Wine was part of the design from the very outset for the Mornington Peninsula's most luxurious new destination, the Jackalope Hotel.
Situated on Willow Creek Vineyard's gently undulating, 11-hectare property in Merricks North, the long, low, two-storey building housing Jackalope's 46 glass-fronted stylish rooms sits lightly amidst the ghost gums and eucalypts.
Conceived by architecture and interior design firm Carr Design to evoke a traditional barn-like structure, granted this example is clad in dark zinc, charred timber and black metal rather than corrugated tin.
"There's a connection to the winemaking alchemy, but also to the Australian vernacular of winemaking and the buildings that existed on the site, referenced in terms of the roof pitch and the materials," says Chris McCue, Carr Design's director of architecture.
That design narrative is evident in the stunning, gold-lit glass wine vault at the heart of the Jackalope's temple-like check-in foyer. It's also there in the 10,000-bulb neon ceiling of Doot Doot Doot restaurant that that cellar serves. Housed in the original 1876 Edwardian homestead McCormick House, Doot Doot Doot, and accompanying bar Flaggerdoot, is one of two on-site restaurants headed up by executive chef Guy Stanaway, alongside cellar door Rare Hare.
Multi-disciplinary studio Fabio Ongarato Design, one of the many creative luminaries working in close collaboration with Carr Design, were responsible for the striking ceiling installation, intended to represent the effervescence of the fermentation process.
Celebrated lighting designer Christopher Boots' crystalline Prometheus III chandeliers grace the top-of-the-range, 85-square-metre lairs, so big they have mezzanine levels. Handcrafted furniture has been supplied by meticulous sister act Zuster.
A filmmaker's vision
The first in a proposed series of high-end getaways – Melbourne's Flinders Lane is up next, with Shanghai and Los Angeles apparently on the cards too – Jackalope's entrepreneurial owner Louis Li's has a playfully artistic vision for the boutique chain that hints at his stint studying filmmaking at Swinburne University.
"It was quite an unusual process for us, but a fun one that really challenged us in ways that we haven't been traditionally," McCue enthuses. "Louis certainly has big aspirations, so from the outset it was always about establishing the Jackalope brand in Australia, and globally, as an art hotel. It's a piece of living sculpture not unlike your experience at MONA, but you're actually sleeping amongst it."
A step into the surreal
The artistic touches dotted throughout the Jackalope kick off with pyramids flanking the entrance to the grounds. Guests are then greeted by a stunning, seven-metre high black and gold statue by sculptor Emily Floyd, representing the North American mythological giant jackrabbit with antelope horns that gives its name to the hotel.
It also explains that unusual restaurant name, with a "doot doot doot" being the alpha male of a jackalope pack, which in turn goes by the collective noun flaggerdoot. It's that rich vein of symbolism with more than a whiff of filmmaker David Lynch's surreal dreamscapes that ensures the hotel makes a mark.
Serenity amidst the drama
"There's certainly drama in the public spaces, immersing you in this winemaking experience, then there's the idea of moving into the rooms and them being a retreat, that's where the design focus was," McCue says.
"There's a little more glamour and bling in the lairs, but the guest rooms are typically quite serene with neutral palettes, focusing on the green of the vineyard views," he adds. "They're much more subtle, with that reference to alchemy and precious metals in the interior detail."
Targeting the discerning traveller
That includes bathroom mosaics in copper, silver or gold. Carr Design also drew on the crystalline beauty of geodes for an impressive pavilion and private function space basking by the 30-metre infinity pool overlooking the vineyards and landscaping by Taylor Cullity Lethlean.
"Working with Fabio Ongarato Design, we've really layered Louis' narrative into every aspect of the hotel, from the neon lights in the corridor spaces to the pavilion's fractal mirrored installation," McCue says. "We always viewed the Jackalope not necessarily as a building that would read as a hotel, but more as an art gallery, so if it propels us into public buildings like that, that's something we at Carr would be really excited by."
McCue sees Jackalope drawing in high flyers from both near and far. "For a long time the peninsula has been under-resourced in terms of quality hotel accommodation at this scale, so it's really appealing to design and fashion people and international guests who are looking for a unique experience, albeit in the country setting of the Australian landscape."