It is that fun energy the hotel hopes to reclaim, while maintaining the distinctive design and architectural elements of its past. Jon Kastl, a partner in Champalimaud, the design firm charged with the renovation, stripped away the gaudy furniture and light fixtures in the lobby to show off the original architecture.
“Did you know the entire hotel, the public areas and guest areas, were painted in the same color white, a color we now call Raffles white,” he said. “It has such a purity to it. It feels fresh and clean.” In the guest rooms, they kept the historic floors made of eucalyptus.
The storied Long Bar has remained. The hotel serves a version of the Singapore Sling that is made by a gin named Sipsmith; it’s produced by Sam Galsworthy, a Brit whose great, great, great, great, great-uncle is Sir Raffles. (Mr. Galsworthy recommended ordering a drink to go, to drink in your room. “My preferred spot for a Sling would be on the veranda of one’s own room overlooking the courtyard,” he said. “Joyous!”)
The Raffles management insisted on maintaining many parts of the hotel as to not upset locals, especially members of the older generation. Approximately 80 to 85 percent of the hotel’s food and beverage business is driven by local residents celebrating birthdays in the restaurants and weddings in the ballroom. Many of the suites are booked by Singaporeans who want to show off the property to friends and business colleagues in town.
“To have such a grand, 19th-century hotel in such a small destination like Singapore, we’ve become the pride of the country,” said Mr. Westbeld. “We could do everything behind the scenes to update and refresh, but we can’t become too avant-garde and futuristic.”
But some parts had to go. The Raffles Grill, a plain room with nondescript wood floors and white walls, is now Le Dame de Pic, a restaurant helmed by Anne-Sophie Pic, a three-Michelin-starred French chef, who thrives on working with vegetables. (Since Raffles was the first hotel in Singapore to employ a French chef, this is a way of continuing with tradition.)