June 17, 2020
In 2016, Spicers Retreats purchased The Guesthouse, located in the heart of Australia’s oldest wine-growing region, the Hunter Valley. The Guesthouse was actually the first lodge in the area, built in 1984 by Peppers, an accommodation group running small retreats at the time. Upon Spicers’ purchase, The Guesthouse offered 45 rooms divided into three guest wings and serviced by shared bathrooms. Spicers has since refurbished all rooms to include their own ensuite, and generally made the property its own. In late 2018, it opened its doors as Spicers Guesthouse – the company’s fourth New South Wales property. What a journey it’s been!
In a whirlwind 18 months of activity, 950 people were employed, 8000 cubic metres of sandstone excavated and re-used on site, 2000 square metres of carpet laid, 225 trees and 17,000 shrubs planted, 11,000 square metres of plasterboard installed and 2.5 kilometres of paths created. In the final three months leading up to the Guesthouse opening, the finishing touches saw 19,000 hours of labour required to get the job done. The full upgrade included modernising of the main building, housing a new bar, the restaurant, private dining room, conference/function rooms, a commercial kitchen and staff facilities. Along with the refurbished guest rooms, the landscape was also overhauled and work included the addition of a new pool and function lawns with mountain vistas.
Despite the scale of the works undertaken it was important to Spicers that the memories and reflections of the locals and visitors who had enjoyed the original property were honoured. For example, the familiar entry lawn and huge signature Plane tree still welcome everyone to the property. Similarly, the core design intent for Spicers owner, Jude Turner, and her team was to ensure the new fit-out respected the integrity of the past.
The reception, bar, restaurant alfresco dining and guest lounge were retained in their original locations and have been fully upgraded with new interiors including bespoke joinery and tactile luxury finishes. The design’s colour palette is a neutral base of timber and stone punctuated by rich, deep, ink tones and subtle metal accents. A mix of textures and patterns created by the use of natural materials gives a multi-layered dimension to each space. Simple nostalgic references have been overlaid with luxury finishes and contemporary styling elements.
Art at Spicers Guesthouse
As with other Spicers properties, the artwork at Guesthouse is intended to be relevant to the place, enriching the environments and celebrating local talent. In the main reception area guests will enjoy John Olsen’s ‘Bush Roads to Bathurst’ (1998). And in both the Eremo dining room and the Tallawanta Foyer, guests can gaze upon three large paintings by Allan Wolf-tasker, from his Wolves, Waiters, Chefs and Parties collection. Allan works from a studio based at the Lake House, a much-loved rural retreat in Daylesford, Victoria. The paintings depict people joyfully gathered around tables, eating, drinking, and merry-making.
Proudly positioned in the Guesthouse gardens and lounging by the built-in fireplace, there are a number of striking, corten steel Kangaroo sculptures. They were commissioned from award-winning sculptor Matt Hill, whose signature works include a variety of large-scale metal animals. Affectionately known as the ‘Spicers Mob’, they include: Arnie, Roofus, Dog and Joey. Other works of note installed throughout the Guesthouse include a collection of mixed media paintings by Australian landscape artist, Kristen Letham, who is inspired by views of the Hunter region.
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