Under the blazing hot sun, the walk to Hotel Mono from the nearest Chinatown MRT Station exit feels a lot longer than just five minutes. So when the hotel’s distinct black and white façade with its charming Juliet balconies finally comes into view, I couldn’t help but expel a sigh of relief.
Walking through the automated door and into the air-conditioned confines of this boutique hotel, I can feel all sense of discomfort dissipate. With its all-white palette, the latest boutique hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown is the perfect place for travelers looking for that balance between the pulsating cityscape and the quietude of a private space.
Tucked along a row of triple-storey conservation shophouses on Mosque Street, Hotel Mono boasts a massive labyrinthine-like space inside despite its humble entrance. Opening its doors on February 2017, this striking new landmark is a project by President Design award-winning firm, Spacedge Designs helmed by its chief designer and founder, William Chan.
Making your way to your room, maneuvering one passage to another, can be both a challenging and exciting experience. Guests will delight in the picture-perfect corners, which are adorned with minimalistic furniture.
There are 46 rooms in total here and thanks to the hotel’s design approach, guests get to enjoy abodes that are spacious and comfortable. It’s no wonder that barely six months into its opening, Hotel Mono has been garnering rave reviews.
Amidst of the tacky neon lights and Chinese restaurateurs trying desperately to attract customers, the hotel’s duotone faćade stands out. Hotel Mono occupies six shophouses, which have been completely transformed in an extensive refurbishment by its appointed interior designer, Chan.
Catering to the design-conscious urban nomads, Hotel Mono’s statement-making black-and-white frontage poses an unusual sight to the vibrant city of Singapore. Unlike other buildings, its distinct division of two extreme monochromes — black and white — is certainly sensational in establishing a vivid design language.
“When coming out with the design language for the hotel, I wanted to throw away the rulebook. It’s important to create something that would stand out for not conforming to the standard expectations of what hotels should look like,” admits Chan.
The design relies heavily on simplicity, forgoing the common elements of tackiness and kitsch that are normally adopted by many boutique hotels.
Looking thoughtful, Chan confides that most hotel designs are easily forgotten because they simply look the same. Not wanting to pander to the clichés of nostalgia and cultural references in Chinatown, the designer felt compelled to do something simple yet different, but at the same time, still be able to communicate the ‘Singapore identity’.
The interior designer was keen to iconise these prewar shophouses with a contemporary interpretation. Keeping the architectural elements intact, the modernisation heavily relies on the sleek new additions to the white-washed interiors.
“Hotel Mono is my take on the design treatment of a local icon (the heritage shophouse) using a very simple, almost frugal design concept. Thinking back to the time when the shophouses were built and the hard life of the early immigrants to Singapore, this greatly inspired me. These pioneers lived a simple and thrifty life, and they also had to be inventive in order to survive,” explains Chan of his inspiration.
Chan’s bold and contemporary design language is applied throughout the hotel with similar nuances that help elevate the look and feel that he aspires to achieve. The simple colour palette paired with ornate Straits-Chinese charm manages to bring out the eccentricity of the hotel — exterior wise.
The space within is somewhat utilitarian. It’s the T-shaped cantilevered reception at the lobby that captures my attention almost instantly. The designer has also incorporated a protruding six-metre illuminated wall ledge that runs in tandem with a customised metal bench.
Confides Chan of his minimalistic approach: “Besides making the spaces comfortable, I wanted to create a landscape of linear beauty; one that focuses on lines, grids, basic shapes and forms. I’ve always been keen on exploring what’s yet to be discovered and pushing the boundaries to produce environments that are artistic, unconventional, and do not conform to type.”
Every room features a seamless metal bar that traverses the space like a line drawn in the air. Beyond being ornately appealing, the metal ‘lines’ serve many functions, namely as light fixtures, coat hanger and pathfinder. The metal bar also adds an edgy look to an otherwise all-white interior.
Why white and not other livelier colours, I ask Chan.
He’s swift to reply: “White makes the space and structure of the building stand out in a clear way. There’s a strong sense of wholeness and sculptural quality. It’s the most primitive, the most essential and the simplest expression of spaces.”
The award-winning interior designer believes that it’s vital for the hotel’s design and visual branding to be universal and attractive. And most importantly, it must be understood by people from all around the world.
“The idea is to have visuals that relax people and not distress them with too much colour. In my opinion, the monochromatic approach is an art and art has distinctive characteristics. When monochromes are layered with graphic and
structured elements, they become visually powerful,” concludes Chan, a contented smile on his face.