Notel claims not to be a hotel. It’s “an experience that is 50% about the bed and the other 50% is about Melbourne”, says James Fry, creator of the concept that places six re-fitted 1930s Airstream trailers onto a rooftop in Melbourne, Australia. The project adds another option to the left-of-center accommodation ideas appearing throughout the cultural capital of the land down under.
Fry has been wondering what to do with the family owned carpark site on the southern end of Flinders Lane for years, rebuking advice from practically all the realtors in the city to sell to cashed-up international investors at a rumoured price of $10 million AUD. It was after climbing up a ladder to the rooftop with a few beers that he realised just how special the site was. “I tossed around rooftop cinemas, restaurants and even a pool, but I wanted something totally different” says Fry. After a trip to the US and visit to Autocamp in Santa Barbara, he fell in love with the vintage Airstream trailers, and settled on this ‘trailer park’ concept as a perfect and unique accommodation solution. He shipped over six trailers from the California at a price of $70k each, and had them craned in place earlier this year. After two years in the making, it opened in August this year.
Fry’s concept involves no reception, concierge or room service. You enter through a inconspicuous door described as nothing more than ‘in a car park’, which you enter via a lock-code sent to you pre-arrival via a specially designed smartphone app. An ipad greets you with all the services a regular concierge would provide like suggestions on nearby sights, sites, bars and restaurants- though a staff member is on call if needed. The idea is that Fry wants people to really experience Melbourne. “We’re going to give people a local experience. We’re going to push them into the laneways, the coffee culture, the street art and all those things that are boutique, small and hidden”, he said.
The trailers themselves have been given a complete makeover including all the expectations of a comfortable hotel room with a 1950’s edge. The interiors include a full bathroom, stocked mini bar, luggage store and queen sized bed- all expertly designed by Edwards Moore Architects. They even lowered the floor to still allow tall people to fit in the shower. Most suites have decks that face into a communal space of crimson astroturf and and a backdrop by street artist Ash Keating. The ‘Airstream with Benefits’ is the luxury option, with a private deck and outdoor hot-tub to sip on/sit in bubbles under the city lights, overlooking buzzing Flinders St.
The set-up is almost a eye-roll worthy concept to many who see this as another way Melbourne is trying to ‘out-Melbourne itself’. This is actually the exact reaction Fry seems to be aiming for. His ultimate aim is to provide an accommodation that gives visitors the best way to experience his favourite (and home) city. Along with hotels like the St Jerome’s Glamping concept we blogged about the other week, these creative contributions to the accommodation choices in Melbourne are certainly raising the bar. It’s at rooftop level already- what on earth will we see next? I’m excited by the thought.