Jalan Besar's new Hotel Yan's concrete chic

Grey cement-washed walls in some of the rooms (above) and an all-concrete check-in desk complement the industrial-chic theme of the hotel.
Grey cement-washed walls in some of the rooms (above) and an all-concrete check-in desk complement the industrial-chic theme of the hotel. ST PHOTOS: ONG WEE JIN
Grey cement-washed walls in some of the rooms and an all-concrete check-in desk (above) complement the industrial-chic theme of the hotel.
Grey cement-washed walls in some of the rooms and an all-concrete check-in desk (above) complement the industrial-chic theme of the hotel.

Jalan Besar's new Hotel Yan is inspired by its industrial-shop surrounds and Hotel Vagabond takes a walk on the wild side

Jalan Besar is fast catching up with Tiong Bahru and Haji Lane as the latest neighbourhood to hear rumblings of the g-word.

Gentrification has crept up on the traditional neighbourhood - industrial workshops such as metalwork and hardware stores share the lanes with hipster cafes and indie boutiques.

The area has also become a hotspot for boutique hotels and hostels.

In the last two months, two new hotels have sprung up there: Hotel Vagabond in Syed Alwi Road and Hotel Yan in Tyrwhitt Road follow in the footsteps of other boutique properties such as the 88-year-old Kam Leng Hotel, which was given an update three years ago, and Wanderlust Hotel, which has been much lauded for its artistically done interiors.


Six-week-old Hotel Yan (above) is on the site of a former industrial warehouse.

Since the area has a history of hardware shops, we thought it would be nice to design it with an industrial theme.

MRS EILEEN LIM, on the industrial-chic theme of Hotel Yan

Hotel Vagabond goes wild with its animal decor and art homage, while Hotel Yan takes inspiration from its neighbourhood, known for industrial shops.


The property at 162 Tyrwhitt Road was torn down and rebuilt, and went from an industrial warehouse to becoming an industrial-style boutique hotel.

The 69-room Hotel Yan, which opened six weeks ago, has grey cement-washed walls, wood floors and repurposed fixtures such as bar stools made from bicycle wheels.

In a way, it is a homage to the area's industrial businesses such as metalwork shops. The family of Mr Lim Kah Eng, 51, who owns the hotel with his wife Eileen, once ran a hardware business. Hotel Yan now stands at the former warehouse premises of that business.

The couple, who have three sons aged 18 to 22, fell in love with the aesthetics of Chye Seng Huat Hardware, a hipster coffee joint located a few doors away in a building Mr Lim's family also owns.

So they approached one of its designers, Elita Ong, to design the hotel in a similar style.

Mrs Lim, 50, who is the hotel's director, says: "We liked the look of the cafe and since the area has a history of hardware shops, we thought it would be nice to design it with an industrial theme."

Interesting features include an all-concrete check-in desk, while the ceilings of the rooms are in blue, yellow, red or green - after the colour codes of electrical wires.

To soften the look of the concrete interiors, some rooms have small balconies with reed-like plants. Some guests in these rooms also get a good view of the neighbourhood.

The six-storey hotel's name - yan means "swallow" in Chinese - has also provided its design elements, such as its logo, modelled after a swallow's feather. There is also a large art piece behind the check-in desk featuring swallows in flight.

Mrs Lim, who used to work in the travel industry in Singapore and overseas, says: "We chose the name Yan because it signifies freedom, hope and progress."

Hotel Yan, whose building cost the couple decline to reveal, has already drawn a good mix of staycationers and tourists by word of mouth. Promotional room rates start at $148 a night.

Still, the hotel is a work-in- progress. A dining concept will soon be added in the lobby, while Mr and Mrs Lim are exploring options to jazz up the outdoor courtyard on Level 2, which now has only potted plants. She says: "We want to turn it into a lounge area, where guests can go outside and relax. It's a quiet space where you can't hear the busy street outside."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'Concrete chic'. Print Edition | Subscribe