James Fry had clambered up a ladder to the roof of his car park with a six-pack when the idea hit him. The view was – and is – pretty special. Across the lip of office blocks, Eureka Tower reigns unobstructed, and Flinders Lane extends in all its scuzzy glory. Wouldn’t this be a great place, thought Fry, for a boutique hotel?
But, as an inveterate traveller, Fry wasn’t content to simply glam-up an old building with some fancy wallpaper and a hotel bar. “When you travel, you get the same experiences all over the world,” he says. “If I eat in the hotel restaurant, I could be anywhere in the world. It just doesn’t matter. Everything about this was about not having things I’ve already had.”
Instead Fry bought six aluminium-clad Airstream trailers for around $70,000 each, shipped them to Australia and lifted them onto the roof of Fry’s Fast Park with a crane.
This hotel has an un-signed door off Flinders Lane that’s accessible only with a smartphone. You find your room via its original numberplate, one of which has what is probably Flinders Lane’s only private, outdoor spa. Celebrated local artist (and Fry’s former schoolmate) Ash Keating was called in as decorator; he blasted the walls with a pressurised fire-hydrant filled with paint. The Astroturf is a shade of Bloody Mary.
The interior of each individual trailer, designed by architects Edwards Moore, forgoes all but the totally essential: a comfortable bed to sleep in, a minibar to raid at midnight and an iPad as concierge/distraction.
Having a proper, plumbed-in bathroom was non-negotiable, though. “I never wanted an outside communal bathroom,” says Fry. “I didn’t want to have to go outside at two o’clock at the morning.”
Despite all the effort Fry’s put into the rooms, he doesn’t want you staying put the whole time when you have the CBD at your doorstep.
“I’ve been all over the world, but I don’t think there’s a better place than Melbourne,” he says. “We don’t want people staying in here. If you want to sit in your room, and have all your food delivered, well, off you go. We’ll book you a room at the Hilton.”
Notel opens on Saturday August 27 on the corner of Harper Lane and Flinders Lane. Bookings are available now.