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Design Icon Apartments review, Canberra: Weekend Away

TIME : 2-26 17:47:24

Design Icon Apartments review, Canberra: Weekend Away

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Our rating

4.5 out of 5


The national capital is basking in its newfound hipster cred, and on the northern shores of Lake Burley Griffin, the New Acton precinct is the coolest of them all, boasting dimly lit cafes, a fancy bakery, a pilates studio and iconic architecture both old and new. Across the road from Sir Roy Grounds' circular, space-age Shine Dome  (aka "The Martian Embassy"),  Canberra's newest structural groundbreaker is turning heads of its own. The Nishi building, which opened in 2013,  is a cleverly designed, energy-efficient structure with a "curtain" facade of sustainable timber and a foyer that resembles a forest of recycled planks. The building hosts a cinema, eateries and Canberra's funkiest sleeping quarters in the form of Hotel Hotel, whose uber-cool rooms step straight from every funkster's Pinterest board. A more minimalist aesthetic reigns in the hotel's 32 Design Icon Apartments, which have the space and facilities to accommodate longer, self-catered stays.


You have to love a place that christens its rooms, and our two-bedroom apartment is formally introduced as Lela, sister to Kami, Ambi, Etro, Orin, Jai and Yama –  you get the idea. In the absence of air-conditioning, a fair bit of effort goes into explaining how the north-facing Lela's windows and sun-blocking blinds should be manouevred for maximum temperature control. Detailed instructions are offered at reception, and if you're too jetlagged or road-weary to take it all in, there's a "How to Operate Apt" section on the in-house iPad. Pay attention. We're serious about our carbon footprint here.

The door opens on to a long hallway/study area and two double bedrooms separated by a central bathroom. The walls are uniformly white, with a charcoal tiled floor in the study and living areas and pale timber floors in the pod-like bedrooms, which are elevated from the main floor and encased on two sides by frosted glass. The subdued lighting creates peaceful sleeping spaces, light-filled during the day but cocoon-like at night. An attractive and spacious living area includes a galley kitchen, retro-style furnishings and a high-definition TV, with a large circular mirror adding a touch of glamour. Beyond sliding glass doors, a private angled balcony looks out on the Shine Dome and the Telstra Tower, a vision in blue when illuminated at night. 


Designer chic and comfort don't always go hand in hand, but with its funky furniture and quality appliances, this is an enjoyable and elegant place to inhabit. While some may baulk at the absence of air-conditioning, the passive cooling makes a welcome change from the unnatural chill of many hotel rooms and overhead fans in the living room and bedrooms help keep the heat down.


Visiting cooks will feel at home with a generous galley kitchen that includes a four-ring stove-top, Smeg fridge and microwave, Bosch dishwasher and oven, stainless-steel pots and gorgeous handmade crockery for six. The concealed laundry has a Bosch washing machine and dryer and the bathroom is stocked with Aesop toiletries.


Design Icon guests have access to all Hotel Hotel facilities, including a gym, library and free bicycle hire. As well as the hotel's Monster kitchen and bar, the Nishi building has a Palace cinema and Max Brenner cafe. The Australian National Botanic Gardens are a short bike ride away, while most of Canberra's other attractions,  including the National Gallery, National Library and Questacon,  are 10 minutes by car. Discounted parking is available in the basement car park, where Mercedes and bicycles sit side by side.


It's little wonder that cashed-up hipsters have embraced Hotel Hotel, and though its apartments are less visually sumptuous, they have plenty to offer discerning visitors, with the only quibble for families being the absence of single beds for kids.


The Nishi Building is at 25 Edinburgh Avenue, New Acton. Canberra is 3 hours from Sydney or 7 hours from Melbourne via the M31.    


The two-bedroom apartment costs from $385 to $425 per night for four, with discounts for longer stays. See

The writer travelled at her own expense.