I’ve stayed at The Olsen in South Yarra before and absolutely loved it. Not just because I fell head-over-heels for John Olsen’s works (which sadly, I’ll only ever be able to view from afar given his artistic preeminence and associated price tag!) These days, there’s not alot of difference from hotel to hotel. Those who travel frequently tend to get a bit bored by it all, a kind of ‘hotel fatigue’. Entering the same style of lobby, layout of rooms, facilities on offer… I usually only rate hotels on a few key points now: their customer service, cleanliness, how comfortable the bed is and wifi (Firstly, is it free? Secondly, is it fast?).
The Art Series hotels, however, have managed to pull off the impossible. Not your typical hotel style, there’s a fun quirkiness about them, whilst still being approachable, enjoyable and affordable.
My latest trip to Melbourne landed me at The Larwill Studio, on the edge of the city and adjacent to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville, Melbourne. Hopefully you’re not looking at this hotel because you have a sick kid (and my heart goes out to you if that is the case), but The Larwill’s position is also within reach of a number of Melbourne’s best sites – the CBD, Carlton and North Melbourne cafe scene, the zoo, Queen Vic markets, Flemington race track and Melbourne Uni.
Fear not, you don’t have to be an art aficionado to appreciate this hotel (or any of the other Art Series hotels). There’s a short documentary on the namesake artist – David Larwill (1956-2011) – that plays on a dedicated TV art channel. Along with other young budding artists, David set up a cooperative called Roar Studios in Fitzroy. It was a revolt against the mainstream galleries who ignored these little known artists at the time. And it worked. Not only professionally and financially for them, but in transforming the whole Melbourne art scene. The doco is fascinating and well worth watching.
Back to The Larwill Studio. Despite being located on Flemington Road, our room at the back of the building was surprisingly quiet. We booked a Workspace Parkview King overlooking extensive parklands (the beautiful Royal Park), landscaped gardens and an impressive new playground inspired by nature.
The room itself was fresh, spacious and clean. In a nod to health and wellbeing, there’s wholesome bites in the mini bar (also a coffee machine, alcohol and some junk, so don’t despair!). A meditation guide for relaxation. Yoga mat in the cupboard with a 30 minute workout on the yoga channel. Venture outside your room and hit the gym (includes free classes), hire a Lekker bicycle, take the kids out in a complimentary Bugaboo pram or go further afield with their smart car hire.
Of course the space is all about art, so I was keen to explore this foreign world with an informative tour run by their in-house art advocate. You can also flick through a collection of art books or test your own creativity with the available art equipment. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in an art gallery/art school/art bookshop, rather than hotel. So how does The Larwill stack up as a hotel? 24 hour reception, cheerful staff, comfy bed, Foxtel, free local calls and, my favourite, free (fast) wifi. Yep, it passes with flying colours.
I’m not alone in my praise for The Larwill Studio. It currently sits at #2 on Trip Advisor for all hotels in Melbourne, just behind the popular Crown Towers and ahead of 5-star properties like the Park Hyatt and Langham. Pretty impressive but not surprising given the Art Series brand falls under the same management as Rydges and the luxury QT hotels.
I intend to stay at all seven Art Series hotels found throughout Melbourne, Adelaide, Bendigo and soon-to-be Brisbane. But not just for a comfy night’s sleep, I want to learn something new and expand my limited knowledge on Australian artists. A refreshingly different reason to stay at a unique hotel.