Underscored by the sun-kissed palette made famous by the Moors, the design offers a nostalgic nod to the hotel’s original fit-out.
“Our design language is always encapsulated by the feeling of escaping to somewhere entrenched in beauty, with a modern Mediterranean, Moorish infusion to it,” says British-born Syrian Hana Hakim, founder and principal designer of The Stella Collective. “Lancemore CEO Julian Clark felt our aesthetic was a perfect fit for the hotel because when his mother Jan designed it 20 years ago, she had been inspired by her travels to Morocco and used those experiences as the backdrop of her design. That was a lovely starting point for us. Our palette, textures and finishes all reflect this – everything is really raw and robust. It has a grounded and glamorous beauty to it.”
Haloed by distant mountain peaks and a patchwork of pasturelands, the two-storey hotel is sited intimately within hedged gardens – a living canvas that expresses the full spectrum of the seasons, Hana explains. “The seasons are so visible in this part of the world,” she says, adding that the surrounding landscape and climate were key influences in the design. “The region really helped us understand how to design each space. With summer being hot and dry, and winter cold and rainy, we focused on weaving those elements into the design so that it feels incredibly inviting, romantic and cosy in the cooler months or open, fresh and exotic when it’s warm.”
Also on the ground floor is the Vineyard Room. With floor-to-ceiling windows framing views across the grapevines, this relaxation zone cocoons guests with low-slung sofas and linen-lined armchairs from day to night. “I love this room,” Hana says, pointing to the eye-catching pewter chandelier, depicting palm leaves with a nod to Hollywood Regency style, and the striking fireplace. “We implemented the crescent moon shape fireplace to anchor the conversation pit. With the U-shaped maxi sofa and burgundy tile tables – it sets such a beautiful scene for guests to enjoy.” An upstairs lounge space presents guests with a quieter reading room environment, where linen and Mexican equipale cedar seating is arranged beneath a beaded chandelier and arched windows open sightlines across the landscape.
In the 40 rooms and suites, each featuring polished concrete floors, sisal rugs and custom-made teak joinery, guests are greeted by custom bouclé love seats or linen-covered sofas. Patterned throws, brass sconces and specially commissioned artworks add visual punch. “The artworks were hand-painted in Morocco,” Hana explains. “We wanted to bring something to the rooms that was very now, supporting the artisans from Morocco just as Jan did back in the day.” Split over the hotel’s two levels, the rooms and suites offer a choice of sunrise or sunset views. The upper options spill out to shared balconies with masses of wisteria in spring. The lower rooms and suites open to ground-level courtyards, overlooking the fishpond and rambling rose bushes to the east or manicured gardens to the west.
At the top of the outdoor stairs, accompanied by plants in terracotta pots, the upper-level function terrace provides views across the eastern gardens and Moroccan-inspired courtyard. Anchored by an aqua-blue mosaic-tiled fountain, the courtyard is the place where guests can venture to the outdoors from the dining room to enjoy drinks and world-class dining, seated at wire-frame chairs or reclined in string hammocks. Gravelled paths lead beneath an ornamental blossom tree to the pool, backdropped by open-air cabanas and flowering acacias. “I honestly can’t believe the beauty of the vineyards, the gardens and the climate. Milawa is a very special pocket of Victoria,” Hana says. “I didn’t realise something like it existed within Australia. I hope we’ve added to the region by bringing grounded glam to the High Country.”