Ahead of the 2024 Australasia Pacific Hotel Design Awards, HM looks back on a winning project from 2023.

Last year, the award for Hotel of the Year – Refurbishment was presented to Mac Design Studio for its work on NSW Southern Highlands’ property Osborn House.

Here, Mac Design Studio Creative Director, Alan Mc Mahon, shares an insight into this unique restoration project.

Enter the 2024 Awards now.

Nominations close midnight Sunday April 14.

What made this refurbishment project unique?

Osborn House is a magnificently restored 19th century boutique hotel nestled in the picturesque town of Bundanoon; this project was a real labour of love. The location and context make the project truly unique.

The brief was to create a whimsical retreat, a slice of Europe in the Highlands. We were entrusted to develop the concept for the hotel while paying homage to the history of the building. Our response was to create a perfect amalgamation between a relaxed retreat and an exclusive guest house.

As soon as you enter through the courtyard you are instantly transported to a different world.

The design combination of reclaimed materials paired with rich and tactile fabrics, curated objects from around Europe and personal touches make you feel like you are visiting someone’s private residence.

Can you share some insight into what was involved?

Originally an 1892 guesthouse, it was in major need of an upgrade. We replanned the existing layout into 15 suites, embracing the existing quirky heritage details for their character and authenticity.

To complement the restoration of many charming original features, we commissioned others sympathetic to the era – for example, the magnificent reception desk. Whimsical details such as tactile leather room keys add an engaging contemporary twist.

Among the guest accommodations, impeccably styled premium suites give more than a nod to European elegance, while sophisticated suites take their colour cues from Australia. Modern cabins nestled in the gardens are very distinct from the main hotel, with a clearly contemporary ambience, masterfully realised with commissioned pieces.

Furniture and joinery were a carefully curated mix of vintage and bespoke, to help create a richly layered sense of European sensibility, in keeping with the architectural provenance. This extends through each of the public and private spaces, which each have their own distinct ambience.

A combination of vintage mirrors adorns the intimate library, which also features a bespoke wall designed to house a collection of vintage books and beautiful artefacts. Nearby, the games room is lively and convivial, with a deft touch of humour in the Rob Brown artworks.

Dinah’s restaurant was conceived as an elegant space with a light colour palette. Here, vintage finds were paired with bespoke furniture and Venetian ceiling lights, calling to mind a chic European bistro from the early 1900s.

A large-scale artwork by artist Jai Vasicek creates a beautiful focal point. We also commissioned Jai to hand-paint the walls of the property, as well as creating a range of delicate works located throughout.

George’s bar-lounge has a more eclectic combination of furniture and lighting. Styles, patterns, and colours engage more energetically to create a more dynamic yet cosy space that celebrates craftsmanship.

Can you share an insight into some of the key challenges and how you overcame them?

This project was designed during Covid lockdowns. It was a new way of working for us all, but our close team spent many hours on video calls collaborating and communicating our vision to our wonderful clients. This process really cemented a new way of working.

What are you most proud of about this project?

The design concept is evident from the macro to the micro. We were so fortunate to be able to design items such as beds, joinery, furniture, and lighting to whimsical details such as tactile leather room keys. This bespoke one-of-a-kind approach really adds a special charm to the project.

Any pointers for those entering the 2024 Awards?

Put you best foot forward, communicate your design in a clear and concise way.

Enter your project in the 2024 Australasia Pacific Hotel Design Awards.