s signature style. The main lodge’s deck and living areas are being extended to create a greater connection with the surrounding rocky outcrops, dam and wildlife, and two new suites will be added to the lodge to bring the number of rooms to eight in total; these eight suites are complemented by one luxurious five-bedroom villa. Each suite will have a private pool overlooking the Malilangwe Dam and surrounding bush. With such close proximity to the wilderness, you know the wildlife sightings won’t be limited to each day’s walking safaris and game drives.

Hawkstone Hall

This 18th-century manor has long been in the spotlight having been the setting of a number of period films, but now the historic property is embarking on an entirely new journey as a luxury hotel. Scheduled to open in the summer, the manor promises to be one of the UK’s most opulent country hotels with the added appeal of its 88-acre manicured gardens within the Shropshire countryside. Restoration of the Georgian manor’s original features, including its private chapel, will give this hotel its unique character but each of its social spaces and guestrooms will be resplendent in ornate décor and lavish furnishings. The main hall’s 12 suites will be named after Jane Austin characters and mirror the duck-egg blue and calamine pink color scheme of the main hall. A significant part of the renovation is the work being done to bring the grounds back to their former state. Over half a mile of footpaths wind through the garden and between its original lily pond, fishing pond and waterfall. In February 2019, the property’s remaining suites will be revealed.

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Mombo Camp and Little Mombo

Created and run by Wilderness Safaris, Mombo Camp is one of the Okavango Delta’s most legendary camps, having first opened almost 30 years ago and having successfully reintroduced black and white rhino into the wild here. Now Mombo Camp and Little Mombo—a smaller version of its sister camp—are entering a new era with the completion of a major renovation, which has only just been unveiled. While retaining Mombo’s distinct identity, the remodeled camps have been given an even more luxurious feel by Nicholas Plewman Architects and interior designer Caline Williams-Wynn of the design firm Artichoke. Guests can expect to see more spacious interiors and private decks featuring swing beds and plunge pools. Vintage safari elements have been combined with modern elegance for each suite’s décor with inspiration taken from the surrounding landscape and furnishings that have been sourced from across the world. Central fireplaces now lie at the heart of both camps, and a book collection has been donated to the Mombo library.

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

Last summer Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park unveiled the first completed phase of its gradual renovation, with refurbishments of the Rosebery Lounge and Bar Boulud to showcase, along with its updated lobby and reception area and completely redesigned Knightsbridge-facing suites. The next stage of the renovation to be revealed is the new look Mandarin Bar, which will be unveiled on February 15th. And this will be followed by the launch of its next generation spa designed by Adam D. Tihany. From May 2018, guests will have access to this new fitness and wellness space, which benefits from the expertise of specialists such as fitness guru Hollie Grant. The final phase of the renovation, the Ballroom and Loggia and the completion of the Hyde Park-facing rooms and suites, will come to a close at the end of the summer.

The Datai Langkawi

Since shutting its doors in September 2017, the Datai Langkawi has been going through an extensive restoration project. This legendary property has been considered the island’s leading luxury hotel since it opened in 1993 but this renovation promises to elevate the experience guests have to an even higher level. When the hotel reopens in July, guests will be able to stay in entirely redesigned villas and suites in which the hotel’s original character has been preserved; the redesign has been led by interior designer Didier Lefort of DL2A who along with renowned architect Kerry Hill was responsible for the original design. With an increased focus on sustainability, the new Datai will be home to a nature center overseen by the resort’s renowned naturalist Irshad Mobarak, and the resort will also benefit from the integration of new spa pavilions and enhanced landscaping.

La Résidence de la Pinède

When this Saint-Tropez reopens in May 2018, it will unveil a new design concept that’s been created in collaboration with the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte and realised in partnership with the architect François Vieillecroze. The major transformation will encompass newly designed interiors that aim to enhance the charm of this coastal property. Taking inspiration from its coastal setting, Wilmotte has fused the hotel’s original aesthetic with a warm contemporary finish featuring sandy tones, soft woods and artworks by art-ceramicist Roger Captron. The new design concept draws on the hotel’s natural light to illuminate each space and incorporates Mediterranean colors and materials. This transformative design project is the first step in the overall evolution of the entire historic property, which houses two gastronomic restaurants, including the three-Michelin-starred La Vague d’Or, and a nautical-inspired bar.

Hemingways Watamu

Following a multi-million-dollar transformation, January saw the relaunch of Hemingways Watamu, a star of the Kenyan coastline having been established here in 1988. As the hotel embarks on this new chapter, the renovated space fuses the hotel’s original spirit with fresh new design and the integration of African design elements. Led by the South African design firm DSA, the interiors are simple and elegant, with plantation shutters, four-poster beds and a modern coastal vibe. The restaurant concepts have also been re-imagined with the focus falling on seafood at the main restaurant and sushi and ceviche at the al fresco Rock Bar. The legendary Hemingways Bar has made a return and is now completely open to views of the ocean it faces onto, and a new botanical swimming pool now lies alongside the fitness center and spa. The hotel’s ocean setting is an integral part of its identity as people come here to snorkel, dive, kite-surf and set out on fishing excursions. Humpback whales can be seen from the coast, and the hotel is a founding member of the Watamu Marine Association.

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