Singaporean hospitality brand Naumi Hotels launches its first property in Auckland, bringing its chic design sensibility to the quiet Māngere neighbourhood. By Anwesha Sanyal

 

After a short, 18-minute drive from airport, I arrived on the front porch of Naumi Hotel Auckland Airport on Kirkbride Road to the view of its glass facade, gleaming with the reflection of the afternoon sky. Vaguely visible inside was a very large, shimmering golden wall behind a partially lit but busy reception desk. I hopped off to join the incoming guests for check in. The warm green walls textured with gold; lively, artsy furniture in the waiting areas; imaginative, modern artworks on the walls; and an opera of debating canaries in a large birdcage -one thing was clear – this was not your regular airport hotel.

naumi hotel auckland airport

“Naumi says… Hello!” ran a signage at the reception, my first touch-point at the hotel. This, I later discovered, was the character of the hotel. ‘Naumi’ was an elite, fashionable woman of 25, who took guests around the property with her dialogue. ‘Naumi says…’ was a recurring phrase that played out flirtatiously across the hotel, followed by things that would usually sound appalling in a public space: “Naumi says… Blow Me,” went the cloth wrapper of the blow dryer; “…Swallow, It’s Safe,” she said to indicate that the tap water was potable; “Turn Me On,” said the TV remote; “Open Me Wide,” pleaded the information booklet.

naumi hotel auckland airport

As Gaurang Jhunjhnuwala, the CEO of Naumi Hotels, later put it, the plan was to use whimsical fantasy and steer away from the drab and dreary afterthought that airport hotels created. One of the ways he did this was by hiring the right designers. Material Creative and Ellery Muir, two well-known professionals in the cafe space, had never designed anything more than a 22-square- metre space. For this project, they had almost an acre to play with and make cosy and warm, like a boutique hotel should feel. Taking inspiration from the native Tui bird, they embellished the 193 guestrooms across three categories—Habitat, Oasis, Blush—in colour palettes of the bird’s feathers, used bright pops in the furniture and accents, darker tones for the walls, and spoiled the independent nooks around the hotel with cosy seating so guests could find a private spot for themselves. The biggest draws were the two signature suites, Ziggy and Dottie, the former inspired by the classic chevron and striped Missoni design, with a neon orange lit bar, pool table, outdoor dining area, and original vintage artwork, and the latter by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who is popular for her bright concept pieces.

naumi hotel auckland airport Jhunjhnuwala wanted to build a hotel that would start conversations, one of the catalysts being art. Each artwork and accent at Naumi was a commissioned piece. The Australia-based artist and winner of the NSW Wynne prize, Belynda Henry, translated New Zealand’s landscape into designs for the colourful rugs in each room, while local designer Judi Bagust used her signature brush strokes to create wall decor reminiscent of the song of the Tui. It worked. Three months into its launch, Naumi Hotel Auckland Airport had established itself as the mainstay in the quiet Māngere neighbourhood and was attracting repeat visitors.

 

Auckland’s Central Business District, with a few distractions placed at short distances away, makes this city easy to navigate.

9 AM; Ortolana

naumi hotel auckland airport

A brimming breakfast place that offers a delicious farm-to- table menu in its chic, indoor-outdoor space. Get a corner table and indulge in some languid crowd- watching over smoked fish, haloumi, pumpkin hummus, served with free range eggs and seasonal veggies.

11 AM; Villa Maria Estate

Visit one of the world’s most famous vineyards at 11 am for an hour- long wine tour, followed by an intimate tasting session. End the trip with a meaty lunch to test your newfound wine selection skills. The highest quality wines include the Grenache and Pinot Noir.

3.30 PM; Auckland Art Gallery

naumi hotel auckland airport

The largest art institution in the city hosts regular exhibitions by contemporary Kiwi and Māori artists. A great time to visit would be between August 25 and August 28 for their annual culture festival.

8PM; Ponsonby

The upscale neighbourhood of Ponsonby has dim-lit restaurants and bars for those who like to complement fine food with a limited- edition wine. Prego is a recommended Italian diner with great vegetarian and gluten- free options.