Review: Art Series’ The Chen is a playful addition to Melbourne’s rich luxury boutique scene

The Chen represents a significant move for Art Series Hotels now that the seven-property hotel chain has been bought by Mantra Group. Described as a “luxury boutique”, it’s the first Art Series to open in Melbourne so far from the CBD, located in the increasingly viable area of Box Hill which is around 21km outside of the city. Sticking true to the Art Series aesthetic, the property absorbs and expresses the irrepressible energy of local artist Zhong Chen, whose highly attractive statement art defines the hotel from its name to its design.

Opened late 2017, the 100-room hotel has been built as part of the imposing Whitehorse Towers development which stands tall over Box Hill, its ultra-modern architecture casting a telling shadow on the suburb’s central shopping (and more importantly, dining) precinct, which is but a five minute walk from the doors of The Chen. Soon enough, the hotel will have it’s own two-floor Yum Cha restaurant, but for now there’s an abundance of top-quality dining options around the hotel, including Tien Dat which is undoubtedly one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in all of Melbourne. The access to some of the best Asian food in the state cannot be overstated here.

Chen’s art is found throughout the hotel’s two towers as well as in each guest room. The works, mostly digital archival prints of his more playful projects such as the Kung-Fu Series, bring the hotel a great deal of character and are some of the most engaging and accessible in any Art Series hotel to date. The warm, poppy pastel hues and drip marks are endearing additions to each floor, neatly spread through hallways and walkways. The lobby features different pieces, bigger and more complex with profound statements on Chen’s transcultural identity and mixed heritage. The intersection between Chinese traditions and western expressions make for an incredibly distinctive and endlessly interesting atmosphere, which will likely keep evolving as the hotel establishes itself in the locale, especially seeing as Chen himself lives very close to the property and plans on engaging with it often. Like some other Art Series properties, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the art in the lobby rotate every now and then. Having the artist so close to the hotel opens The Chen up to some great possibilities.

The kind of casual and relaxed delicacy reflected in Chen’s works has informed everything else in the hotel. The open-plan rooms – I stayed in a Deluxe Studio Suite – are bright and energetic but feel much more grounded than other Art Series’ properties, a sense of calmness complemented by soft textures and a muted colour scheme. Other than that, it’s business as usual, meaning that the usual quirks of Art Series are featured throughout, from the mini-bar that includes a mini canvas and paint to encourage guests to create their own art, to the exceedingly comfortable, dangerously addictive signature beds that sit snugly under two of Zhong’s prints.

A large wall-fixed HDTV is positioned directly opposite the bed, although it is quite far. It features a dedicated arts channel which screens a mini-documentary on Zhong Chen and his history as an artist. It sits above the mini bar and a stylish unit which also hosts a stack of art books. Interestingly enough, the room is also self-contained with its own kitchen and appliances, seemingly a nod to the hotel’s target market being guests visiting family in Box Hill or business travellers who may be staying for a longer period than the usual tourist. Although any tourist would be remiss not to immerse themselves in the incredible culture of Box Hill at large – and this hotel is the perfect base to do that from, especially with the signature Lekker bicycles or smart cars for hire.

A sightly rooftop pool stretches across a large modern deck by a covered barbecue area with a polished cement communal table. This is one of the very few Art Series hotels that includes a pool, and the designers have surely made the most of the opportunity, reflecting a tranquil Balinese resort with bright greens and magnolia trees set against panoramic, far-flung views of the city skyline and the surrounding Dandenong Ranges. Needless to say, sunset here is quite spectacular, as is looking out from the deep end of the pool over the cluster of CBD buildings looking like a small concrete island.

The pool and entertainment deck is preceded by a lush lounge area with a television and more of Zhong’s prints, while elsewhere a generous modern gymnasium is included for fitness-minded guests. It all comes together to make for an impressive and sizable leap in Art Series’ portfolio, building excitement for the steady growing brand and whatever they have planned next.

Rooms at The Chen start from $159 per night.

The Chen

Address: 850 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill VIC 3128
Contact: 03 9131 0200
Website: artserieshotels.com.au

The writer stayed two nights as a guest of Art Series Hotel Group.

Images supplied and credited to Lucas Allen.