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The QT Hotel & Resorts chain was already well-established in Australia when it acquired its first international property, QT Wellington, in 2017. The company poured $12 million into the renovation of the 179-room building in Wellington, New Zealand, making it clear that no expense was spared for the property’s launch.
Still, I wasn’t expecting much from the hotel, which was being marketed with buzzwords like “eclectic” and “design-driven.” I’ve stayed in far too many boutique “art hotels” that all seem to follow the same blueprint: brass fixtures, exposed concrete and maybe an edgy neon sign or two.
But all it took to change my mind was exiting the elevator on QT Wellington’s fourth floor. The dimly lit hallway was literally abuzz with the unmistakable sound of a beehive. The source? A hallway audio installation, hanging adjacent to a giant embroidered “My Little Pony” canvas.
However, I found that it is what’s behind guestroom doors that truly sets the hotel apart. In late 2018, QT Wellington invited artists to decorate its new Gallery 4 guestrooms. After receiving nearly 300 entries, the hotel picked 19 artists — mainly local — to produce artwork for the 25 Gallery 4 rooms. (Note: Guests can request a preferred room at the time of booking.)
Working with three color palettes, the chosen artists had zero restraints, and most produced art that went well beyond the suggested blank wall above the bed headboards.
Not surprisingly, a theme of Kiwiana (items and icons from the country’s heritage) is prevalent in Gallery 4 accommodations; artwork ranges from wallpaper with Maori motifs to a photographic installation of indigenous ferns. (The buzzing beehive, I later learned, was one of the original entries. Fortunately, the rooms are well-insulated from hallway noise.)
I stayed in Room 432, “The Voyage,” which features walls that were meticulously hand-painted by South Island illustrator Lara Kate Marshall. Detailed and monochromatic, her artwork depicts a Cook Strait scene of yore. The curve of a wave broke dramatically over my bed, while glass bottles filled with dried kelp and feathers lined the mirrored wardrobe shelves. Out on the harbor-facing balcony, an octopus — an uninterrupted continuation of the indoor acrylic mural — kept me company. The overall effect was wild, ethereal and modern.
Despite its individuality, my room still boasted all the trademarks of the QT experience: a custom-made gel bed; a Bose Bluetooth speaker; a luxe, free-standing soaking tub; and a minibar stocked with goods from local artisans.
Rooms are modest in size, but clients likely won’t spend much time in them. QT Wellington is just a short walk from the shops on Cuba Street and the night food markets. It’s also across the street from Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, which is free to visitors.
Chris Lee, communications executive for QT Wellington, told me that the hotel — formerly named Museum Art Hotel — actually once sat in Te Papa’s location. The four-story building was moved by railway tracks to its present location by then-owner Chris Parkin. His ambition also led him to amass the largest private art collection in New Zealand, which is on display throughout the property.
“The Gallery 4 rooms signify the hotel building its own collection,” Lee said as we had afternoon tea at Hippopotamus, the hotel’s French-inspired restaurant, which also serves a rate-inclusive breakfast.
The scene at the venue was one Marie Antoinette would die for: jewel tones, velvets, metallics and a taxidermized peacock surveying the scene. The spread is to match, and fully deserving of the One Hat (akin to a Michelin star) it received in the Good Food Awards.
Later that night, I also tried Hot Sauce, the on-site ground-level restaurant, which is packed with locals having after-work drinks. It serves up the kind of Asian-inspired food that Wellington is famous for, but edged on being too trendy and loud for my retired mother, who accompanied me.
In terms of amenities, the hotel’s pool and gym, which are located in the adjoining apartment-style wing, felt hidden away. They’re not the focus though; the art is. QT may be an easy sell for millennial clients, but during my stay, I spotted a wide age range of guests appraising the artwork. In the Lobby Lounge, which doubles as a check-in desk, clients can grab a guide of the hotel’s art — perfect for conducting their own self-guided tour.
Simply put, QT is the perfect reflection of the city it calls home: Wellington may be a government town, but it’s far from stuffy, with unexpected surprises around every corner.
The DetailsQT Wellingtonwww.qthotelsandresorts.com