Mention Regent Singapore and the winner of this year's Asia's 50 Best Bars, Manhattan, comes to mind. Besides offering top-notch cocktails, its atmosphere and decor also instil a positive impression among tipplers. The latter was tasked to international design practice HASSELL Studio who successfully interpret the spirit of Manhattan within the bar's four walls.
HASSELL Studio continued to work its magic on the recently revamped Dolcetto by Basilico and Tea Lounge, located on opposite ends of Regent Singapore's grand atrium. Led by principal designers Paul Semple and Matthew Shang, both distinctive establishments were meticulously outfitted to complement the hotel’s iconic form and interior architecture.
Sip a soothing cup of tea and recuperate among lush foliage at the Tea Lounge. This fresh take on the tropical colonial aesthetic features comfortable environments for both formal and casual moments. Touches of dark ebonised timber are accented with brass, and a marble mosaic floor adds a classic touch that connects with the existing lobby. Even if you rest in a private corner, tropical greenery can still peer through the perimeter shutters, which is a homage to the colonial veranda.
At Dolcetto by Basilico, Italian-inspired rustic, earthen tone of terracotta and warm timbers combined with golden brass highlights offers a non-traditional environment for meetings, with the power-enabled communal table allowing for group discussions and flexible working. Of course, Italian pastry favourites are available at this elegant café lounge.
Esquire spoke to Paul Semple and Matthew Shang, principal designers of HASSELL Studio, on their favourite elements in the refurbished spaces and the importance of visual and sensorial experiences.
Esquire Singapore (ESQ): What does design mean to you?
Paul Semple (PS) and Matthew Shang (MS): Design is about problem-solving—it’s finding the opportunity that you know is there through a process of interrogation. Most importantly though, to us, design is about bringing joy and creating experiences that make life better.
ESQ: Tell us more on deciding factor to use the tropical colonial aesthetic for Dolcetto by Basilico & Tea Lounge.
PS + MS: Dolcetto is more an urban Milanese Italian aesthetic, which was responsive to the venue, which is a Milanese style café with elegant sophisticated furniture and a warm European colour palette.
The Tea Lounge, on the other hand, has an elegant tropical aesthetic, which is about trying to create the essence of a European winter garden or colonial verandah that brings the outside in, while simultaneously blending seamlessly with the greenery found in the existing atrium lobby.
ESQ: Why the emphasis on both visual and sensorial experiences? Like the integration of ‘live’ services from the Chef’s Work Table and functioning tea & bar stations.
PS: It’s about bringing movement and colour into the space through the preparation of food, which people love seeing. We tried to create something that is an elegant, refined piece of furniture to serve as a focal point for The Tea Lounge. All of the equipment is fully integrated and concealed – a lot of consideration was given to the preparation work that needed to happen here, whilst still maintaining a presentable and tidy aesthetic. We wanted to include a beautiful element, even when not being used as a buffet or prep area.
ESQ: What is your favourite element of the space and why?
MS: The dappled light that we’ve created through the use of plantation shutters. You have this wonderful sense of containment when sitting there. You feel visually connected to the greenery and garden, yet it’s through a dappled screen that articulates that you’re inside, on the edge of the garden.
I also love the lush booths that work to create a more private experience in the space. We set out to create different experiences and unique moments for diners – with higher dining seats, lower tea seats and soft banquets for more intimate moments, so I feel the banquets work very well to serve that purpose.
ESQ: Give us a brief background on HASSELL and your role at the firm.
PS: HASSELL is a leading international design practice with studios in Australia, China, Southeast Asia, the UK and the USA. We judge the success of the buildings and places we design by the way people use and enjoy them – the clients who commission them, the people who inhabit them. We believe that good design is about helping clients to meet their needs and objectives.
As a Principal at HASSELL, I am the chief point of communication between the firm and the client, so my main objective is to ensure we understand the needs of the client, and that these needs are reflected in our design brief and delivery.
ESQ: How do you feel about the design scene in Singapore and what stands out for you?
MS: Singapore has become a very sophisticated international scene with its own point of view on design. There are a lot of talented people here with a very clear perspective and you’ve got so many smart, young design practices that have had an influence in Singapore, and beyond. There is definitely design of a top international quality here.
What stands out for me? I think there is a strong network here and a strong sense of community – for example, Foreign Policy (a design group here) has published a work expanding on the brands (not all done by themselves) created here in Singapore and what makes each special. I think there is definitely a distinct point of view being established here.
ESQ: What’s next for HASSELL in Singapore?
PS: Moving forward, we’d like to continue to grow our team, while seeking out larger scale, integrated (multi-disciplinary) projects. We’d also like to continue taking what we’ve learned in all aspects of the projects we’ve done and to bring that knowledge to our future projects.