Aussie country pubs get a facelift: Daggy design at bush inns are out

It turns out that when choleric country politicians deride urbanites as pinot gris quaffers and single origin sippers, it's a case of the Sunbeam pot calling the Smeg kettle black.

The evidence is rapidly mounting that country folk will have what we're/they're having. And, as an exhibit, we present Tattersalls Hotel, located in Armidale in the New England region of NSW, and fronting an otherwise prosaic pedestrianised shopping mall on Beardy Street.

The hotel recently clinched an Eat, Drink Design Award, endorsed by the Australian Institute of Architects and the Design Institute of Australia, for the nation's best designed hotel.

"Tattersalls brings big-city style to country Armidale, NSW, revealing a heritage gem in a surprising location," the judges' citation stated. "The building has been exuberantly restored as a 25-room hotel with a public bar and opulent dining."

The Eat, Drink Design Awards "supports innovation and excellence in the design of hospitality premises of all scales and types", an area in which much of regional NSW has arguably badly lagged other Australian states such as Victoria.

Life and leisure 
Tamworth Powerhouse Hotel by Rydges, apartments
writer: Fiona Carruthers
pic supplied

The Tamworth Powerhouse Hotel by Rydges.

Luchetti Krelle, a top interior design and architecture studio based in Sydney's inner-city Surry Hills - more or less the metropolitan heartland of pinot grigio quaffing and single origin sipping - was commissioned to revamp Tattersalls. Remarkably, for such a respected interior design firm, the hotel was effectively its first bush commission.

"Over our 12 years of hospitality design, this would be considered our first regional project," says Stuart Krelle, one half of the eponymous design duo with Rachel Luchetti.

"Most of our work does occur around the metro areas or hugging the coast. However, we do have a number of current projects that are regional and that does seem to be a growing trend."

Far from wanting to entice the Surry Hills set, Mr Krelle says that John and Annette Cassidy, the owners of Tattersalls Armidale, never instructed the firm that the design should be pitched at prospective guests from the big smoke.


"Our clients have lived in the [New England] area a long time and are community-focussed," Mr Krelle says. "They wished to give back to the town of Armidale and to provide a place that offers patrons a sense of occasion."

Certainly, Tattersalls Armidale isn't the only country pub embracing city-style high design. Elsewhere, in Tamworth, an hour and a half drive to the south, the 81-room Powerhouse Hotel by Rydges, owned by local hotelier and businessman Greg Maguire, sports a lavish makeover.

The final stage of the redevelopment was recently completed, having been undertaken by Paul Kelly Design, another leading Surry Hills-based interior design studio.

"The main objective was to steer away from the stereotypical regional motel image, often considered a little characterless in terms of style," says Mr Maguire. "I wanted to elevate the destination motel experience."

The Byng Street Boutique Hotel, Orange. Image supplied

The Byng Street Boutique Hotel, Orange.  Photo: Pablo Veiga

In Orange, nearly five hours to the south west, the owners of the lauded and perennially booked-out Byng Street Boutique Hotel effectively waged an each-way bet on its designer, Louise Spicer of onefour interiors.

Originally from the Central West NSW city, Ms Spicer studied in Sydney and spent 15 years working with some of the world's leading high-end design and architecture firms in Australia and Britain.

Back at the award-winning Tattersalls Armidale, Eat, Drink Design Awards judges praised Luchetti Krelle's "brass embellishments", "sweeping walnut staircase" and "slinky archways" providing "a gilded glamour" to the art deco era hotel.

"[The project] was a massive undertaking by the client, as not only was the site huge but also due to the many past lives the building had lived," says Mr Krelle. "It meant extensive restoration and refurbishment was required. It was definitely a labour of love."

Anthony Dennis is the editor for Traveller.