Property profile: Live like a local in Aiden Darling Harbor
When the Chen family bought 45 Murray Street, Pyrmont in 2005, it was simply an office building, and remained that way for a few years before renovations began to turn it into a boutique hotel. But the walls of this art deco building have a lot of history.
Dating back to around 1938, the property was originally built as a grain and grain store.
“Pyrmont was once an industrial yard, a working-class suburb, and this building reflected the industry around it,” Chen explained.
Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, the building served as the headquarters of the appliance company Breville, and even during the most recent renovation, traces of the company remained.
“When we tore down the walls to convert this building into a hotel, we discovered that a Breville employee had stuck a business card on one of the walls. It read: “Breville headquarters will move to…” and the date. I have this map somewhere that says September 6, 1979,” Chen said.
A love for travel, hotels, and the hospitality industry prompted Chen to convert the property into a hotel, but he wanted to do so in a way that preserved the integrity of the building.
“We’ve always wanted a classic yet contemporary style, bringing it into the modern era but retaining many design elements that reflect the building’s art deco history,” he said.
Today the original art deco elements are still clearly visible in the red brick exterior and curved corner facade, complemented by the addition of numerous brass features, studded bar stools, red marble rich and bronze colored faucets.
By travelers for travelers
Aiden Darling Harbor prides itself on being a hotel designed by travelers for travelers. For five years, Chen took note of his own hosting experiences and all the things he believed could be improved.
“Do you know any of these little pet peeves? I had a long list of all the things we wanted and didn’t want in our hotel rooms,” he explained.
“We provide everything you want and remove everything you don’t need.”
A simple but important addition for guests were water fountains, dispensing both still and sparkling, on all levels, and two large glass bottles pre-filled and stored in the refrigerator, because as Chen says, “nobody wants to spend $7 on water from the minibar”. .
Steamers and Chromecast are also standard features in every room.
Chen believes aesthetics can’t go any further, and experience and service are what really matter to customers.
“It’s things like that that we put into the physical that people can remember as an experience,” he said.
“What travelers will remember are those times when they felt special, and that always has to do with service. Service is our number one asset.
In an effort to provide the best experience for guests, Aiden focuses on three important things: “great location”, “extremely comfortable bed”, and “excellent shower and amenities”.
“Those are the basics you should really master,” Chen said.
“What do we expect as travellers? Personally, it’s not the bellman at the front door who takes your luggage and expects a tip. What I want is to be able to feel completely comfortable and not have to buy or do certain things that I don’t want.
One of the reasons for Aiden’s thoughtful design is the compact nature of its hotel rooms, which aim to provide better value for guests.
“Unless you’re celebrating, you’ll want to get what you pay for,” Chen said.
“You could stay in a really big room, but you still trip over your luggage because someone didn’t think of where to put it and it variably ends up in the aisle.
“Our design is inspired by the more compact rooms found in any major city in the world where space is at a premium. When you stay at these hotels, you can’t help but be impressed with the thoughtfulness that goes into them.
Focus on localism
Aiden is focused on delivering a localized customer experience, with everything from wine and beer to locally sourced fresh produce wherever possible.
“Our bread comes from a bakery about 500 meters away,” notes Chen.
“We not only want to integrate as many parts of the neighborhood as possible, we also want to open up to the neighborhood.”
This theme of localism is physically manifested in the design, particularly in the ground floor lobby where floor-to-ceiling windows allow guests to feel part of the neighborhood around them. And it works both ways.
“We try to engage our neighbors as much as possible,” Chen said.
“We give them codes for stays, free coffees if they have breakfast… We have a good group of locals who treat the lobby as their second living room, and professionals working in the surrounding area treat it as their second meeting space. That’s what I really like to see.
Chen believes this localized customer experience is the main reason for Airbnb’s success.
“People want to feel like locals in other cities,” he said.
“When you walk up to your apartment and say ‘Hi’ to the neighbors…it’s up to you and you’re in the middle of the action. It’s a more visceral and authentic way to experience the city and that’s what people are looking for.