Hotel rooms named after famous guests, from David Attenborough to Gwyneth Paltrow

I once slept in Sir David Attenborough's bed. Or at least I think I did. I was at a riverside Sukau Rainforest Lodge, set deep in the orangutan-inhabited jungles of Sabah, the Malaysian state on the island of Borneo, where there were two single beds in the suite named in tribute to that most cherished of nonagenarians.

As I tend to do in such configured rooms when travelling solo, I spread, nay dumped, most of my personal effects on one of the vacant otherwise undisturbed single beds (not pretty but there's no one else around to care, least all of Sir David himself) and sleep in the other one.

Therefore at the end of each day's wildlife viewing, I never got around to trying out that other mattress in which the great man, who had used the lodge as his BBC nature documentary filming base, may well have slumbered.

Naming rooms after famous figures is one of the oldest tricks in a hotelier's guest book and why not? Guests love the bragging rights and the heavy air of history of such rooms and suites.

Pop a plaque on the room door and a few archival photos and you have a potential marketing edge and the opportunity to exploit your hotel's heritage.

One establishment where the art of naming rooms has been more or less perfected is the atmospheric Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, Vietnam, dating to 1901. It boasts a Somerset Maugham Room, a Charlie Chaplin Room and a Graham Greene Room, all former distinguished guests.

Elsewhere around the world, and proving one doesn't have to be deceased to have a room dedicated, there's the Venus Williams V Suite at the Hotel at Midtown, Chicago; the J.K Rowling Suite at The Balmoral, Edinburgh; the Francis Ford Coppola Francis Suite at Palazzo Margherita, Bernalda and k

Much closer to home, and at the absolute opposite extreme from that Paltrow pad, there's the room at the early 20th century Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra in which the former Australian Labor prime minister Ben Chifley resided when in the capital.

It was in 1951 that Chifley, rarely pictured without his pipe, collapsed in his room as the result of a coronary while in the company of his secretary Phyllis Donnelly. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the next day that she had "taken in some newspapers" at the time. He was pronounced dead on admission at hospital,


Chifley, Prime Minister from 1945 to 1949, was opposition leader by that time and had lived at the Kurrajong throughout much of his parliamentary career, eschewing The Lodge which opened in 1926, the same year as the Kurrajong itself.

Old Parliament House is a mere 700-metre stroll from Hotel Kurrajong. Today on the walk there from the hotel you can see Peter Corlett's charming statue of Chifley in the company of fellow Labor PM and Kurrajong resident John Curtin, depicting the pair strolling to work together.

Poor old Curtin, worn out by the immense pressures of being a wartime prime minister with the perceived, though probably not real, threat of Japanese invasion, also succumbed to a heart attack while in office, with Chifley, his treasurer, replacing him.

Today the Chifley Room at the Kurrajong is scattered with replica memorabilia from his day, including his black felt hat and his signature pipe.

Hotel room nomenclature can be a delicate business and the discreet Kurrajong's innkeepers don't highlight the possibly salacious aspect of Chifley's demise. What's more, there's also a rather fine line between who gets a room named after them and who doesn't.

No one, aside from his indoctrinated Russian acolytes, would surely want to place a disposable hotel slipper-clad toe, let alone a whole foot, in a Vladimir Putin Room.

But a Volodymyr Zelenskyy suite? Well, that would surely be indefinitely booked out with all proceeds possibly going to Ukrainian refugees.

The Chifley Experience at Hotel Kurrajong Canberra starts from $389 a night and includes daily breakfast for two, a $50 food and beverage credit and a tribute whisky on arrival for two. See

The writer stayed as a guest of Hotel Kurrajong.