Gazing upon its stark concrete exterior, you’d never guess that the inside of Brisbane’s 175-room Calile Hotel was done up in frothy blush tones and more greenery than a botanical garden. Architect Ingrid Richards, cofounder of Richards & Spence, calls the September 2018 opening a rebuttal to the generic stylings of chain hotels. It’s also a “much-needed social heart for a growing city,” designed to enchant locals as much as travelers. Inspired by the architecture of balmy, retro-cool cities like Miami and Palm Springs, California, she and business partner Adrian Spence imagined an open-air design that melds seamlessly with the toasty Queensland climate. Throw in custom oak furnishings, cork floors, sisal mats and brushed brass accents, and the result is cool personified.
The Calile Hotel is Richards & Spence’s fourth project in the James Street precinct, a mixed-use development with upward of 130 shops, galleries, restaurants and bars. Just 25 minutes from the airport and five minutes from Brisbane’s CBD, it’s optimally located for both business and pleasure travelers. Whatever you need — an indie florist, a Thai foot spa, an upscale kids’ clothing boutique — this neighborhood delivers.
Room to Book
Though every room at the Calile is Insta-glammy, only the two premier suites boast private rooftop terraces. Book the Ada, which offers 1,000+ square feet of indoor and outdoor living space, including a daybed, dining room table, and minibar stocked with locally sourced goodies. In the bathroom, you’ll find breezy linen robes, Grown Alchemist products and the kind of deep standalone tub that begs to be hashtagged. Come morning, motorized blackout blinds help block that relentless Aussie sunshine.
The clock tower is eye-catching, but it’s the 88-foot swimming pool with the Calile’s name spelled out in gold lettering on its floor that has Gen Z-ers losing their minds. This is a whole scene: Nab one of seven dreamy cabanas, order a passionfruit caipirinha and enjoy plenty of people watching while an in-house DJ spins tunes beneath a cluster of mint-striped umbrellas. For a chiller scene, book a facial or massage at the Kailo Wellness Medispa, just a stone’s throw from the pool deck.
Good to Know
The ground floor of the Calile houses a warren of fashionable shops. Head to Venroy for linen shirts and pleated chinos; Wolfe & Ordnance for drapey tops and flowy bohemian dresses; and Love Stories for designer lingerie and swimwear. Andronis sells fine jewelry, including gold letter bracelets and diamond ear cuffs, while the Museum of Small Things (known as M.O.S.T.) carries incense, salt cellars, silk sleep masks and other easily packable goods.
Q+A with Ingrid Richards
Co-Director, Richards & Spence
How would you describe the Calile aesthetic?
“Gentle brutalism” is an invented term, but it speaks to a pared-back palette that allows space for humor and delight. We worked from the premise that minimalism can be refreshing when it remains humanized. Contrasts of high and low, large and small, light and dark, crude and refined are employed to curate a spatial experience. A limited material palette makes that experience more potent. Classics like a Knoll 1952 Bertoia Diamond Chair sit alongside custom pieces by Australian designers like Grazia & Co. The result is quietly eclectic.
Where is your favorite spot?
Nothing beats a poolside seat at [Greek restaurant] Hellenika, sipping a pomerita.
Any top recommendations for first-time Brisbane visitors?
Architects should visit the Translational Research Institute by DHA for an exceptional public space experience. GOMA [Gallery of Modern Art] is a solid favorite with wonderful exhibitions. And have a look at Milani Gallery in the West End. Eat at Beccofino Pizzeria, Hôntô Japanese and Gerard’s Bistro. Shopping-wise, the James Street precinct is packed with retailers. My favorites are Camargue for international fashion and Gail Sorronda for a local designer with international acclaim.
What are your travel essentials?
Flat shoes, a rich moisturizer for the flight, my Kindle and enough spare space for souvenirs.