Considered one of Australia’s best living painters, John Olsen is famous for his squiggly-lined watercolor and oil renditions of the antipodean landscape, often marked by a big hot sun or a central body of water. The second property in the Art Series Hotel Group—situated in the classy South Yarra shopping precinct—the Olsen immerses guests in the artist’s playful worldview through museum-quality prints, an in-suite art library, a hotel TV channel, and art tours of the Olsen as well as other hotels in the series. Most of Olsen’s pieces depict flora and fauna, and the series Big Frog and Little Frog conveys the artistic philosophy of “taking a line for a walk” when drawing—guests see how the erratic hopping behavior of frogs mirrors the way Olsen paints. The 229 elegant accommodations have designer tables and chairs, floor-to-ceiling glass doors, and a soft white-and-silver palette that keeps the focus on the intricate paintings. Kitchenettes with a stove and crockery make the suites feel like modern artist lofts; and a smart car, Kronan scooter, Lekker bicycles, and an artsy stroller (or “pram” in Australian) are on hand for travelers who want to live like the locals.
Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.
Spicing up a hotel-heavy section of Chapel Street in South Yarra, just a few blocks south of the Yarra River, the Olsen is a convenient springboard for bicycling along the Capital City Trail and shopping. Chapel Street is lined with a slew of trendy boutiques, including the flagship stores of Melbourne brands Cylk and Bisonte. The Jam Factory is another fun fashion destination, housed in a brewery turned jam factory, and Toorak Road is an eclectic strip dotted with spas and salons as well as worldly gift shops and vintage, high fashion, and formalwear boutiques. The neighborhood has its share of interesting dining and drinking establishments, too. Da Noi is a family-style Sardinian restaurant where diners eat whatever the kitchen is making (there is no menu). On Sundays, the garden party–style Flamingo bar hosts a free barbecue with a deejay.
Need to Know
Rooms: 227 suites, 2 penthouses. From $206. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options:Inspired by John Olsen’s bird paintings, Spoonbill offers seasonal tapas and entrees all day, including one of Olsen’s favorite dishes, paella. (The artist once likened the colors in paella to an artistic masterpiece.) The terrace is a hot spot on balmy evenings for craft beer, local wine, and festive cocktails such as a tasty combination of Laurent-Perrier champagne and Grand Marnier. The South American–style Steer Bar & Grill is a meat lover’s dream. The menu separates local steaks by what the steers ate and even indicates the number of days the animals were on each diet. Spa and gym details:A state-of-the-art gym, hair salon, day spa, and glass-bottom indoor swimming pool with a sun deck round out the amenities.
Who's it best for: Art appreciators, fashion executives, and business travelers with a creative spark. Our favorite rooms: Opened in early 2014, the Lake Eyre Penthouse is named after Olsen’s most-painted locale. The 525-square-meter, two-bedroom loft affords 180-degree views of the Melbourne skyline from its 14th-floor vantage point. Such health innovations as an alkaline water ionizer, herb garden, and cold plunge pool counterbalanced by a hot tub explain the $2,915-a-night price tag. A private butler can accommodate dinner and cocktail parties. There are also more affordable spa studio suites with outdoor Jacuzzis that face vibrant Chapel Street. Souvenir art: Many aspects of the Olsen experience, from the signature Art Series bedding to a pajama set made by Masini and Chern—adorned with John Olsen’s famous hopping frog—can be purchased on the hotel group’s new lifestyle website, Artefacts.