Singapore food, architecture and design, and a little from other countries across the world

Restoring Raffles

Restoring Raffles

Singapore, Hotel Restoration –

The extensive restoration project is designed to retain the ambience, the charm and the heritage of RAFFLES HOTEL SINGAPORE


MORE THAN 400 pieces of furniture that bear the old brass crests were restored. 8000 pieces of silver and historical china, inventoried. Paint, colour, plaster, timber, textile, motif, lighting – design elements are coming meticulously together to tell an authentic story of Raffles Hotel Singapore’s glory and heritage within modern relevance.

Opened in 1887, Raffles Hotel Singapore is one of the few remaining great 19th century hotels in the world, and was declared a National Monument in 1987. Till today, its neo-Renaissance architecture is preserved both inside and out, giving it a blend of luxury, history and classic colonial design.

Making sure the Old Grandfather Clock keeps ticking

Raffles Hotel Singapore is currently undergoing a restoration that is being carried out in three phases. Phase One began in 2017, and a re-opening is planned for mid-2019. Restoration partners for the project include global architecture and design firm Aedas, Singapore-based architectural restoration and research consultancy Studio Lapis, and Champalimaud Design founded by Alexandra Champalimaud in Montreal.

New suite categories, new event spaces and new dining concepts feature in the reborn Raffles Hotel Singapore
The new suites are designed with better soundproofed windows and improved lighting but still preserve the heritage and colonial feel of the space
The newly restored Long Bar on Level 2 is now open to the public and serves the iconic cocktail everyone’s been waiting for

One of the highlights of the restored spaces in the Jubilee Ballroom, which had been a hub of soirees, dances and social fun during the 1920s, earning a reputation as the “finest ballroom in the East.”

Alexandra Champalimaud, head of the Raffles Hotel Singapore’s restoration interior design team and founder of Champalimaud Design on the new Jubilee Ballroom:

We have included sophisticated Victorian details whispering to the heritage of the space along with nods to Singapore’s culture. In order to tell the legacy story of the theatre, we added finely curated motifs and techniques that speak to its history, along with iconic lighting elements to provide an added layer of luxury. Stunning chandeliers and signature gold Venetian light fixtures with elegant coffers, which light the room beautifully, can be found within the space along with custom upholstered wall panels that speak to Singapore’s culture.

A Chat with Jon Kastl, Partner at Champalimaud Design

Jon Kastl, Partner at Champalimaud Design:

To ensure that the final look retains the charm and ambience that is unique to Raffles Hotel, we remain sensitive to its history and to its influences that came to bear on the actual aesthetics – the colonial structure of origin layered with Peranakan details.

How do you balance modern relevance with heritage sensitivity in the Raffles Hotel Singapore restoration project?

Raffles Hotel Singapore is a national monument that has served as a landmark for many world travellers and Singaporeans. The changes that we are bringing are both modern but appropriate, as though they innately belong in the building and have been there forever.

The new interiors will retain the original charm and heritage and combine that with elements of modernity. In this sense, the suites are designed to reminisce the past, while still being contemporary to meet the needs of a savvy traveller in the way they are built and function. For example, we designed the new suites with better soundproofed windows and improved lighting but preserved the heritage and colonial feel of the space, such as the signature tripartite parlour, sleeping area, bathroom layout in the rooms, and charming elements such as the antique light switches.

When it reopens, the hotel will also have more than 100 pieces of antique furniture that would have been carefully restored, including the Steinway grand piano, an antique gramophone and the grandfather clock located in the Grand Lobby.

Which interior space sees the most dramatic change from the former and why?

The biggest change will be the hotel lobby, which will be transformed into a hub for social activity. We are creating an energetic, social space by integrating more seating and lighting. With this in mind, the space will see more food and beverage options to rejuvenate the hotel’s vibe and atmosphere, without requiring major changes to the structure.

Tell us more about the design elements in Raffles Hotel: colours, furnishing and lighting, and so forth.

The design of the refreshed spaces is original to Raffles Hotel Singapore: true, honest, comfortable, elegant, particular, and above all, glorious.

Woven through the hotel is an element of understated luxury, which is brought to life by beautiful tiles, classic palettes and the layered use of textures and materials, like marble, fabrics, leathers and patterned glass, sourced from countries such as Italy, France and the United States.

We will also use contemporary lighting in the suites, which plays an important role to creating the ambience. The decor will be reminiscent of its heritage, yet with a cleaner, simpler elegance.

You’re not only creating a building but also an icon and a symbol of Singapore’s history. What kind of research did you do to understand the context and come up with a vision for the ‘new’ interiors?

For us, the most important element when approaching this project was to honour and respect the culture of Singapore as well as Raffles Hotel Singapore’s storied legacy and status as a national monument.

In order to create design that can add value and improve the space, we need to put ourselves in the middle of it all, to understand not only the history behind a place, but also what it is that people today are seeking from it.

We did our research to understand the true personality of Singapore and what Raffles Hotel stands for in their culture. We work closely with Raffles Hotel and our restoration partners such as heritage consultant, Studio Lapis, a Singapore-based architectural restoration specialist. Ultimately, we want to bring forth the history and heritage and tell an authentic story through design.

What Singapore food do you enjoy?

I’m a big fan of chilli crab. Whenever I’m in Singapore, I always go to this wonderful place on the waterfront for their crabs! I also love chicken rice – it’s definitely one of my favourite local dishes.

Story by Carol Kraal. Photographs courtesy of Raffles Hotel Singapore