Malcolm Roberts, new owner of one of Ballarat's most recognisable historic buildings The Canberra Hotel, says he's relaxed as the opening of the newly-renovated venue draws near.
The restoration and refurbishing of the 1884 building on the corner of Macarthur Street and Creswick Road has taken an even six months, and Mr Roberts says the work ran largely to plan.
"Look it's taken a little bit longer than we expected, but when you think about it, six months isn't that long," he says, leaning on the black granite bartop he's installed in the former tram-stop pub.
"It's such a beautiful, solid old building, it hasn't given us many surprises. I think we feel it was waiting for us to come and rescue it, and now it's happy to be brought back to life."
The Canberra Hotel began life as The Crown. Later called The Cornubian and then The Rose of Denmark, by the time the modern brick building we know today was built it was Ronalds's Vine Hotel, and a watering hole for both patrons and horses of the Ballaarat Tramway, which had a stop out the front.
Parts of the wall were dark burgundy and the bar was dark teal, so removing those colours was key to giving the room freshnessMalcolm Roberts
It's been many years since the hotel saw patrons such as champion boxer Lionel Rose drop in for a beer (it was his favourite haunt when he was in Ballarat), and he would be hard-pressed to recognise the building today as the hotel of the 1980s.
Malcolm Roberts says doing some very simple renovations such as allowing the windows full access to light and removing heavy drapes have both brightened the interiors and given the Canberra a greater sense of interior space.
Using a light colour palette and removing dark stained dadoes and cornices throughout the building has also been key to making the venue feel fresh, says Mr Roberts.
"Parts of the wall were dark burgundy and the bar was dark teal, so removing those colours was key to giving the room freshness," he says.
Ballarat interior design consultant Dianne Gow of Harlequin Designs worked on the refurbishment of the hotel from the beginning, advising on colours and strategies to ensure the renovation flowed consistently.
Starting with the choice of carpet and working upwards through each room, Malcolm Roberts and Dianne Gow would 'bounce ideas off each other', then go away and think of other things which might work to bring The Canberra to life, Mr Roberts says.
The rooms upstairs, which once housed the pub's travellers, have been completely realigned and refitted. Old bathrooms have been gutted and replaced with tiled ensuites, and two apartment-style enclaves now give views to Black Hill in one direction and Ballarat Central in the other.
The colour schemes which formerly reigned - a curious amalgam of sea-blue, orange and pink combined with motifs of dolphins and other sea creatures - have disappeared. Instead the apartments have been muted and warmed with deep yellows and darker blues. The apartments are named for the political nuance of the Canberra Hotel name: the smaller of the two being the 'Opposition Leader's room and the larger, of course, the Prime Minister's.
The refurbishment of the Canberra is part of a larger overall shift in the demographic of this area of Ballarat, says Malcolm Roberts. More corner stores, hotels and venues are being made over, and the establishment of the long-term carpark on Creswick Road should mean greater local investment in housing as commuters to Melbourne see a chance to live nearby.
"It's great to see people riding or walking to their local shop or bar; it's new life in the area," Malcolm Roberts says.
The Canberra Hotel will reopen to the public in four weeks' time.