How often do you get to sleep with a horse racing legend? At this unique equine themed hotel located on a race track you’re up close and personal with a different equine star each time you book a room.
You can almost hear the starting gun and pounding horse hooves under your window when you stay at The William Inglis Hotel, designed by renowned hospitality interiors studio, CHADA, and located an hour west of Sydney’s CBD. Every guest room honours a legend of the track – either bred or sold by the owners – whose photo and jockey colours grace the décor.
The hotel represents a world first, as it operates as MGallery by Sofitel (Accor) for most of the year, except for 33 days when the hotel is operated exclusively by the owners, the Inglis family business, to conduct their famous thoroughbred horse sales from the venue.
On those days the hotel is at capacity with guests from all across the globe all interested in some of the most expensive horse flesh you’ll see anywhere. The sales run for four days at a time, with a horse going under the hammer every four minutes and averaging about $100,000 each. A purpose-built indoor sales arena and hospitality suites, also designed by CHADA, compliment the 800 stables and 144 guest rooms for the two-legged guests. These range from Arab sheiks and Texan millionaires to humble stable hands.
“The brief was to create a hotel that would suit guests from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds and it had to be good enough to persuade them to stay on site and not want to travel back to the city for accommodation,” says CHADA’s Creative Director, Juliet Ashworth.
“We’ve designed about 130 hotels but we’ve never had one that had to serve such diverse demographics.”
The other fascinating aspect of the project was the recycling of so much of the old stables from the original Sydney headquarters that the Inglis business had operated out of for five generations. These were repurposed at the $100 million, 26 acre Warwick Farm site.
The family wanted to honour the story of a company which had sold great names in the racing world, such as Black Caviar, and had become an important part of Australian rural history.
The CHADA designers were given the task of sorting many decades of memorabilia and artefacts from catalogues to horse tack, cups and trophies and even old vintage signs listing horse’s names once used by bookmakers at the track. When the old stables were dismantled tonnes of timber was carried to the site and incorporated in the new building. Much of the office fit out, spa and auditorium doors re-used timber from the original stables, while horse names were re-purposed into the decorative scheme of the public areas.
“The client wanted a boutique hotel that celebrated their world but also traditions of refined rural life,” explains Ashworth. “It was wonderful concept that we enjoyed bringing to life.”
An important aspect of the Inglis brief was to preserve the cultural and historical aspect of this revered company, and its contribution to Australian rural life.
This project has a very strong sense of place and the interiors are thoughtfully imbued with history and story. At the same time, the designers navigated through Accor brand standards and expectations for a functioning M Gallery property, with a brand message of its own.
Besides curating and showcasing the family history the designers sourced and collaborated with Australian artists and artisans to create bespoke artworks that celebrated great horses, in the form of mosaic tile art, photography, wallcovering and carpets.
A key design feature, which spans the entire ground floor, is a double height joinery piece providing a stunning display cabinet for equine art pieces and memorablia.
CHADA’s commission included all guestrooms and suites, restaurant, bar, café, rooftop pool, retail shop, spa, the corporate headquarters of William Inglis, a 1000-seat auditorium, and a variety of function spaces including the main horse stable which doubles as a hospitality venue outside of sales-periods. The main auditorium is also used for concerts, conferences and large weddings.
The project has won numerous awards and has been set a new benchmark in tourism and hospitality combining diverse functions under one very comfortable roof.
Project: The William Inglis Hotel
Location: Sydney, Australia
Design Studio: CHADA
– Sharon Cairns, Anthony Fretwell & Stephanie Rooney
– Signage images courtesy of Corlette Design