Park Hyatt Siem Reap
Many remember the clean lines and monochrome colour scheme of Siem Reap’s Hotel de la Paix, which for many years proved a focal point for style in Cambodia’s temple town. But last month, the building was reborn. After shuttering its doors for a year, the space reopened under the Park Hyatt brand, and although the innate sense of style remains, its aesthetic couldn’t be more different.
Much like a Cambodian Alice in Wonderland, the global hotel group has jumped down a rabbit hole by employing renowned designer Bill Bensley to create a whimsical concept, rooted in Khmer culture, which plays with the idea of scale. “The concept is to create a homey estate of French-Khmer ancestry that is filled to the brim with interesting Khmer and French art and artefacts,” explains the designer.
Gone is de la Paix’s stark white gallery space and in its place stands a cosy elephant-inspired living room, decorated in dark woods and tones of pink. Look carefully and pachyderm touches resonate throughout. The hanging lights and wooden shapes set on soaring stand-alone bookshelves echo ears and trunks; while a bar table has been made from four enormous ivory tusks.
“I often play with scale, to make guests feel small, but this is the first time I have used elephant book cases,” says Bensley, adding that the animals used to be a symbol of power and respect in Cambodia.
Standing on one wall are models, made by Bensley, portraying two homes that were used to keep royal elephants. Nearby, a new exterior deck overlooks the wizened tree that remains in the hotel’s centre. Here a line of giant metallic ear-like fans gently wave from the ceiling, cooling guests sitting on the sleek seating below.
The hotel’s design is undoubtedly Khmer inspired, but it also fits well with the Park Hyatt brand’s motto that “luxury is personal.” With the addition of a warm colour palette and new spaces in which visitors can relax, Bensley has created a comfortable, residential feel.
Upstairs, intimate library areas have been created around the edge of the hotel’s central tower. Bedrooms are now decorated in a warm yellow and wood theme, which continues to the popular café-conservatory downstairs. Re-named the Glasshouse, shelves of freshly-baked bread dot the eatery’s interior, along with several large birdcages. It’s such unexpected touches that come together to create another unique design space that Siem Reap can enjoy.
Words by Ellie Dyer