Gowings, Gowings but not gone

THE long-absent gargoyles are back at Gowings as one of Sydney's most historic landmark buildings is transformed into a destination hotel.

The 17-month restoration project promises to retain the distinct heritage of the Gowings building and the State Theatre.

Now, the hip can sip, eat and sleep in QT, a fashionable new hotel where staff wear "character" costumes in keeping with the theatre of the area.

The building was purpose-designed back in 1912, built for the Gowings Bros department store. The retail family owned and occupied some of the building from 1929 until they went into receivership in 2006. Amalgamated Holdings bought the building for $69 million and has spent almost that figure on demolition and redevelopment.

Gothic features, originally designed by the renowned architect Crawford H. Mackellar, have been returned to their former glory. The gargoyles and statuettes were removed for safety during World War II.

The hotel's managing director, David Seargeant, said accents from the original building were featured throughout the suites. Old cabinets and shop fronts were retained. Guest rooms used original doors and floors while SpaQ uses heritage tiles and stained glass in treatment rooms.

"No experience goes untouched by heritage … there's an original urinal in the reception level men's room," he said.

"In a sense, we've brought a contemporary vision that taps into Sydney's heritage to create a really unique space. We took on a rather extensive restoration program to retain and reinstate key architectural details on the exterior and interior of the State Theatre and Gowings buildings which infuses a sense of nostalgia into what is a very modern, creative concept. It's certainly no retro refit, there's a beautiful balance of past, present and future."

And it is not just the decorative features that have had new life breathed into them. A barber shop has also been reborn with the art of the "cut-throat shave" reigniting traditions past.

After your shave, you can buy a coffee in the cafe, a cocktail in Gilt Lounge or let Rob Marchetti, the creative food director from North Bondi Italian, knock you up something at Gowings Bar and Grill. You just won't be able to buy any camping gear.