old and new in hotel

The Old Clare Hotel Sydney: One big adventure…

Upon arrival at the front of the hotel as a guest, it would be apparent that compared to most hotel realities, here you are about to embark on an adventure. 

Australia’s European history is infinitely interesting and Sydney’s that much more so because it marks the site for the arrival of the First Fleet under Captain Arthur Phillip. He commanded eleven ships carrying Australia’s first convicts as they arrived into Botany Bay in January 1788.

That fact means Sydney’s built history is broader and more singular than that of any other major Australian city.

The Old Clare Hotel began life as a hotel in Chippendale in 1834 and has remained so since that date.  In 1939 a new hotel was erected on the site. “Architect Sidney Warden was a hot property after designing the nearby Broadway Hotel to much acclaim, so when Margaret Moloney bought the site she hired him to design a new hotel in the “Inter-war Functionalist style”, which generally seems to mean a bull-nosed corner within a Sydney context; hence The Old Clare was born and named in homage to Maloney’s Irish roots.

The Clare Bar is authentic and beautifully conveys a modern “bad boy” image while at the same time reminding us that this public bar plays host to a long history of stories to tell.

It has seen everything; there is a strong feeling that because of definitive links to the past integrated with contemporary design, it is a cool place to hang out.  The potential for diverse exploits awaits:  perhaps some of the old-timers from the streets of Chippendale still arrive at 10am for their first beer as they have done for decades.

If you are a visitor to Sydney, the Clare Bar gives the impression of home-grown authenticity; a slice of genuine Australian life able to be experienced in the here-and-now.

By definition, the realisation visitors receive while staying at The Old Clare will be much enhanced by the unique historic context.

For example, if you were staying in the Clare Room,  the making of the building is there in the brick wall housing two tall windows, each of which has its own style (almost as if the room self-indulgently decided on a whim to put in two tall, but different, windows).

A visitor waking up in this lovely room gazing at the wall is reminded that the building has been there long before them, has many tales to tell, not least an industrial one. 

Industrial elements coexist beautifully within a modern context when invested with the authority of yesteryear.  The Clare Room is not merely a room, as the age of the wall indicates it is an event that encompasses a unique social, economic and material timeline; something richer and more expansive.

The effortless merging of the hotel’s past with chic design options indicates the seasoned repository curators had to work with from the outset; high ceilings mean tall windows are possible, both these elements together contribute to a sense of old-world luxury in terms of space, additionally, in general, the palette is neutral and the materials robust.  Interestingly because the building is of such high-quality decorative aspects can be played down; the sophistication is all in the building, the original fittings and the predominant pieces such as beds and furniture.

The degree of refinement slots easily into the Chippendale location,  “With its rich, varied history and architecture, Chippendale has become the home of choice for dozens of art galleries, production houses, graphic and fashion design studios, plus Sydney’s most exciting new restaurants, cafés and bars.”

Adventuring at The Old Clare continues in the Chippendale Loft with its strong nautical associations.

The colour scheme and interior design choices symbolise travel and distance by boat between Europe and Sydney.  The palette in this room is redolent of the natural landscape and, or seascape, a visitor might witness on board ship coming into Sydney harbour.  Vibrant burnt orange, chaff/corn hues, seagreen and tan work, indirectly, to reflect the sun, sunrise and sunset, the land and the ocean; elements which are so much part of Australia’s projected image.

Similarly, the Linkway articulates both Sydney’s 19th century building methods and the utilitarian timeline of The Old Clare; so many dishevelled original features exposed leading the visitor to ponder the lives of those who erected the original building and worked on the various refurbishments across the century and a half since 1834; the multitude of maids, bar tenders, maintenance men, owners and early visitors are all implied in the stairwell links to the various parts of the building.

The Showroom Suite has a definitive statesman-like interior (continuing the shipping metaphor, also similar to a Captain’s Great Cabin or Wardroom).   The fine wall panelling is indicative of a gentleman’s study and his importance in society; the study could be a place of work or relaxation, often containing cabinets where books, specimens or curiosities might be stored that reflected the interests of the gentleman in question, in this way he could show himself, traditionally, at best advantage to his peers.

The white bed linen and modern furnishings lift the mood to one of sophisticated playfulness

While the soft wafting colours of the pillows and armchair in the Abercrombie Room and Chippendale Loft, echo a natural seascape palette.

A nuanced blend of styles is revealed in the CUB Suite; opulence with a relaxed holiday vibe.  This quality derives from the intricate details in the magnificent white ceiling and cornicing in combination with the relatively light furniture and jewel-like palette.  Add in the light fittings and appurtenances and it would feel as if you are on board a luxury liner for an extended stay with nothing better to do but socialise while sipping large quantities of gin martini.

So wonderful entering this room after a day out sight-seeing: footsore and weary, the cool of the extensive interior reminding you of how lucky it was you happened upon this room.

In a single thought the enveloping ambience stretches across the 150 years of hoteliers having called The Old Clare home, while at the same time flashes of NSW’s early colonial past and vibrant present intercept and add to a more complete appreciation.

Having kicked off shoes and changed, ordered up four large Home Sliders, it is time to head to more relaxing climes.

Sliders in hand, the Rooftop beckons, it is time to recuperate on the edge of the pool, toes revitalised, an hour’s relaxation before round two of this day begins.

Undoubtedly, Australian and international visitors alike will reflect on the good fortune of locating The Old Clare as the perfect holiday retreat; the perfect holiday within a holiday experience.

As late afternoon breezes take care of  the remaining vestiges of stress and aching muscles a change of plan takes place, “Let’s order up sharing plates, a bottle of the Rameau Rose and a bottle of the Fat Bastard instead of going out; too good to be true up here.”

Images courtesy of The Old Clare Hotel

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