The Winchester Boutique Hotel
Size: 2300 m²
Cost: R90 million
Opened: November 2021
Location: Sea Point, Cape Town
Celebrating a century of gracing the scenic front row seat of Sea Point, the grande dame of the promenade has undergone an extensive makeover before making its comeback as The Winchester Boutique Hotel. With respect to the original building as the guiding principle throughout the overhaul, Source Interior Brand Architecture (IBA) has created a scheme that pays homage to the historic architecture and layers of memories, delivering on the grandeur and unique sense of place of this Cape Town landmark, while still adequately addressing the needs of contemporary travellers. Let’s step inside the beloved halls of The Winchester Boutique Hotel to find out what the suite life is all about…
Site history and context
With a history dating back to the roaring 1920s, the Cape Dutch Revival style Winchester Boutique Hotel was originally built on the Sea Point beachfront as a residential apartment block in 1922. Yes, on the beach and not across from the Promenade and Beach Road as it is today. Previously known as The Winchester Mansions, the building’s iconic inner courtyard used to be a parking space for vehicles, accessed directly through the current front door. In 1958, the building was purchased by Mr and Mrs Harvey (the titular namesakes of the redesigned Harvey’s Bar), who turned the apartment block into a hotel before eventually passing the property down the family line to the Wainfords who still own it today. In November 2021, after a two-year refurbishment by GAPP Architects and Urban Designers and Source IBA, the beautifully reimagined Winchester Boutique Hotel reopened to the public under the management of Newmark Hotels, reminding Capetonians why they fell in love with the matriarch of the Mother City in the first place.
The renovation was originally prompted by the need for an infrastructure upgrade, particularly relating to the plumbing and bathrooms. Many exterior walls and corridors had untidy exposed drainage and plumbing pipes, so the upgrade presented an opportunity to relocate and conceal many of them. Further investigation led to the discovery of more challenges, such as the need to upgrade haphazardly installed HVAC systems and electrics. Certain staircases needed to be closed off and new ones added to meet fire-safety compliance laws. Plus, the team needed to find a way to create space for standard contemporary hotel conveniences like air conditioning. Due to the salty sea air from the Atlantic, many of the concrete slabs on the front façade had corroded, requiring carbon patching and the addition of new support beams. The owners and architects also became aware that the building was starting to show increasing signs of decay and dilapidation, prompting a more extensive proposal to structurally refurbish the whole building and not just redo the interior and rebranding.
Source IBA was initially brought on board as a hospitality design consultant and commissioned by the client to provide an overview of the potential of the building. This report set the tone for what then became the brief for the refurbishment, and the team was appointed to execute key parts of the interior architecture and design, brand design, and signage design. The firm worked closely with the owners of the hotel who are well-versed in design and were involved in informed debates around the final design elements and objectives. The first design objective was to deliver on the expectation of the architecture of this evocative building, which is a Cape Town landmark. The second design objective was to rationalise the room types. From a hospitality management perspective, it makes business sense to have a similar number of equal which has been created over many years. The challenging factor for the design team was finding inspired finishes which complied with technical requirements – essentially, finding a balance between context and the intended look and feel.
Looking back to look forward
It was important to the team at Source IBA that, by respecting the property’s past, they would not end up creating interiors akin to the typical stage sets for period dramas. Rather, they wanted the interiors to pay homage to the hotel’s proud history through inventive referencing. In other words, ensuring the design enhances the DNA and the heart and soul of The Winchester while simultaneously bringing a fresh, contemporary feel to the hotel. The design team retained, and in some cases reinstated, historic details to the interior architecture, allowing furnishings, colouration, quirky details, and styling to add modern appeal. This enabled the scheme to remain fluid and infinitely updateable by changing only moveable items and soft furnishings.
The décor and design of the 76 guest rooms and suites saw a modern revival of sorts, with carpets, bathrooms, and fittings being entirely replaced while a careful selection of furniture pieces combined to form a contemporary-classic style that celebrates the history of the hotel. As part of the extensive refurbishment, Source IBA and GAPP Architects repositioned the hotel’s sea-facing suites on the front façade to take full advantage of their spectacular views across the Atlantic Ocean and Robben Island in the distance. These prime spot, sought-after rooms were reconfigured to better align with the arched windows, creating spacious suites replete with private balconies and signature terraces overlooking the Sea Point promenade. On par with the modern comforts guests have come to expect from luxury hotels, the palatial en-suite bathrooms offer elaborate amenities such as expansive showers and elegant freestanding baths, not to mention the champagne-hued brushed-metal fittings that hint at the golden age of travel.
Memorialising monochromatic minimalism
To foreground the timeless arches, the architects removed the porte-cochère at the front doorway, effectively drawing attention to the archways leading from the reworked reception into the central courtyard. Upon entering the chic monochrome abode, guests are met with clean lines and dark wood panelling – the epitome of cosy elegance. Throughout the rooms and public spaces, a smart, eye-catching black-and-white palette manages to create an atmosphere that is both sleek and snug. The minimalistic design is offset by vintage furniture, layered textiles, striking signature chandeliers, and artwork collected by the Wainfords over the years – the combination of old and new capturing the character and charm of the building’s century-long history.
The monochromatic colour scheme extends to the iconic and widely photographed central courtyard, where the new hexagon porcelain tiles, extensive landscaping, reinstallation of the signature fountain, and, of course, the famous bougainvillea that had to be nurtured throughout the renovations collectively revive the hotel’s signature interior. Beyond the courtyard, overlooking the refurbished pool terrace with its bold black-and-white striped sun loungers and redone landscaping, The Constance Room is another reimagined space designed to house boutique conferencing facilities. Combined with the renovated sea-facing terrace, Harvey’s Bar, and restaurant Shoreditch House, Source IBA has breathed new life into the beloved boutique hotel’s wide range of offerings.
Be our guest
In the past, many guests and visitors would wilfully overlook unwanted details (such as the exposed plumbing), mentally editing their experience to match their romantic fantasies of its character. This largely guided the refurbishment, leading the architects and designers to retain the recognisable elements and erase what people ignored from reality. Through adaptive reuse, they successfully delivered the dream-like nostalgia Cape Town locals and tourists alike call to mind when they think about the timeless monument of The Winchester Boutique Hotel.
MEET THE TEAM
Architects: GAPP Architects and Urban Designers
Lead architects: Andrew Flint and Lisa Doucha
Interior architects and designers: Source Interior Brand Architecture
Main contractors: GVK-Siya Zama
Cost consultants: MLC Construction Cost Consultants
Project managers: Turner & Townsend
Landscape designers: Carrie Latimer Landscape Design
Photographer: DOOK, Greg Cox, and Sean Gibson Photography
Source Interior Brand Architecture