Hotel Review: The Larwill Studio brings creativity to an odd location in Parkville (Melbourne, VIC)

When it comes to Australian hotels Art Series Hotel Group is one our most valuable and inventive assets. The beloved hospitality group has been playfully sprinkling creativity on unique locations for years now, echoing a focus on one Australian artist for each property to make for colourful, idiosyncratic accommodation that not only reinterprets classic hospitality, but gently encourages guests to let their own creative juices flow.

The environment in which one creates has been shown time and time again to be just as important to art as anything else; Art Series have certainly kept this in mind when laying out the design for The Larwill Studio, one of their most recent properties and the fourth in Melbourne. It’s a 96-room homage to the late David Larwill, a local and expressionistic artist whom painted with an extraordinary energy and sense of freedom. Like all Art Series hotels, his paintings are used to bring a great deal of character and life to the lobby, hallways and rooms through the property, which is oddly located in the same building as the Royal Children’s Hospital. Regardless, Art Series have utilised the space well, the lobby being a quaint but incredibly spacious burst of colour and natural light that offers benches, books and various objects as if it were some eccentric art collector’s personal library.

Royal Park and Melbourne Zoo are just behind the property, bringing lush greenery to the The Larwill Studio’s overall setting even if it is located on a drab highway in the midst of hospital and university buildings (at least trams to and from the city stop just outside). It makes for an interesting scene on arrival, with colourful smart cars ($50 per day) and bright orange Lekker bicycles ($5 per hour) for hire displayed neatly before the entrance, as well as the uber stylish Smith + Singleton cafe, which is independently owned but still services rooms with organic produce and some excellent breakfast. The interesting part is how these modern elements stand side-by-side with a dull looking Subway, which is also accessible from the hotel lobby and keeps the facade from truly shedding it’s clinical past.

A ground level courtyard leading out to Royal Park.

It’d be hard to suppress the hotel’s energy though. Like Larwill himself, the studio functions with a charming sense of playfulness and expression. The staff are personable and check-in is a breeze, directing you to the nearby elevators which have quotes scrawled all over the walls, informing guests what Larwill wanted from his paintings and how he loved to connect with his audience through making them smile.

Up to the room – I mean “workspace” as it’s referred – and the springy youthfulness continues. The room-length window brings in a whole heap of natural light, shining onto two double beds (I was in a Twin Share) and illuminating large Larwill paintings that hang above each, providing enough colour to sync with the warm pops around the room such as the fiery orange throws neatly tucked into the corner of each bed. It feels immediately refreshing, even more so when you start reading the informational materials which are each pegged to a clipboard near the entrance. They detail the various ways in which this seemingly small property uses it’s location both inside and outside of the building. For example, each morning the hotel’s general manager takes guests on a jogging tour through the park. There’s also yoga mat found in the closet which can be put to good use in either the workspace or the park each morning. Wellness is known to help artistic expression after all, facilitating contemplation and creation.

For those who prefer to do their contemplating in the gym, there’s a small independently owned space of free weights and machines just around the corner from the lobby, making up part of a strip that includes a host of other stores.

Beds are exceedingly comfortable, soft on the edges and in the middle with just the right thickness to get a good night’s sleep. A lovely DIY lamp in a canary yellow cage runs between. Although one of the beds is oddly placed with the head right next to an electrical outlet, so your pillow is actually touching the outlet – awkward if you want to keep something plugged in overnight. Perhaps a proper bed head would have helped there.

Short quotes such as “live intensely” are scribbled in big black text on pillowcases, mirroring the welcoming mat down near the elevators which quote “stay inspired”, two mantras which embody the hotel’s affable way of encouraging their guests to think outside of the general exchange of hospitality; you don’t just stay one night or two, you take this memory with you and channel it into fuel for creativity. It’s hard to forget your choice of accommodation when it doubles as an art gallery, even more so when those works are big and bold but still accessible with an almost childlike wonder. Should it inspire you on the spot, there’s even a modest art kit in the mini-bar which provides you with a canvas, some paint and a brush.

The mini-bar has many healthy, indulgent and creative treats.

If you’re inspired in other ways; say just to get a bed as cloud-like as this one then just talk to the staff. Almost everything seen through the rooms is for sale – much like at sister brand QT Hotels – even the Art Series Signature bed.

The rest of the ultra clean room is a masterclass in organisation. A neat triangle shelf nestles some interesting art books, starting down at a small round desk which is positioned perfectly in the day’s light. Nearby is a large wall-mounted 47″ TV with not just 15 Foxtel channels but also Art Series’ own art channel, which is appropriately set to a mini-documentary on David Larwill when you turn it on. Hit the remote a few times and you’ll stumble across a dedicated yoga channel, perfect for mornings spent with that aforementioned mat.

The bathroom is spotless but not as exciting as the rest of the space, leaning towards the standard with all the features one would expect, including a roomy bathtub shower and good quality EVO products. It’s safe, but it gets the job done.

Out in the hallways you’ll find much more of Larwill’s playful Mambo-like tribal works which are so arresting you may find yourself pacing up and down the row of rooms; a rare occurrence for any standard hotel where the bee-line is usually between your own room and the elevator. Take your time absorbing these works before you look elsewhere in Melbourne, or better yet phone reception and set up a time for a private tour from the resident art curator.

A gorgeous view of the park. Note that this is from a hallway window; not the room.

But of course when one is in the world’s most livable city it’d be foolish not to get out and explore. The studio may inspire guests to hop around the city’s many art galleries, but the hotel is also just down the road from the quintessential Queen Victoria Markets, and as mentioned above, there’s a tram stop right outside giving you access to the CBD’s endless strips of restaurants, cafes and bars (approx. 15-20 minutes on the tram to city centre).

The Larwill Studio

Address: The Larwill Studio; 48 Flemington Road, Parkville VIC 3052
Contact: 1800 278 468
Website: artserieshotels.com.au/larwill

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