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Small wonders

Two new vibrant boutique hotels, each with a sharp design aesthetic, bring a dash of style to Brisbane and Canberra.

As fresh as its name, this hip retreat is one of Brisbane's funkier hotel options. Five star it isn't, but it does boast a slick rooftop 'cinema' and bar. Ground floor rooms come equipped with courtyards and hammocks, a clever touch in this sub-tropical city. As the only Australian member of Design Hotels, a Germany-based group that puts definite emphasis on style, you'd expect fashionable touches. Cue the cushion-strewn private rooftop cabanas with dove-grey camouflage draping. These can be reserved by those who want  privacy as they sip their little something from the Moët-Hennessy-sponsored bar.

Owner/manager Damian Griffiths commissioned up-and-coming designer Alexander Lotersztain to create the interior. "I wanted someone who was passionate about putting his stamp on it," he says. "Someone who has the potential to be the next Marc Newson."

All 21 guest rooms are low-key but smart. Long, narrow (just 3m across) and decorated in tones of slate and pewter, they're aimed squarely at the independent traveller. Griffiths says you may have to carry your own bags upstairs, but once there you'll find all the comforts - tempting Dello Mano brownies, L'Occitane toiletries, a laptop-sized safe, free internet, a mini-bar with Voss water and free soft drinks, plus a sink that doubles as a Champagne bucket. A continental breakfast, available as an extra option, is served on the roof. Guests also have first dibs on the bar. A 'play and stay promo', where any room still not rented at midnight gets offered to bar patrons for just $99, is sure to be popular.

Limes is located on a Fortitude Valley backstreet, a position that Griffiths believes works in the hotel's favour. "People like the exclusivity," he says. "And they're amused by the fact that when they arrive they have to be buzzed in, then escorted up in the elevator to the rooftop bar by the doorman. I guess it makes a change - it's more usual you would be escorted out of a bar rather than in."
Rates are $289 for a double or twin, or $319 for the rooms with a courtyard. All doubles are king-sized.
Limes Hotel, 142 Constance St, Fortitude Valley, Qld,(07) 3852 9000.

Forget issues of national importance being debated in Parliament House - one of the most pressing concerns for visitors to the Australian capital has too often been where the hell to stay. The new Diamant Hotel, a sleek 80-room property near Lake Burley Griffin, puts paid to those worries. The Diamant's modern industrial-style foyer, decked out by SJB Interiors (they also did Sydney's chic Establishment) in colourful carpets, Corallo sculptured steel armchairs, Tai Ping rugs and Flos cocoon light fittings, is the first indication that these are not your bog-standard Canberra digs. The dimly lit corridors with strip lighting positioned diagonally down the walls (between full-height mirrors) belie the bright and spacious guest rooms, equipped with Bang & Olufsen TVs, Kevin Murphy toiletries and contemporary artwork on the walls. A Champagne bar adjoining the foyer and installations, sculptures and paintings from emerging and established artists dotted around the building, add to the impression that this is going to be a fun place to stay.

The Diamant's edgy urban aesthetic gels nicely with its 20s heritage - it was designed by John Smith Murdoch, who was responsible for many of Canberra's government buildings. The property's Art Deco pedigree made it a natural choice for the developers who were looking to set up a hotel that would fly in the face of the capital's somewhat stodgy image.

"A lot of the Canberra hotels are pretty old-fashioned, but the city is changing, and changing fairly quickly," says general manager David Doswell. "The Diamant philosophy is to go with that contemporary feel and to create unique places and environments. In the case of the Canberra Diamant, the interior designers were particularly clever. It's a tricky balance to mix cutting-edge design while maintaining the heritage of a building like this, but they've done it well."

The hotel's location near Parliament House, the CBD, the National Museum and the National Gallery, makes it ideal for a quick city break in which to take in the major attractions - although the rooms are so inviting you'll definitely want to stay longer.

"A great thing about the hotel is its site," affirms Doswell. "It's an absolutely prime location in Canberra and convenient for accessing everything, especially important for the corporate clients who naturally make up the bulk of our guests. This whole area of Canberra is being redeveloped and undergoing a bit of a shake-up."

While the Diamant doesn't have an on-site restaurant, it is located in the New Acton 'lifestyle' precinct, which houses a cocktail bar - Parlour Wine Room - and restaurants Du Jour and Flint (Flint owned by Grant and Spencer Kells, formerly of Sydney's Kells Kitchen). There is also a Soma Day Spa, hair salon, providore and gym within the precinct.

A sister property to Diamant Sydney, which opened in 2007, this Canberra newcomer is a funky new addition to the hotel landscape. And it's long overdue.
Rates are from $160 for rooms with queen beds and from $255 for rooms with king beds.
Diamant Hotel, 15 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra, ACT,(02) 6175 2222.

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