Celebrating South African arts and design, the Gorgeous George boutique hotel is a vibrant hub of creativity in the heart of Cape Town.
Framed against the iconic backdrop of the Table Mountain plateau, Cape Town is a riveting concoction of natural and cultural wonders. Whether you’re more of a surfer or a hiker, there are more than enough unforgettable sites to go blow-for-blow with just about anywhere in the world. Beyond the glossy surface of the South African capital, however, lies an intriguing mixture of different people, traditions and cultures that’s unlike anywhere else you will find on the continent.
So it’s no wonder that Tobias Alter was so captivated by Cape Town upon his first visit. The German native was working in the high-octane world of property development at the time, but this trip to the Mother City served as his launching pad into the world of hospitality. “You often go to visit a beautiful place and then return to day-to-day life and lose touch with that place,” begins Tobias. “When I came to Cape Town, I wanted to buy myself a holiday apartment, just as a getaway to keep me coming back.”
Even after returning to Germany, Tobias had become so enchanted with Cape Town that he decided to take on a project much more ambitious than your average holiday apartment. “I wanted to make a commitment to coming back to the city, something that would keep me tied to the place,” he adds. Everything came to fruition when he discovered two side-by-side local heritage buildings and decided to transform the property into a hotel with the mission of showcasing the same Cape Town that he fell in love with himself.
The first step was to enlist the help of local design firm Urban Citizen Architecture to repurpose the pair of landmark buildings – one Art Deco and the other New Edwardian. The architectural heritage of the property has been honoured through the preservation of grand architraves, cornices, oak flooring, steel windows and brass doors. “I didn’t really know what I was stepping into,” he admits. “But my passion for design and beautiful things came into play.”
However, Gorgeous George is far removed from your typical throwback stay, as these heritage elements effortlessly incorporate a raw urban edge in the form of exposed concrete and steel beams, which also act as a unifying feature throughout the two distinct spaces. Tristan du Plessis designed the interiors to showcase these structural bits, which had previously been concealed, to pay homage to the history while simultaneously creating a thoroughly modern feel.
Aiming to create a hub for both locals and world travellers, Tobias turned to the community of creatives in South Africa’s oldest city. Beyond the architecture and interior design, Tobias wanted to create a concept that celebrates contemporary African design and showcases locally-manufactured, high-end South African decor. And so the boutique hotel looks to connect its guests to the emerging arts scene of Cape Town. “Attracting locals is a priority for me, as ultimately, I want to give the guests the chance to have an authentic experience without leaving the hotels,” he says. “Getting to know the locals is crucial to that.”
This sentiment is apparent from the moment you step into the lobby, where you’re greeted by a custom showcase by Lucie de Moyencourt of 1,800 painstakingly hand-painted Delft-inspired ceramic tiles that together form a map of Cape Town. From the striking wall murals to one-off furniture pieces, Gorgeous George is one giant celebration of South African designers and artists that avoids any hints of cliche. “I wanted to give people an authentic experience they could share and remember,” he adds.
This captivating feeling stretches from the common areas to the 32 rooms and suites that also evoke the stylistic diversity of Cape Town. Here, the exposed concrete and steelwork seamlessly merge with the reimagined Victorian design elements and South African influences. Throw in a colour palette of blues, whites and greens, which serve in stark contrast to the industrial undertones, and you have a truly unique masterpiece of design.
Gorgeous George also has the substance to back up its aesthetic with a number of handpicked treasures and bespoke furniture pieces, such as the vintage Jielde lamps and custom-made stainless steel table with “hand” legs. More than simply importing ideas, each room has a personality all its own and speaks to what spectacular African design can be. “There are a lot of private objets d’art at Gorgeous George, as I built the hotel in the way that I would have liked my house to look,” says Tobias. “So it wasn’t just another property development, but more of a passion project.”
Everything comes full circle on the sixth-floor space, where Gorgeous George’s buzzing rooftop bar, restaurant and pool deck have become Cape Town’s hottest premiere hangout spots. Against the sublime skyline and sounds of the city, the spaces smoothly blend the indoors and outdoors and bring designer furniture together with a verdant jungle of plants. The perfect blend of cozy and stylish can be found in the library-style lounge and dining area, whereas the sofas and chairs around the adjacent pool deck make the perfect venue for sundowners. Surrounded on all sides by beautiful buildings and romantically lit, it’s a true urban oasis.
Gorgeous George sits on the tree-lined street of St. George’s Mall, flanked by chic coffee shops, local restaurants and contemporary art galleries. Amidst the buzzing urban life, the boutique hotel has become a ritualistic meeting spot of the city’s creative and stylish. It’s here you have the opportunity to engage with the people of Cape Town and live outside the typical tourist bubble. In a city that’s known for its seaside hotels, Gorgeous George merges local design and a scene-setting rooftop conspire to create the Mother City’s premier inner-city stay.
Words by Braeden Alexander – Book your stay at the Gorgeous George Hotel.