The retro-glam style of Lemon Tree Premier Pune designed by Bobby Mukherjee & Associates

BM&A marries modernism with schmaltz, kitsch with sophistication to create a trendy hotel with elements of industrial chic design style and luxurious materials, creating spaces that ensure ROI

Pune, the city of Peshwas in the past and an IT powerhouse in the present times, is home to Lemon Tree Premier, The Lemon Tree Hotels’ new-age hospitality design that blends nostalgic charm with a modern design palette and contemporary luxuries. The idea was to use design as a medium to position Lemon Tree Hotels into the mid-market to upscale category, which, till then, had ruled the mid-market segment. Multi-disciplinary design atelier BM&A, headlined by Bobby Mukherji, worked with Ritu Ranjan, the group’s chief design officer, to create a template, which, in Ranjan’s words, “is of international standards and offers the brand an edge over global competitors. The idea was to create a trendy and chic product to suit the taste of the millennials. Hence, the design of this hotel is in line with boutique hotels in New York and London. The key point was to keep costs in check to obtain ROI as per internal financial calculations.”

The Executive Suite has white exposed bricks and walls with light wood veneer panelling

The comparisons with New York’s luxury boutique hotel scene is rather providential. Lemon Tree Premier Pune, like much of modern boutique luxury culture in some of the best world cities, mar-ries modernism with schmaltz, kitsch with sophistication in entirely new ways. This is about embracing the future, without letting go of the past. Bobby Mukherji, chairman & founder of BM&A says, “While designing, we get into the character of the edifice, which reflects in the end product. We aimed to merge style with simplicity.

Bobby Mukherji, chairman & founder, BM&A.

‘Nostalgic and modern’ sums up what the world hotel scene is about at the moment, and this hotel was conceptualised to recreate just that. There’s a whiff of nostalgia in this rustic-glam style.” According to Mukherji, the design shuns 1990s minimalism and plumps for dramatic vintage elements, the kinds we have seen in old photographs of all those New York clubs from the 1920s to the 50s, or the cinema based on that great novel about the swinging 1920s, The Great Gatsby. “From the lobby and restaurants to the bar and other areas, the hotel is replete with vintage-style details and clubby leather sofas. The space reflects this heritage through its loft-style elements, a largely white colour palette peppered with pops of colour in accent furniture pieces and lights, walls that are consistently flanked by unplastered exposed brick walls (again painted in white, referencing the 1930s era), accented by decorative lighting.” Infused by a warm retro vibe, Lemon Tree Premier Pune exudes the casualness and friendly ambience of young, modern hotels across the world, through its décor. The attempt is to ensure that the hotel comes across as an accessible and fun space, which is what the young travellers enjoy, against the formal stiffness one associates with upscale or luxury in India. Communal tables and varied seating options across the hotel makes it conducive for people to co-work and fosters conversation over a cup of coffee, much-needed in Pune where the young from across India congregate to work in the sprawling IT towers that dot the metropolis. “The idea is to be able to work and conduct meetings in an informal setting. An open business centre is part of the main lobby and the hotel has compact convention facilities and rooms. There is no unnecessary waste of space to ensure that all spaces are revenue generating,” adds Mukherji.

Republic of Noodles is designed to evoke the timeless appeal of 1930s Shanghai, with its dramatic backdrop of a bonded warehouse

The design language

Those who have memories of the cinema made in the 1950s and 60s would remember the elegant mansions of yore, with dramatic spiral staircases, marble floors, the art deco-esque furniture and the eye-catching artefacts and lights. Some of the qualities of that era has been brought to life by the Lemon Tree and BM&A teams in the interiors of the hotel, with its larger-than-life lobby, wall-spanning windows and a grand staircase that spirals its way up, to connect to the other public areas. “A warm retro-inspired palette and dedication to the simple forms of modernism sum up the furniture language. The spaces feel both reassuringly classic and inspiringly fresh. The décor almost borders on kitsch, but is actually quite charming,” says Mukherji.

