Over the past few months, many of Singapore’s hotels have reopened following the end of the two-month circuit breaker period in June and have been offering staycations to travel-starved locals. But popular boutique hotels KeSa House and Ann Siang House, which are located in vibrant heritage enclaves close to Singapore’s central business district, have remained closed.
Even in October, when we met Ashish Manchharam, the man behind these two properties, for a photoshoot at KeSa House on Keong Saik Road, the hotel was still not up and running. In the few areas that we had access to, beds were wrapped in protective plastic, and utensils and kitchen equipment remained covered up.
But this is not a sign that things have taken a turn for the worse. Rather, Manchharam, the founder and managing director of 8M Real Estate, says he has been busy implementing plans for the future. Since Singapore’s circuit-breaker measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 was lifted, the two hotels, which are located in heritage shophouses, have been undergoing improvements that he had long been meaning to implement.
“Occupancy has been great since their launches, but there were certain things we could not fix while there were guests. So having the closures gave us the window of opportunity to make some refurbishments to the spaces,” he says. “We are optimistic that when things open up further, Singapore will be well-positioned for recovery given that we have been better at managing the pandemic than most places.”
Both hotels, together with the recently revamped Wanderlust hotel, are slated to finally reopen this month.
A NEW WAY OF LIVING
Soon, Manchharam will find out if the company’s concept of “flexible living” will resonate in this new world of social distancing and global travel restrictions. In recent years, with the rise of digital nomads and millennials who value experiences over material luxuries, this hospitality trend—where the focus is on longer-term stays, unique amenities such as interesting F&B options and access to a community of like-minded individuals—has been in the ascendant.
At 8M’s portfolio of hotels, this concept is literally built into the rooms. Manchharam points to how a raised shelf at the open-concept wardrobe is installed high enough to roll a suitcase underneath, and the cubbyholes built into the bed frame double as extra storage space. The room where we conducted the interview in even opens out to a private patio that is large enough to unroll a yoga mat (or two) for a private exercise session.
“Our designs offer you the option to stay for a night, a week or a month, depending on what suits you best. It’s not just about being creative with small spaces, but making it really liveable and cosier than a hotel room, so that it feels a bit more like your own,” he says.
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