Outdoor connections, honest materials, and an eclectic array of furnishings and fine art make visitors to the reinvented Southern Cross feel welcome

The partially enclosed garden bar makes the most interior design, lighting, lobby, real estate, black
The partially enclosed garden bar makes the most of sun and shade. In the evening, spotlighting highlights the woven texture of the walls.

Perhaps the two most important goals of a hospitality fit-out are to attract patrons in the first place and then encourage them to return. For the refit of an iconic, long-standing hostelry, this meant ensuring past clientele responded to the fresh design, newcomers took interest, and everyone felt immediately at home.

Making the clientele, new and old, feel at home was central to the agenda when architects John Mills, James Warren and graduate Emily Reich revamped the historic Southern Cross Hotel in downtown Wellington. Reich and Mills largely worked on the exterior of the venue, while Warren focused on the interior and the architecture. Mills says that the fit-out is intended to stimulate people visually, and at the same time make them feel connected.

"We created an eclectic, vibrant set of spaces that are indicative of the variety and exuberance of the city beyond the hotel's front door," says Mills. "The Southern Cross has been in existence for nearly a hundred years and locals from all walks of life patronise the bar from artists and students to office workers."

In structural terms, the refit included a new timber entranceway and frontage that opens up the hotel to the street. Other elements included were a feature ceiling, a realignment of interior spaces, the introduction of new toilets and a completely new garden area at the rear of the hotel.

The architects looked for points of commonality that would connect with the venue's diverse patronage.

John Mills Architects gave Wellington's Southern Cross Hotel building, car, city, downtown, family car, house, luxury vehicle, mixed use, neighbourhood, real estate, sky, street, blue
John Mills Architects gave Wellington's Southern Cross Hotel a new street presence together with a comprehensively revamped interior. The frontage links the bar to the street via a connecting patio.

"One thing that Wellingtonians love is indoor-outdoor flow, and this is integral to the Southern Cross ambience," says Warren. "Completely reinventing the front of the hostelry was central to this. Now wood doors open onto a small patio that brings a direct connection to the street. The extensive glazing also allows daylight to flood directly into the interior."

Two metal sculptures, each in the shape of a leaf, over the entrance reinforce the outdoor theme and serve as a gentle reminder of the new garden bar, set to the rear.

"An outdoor fireplace, mature trees and the introduction of large boulders in the garden bar all add to this connection with nature," says Reich. "Much of this area is covered, and the addition of a roaring fire makes it a welcoming spot all year round."

The journey from front door to garden bar is a tapestry of texture, colour, form and diverse seating options.

"We wanted to create interiors with the comfort and detail that a private house might have," says Warren. "The central space that greets visitors, for example, has a variety of chairs, a large feature ceiling representing traditional Pacific woven ceilings, and a chandelier hanging alongside this. Everywhere you look something different catches the eye."

Like much of the interior, the hand-painted concrete café, interior design, restaurant, black, brown
Like much of the interior, the hand-painted concrete floors reflect a personal touch. Everything from the table seating to the ceiling treatments reflects an eclectic design agenda.

As you would expect, creating harmony from these disparate elements wasn't easy. However, by selecting simple, honest materials, and following a practical and painstaking methodology, a cohesive result was attained.

"Basic materials such as brass, timber, vinyl and rock predominate in the fit-out. These down-to-earth materials make patrons feel at ease, and are also low maintenance," says Warren. "Colour also links the interiors subtle colour accents wash through the spaces, with reds, oranges, and greens used extensively."

Today, the completely refurbished venue really is all things to all Wellingtonians, says John Mills.

"Artworks on most walls, generous outdoor spaces, fireplaces, cafe-type seating and private niche spaces all offer something different," he says. "Given the hotel's current patronage from the old-timers, to the fresh young things the Southern Cross' iconic reputation is only likely to gain momentum over the coming years."

Credit list

James Warren, John Mills, Emily Reich,
Project manager
Gary Clarke
Interior builder
Sam Janes
Topline Electrical
Sound installation
Buzz Audio
Riel Lighting Wholesalers
Meredith Webster
Leon Kiel
S Gerrie Decorators
Entry sculpture
John Calvert
Harbour City Refrigeration
Interior decoration
Liz Clarke
Exterior builder
Dallas Brown
Engineer, fire engineer
Spencer Holmes
Wood Joinery Company
Sound engineer
Bel Acoustic Consulting
Automated Music Systems
Paragon Fireplace Specialists
Concrete finishing
Donny Clark
Booth seating
Geoff Fiebig
Heating and ventilation

Story by: Trendsideas

28 Sep, 2007