Complete refurbishment creates quirky, contemporary boutique hotel

New Zealand’s brilliant Tui bird provides inspiration for the art-focussed Naumi Auckland Airport hotel

The back-lit onyx bar is set against the interior design, living room, lobby, room, black
The back-lit onyx bar is set against the back of the Naumi Auckland Airport hotel’s reception wall. The phrase in lights – ruffle your tail feathers – is an encouragement for guests to leave their rooms and enjoy the hotel’s wider ambience. Ceiling-to-floor drapes and a large chandelier are two of many luxe touches in the greater space.

In the competitive world of hospitality, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. However, the recently opened Naumi Auckland Airport hotel offers a colourful, playful, even artistic way forward.

Gaurang Jhunjhnuwala, CEO of Naumi Hotels ANZ, says the launch of the company’s first New Zealand hotel close to the country’s busiest airport was a significant step in responding to the needs of today’s discerning traveller.

“Auckland is a bustling gateway for New Zealand as well as the wider Asia-Pacific region, yet the market for quirky, contemporary boutique hotels in this area was relatively untapped,” he says.

“Naumi diversifies from your regular boutique hotel by combining aesthetics with functionality and creating bespoke experiences for our guests.”

The hotel is a transformative reworking of a 1980s building by project designer David Muir, now of Muir Design Solutions, with the new hotel’s interiors by Material Creative.

“The original 1980s building that we started with is unrecognisable in the new hotel,” says Muir.

“But, the existing structures did have good bones and the layout of the entry building and sprawling two-level buildings behind, ringing private gardens,  were ideal for the hotel’s intimate, quirky feel.”

However, the old entranceway and facade were completely upgraded and reworked by Muir, with new tile cladding approximating the light-catching sheen of the Tui bird’s plumage.

“We refurbished and reroofed the entry canopy and introduced new lighting and signage to make a much more appropriate approach statement.”

A wall sculpture of gold leaves – evoking furniture, interior design, table, orange, brown
A wall sculpture of gold leaves – evoking the Tui’s plumage – offers a gilded welcome to hotel guests. The sculpture is by Auckland creative team NY Art Department.

The existing entry lobby and glazed curtain wall also needed replacing, with the hotel entry angled to avoid a direct entry to reception and through to the rear – as required by the Feng Shui consultant.

“Adding to the arrival experience, we repositioned various elements inside the lobby building, including the reception,” says Muir. “Previously tucked into a modest wall niche, this now takes rightful centre stage in the greater space.”

The bar and dining area were also re-sited, with an existing internal steel spaceframe demolished and replaced with a skylight in the dining area. The hotel’s conference rooms and gymnasium were retained and refurbished, with input from both Muir Design Solutions and Material Creative.

The Dottie suite, one of two designer-inspired suites bedroom, ceiling, home, hotel, interior design, property, real estate, room, suite, wall, gray
The Dottie suite, one of two designer-inspired suites at Naumi Auckland Airport hotel, reflects the colourful, conceptual installation pieces by respected Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

As well as the architectural rejuvenation of the public spaces, Muir stripped out, reworked and finished the hotel’s 193 rooms. Most original services were also replaced. All this was a tricky ask as the hotel kept trading throughout the staged refurbishment. Muir also refinished the existing pool and created fresh, verdant landscaping for the project.

However, it’s the imaginative style of the hotel’s interior design that really makes Naumi sing.

Interior designer Toni Brandso says ‘absolutely no white’ was the first key directive to Material Creative, and the second was to create a unique boutique hotel, like no other in New Zealand.

“At the same time, the design had to encompass the ideals of the Naumi brand – unexpected, playful, youthful and considered: a truly exhilarating experience and feast for all senses.”

The native New Zealand Tui – with its cheeky personality and stunning plumage – was hit upon as the perfect motif. This theme runs right through the hotel, starting from the cladding and the lobby.

“The lobby’s centrepiece is a 24-carat gold textured 6m high wall, representing the nape of the Tui, designed by Auckland creative studio the NY Art Department,” says Brandso. “Material Creative designed the segmented cedar reception desk in front of the wall and underlit this to dramatic effect.”

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s dotted surfaces installations provided architecture, bathroom, ceramic, floor, flooring, interior design, property, purple, room, tile, wall, gray
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s dotted surfaces installations provided inspiration for this suite bathroom in the Naumi Auckland Airport hotel.

Beyond the reception, the bar-bistro-lounge area makes an equally bold impact. The ‘Ruffle your tail feather’ light installation is an invitation to guests to socialise, rather than hide in their rooms.

“In this public space, lush armchairs and circular rugs soften edges, while firework chandeliers imbue a sense of luxe and excitement,” says Brandso. “Adding to its charm, the lounge walls feature 95 gold discs hand-painted with a feather pattern, also by the NY Art Department.”

In fact, art plays a central role throughout, with commissioned artist Belynda Henry’s New Zealand landscapes fashioned into room rugs and Judi Bagust’s whimsical brush stroke paintings – intended to evoke the Tui’s birdsong – featuring in the lounge and in the guest rooms.

Most guest rooms are finished in one of four variations in colour patterns, mimicking the mult-coloured iridescent sheen from the Tui’s feathers, and including rich brass accents.

However, there are notable departures in the form of two designer-inspired Suites – Ziggy, inspired by the classic chevron and striped Missoni design, and Dottie, inspired by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama known for her colourful conceptual pieces. There are also four pink-hued Blush rooms which are equipped for extra pampering.

Credit list

Naumi Auckland Airport
Interior design
Toni Brandso, Liv Patience, Liv Macfarlane, Material Creative
Mechanical/electrical engineer
Norman Disney & Young
Coastal Gardens
Lobby – Balastina Ariostea tiles by Pietre from Tile Warehouse, Strutturata rug from Designer Rugs, Inzide tufted loop carpet tile from Urban Retreat, Luxury Vinyl Click; reception – Graduation wool carpet from Designer Rugs; suites – Ziggy Harrow Grafito floor tile from Tilespace
Reception furniture
Kartell, Harrows, Jonathan Adler
Belynda Henry; NY Art Dept; Judi Bagust
Project designer
David Muir, Muir Design Solutions
CBC Construction
Quantity surveyor
Resene X-200 membrane in Tuna; tilework from Tile Warehouse
Wall treatments
Reception – Gold Canvas feather wall by NY Art Department; lounge – cedar shingles; Ziggy Suite – Scion Groove wallpaper in Pebble/graphite
Tyke Linear by Novii
Additional furniture

Story by: Charles Moxham

Photography by: Michelle Weir

06 Sep, 2018

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