He has built the most modern homes in Sentosa Cove, but when it comes to his new hospitality venture, Satinder Garcha is after older buildings. “A building reflects a sense of identity of that country and its evolution. The goal is to try to tie in the hotel’s psyche with the city’s sensibility.”

To be opened in Q1 2015, the 42-room art-themed hotel will boast of Singapore’s first artist-in-residence programme, where artists get free stay for a period of time by contributing their talent.

“The standalone building is within walking distance of Little India and Kampong Glam, two of Singapore’s most cultural districts. I was very excited for these attributes to exist in one space.”

Garcha declines to reveal room rates but they are reportedly between $250 and $400 a night. The transformation is said to be led by French architect and designer Jacques Garcia, who is one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 designers in 2014.

As Singapore’s oldest luxury boutique hotel, the 23-year-old establishment was converted from a row of eight 100-year-old shophouses once occupied by Straits Chinese traders and their families, and still retains the old wooden shutters and louvred doors. In 1996, it became the first hotel in Southeast Asia to be a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux Association.

Room rates are reportedly at least $500 per night, the highest price point of the group’s Singapore hotels. To be renamed Blakes Singapore, it is scheduled to open late next year after a revamp by UK interior decorator Anouska Hempel Design.

Currently operating as an office building with advertising agency Leo Burnett as the main tenant, the row of 14 pre-war shophouses were originally built in 1929 and restored in 2009.

Subject to approval for change of use and after existing leases expire in 2015, the plan is to transform it into 160-room The Murray hotel, The Business Times reported last June. He envisions it to be a party hotel that will house a high-end lounge, restaurants and bars. Rates are estimated to be $350 to $700 a night for rooms, and suites will range from 25 to 40 sq m.

Steeped in history, its prized location was what moved Garcha to purchase it the same afternoon he first viewed it in December 2010. The revamp, also to be headed by Anouska Hempel Design, will reportedly cost US$40 million. Room rates are said to be between US$500 and US$1,000 per night when the hotel opens in 2016.

“At one point, we had 100 archaeologists on the site. Although they found walls around 200 years old, they didn’t find anything deemed to be of significant historical meaning, which would have stopped construction.”