Not your typical luxury hotel, Notel probably fits more into the boutique hotel category but with its own eccentricities. The rise in popularity of boutique hotels is a strong marketing trend that has proved that the industry is very much open to change. Boutiques tend to be in convenient city locations, often the most chic or trendy neighbourhoods. In resort destinations, boutiques are generally situated “off the beaten track”, offering a greater intimacy and feeling of adventure, while encouraging exploration and local interaction.
Boutique hotels today are synonymous with lifestyle, design, cool spaces, individuality and experiences – everything the modern traveller loves. For Notel’s owner and brainchild, James Fry, having owned a three-level carpark in Melbourne’s central business district for a decade eventually made him realised the potential of its rooftop space.
He wanted something different for the city, something that can set tongues wagging. Turning it into a high-end trailer park may not be our first guess, or his, but it definitely was his best. Fry bought six 1970’s Airstream trailers from the West Coast of the United States for around $70,000 each, hoisted them onto the roof and had them spruced up by architects Edward Moore. The result is Notel.
“I had a million ideas of what I wanted to do with the space. I tossed around roof top cinemas, restaurants and even a pool, but I wanted something totally different and something that would excite everyone. I feel that with NOTEL we have nailed it. This prime real estate in the heart of the city that will bring people into Melbourne,” shares Fry.
Located just off Flinder’s Lane and a haven for Instagrammers, Notel is not the last-minute place you book while on a sudden work trip; it is not boring. There’s no concierge, no restaurant, no bar, no gym - just six gleaming trailers, some cleaners and Fry himself. The rooftop space is bordered by high-rise buildings, the perfect canvas for splashes of vivid colours by Melbourne’s abstract artist-to-the-festivals, Ash Keating. The ground is carpeted in a bright glorious red shade, giving off the ultimate Hollywood-glam appeal.
The Airstreams are about nine metres long and each has its own deck with outdoor furniture. For the ultimate ‘glamping’ experience, there is even one with an outdoor spa overlooking spectacular city views. To modern travellers these days, up-to-date technology and entertainment are important features especially when provided in their accommodation. Targeted use of architectural features, design, colour, choices of music and art displays is set to attract a young and urban crowd while social spaces allow city travellers to relax alone or in groups while hooked up to laptops or internet-enabled devices. To start the adventure at Notel, check-in is via an app downloaded to the smartphone, which in turn acts as a digital lock. Hold it to the door, and away you go.
Curiously, all city noise dissipates when we step into the trailer. The interiors are pleasantly spacious and carry minimalistic lines throughout. Freshly-painted white walls, long strips of LED lighting and playful hits of coral pink and grey on the soft furnishings give off a retro futurist aesthetic. A bespoke queen-sized bed at one end of the trailer looks luxurious, fitted with Aura linens and throws while at the other end, a bathroom is completed with a blissful rain-shower head alongside premium Malin and Goetz products.
There’s even a nifty space under the bed where you can stow away your luggage. Seating is abundant with a bench space that lines either side of the trailer. What’s more, a mini bar stocked with Paul Louis French bubbles and Shiki beer will certainly delight the occupant for the rest of the night. An iPad is also provided as an entertainment unit where you can mount it on the wall or ceiling and watch Netflix in bed – truly a space-saving idea!
And when you are ready to explore Melbourne, the same device is loaded with suggestions for quirky bars, hip restaurants and other popular places approved by locals. It’s hard not to marvel at how urbane and cool you’ve become after a stay at Notel. Did we also mention that all guests receive free parking? Fry does own the carpark, after all.
A print version of this article was originally published in d+a issue 96.