By Louise Martin-Chew for The Urban List
Spicers Balfour Hotel has been an amazing success since its doors opened in 2010. An unpretentious, nine-roomed hotel in a quiet suburban street in New Farm, it has just received its eighth award: Winner, Best Hotel Interior (Australia), Asia Pacific Hotel Awards 2013. TUL caught up with the Balfour’s co-developer, Beverley Trivett on the eve of her departure for Kuala Lumpur to receive the award and to deliver a workshop on the significant elements of its success.
TUL: At times, even you seem astounded by the success of the Balfour. What do you believe has contributed? It is fair to say its success is disproportionate to its size.
BT: From the start, we considered the elements that allow travellers to really experience the location they are staying in. The Balfour was converted from a Queenslander—a family house constructed in about 1910. We wanted it to be a hotel that remained redolent of its place in south-east Queensland.
TUL: What specific elements create its memorable ambience?
BT: First would be that sense of place. Queensland has an enviable climate and at the Balfour we retained the verandahs and created a rooftop bar to allow guests to be able to enjoy the outdoors. Secondly there is what we called ‘new luxury’ (only to read that term in Vogue Living a month later!). It refers to a level of service or facility that is at a higher level to what you may have at home. It may be as simple as space, time and/or privacy. The third element is the quality of service offered, such as a butler that preempts your requirements, free wifi, or just a complete understanding of your needs offered in a discreet and sophisticated manner.
TUL: As a very young woman you, courageously, went to India alone to create a fashion business. In Brisbane in the last twenty years you have been involved in luxury cars and travel. How do you see these elements coalescing in the hotel?
BT: All of these experiences have come together in the Balfour. My early interest in fashion has allowed me to capture trends before they become current and that ability has been crucial. What we have created is reflected in new international trends in boutique hotels.
TUL: What about the breadth of these experiences? May they be offered to less resourced travellers?
BT: I see great value in simplicity. While we are interested in a new style of hospitality, some of the most important elements, created with quality design, are free. For example, the ability to breathe fresh air, to open a window or sit outside in a temperate environment, is an invaluable part of the south-east Queensland experience. Having paper in your room to write on is inexpensive. And the technologically-mediated experience that travellers are immersed in is in contrast with our butler service. This personal contact and observation of guest’s needs is an element that is appreciated by guests.
TUL: Your creative partner in this development was interior designer Rowena Cornwell at Coop Creative. As a duo, your success has been so significant that you and Rowena have developed a new alliance. Where do you hope it will take you?
BT: We created something that has struck a chord and I regard the Balfour as a maquette for larger developments. We are interested in meeting partners who would like us to create a similarly specialized approach to other hotels, including larger facilities. Our alliance is focused on creating destinations for the experienced business traveller. This is a growing market of people with significant experience (outside their home). We have offered other opportunities at the Balfour, like an encounter with quality contemporary art, that people may take home into their own lifestyle.
TUL: As Coop Creative and Trivett Venture Alliance, you delivered a workshop on May 9 at the Asia Pacific Hotel Awards in Kuala Lumpur on the vital ingredients for boutique hotel developments. What is uniquely innovative about your approach?
BT: It goes back really to what we delivered at the Balfour: the new luxury that often means something we don’t have at home. Then there is a distinctive approach—a strength of vision reflected in the design choices—created by knowing who our guests will be. And finally it is trust—not just delivery of service based on price but industry recognition and repeat visitation from guests.
TUL: What next for the Balfour? And for the Coop Creative and Trivett Venture Alliance?
BT: We had significant interest following our workshop. All I can say is watch this space!