By Suzanne Sng
The chain's new hotel in Kowloon has the highest swimming pool in the city, 76 storeys above ground.
The mantra of W hotels may be "whatever, whenever", but for its latest luxury hotel in Hong Kong, W may very well stand for West meets East.
Instead of the stereotypical interpretation of East-West decor - chinoiserie wallpaper, big red lanterns and Chinese paintings galore - the designers of the luxe W Hong Kong in Kowloon have gone for a collaborative approach.
The two lead designers, Japanese Yasimuchi Morita of Glamorous Corp and Nic Graham of g+a from Australia, worked their magic so well that the blend of East and West is almost seamless in the 76-storey hotel which opened in January.
The interior view of a room in W Hong Kong hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong, which features stunning views of the harbour.
Here the five fengshui elements of wood, metal, water, fire and water are used not for auspicious purposes, but as quirky touches.
Mr Miguel Ko, president of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Asia Pacific, which owns W Hotels, says: "Hong Kong is one of the world's financial capitals and a business and cultural hub. Its identity as a cosmopolitan centre where East meets West is reflected in its cuisine, music and traditions, truly a great fit with what the W brand has to offer."
The hotel is the company's first property in China and third in Asia, after Seoul and Maldives.
Stepping into the lobby, dubbed the Living Room, you are greeted by massive tree-like columns, complete with fake woodgrain bark, rising eight storeys high.
Butterfly motifs that seem to flit across the ceiling add to the feel of a nature-inspired oasis in the city. The faux bois and butterfly designs are repeated on alternate floors in the 393 guest rooms, which include 42 suites.
Room rates start from HK$2,500 (S$495) to HK$4,500 (S$880) a night, depending on the season and room type.
For frequent business travellers, the distinctive decor means not waking up in a cookie-cutter room, disoriented and not knowing which city or hotel they are in.
"The spaces are uniquely contemporary whilst balancing the energy that is Hong Kong," says Mr Graham.
Hotto-trot amenities include iPod docking stations and Bang and Olufsen electronics to please the wired generation.
Whimsical design elements, which has been the W brand's signature since its first landmark hotel in New York opened in 1998, pop up in unexpected places, adding warm touches to the so-cool-it-hurts environment, which, frankly, can get tiresome after a while.
As you make your way to check in, you walk past murals which you think are oversized book illustrations, only to realise that they are holographic images which change with every step you take.
Lift lobbies on the guest floors are lined from floor to ceiling with books, curios and cleverly disguised buttons to summon the elevators. And if you do not bother to look up, you will have missed the collection of artfully drawn mad hats on the ceiling.
The interior view of W Hong Kong hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Located right at the top of the skyscraper on the 76th storey, 211m high, is the highest swimming pool in the city. It boasts panaromic views as well as an intricate mega-scale mosaic wall of butterflies by Australian designer Fabio Ongarato.
Situated along the waterfront in the up-and-coming financial and cultural district of west Kowloon, the hotel offers stunning views of the harbour - this is the water element of the design.
The slick interior is juxtaposed with the gritty scene of cranes and container ships hard at work, offering a glimpse of Hong Kong seldom seen by tourists.
While the red-themed restaurant with wood-fired stove is named, appropriately, Fire, the other elements of metal and earth are more subtly worked into the decor in the form of shiny silver pears arranged in clusters and tufts of immaculately trimmed grass in little glass pots.
The East-meets-West philosophy extends to the abundant art on display, including Chinese artist Song Xue's playful painting of a Mao silhouette holding the letter W, and a gravity-defying sculpture of a seal balancing a Steinway piano on its nose by Michael Parekowhai from New Zealand. A Damien Hirst piece stands nonchalantly on an easel in the lobby, on loan from an art gallery.
The hotel's priciest suite, known as Extreme WOW, cannot be beaten for its rockstar bling factor.
For HK$45,000 (S$8,800) a night, you get to lounge in a recliner shaped like a life-sized bear in black fur, frolic on a bed right under a mirrored ceiling, do laps in a bath-tub that can fit 10 and sit on what may literally be called a throne- a Swarovski crystal-encrusted toilet bowl.
Now, that really puts the W in wow.
The writer was a guest of W Hong Kong hotel. For more information, visit www.whotels.com/hongkong.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.