Loke Thye Kee — Penang, Malaysia
With the minimum of fuss, George Town – Penang’s original colonial quarter and UNESCO World Heritage site – is quietly reinventing itself with a growing brood of stylish, intimate boutique lodgings. Its latest offering, the Loke Thye Kee Residences, is carved out of five pre-war shophouses, each of which comprises a standalone suite framed by a soaring pitch roof. For nearly two decades the buildings languished in neglect - collateral damage from the fall-out of the Asian financial crisis - before being rescued by the current owners, a boutique property development company. Over the original exposed brickwork and a traditional footprint of garden forecourt, alleyway and private balcony, the Singapore-based architects Ministry of Design – the outfit behind the ambitious rehabilitation of Penang’s Macalister Mansion – have layered modern touches such as customised rugs and floor lamps, Christian Fischbacher cushions and Saarinen side chairs. Local artist Ch’ng Kiah Kiean was also commissioned to create nine original pieces for each suite. And just in case a mood of lassitude strikes during the heat of the tropical day, a raft of diversions is at hand: the residences are part of a larger complex that includes a classic Hainanese-Chinese restaurant that dates back to 1919, a traditional café, tea spa, rooftop grill and bar, art gallery, and heritage centre.