The New Look of Peninsula Beijing

When local luxury hotelier, The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, took over the operation of Beijing’s Palace Hotel in 1990, the 525-room property was the epitome of style with an enviable location near the Forbidden City.

A four-year soft refurbishment completed in 2005 gave the grand dame a facelift, yet it still lacked some quintessentially Peninsula elements.

In 2012, general manager Joseph Sampermans began work with veteran collaborator Henry Leung on a complete overhaul of the property.

With a budget of US$123 million, the Peninsula Beijing can now truly take its place among the best hotels in the capital, with 230 all-suite guest rooms starting at 65 square metres – some of the largest rooms in the city.

“We made the decision to keep the hotel open during the entire process,” says Sampermans, in Hong Kong mid-September to present his new baby.

“It was a challenge to keep construction noise down to minimise disturbance to guests. We closed off a few floors at a time to work on them in phases. And we wanted to have the same kind of atmosphere in the lobby as in Hong Kong, where everyone comes for afternoon tea.”

As the original hotel was not built with a grand lobby in the plans, Leung had to revise the entire layout to give it the necessary volume and elegance reminiscent of the group’s flagship property.

Leung, who also helmed the renovations of The Peninsula Paris, designed the space to see and be seen in, with a central staircase outfitted with ornate gold balustrades and stately columns alongside contemporary Chinese motifs.

Guest rooms now offer a separate living area, dressing room and bathroom with a soaking tub and a view of the cityscape. Leung also reinvented the all-day dining restaurant Jing with Ming porcelain and Qing decorative patterns, and Chinese restaurant Huang Ting with the atmosphere of a traditional Chinese-style courtyard house.

For a residential feel, reception desks were eliminated and check-in is now a paper-free process with staff escorting guests to rooms via customised tablets.

“It was important to have a modern interpretation of Chinese culture,” Leung explains.

“Having details appearing throughout the hotel, from public areas and into the guest rooms, ties the concept together.”