This new hotel in Unesco World Heritage Site Georgetown takes its cues from illusionists and magic props

Magic and illusion have always captured people’s imaginations. Whether it is the late Houdini’s sensational escape acts or David Copperfield’s disappearing illusions, these magicians have dazzled audiences with impossible feats that keep them returning for more—and to unravel the secret behind these tricks.

And it is this curiosity that lays the foundation for Georgetown, Penang’s newest accommodation, The Prestige Hotel.

Designed and conceptualised by local firm Ministry of Design (MOD), the project is led by founder and design director, Colin Seah.

“The Prestige Hotel is an independent bespoke luxury hotel that best portrays the natural urban beauty of Penang’s historic core,” he explains.

“MOD designed the interiors, branding, signage and art, and we wanted to ‘transpose heritage’ by combining both the traditional and the modern, innovating spaces while remaining rooted in culture and location.”

Ahead of its official opening in October, we check into the Premier Deluxe suite at The Prestige Hotel to discover the magic behind every detail. Here’s what we loved:

1. It is not what it seems

Set amongst 19th century Victorian buildings in the Unesco World Heritage site of Georgetown, The Prestige Hotel blends into the neighbourhood with its colonial façade, but don’t mistake it for just another heritage hotel.

Enter through its intricate glass doors and you’ll be transported into a “contemporised and magical quasi-colonial universe” crafted by MOD.

“I love how the design of The Prestige Hotel tells a wonderful narrative through its spatial experience, art and design, from start to end—in this case, it is a touch of magic in a tropical, Victorian Eden,” Colin shares.

The hotel adopts a contemporary palette of dusty pink, smoky grey and accents of champagne bronze which complements MOD’s whimsical take on classic Victorian silhouettes.

“In the guest rooms, for example, our modern take on Victorian wainscoting was to craft angular trapezium-shaped lines.”

In a nod towards Penang’s geography, tropical prints as well as local botany, are juxtaposed against the hotel’s neutral colour scheme.

2. The magic is in the details

The hotel mystifies guests with optical illusions, such as its mirrored reception desk, which appears to balance on chrome spheres; the alternated dark and light-coloured walkways and mechanized light features that cast shadows of intricate lattice patterns on the corridors. Inside the rooms, the beds even appear to levitate off the ground.

But the standout feature has got to be its custom-designed Shower and Wardrobe Enclosure in the Premier Deluxe Suite, inspired by Houdini’s escape box.

“I think it’s the sheer spectacle of the piece, whether you’re using it to shower—and become the centre of attention—or whether you’re just admiring the details of it whilst enjoying another part of the room,” Colin says.

“The hero piece is positioned right in the middle of the room, so everything revolves around it and it also gently divides the room into halves without using any doors.”

3. It is inspired by a Christopher Nolan film

Here’s a trivia for film fanatics—The Prestige Hotel took visual cues from science-fiction film The Prestige (2006). Set in the Victorian era, the movie starred Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as rival magicians in London, who were obsessed with crafting the best teleportation act.

This theme of “appearing and disappearing” is subtly introduced throughout the 162-room hotel, with hidden doors that open to toilet cubicles and pantries.

The Prestige Hotel’s event venues are also named after the film’s lead characters—from the Angier and Borden Function Rooms to the Olivia and Julia outdoor gazebos.

4. Dine and shop in an English-style retail arcade

Occupying the ground floor of The Prestige Hotel, the retail arcade seamlessly connects to the reception lobby, with a lineup of dining and shopping options such as coffee joint San Francisco Coffee, a fine dining restaurant, a local clothing store, a dessert café, a florist and also a pharmacy.

To the right of the lobby, the hotel’s 110-seater The Glasshouse restaurant offers a beautiful spot for casual dining, thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows that allow gleaming natural light in.

“Taking inspiration from the English Victorian conservatory, we applied the lattice pattern to the metal-framed walls and glazing of the Glasshouse, presenting it as a delightful garden conservatory for breakfasts, lunches and dinners.”

5. Sunbathe with unparalleled views of the pier

Due to regulations in the heritage site, the hotel is only four storeys high but its rooftop infinity-edge pool still boasts views that do not disappoint. Overlooking the Church Street Pier and the waters, it offers a prime location to sunbathe or even watch the sunset in privacy, thanks to cleverly designed boundary walls and landscaping.

As a tribute to its culture and location, the pool also features Malaysia’s national flower, the hibiscus, laid out in mosaic tiles that lead into the water from the lush grass deck.

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