The newly refurbished 134-year-old Portarlington Grand Hotel on the Bellarine Peninsula, overlooking the water on Newcombe Street – has been painstakingly preserved to look exactly as it did in 1888. Inside, you are transported to a modernised early 20th-century-Australiana grandeur with eighteen incredibly detailed boutique hotel rooms. The property was acquired by Little Group, who also operate Port Phillip Ferries–conveniently offering 70-minute trips from Melbourne’s Docklands to Portarlington Pier. In collaboration with Techne Architecture + Interior Design, Little Group engaged Zuster to design an exclusive furniture collection for the luxurious hotel rooms. Each furniture piece was uniquely designed by Wilhelmina McCarroll and hand crafted in Melbourne by Zuster’s own expert cabinet makers and upholsterers.
Zuster was first approached by Little Group, who they had worked on several projects with, including Melbourne Jet Base (completed in 2018), to work on this iconic hotel. Little Group introduced Zuster to Techne and commenced a series of design collaboration meetings over six months during 2020.
“Techne provided a design brief around March 2020 when we were in the early beginnings of Covid and Melbourne lockdowns. From what was the usual in person meetings, touching and feeling finishes and materials, quickly became virtual meetings and plenty of emails! Once I received the furniture design brief, my mind was filled with inspiration of a romance from the Victorian grandeur era and I was able to immediately focus, uninterrupted by my usual multi-tasking in the office environment. Living through Covid lockdown, was like living in a cozy cocoon and designing these furniture items, I could immerse myself in the romance of the era and design.” Wilhelmina McCarroll, Design Director at Zuster.
The hotel has been modernised to meet the highest standards of luxury, while still enclosed in stunning historical architecture, there are sure to be few experiences like it. Zuster has forged a romantic elegance of luxury and seaside escape, with 2-metre-high arched bedheads and curved inlay American Oak wardrobes and minibars, adorned with Carrara marble and vegan leather oval handles.
“It’s a reimagined look for Zuster that upholds the Zuster DNA of craftsmanship, design, and quality. The manufacturing of this project, coincided with an extensive upgrade in our equipment and technology across our five manufacturing factories in Thomastown, Melbourne. We were able to create and handcraft the unique design details in a timely manner to bring the vision to life. We all love the collection so much. Zuster has decided to launch the signature pieces, named ‘Victoria’ after the design era, in our ongoing furniture portfolio. I love that it is a Victorian inspired furniture collection, and a collaboration between three Melbourne businesses holding a mutual vision for creativity.” Fleur Sibbel, Managing Director at Zuster.
Little Group www.little.com.au
Techne Architecture + Interior Design www.techne.com.au
Port Phillip Ferries www.portphillipferries.com.au
Photographer Mike Baker www.mikebaker.com.au