The larger-than-life lobby and grand staircase, which spirals its way up, is reassuringly classic and yet fresh

The BM&A and Lemon Tree teams infuse the Citrus Café with a global café aesthetics, the in-house multi-cuisine restaurant. It is designed to mimic a café located within a warehouse, again a popular concept not just in Europe but also in most great world cities, with its brushed white brick walls that are left untreated. “This beautifully restrained shell is underpinned by the desire to capture that elusive cafe magic. We have added layers of industrial lighting, contemporary furniture and automobile-inspired art elements to this space,” says Mukherji.

“The look of Citrus Café is perhaps more industrial chic than the rest of the hotel. The interiors are heavy on warm, welcoming materials such as wood, leather and brick, with just those subtle hints of luxe, coming through coffered ceilings with indirect lighting and an intriguing floor pattern.” Mukherji and his team travel from the shores of London and New York to the other end of the world, to China, with Lemon Tree Hotels pan-Asian restaurant Republic of
Noodles. It is designed to evoke the timeless appeal of 1930s Shanghai, with its dramatic backdrop of a bonded warehouse. “It is an aesthetic mix of elements, which, through a controlled palette of materials and an uncomplicated placement of art and backlit trellis, create a one-of-a kind theatrical experience in a stipulated budget. Specialist tradespeople were called in: A scene painter created the signature mural of the 1920s Chinese characters, which was then scrubbed back to give it an aged appearance.” Unlike the public spaces that are plush in the retro sort of way, the well-appointed suites and rooms border on the industrial-chic design style. In cities such as New York and London, old factories have been converted into loft-style living, with components of industrial style brought in by weathered wood, exposed brick, industrial lighting fixtures and concrete.

Ritu Ranjan, chief design officer, Lemon Tree Hotels

In the Lemon Tree Premier Pune suites, the beds have a unique backdrop that resembles crate planks. Muted textures in the form of white exposed bricks and walls with light wood veneer panelling and marble cladding add a play of contrast within the suites—opulence married with industrial chic is a design language likely to get more popular with the younger generation. Again, like much of the hotel, the palette is neutral with striking bursts of colours in spurts. In the bathroom, the marble floor and counter, as well as marble-finished tiles on the walls, ensure that this white-and-wood section of the suite stands out.

Suites for differently abled

In keeping with Lemon Tree Hotel’s egalitarian philosophy, Lemon Tree Premier Pune has an executive suite for differently-abled guests. Says Ritu Ranjan, the group's chief design officer, “It is designed for their ease and comfort and offers ample space for free movement of a wheelchair. The tile flooring instead of carpets make it easy for them to manoeuvre the wheelchair. The room features specially designed low-line sofas without armrests, ensuring that the guest moves from the wheelchair to the sofa and back with ease. The entrance door has a low-height keyhole, adjacent to the doorknob, which matches the eye-level of a wheelchair user. A specially designed sliding wardrobe makes it easily accessible to a wheelchair user.”

Mukherji contends that the challenge while designing the hotel lay in creating interiors that oozed character and luxury within stipulated budgets. “Most hotels in India are either too functional or excessively luxurious. Lemon Tree Premier Pune manifests a timeless quality and yet, doesn’t look intimidating, making it far more approachable for the millennials.”

DETAILS OF MATERIAL AND SUPPLIERS

HVAC Consultants: Ampower Consultants

Lighting Consultants: Bobby Mukherji & Associates (BM&A)

Flooring: Marble from Classic Marble; Tiles from Kajaria

Sanitary Fittings: Kohler (ceramic); Jaguar (CP Fittings)

Light Fixtures: Technical lights – Artlite Troll; Decorative Lights - Monis

Wall texture: Beautex

Paint: Asian Paints

Furniture: Marlbro

Hardware: Hafele & Ozone

Mattress: Springfit Mattress