Philippe Starck has been making his mark on Asia ever since, JIA (now J Plus), opened to much fanfare in 2005 as Hong Kong’s first boutique hotel. Philippe’s latest foray into the region is S Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan, which is currently in its soft opening phase. Design fans would be forgiven for assuming that the ‘S’ in Taipei’s S Hotel, is a tribute to the designer. However the ‘S’ in question is a grand romantic gesture. Thirty-five year old Chinese entrepreneur Wang Xiaofei, CEO of the Beijing-based South Beauty hospitality group and the owner of the hotel, has named the hotel after his wife: Barbie Hsu, nicknamed ‘The Big S’, a famous Taiwanese singer/actress.
Inside, S Hotel is resolutely Philippe Starck with hallmarks such as the liberal use of wood paneling and exposed concrete in the hotel’s lobby and restaurant coupled with bright splashes of colour on carpet, walls and ceilings. All of the hotel’s eclectic furniture is either designed or sourced by the designer. Mirrors, many of which are rose-tinted, feature heavily within the five guestroom categories, which all feature either white or tan leather couches, marble floored and paneled bathrooms and Bang & Olufsen sound systems.
Hotel owner Wang Xiaofei’s relationship with Philippe dates back to 2005 when he worked on LAN Club, a more than 5,500 square metres bar and dining complex in downtown Beijing. “My wife is Taiwanese and from Taipei so I wanted to create a different kind of hotel [to others in the city] with wood and concrete. We also collaborated with local artists. The carpets are in tribal Taiwanese colours.”
The 103-room property in the city’s leafy Songshan District, is housed in a repurposed office building, which took eight months to repurpose as a hotel. The structure was previously occupied by staff from the neigbouring Mandarin Oriental Taipei, prior to its opening in 2015.
Although S Hotel cannot directly compete with its über luxurious neighbor, which has more than three times, the capacity, a luxury shopping arcade, outdoor pool and wedding chapel, it is clear that S Hotel aspires to tempt the well-heeled away from the MO’s six restaurants with Hygge, a Nordic themed restaurant by Danish Michelin starred chefs Nikolaj Kirk and Mikkel Maarbjerg, set to open this month.
Wang Xiaofei, whose hotel is the first with direct investment from Mainland China, has surprisingly modest ambitions for S Hotel, perhaps coloured by the breakneck speed of development in his homeland.
“This isn’t a trendy place: the design is very traditional. It is a lasting hotel. It will last 20 years.”
Words and photography by Dave Tacon