A room at the Plantation boutique hotel. Photograph: Alexander Crook/7Days
In the heart of Phnom Penh is the Plantation, a colonial style boutique hotel where lush tropical greenery and open space evokes a sense of luxury and romance.
Even the name of the Plantation is suggestive of something “broad, green, fresh and airy”, says Alexis de Suremain, the property developer who worked on it.
The Plantation was designed to make guests feel like they were in a different place, and developers went for an unconventional look.
“People stay for a short time,” says de Suremain. “We have more freedom to design something different from usual bedrooms and go for edgy solutions.”
The main building, from the 30s, was badly damaged during the late 70s. Much has been done to restore the building to its original glory, and creativity, limited in the restoration of the building’s exterior, found its way into the hotel rooms. The bed base, for example, is made of concrete – unusual for a bedroom.
A mirror, doubles as a partition between the bed area and the bathroom area.
Orange-coloured accents decorate the entire space, from the huge textile-wrapped canvases on the wall, to the cushions, and the dainty ribbons that hold together the mosquito net that hangs over the bed.
Miscellaneous items, sourced mostly from Cambodia, but also Vietnam and Thailand, also dot the room to give it a local touch.
All the wood found in the hotel is industrially recycled from China.
# 28, Street 184
A room at the Governor's House. Photograph: Alexander Crook/7Days
The Governor’s House, formerly the house of a senator in Phnom Penh, maintains its old world charm. Interior designer Alain Garnier deemed it appropriate that guests be brought back to the colonial era when he redesigned the building into a boutique hotel.
The hotel rooms, all furnished differently, are named after famous names who traveled extensively in Asia.
The Sean, named after actor Sean Connery, is one of two rooms with a central bathroom. While the open design might not be as welcomed by the more conservative who like their privacy, it is prominent in European countries like Belgium and Spain.
“They love having baths right in front of the beds,” says Garnier, who is from Belgium. “We don’t have doors, we don’t like doors.”
While the bath area, complete with a top-class Jacuzzi, is modern and European, the rest of the room is furnished with old Chinese antiques. There is a 19th century Chinese elm wood cupboard, a Burmese 90th century rice casket, and a local vase from 14th century Angkor Wat that Garnier has refurbished into a lamp.
The Hemingway, named after the famous writer, was filled with exotic looking furniture. A Victorian wardrobe stands near the doorway; a colonial chair made from bamboo and leather is placed next to a local desk from the 60s. A Chinese gilded mirror with candleholders, which Garnier says was found in the original mansion, stands in the corner of the room.
Garnier says the hotel is very much inspired by French art deco, characterised by its mix of rich colors and elaborate furnishings.
“The central idea is colonial, but I love to mix different furniture,” he says. “Local furniture from the 60s mix very well with old colonial furniture because they are influenced by that time period.”
Governor’s Mansion, Villa 3, Street Mao Tse Tung, Sangkat Boeung Keng
A room at the White Mansion boutique hotel on Street 240. Photograph: Alexander Crook/7Days
A dash of Europe and a healthy dose of Cambodia create an opulent atmosphere at White Mansion Boutique Hotel on Street 240.
Open since January 2012, White Mansion’s 30 rooms blend Asian trendiness with grand European architecture. White walls and dark teak furniture dominate White Mansion, giving the hotel a minimalist feel.
You will not find a trace of flamboyance anywhere in the hotel and the simplicity of the design is elegant.
“The design is not heavy, but everything is ordered in its place,” says Sao Moun Daung.
The hotel avoids feeling bare thanks to carefully placed pieces of art.
Several paintings by modern Cambodian painter Em Riem can be found along the corridor walls, while figurines and small black and white photographs adorn the rooms.
Colourful Cambodian silk, which is featured prominently in the bedding, saves the rooms from having a completely austere colour scheme.
The rooms and hallways are tall and wide, giving visitors a sense of being small as they navigate the building.
“I want to show the glamorous and trendy between two worlds – the Cambodian world and the European world,” says Sao Moun Daung.
White Mansion, #26 Street 240
Shanghai Gesture, a one bedroom suite, is furnished personally by Copin and his family from antique shops in Beijing. Photograph: Alexander Crook/7Days
La Maison D’Ambre
The people behind Ambre want their guests to “really feel at home” at their hotel, which places great emphasis on art and design.
“My family loves traveling. When we stay at nice places, we want to bring back little bits and pieces that would remind us of where we’ve been,”says owner Denis Copin. With a huge collection of antiques from China, Cambodia and Vietnam, Copin wanted to create unique and spacious living quarters that reminded him of his favourite places around the world.
Shanghai Gesture, a one bedroom suite, is furnished personally by Copin and his family from antique shops in Beijing. A traditional medicine cabinet stands at the doorway, and a red Chinese wedding cabinet hides the television and other electronics. Bamboo partitions are used not only as a divide, but also as wall hangings.
Walking into New York New York, another bedroom suite, Copin declares that he wanted to bring a “loft feeling” into the space.
“In New York, buildings use few materials like metals, bricks and wood, and stick to black and white.”
The monochromatic theme is only interrupted by an occasional splash of red, be it a red modern armchair designed by Quasar Khanh, or the red abstract paintings by Copin’s brother-in-law.
Not all the items in the suites are antiques or imported. Bedding textiles and pillows are all from Ambre, a designer shop on Street 178 owned by Copin’s sister-in-law.
Ceramic bottles that hold shampoo and other amenities are from Siem Reap.
The family also flexes their creative muscles and design modern furniture that fits into each room’s unique theme, passing their blueprints to local carpenters who will deftly bring them to life.
La Maison D’Ambre, #123 Street 110, Sangkat Wat Phnom.