11 June 2023
5 min read
Located in the charming town of Moss Vale in New South Wales' lush Southern Highlands, Moss Manor is a welcome and unique addition to the popular weekend destination's raft of accommodations. The Georgian-style building that houses this refreshing boutique hotel was constructed in the 1890s and initially served as the first Mayor of Moss Vale’s personal residence. Stepping through its grand front door, guests are welcomed by a grand staircase, high ceilings and intricate architraves, while secluded courtyards encased in a leafy canopy create the feeling of a private oasis, right in the centre of town.
The Moss Manor revival project comprises two distinct but complementary parts – the historic sandstone Moss Vale Council Chambers building and a new glass pavilion extension at the rear. The contemporary, lightweight rear addition balances views of the landscape and back toward the historic building.
Designed by Luke Moloney Architecture, with interior design by the client, the close relationship between the two was instrumental in ensuring the outcome of Moss Manor. “The client, Louella, has become a friend of mine after working on another project of hers, so she gave me free rein when it came to the modern extension,” says Luke Moloney, Architect and Founder.
However, there was a rigorous vision for the original manor. “The brief was to take a heritage-listed building and bring it up to construction code for a Class 3 commercial building/hotel,” says Luke. “The extension needed to be a modern, black steel and glass pavilion out the back, in direct contrast to the historic frontage. But the bedroom suites within the manor had been designed in the client’s mind for years.”
In response to the surrounding countryside, Moss Manor demonstrates respect for its heritage within the Moss Vale community, while enticing newcomers and art lovers to call it home for a while. Instilling visual interest through strong lines and materiality while staying somewhat restrained allows the gallery of curated artwork to do the talking within each room.
Moss Manor was Luke Moloney Architecture firm’s first commercial project; Luke remarks that the project exposed several knowledge gaps in what is required for a public-graded building. But Luke says the biggest challenge of the project was not these knowledge gaps but rather the arrival of the pandemic. “We had one subcontractor who could do fire ratings who unfortunately got stuck in a part of town that went into lockdown, which blew out the timeframe as it put a hold on many decisions that needed to be made,” reflects Luke. “It was pretty frustrating, but everybody got there in the end.”
Driving into Moss Manor, guests arrive at the new glass pavilion, a stark comparison to the original sandstone heritage façade. “Guests arrive at the back of the property, so I wanted to replicate the grand recess entryway of the historical façade,” describes Luke. “By using steel columns that follow the symmetry of the original archway, they create a contemporary and obvious entrance to the hotel for guests on arrival.”
Walking through the outdoor glass platform of the pavilion, you’ll find the dining and sitting rooms with views out to the garden and various sculptures within the grounds. “The steel diagonal blade wall at the northern end of the pavilion that juts out was designed with a threefold purpose in mind,” explains Luke. “When you're inside the pavilion, it creates a great wall of art before fanning the eyeline out to the nicer view of the garden, and on the outside, it makes the recess for the main entrance."
“When working with a commercial budget, as opposed to residential, every design addition has to add threefold to the property,” Moloney adds.
The impact of the artwork within the hotel can’t be understated... I’ve never experienced anything like it
Moss Manor guests receive a lavish two-course breakfast and a wine tasting from the Manor’s carefully curated cellar of local wines, while taking in the grounds on the terrace or the abundance of artwork lining the walls.
Moss Manor and Defiance Gallery Director Campbell Robertson-Swann teamed up to exhibit an impressive collection of contemporary Australian paintings by renowned artists throughout the hotel. Their collaboration is based on their enduring friendship and shared love of art.
Some selected artworks feel like they were created for the hotel, such as Peter Godwin’s Painter at Rest hanging against a coal-black wall in the sitting room. In contrast, others interrupt the traditional Georgian building.
One of the focal pieces is Furlonger’s Channel Country, Balonne River, which employs a palette of earthy hues amongst an abundance of beige, welcoming guests as they ascend the staircase toward their rooms.
“The impact of the artwork within the hotel can’t be understated. The modern Australian artwork and sculptures on the grounds change the whole tenor of the place – I’ve never experienced anything like it,” says Luke. “Walking in and experiencing the art creates this overlaying sense of the eminence of the place.”
See more work by Luke Moloney on ArchiPro.
Words by Casey Arden