Understanding the significance of guest photographs, the stunning Macalister Mansion in Penang, Malaysia, provides unique photo spots throughout its entire premises

9 mins read

Macalister Mansion is a truly unique example of a modern and fresh Boutique Hotel, housed within a British colonial ‘shell’. The building’s history takes us back to the early 19th century when Malaysia was part of the mighty British empire. The mansion, as well as the nearby road, were named after Colonel Norman Macalister, the Lieutenant-Governor of Prince of Wales Isle (Penang). In 2012, the building was renovated by its owners, Dato Sean and Datin Karen H’ng in collaboration with Ministry of Design, a Singaporean-owned architecture firm.

Both at the external and the internal of this five-star boutique hotel, the old-fashioned design meets contemporary aesthetics, working in unique balance and creating a glistening mansion. Colin Seah, the Design Director, succeeded in rebuilding the old mansion and turning it into an up-to-date architectural building, without compromising the integrity of its character.

Studying the hotel’s design concept more closely, we realize that nearly every corner of this stunning property has a potential to become a ‘photo hit’. Focusing on local art and history, the hotel’s designers have managed to create a place full of ‘Instagram’ corners, as it is clearly shown in the hotel’s tagged pictures, in this popular Social platform. And a shareable hotel in Social Media is surely a successful hotel in the online world!

A Welcoming Face

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Approaching the hotel’s entrance, the visitor comes across the oversized bust of colonel Macalister. The sculpture is clearly inspired by traditional busts, however, the result looks like it has been designed on a modern computer and printed with a 3D printer!

Understanding the importance of a guest’s first moments within a hotel, the hotel creators have made sure to showcase their intention of mixing the old and the new, right from the hotel’s entrance. By placing an impressive, post-modern sculpture in front of the entrance, the hotel invites its newly-arrived guests to take their first pictures and selfies, even before check-in! In addition, the sculpture is so unique, that it has managed to become a landmark for the hotel, as we can see in many Instagram photos shared by the hotel’s guests.


A fairytale-like dining experience

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The Dining Room has a truly unique and recognizable classy design, which is in total harmony with the exceptional flavours and dishes offered by the kitchen. The dominating white tree in the centre of the room, surrounded by the royal blue sofas, a beautiful flooring and unique works of art on the walls, create a stunning canvas for the exceptional local tastes that the guests can enjoy in this restaurant.

In the middle of the room, the big white tree creates a unique, fairytale-like feeling, which combines luxury with fantasy. This is actually a very clever way to place a dominating centrepiece inside a room, without taking the focus from the room’s main functionality, which is the food. The tree and the works of art on the walls become a beautiful background for the guests’ pictures. The desire to take a photo of your food, the restaurant or your whole dining experience, is further enhanced by the excellent lighting of the room. Note how the light falls on the table surfaces, allowing the guests to take excellent pictures of what they are having!


Feel like home

The mansion’s Living Room is a place where guests can sit back, relax and feel like home while enjoying local cuisine and a vast selection of the top tea flavours in the world. The room’s design is dominated by the diverse paintings on the walls, representing various figures as well as furniture, shelves, fireplaces and other items that could be found in a 19th-century living room.

Luxury from another Era

The Den is an elegant cigar-and-whiskey lounge bar, that features black leathered furniture. The gold- and red-coloured geometric patterns covering the room’s surfaces have been carefully designed to travel you back to another era. In the Den, you can taste the best Single Cask and Single Malt whiskies, directly imported from acclaimed distilleries from Scotland to Japan, as well as a fine selection of the best cigars in the world.

The eye-catching patterns on the floor dominate the lower parts of the walls as well, giving a sense of warmth to the room and making you feel in the ‘centre of attention’. The pattern has such a unique design, that creates a busy yet elegant backdrop for pictures. At the same time, its uniqueness makes it recognizable, thus creating another photo landmark for the hotel.

8 unique rooms – 8 unique reasons to visit!

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Each of the 8 hotel rooms is individually designed and has its own special artwork and design elements. Everything you will see in the rooms is inspired by Sir Macalister and the history of the mansion. Paying tribute to local artists as well as the building’s history, the hotel creators have made sure to include unique design elements and works of art in each room, transforming them into small and private ‘art galleries’, which you are invited to explore!

Going through the hotel’s 8 stunning rooms, we have picked our three favourites:

guest photographsThe Bridal Suite (Room 1), stands out for the Love Sonata on the wall right above the bed, which is heavily influenced by Shakespeare and written in old English. In this 53 square meters room, the overall decoration is developed around the bed, which works as the room’s centrepiece. The headboard gives the expected romantic tone, which makes this the couples’ favourite place to stay. The carefully selected furniture follows simple lines and shapes, while the calm colours and the romantic lighting give a relaxing yet elegant and luxurious touch to the room.

The love sonata on the wall is a contemporary composition by Arron Lee, focusing on the elements of true love between two people. It can become a very successful stand-alone Instagram photo, while it serves as a unique, romantic backdrop for a couple in love enjoying their time in bed. After all, what could be more successful for a hotel room, than a bed selfie?

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White Splendour

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Room 4 enjoys a unique oval shape, offering amazing views to its guests. The room’s main decorative elements are the side profiles of Norman Macalister and his wife looking at each other, made by Low Chee Peng, a local Penang artist, as well as the majestic spiral staircase. This original iron staircase leads to the top of the room, from where guests can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.

The curved lines of the room (spiral staircase, oval-shaped floor plan, curved sofa), create amazing ‘subjects’ for photos. Therefore, the guests will not only photograph the amazing views from the top of the staircase but also the staircase itself, as it is a true work of art.


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The largest among the hotel’s eight rooms, Room 3, features an original iron-made balcony, offering panoramic views of the mansion’s front side. The special work of art in this room was created by Lee Maling, a Malaysian artist based in Singapore. This fine artwork illustrates the hotel’s façade, using different types of fabrics and lace that capture the architectural essence of the building.

The balcony feels like an extension of the hotel’s Lawn area, making you feel like you are sitting in the garden, while, in fact, you are still enjoying the privacy of your own room. The pictures taken from here showcase the full glory of the hotel’s gardens and pool area. Nevertheless, the room itself is still very photogenic and the central work of art always steals the guest’s attention.


Relax under the Sun

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Featuring a huge garden area with a beautiful pool, a bar and a sitting area, the Lawn is where guests like to relax, enjoy the sunshine and taste delicious snacks and refreshing cocktails. Surrounded by trees and plants, the hotel’s exterior spaces complete the overall experience in the hotel and add even more to the guest’s experience.

Even though the modern lines of the new structures that have been erected in the garden (pool, bar), are in complete contrast with the building’s colonial architecture, they still manage to create a harmonic result which is photogenic and recognizable at the same time.

The case of Macalister Mansion is an excellent example of how important it is for a hotel, not only to have a good design but also focus on including unique elements that will draw its guests’ attention. Such elements create excitement to the guests and enhance their experience, while, at the same time, intrigue them to take pictures and share on their favourite Social Media, thus supporting the hotel’s online reputation!