By Daven Wu
Jul 20, 2021
IT’S DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE that it’s been 12 years since Capella Singapore opened. At the time, it was one of the island’s highest profile resort openings featuring architectural work by Lord Norman Foster and interiors by Jaya Ibrahim.
In the intervening years, Foster’s quiet interventionist approach in integrating two grand colonial bungalows built in the 1880s with a new low-slung curvaceous extension has held up remarkably well; Ibrahim’s slick but sober interior design of the 112 suites, perhaps less so.
As it happened, just as the resort was mulling a refurbishment, its owner Evan Kwee found himself more than a little smitten by André Fu’s lifestyle collection, André Fu Living – the prolific Hong Kong-based designer’s eponymous range of furnishings and lighting.
One thing led to another, and pretty soon Fu and his team were on-board to refurbish 110 of the 112 suites. The Colonial Manor suites remain untouched for now. The results – delayed for a good part of 2021 by the pandemic – have just been rolled out.
The possibility of fitting-out the rooms with key pieces from Fu’s collection was quickly jettisoned in favor of a bespoke program. The designer is at pains to point out that the year-long project is based on an ongoing dialogue between the old and the new. “It’s an evolving language of what an urban resort is,” he says. “You want something new, but you also don’t want to offend the old as there was just so much beauty in the way the rooms were originally designed.”
That said, Fu says the language of the refurbished rooms is very relaxed, “very me.” Indeed, the silhouette is noticeably softer than the harder edge of Jaya Ibrahim’s original rooms, which featured an almost monastic mix of sober hues and handsome grey stone.
Fu’s color palette, on the other hand – cool tones of sage green, slate and flax – is a subtle homage to the thick jungle foliage of Capella’s landscaping. The mood is tropical meets Mid-century with lashings of rattan finishings wrapped around muscular cuts of solid ash and teak, ash grey cotton and jute rugs, silver-grey concertina screens carved of oak, decorative teak bowls… you get the picture. Oh, and those gunmetal bedside lamps encased in bijoux panes of rippled glass? “I think they’re very sexy,” Fu says – exactly what I’m thinking.
The touchstone of the design is the idea that the modern guest will use a space differently from how they might have in Ibrahim’s day. The quotidian sofa, for instance, has been reworked into a capacious bean-shaped chaise, upholstered in tactile woven fabric, that can be the setting for work, indolent lounging, and sleep. The lounge table is designed with two tiers that allow it to be used as both an informal sit-on-the-floor dining table, or a work desk.
The result is both subtle and deceptive to the amount of work and thought that went into the creative process. Fu is aware that detractors will charge that he simply installed pieces of his furniture line – a charge that ignores both the fact that everything in the refurbished rooms is bespoke for the project, and the fidelity that went into preserving the palimpsest of Ibrahim’s original design. “I tried to respect his vision of pared down luxury. That was what he was known for. But what I’ve done is to infuse the rooms with a level of luxury that has since evolved.”
Fu is hopeful that the Capella now has an inventory of rooms whose aesthetics will take the resort into its next decade. It had better, because the designer is too busy right now as he puts the finishing touches to the spa in London’s Claridges, a bar at the Maybourne Beverly Hills, a partial refurbishment to the Maybourne Riviera – all while supervising the launch of his third lifestyle collection later this summer.
capellahotels.com; doubles from S$1,050
All photos courtesy of Capella Singapore.