Technē Architecture + Interior Design is no stranger to sprucing up some of Melbourne’s iconic venues and transforming tired hotels into 21st century marvels.

When it came to the Portarlington Grand Hotel on Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula, the stakes were even higher. 

The pub has proudly served patrons since 1888. Situated on its generous 1900-square-metre site up the hill from Portarlington Pier, it could fill a book with colourful stories. 

But with investment from Melbourne businessman Paul Little, the monumental task of breathing new life into a grand old dame created a fabulous opportunity for Technē’s associate director, Sam Sempill, as well as for the Bellarine more broadly. 

“This project was exciting in that it was complex and multi-faceted in nature. I thrive on problem-solving and this project presented a lot of problem-solving opportunities, which we had to workshop as a project team,” she says.

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Along with Michael Taylor Architecture & Heritage, this included how to pay homage to the hotel’s rich past and overhaul the tired, adjoining beer garden with a fresh, modern twist.  

The facade is a great example. Back to its original grey colour, it now features the former verandah and fine balcony detailing, which was recast from an original wrought iron panel that once adorned the upper levels.

Inside, the demolition of the existing structure was limited and preserved with archways, cornices, wall filigree, etched glazing and the main stair balustrading. A locals’ highlight is the painstakingly hand-trawled walls, which took weeks to blot and paint by Scanlan & Makers. 

All 18 guest rooms feature a luxury upgrade in collaboration with Australian furniture design brand, Zuster, with custom-designed pieces referencing the building’s arches. They also echo the broader themes of the rooms, such as the essence of the old pier with natural and reclaimed timber materials.

“Various shades of blues, greens, and beige feature prominently and are used to convey the hues of the surrounding seaside town, as well as soft, warm lighting,” Sempill says.

Other elements offer a bit of fun. In the beer garden, The Atrium, a zesty yellow and white palette plays across furniture, fabrics and tiling to reference the beach, and extends all the way down to the rear of the site where a lawn space has just been completed. The toilets in the new beer garden and bistro often create a talking point according to the hotel staff, as does the tartan carpeting in the bistro. 

But what truly elevates the experience is the way the community is celebrated in the design process. Throughout the entire space are framed photos bringing to life stories of the people, places and objects of interest to the hotel and area. Meanwhile, items such as old bottles, toothpaste boxes and 1930s newspapers discovered during construction are now on display. 

Two sisters even donated a pair of matching original mirrors that once belonged to the hotel’s previous owners, which now hang over the fireplace in the front bar and in the bistro bar. 

“There is also an old plaque that was found on site that has been erected on the side of the planter box brickwork in the beer garden, directly outside of the pizza servery window,” she recalls. 

For me, the richness of the local experience is summed up by having a physical key to the guest room, which also opens the front door to the hotel after hours.

Creating a true home away from home, exactly as intended.

Technē Architecture + Interior Design
techne.com.au

Photography
Tom Blachford

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