Georgetown in Penang, Malaysia, is a colourful mishmash of ancient and colonial architecture; a mixed-pot of ancient and contemporary cultures, it’s no wonder that Georgetown is one of five Malaysian UNESCO world heritage sites. Amongst the Western-style skyscrapers you’ll find many run-down traditional Malay shophouses, which I like to think are the most iconic part of the capital city. One shophouse that stands out (by far) is the Loke Thye Kee Residences, a boutique hotel that merges the history of the buildings with contemporary design, masterfully designed by the team at Ministry of Design.
The Residences’ foyer is a dreamy first impression, featuring exposed brick walls and laser-cut latticework screening the ceiling and a wall, perhaps symbolising the contemporary and traditional worlds respectively. To top it off, a couple of Hans Wegner’s Wishbone Chairs accompanied by metallic stools sit atop the original patterned tile flooring, allowing for the beautiful barrage of patterns to act as the feature.
The pre-war shophouse-come-boutique-hotel was designed within the footprint of the original shophouse courtyard and alleyway, featuring lush gardens that line the dimly lit pathways leading up to the guest suites on the upper levels.
Each guest suite features sky-high ceilings beautifully framed by the exposed brick walls. Gorgeous traditional timber hardwood flooring contrasts against the ultra-contemporary fixtures featured throughout the space. A large tiled concrete bench borders the bedroom and the bathroom: half encased in glass acting as a wardrobe and hanging space, and half used as the vanity in the bathroom. It’s an inventive method to keep everything open plan, exaggerating the size of the space. Colour has been introduced, though quite minimally, through the floor rugs and accent cushions, keeping true to the contemporary aesthetic.
The grounds of the Loke Thye Kee Residences embodies the tropical oasis that is Malaysia, while the guest suites transport you to a contemporary loft-like space that you’d normally associate with modern cities like New York. This is exactly why this luxury boutique hotel, in its entirety, is the perfect representation of this Malaysian UNESCO heritage site: a perfect blend of the past and the future.