The Johnson Review: Art Series’ first Brisbane property plays it safe

Though The Fantauzzo may be one of Brisbane’s hottest hotel openings of 2019, it’s not Art Series Hotels’ first property for the city. That honour belongs to The Johnson, which made its debut back in 2016, making an impact as a clean-cut tribute to the lasting legacy of master abstract artist Michael Johnson.

The Johnson is part of a mixed-use building | Image supplied

Part of the Main Roads Building in Spring Hill, the 96-room hotel shares its modernist property with residential apartments and offices, but still manages to feel like its the sole resident. That’s important for The Johnson, especially considering that most of Art Series’ stunning hotels stand as their own entities.

The presence of other businesses on the higher floors of the building doesn’t detract from the atmosphere The Johnson has crafted to itself, one that’s plain and neatly trimmed with a heavy injection of colour thanks to Johnson’s classic works.

Spring Hill

Tumbling Stone | Image supplied

Though there are plenty of interesting and historical buildings scattered around Spring Hill, the inner city neighbourhood isn’t the most exciting area of Brisbane. The Johnson is located deep in the belly of the suburb, feeling fairly isolated in its immediate location. Although walk around 15 minutes and you’ll reach a major shopping district in one direction, and a decent nightlife in the other. Plus, the bus stop directly outside of the hotel is convenient for those looking to actually explore Brisbane’s exciting social scene.

Though the main point of interest here is the picturesque Roma Street Parkland, and its serenity is only a short distance from the property.

Excellent salmon benny at Tumbling Stone

In terms of dining, there’s not much around the area. Fortunately, the hotel’s single dining option is a good one. Tumbling Stone, named for one of the Michael Johnson’s most famous works, is an affordable and cosy restaurant that looks more like a café, with it’s lively plant-filled atrium that offers an instantly relaxing atmosphere over a spot of high quality coffee (or classic cocktails done exceptionally well) and some produce-forward shared dishes. In the morning, grab the big breakfast plate or salmon eggs benedict – the classics are taken up a notch with excellent ingredients here, and it’s all kept fairly affordable.

Let There Be Colour

Abstract art books in the lobby

The Johnson plays it safe. Much like Melbourne’s otherwise stellar The Larwill Studio, another Art Series property that isn’t the only resident of its building (it is attached to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville), it can feel overly clinical at times; a little too pristine for its own good. Although the unexciting monochromes are saved by brilliant strokes of colour, with Johnson’s works of varying sizes hung around the vast lobby, giving life and vibrancy to an otherwise uninspiring space.

As with all Art Series, the many works of Michael Johnson tastefully line the hallways and brighten guest rooms. Whether its marine imagery or geometric shapes, they always pop, and are remarkable sights wherever they are found. They are much more interesting than Ken Reinhard’s “The Red Cube”, which oddly sits in front of the building, a twisted steel and aluminium structure that doesn’t share the same synergy or conceptual link with the building as Johnson’s artworks.

Rooms

Deluxe Studio Suite

The guest suites are where The Johnson gets over the most. I will never get tired of falling asleep in one of the group’s exceptionally comfortable AH Beard signature beds, and it’s even more comforting with Johnson’s “tumbling stone” artwork hung over me, its colour radiating against the neutral scheme and earthy tones.

The entrance of a Deluxe Studio Suite

While my Deluxe Studio Suite lacks the eccentricities of The Fantauzzo or The Cullen, it’s elegant with a particular love of spacious living. Smart, modern design sticks to the sides of the room so guests have a lot of empty space in the middle.

The dull balcony view

There is a balcony, but it overlooks a boring car park and, with my room located on the first floor, can’t compete with the nearby rooftops for a view of the park. Although there are no high-rises to content with, so a good amount of natural light spills into the room during the day.

Interesting art books are expected with an Art Series Hotel

A generously stocked mini-bar is found underneath a large wall-fixed TV hanging over a low-bench with art books and a fold-out guide to Spring Hill’s interest points. The clean design shares some DNA with pristine fan-favourite The Olsen, although doesn’t quite stack up against the Chapel Street property.

A slim bathroom keeps it basic
Art Series’ regular Evo amenities

The bathroom is an oddly designed, long and slim space that immediately shoots off from the entrance. A small window looks out to the bed and feels redundant. Higher category rooms have bathtubs and laundry facilities, feeling like more complete apartment-style rooms, while this one keeps it down to the necessities.

If It’s Good Enough For Michael Klim…

The Johnson’s gorgeous Michael Klim-designed pool | Image supplied

Olympic gold medallist Michael Klim had a hand in designing to 50-metre outdoor lap pool that sits atop the hotel’s fifth floor and juts out from the petite building. The north-facing, resort-style deck is the most exciting public space for the hotel, and its attractive spread of lounges and cabanas feels perfectly in-line with luxury living. Barbecues are a nice touch, and the nearby relatively small fitness centre is comprehensive for its size, benefitting from plenty of light pulled in from large windows.

The Art Series Touches

A packed mini bar – one of the staples of an Art Series Hotel

The Johnson may feel like an outlier in the Art Series collection. It’s not as weird or distinctive, but finds a comfortable middle ground. The typical Art Series touches certainly help, not only because of the impeccable Michael Johnson artworks, but because of all the other expected details like Vintage Lekker bicycles for hire, incredible signature beds, the kidult mini-bars and the engaging art books.

A decently stocked gym | Image supplied

Service

I barely noticed any staff member when I was there. Yet it still feels as if you’re well taken care of at The Johnson, with privacy ranked above everything else while studious workers play in the background.

Value

You can expect nightly prices to start from around $180, which is tremendous value for an Art Series Hotel. It’s appropriate as well, seeing as unlike its fresh-faced Brisbane sister (check our Fantauzzo review HERE), The Johnson lacks the kind of distinctiveness and star location often credited to the group’s best properties.

That isn’t to say that The Johnson is lacking in the Art Series narrative. It’s smart, elegant aesthetic owes greatly to Johnson’s many originals and prints, plus a highly social pool deck and a high quality restaurant certainly help. Plus, you’ve got the usual Art Series details and superior sense of comfort.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Address: 477 Boundary St, Spring Hill QLD 4000
Contact: (07) 3085 7200
Website: artserieshotels.com.au

The writer stayed as a guest of The Johnson.

All photos by Chris Singh unless otherwise specified. Feature image supplied.

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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review, an obsessive hip hop nerd, a whisky drinker, and a lover of all things travel. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter with @chrisdsingh.

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