ele HOME meets the effervescent Gorgi Coghlan, the brains behind the transformation of The Hotel Provincial in Ballart and the owner of the most infectious laugh in Australian showbiz! Gorgi and husband, Simon, have created a sophisticated and welcoming hotel and restaurant infused with love, one that has put Ballarat on the map as a luxe destination.
How did you come to take on the Hotel Provincial?
It fell into our laps serendipitously, the owners wanted someone to take over the venue and give her some much needed love. My husband and I wandered through the building and we could immediately see her potential. Despite knowing how much work it was going to be, we both instantly fell in love.
What sort of state was the Hotel Provincial in when you took over?
The building needed a lot of work. We had to start from scratch with interior design and we did a compete overhaul with texture, style and colours. We completely redesigned and rebuilt the restaurant, we added eight new hotel rooms and we injected love, texture, femininity and warmth.
What is the philosophy behind the Hotel Provincial?
My husband and I were traveling in Paris with our daughter, and we were reflecting on how much we love spending time in hotels where you feel like you’re visiting someone’s beautiful home. When there’s attention to detail, passion and love poured into everything, you never want to leave.
We wanted to create that same feeling for our guests in our boutique hotel in Ballarat. The best compliment we receive is that people notice all the little touches that we’ve spent time refining. I love it when people say that they feel as though they have spent time in our home because it really is an extension of us, and what we love in life. People leave feeling nourished and want to return. She’s sophisticated but playful.
What drew you to Ballarat as a destination?
My husband is a Ballarat boy, and we live on a farm just outside of town. It’s the best of both worlds, a close-knit community with excellent health, education and culture and we have the serenity of the farm and connection to Mother Nature. We’re also only an hour and 20 minutes from Melbourne. Ballarat’s hospitality scene is so exciting and dynamic and we’re seeing more and more people want to start up restaurants and bars which is wonderful to see.
Who designed the fit-out of Lola and your hotel accommodation rooms? What was the inspiration behind the design?
I had a really clear vision of what I wanted the hotel and the restaurant to feel and look like, it needed to reflect the Victorian heritage, so I was keen to inject antiques and warm wood, but I also wanted stunning contemporary fabrics and standout upholstery pieces.
I visited several properties in Australia and overseas and built a great design team with Kath Mills and Genevieve Wallis. We all bounced off each other and drew on each other’s skills to create the look and I’m super proud of what we achieved. People love it and feel like they’ve landed in Paris when they arrive.
How has the last 18 months impacted your life and running a business through the COVID pandemic?
Super tough. It’s been really hard as owners and really hard for our team. It’s been extremely stressful, however we are so lucky to have loyal and supportive guests who return and book out the hotel as soon as we’re out of lockdown, so the bounce back has been rapid and strong. We’re also seeing a shift in our target market, which means new guests who would normally be in Europe are coming to stay with us to get their French fix, along with friends of people who have stayed with us and recommended us. So there’s always a silver lining. We are very much looking forward to no more lockdowns, it’s so crushing for small business.
How do you balance running a thriving hotel/restaurant with a successful television career and life in the country?
I’m fierce with my time management and boundaries! I love having my finger in different creative pies so it’s down to how I manage my energy with people and projects. Life on the farm completely reenergises me and our property is my sanctuary. It fills my cup. The hotel is super busy I really love the creative collaborations I work on and always striving to grow and develop our brand.
I’m also able to stay energised and grounded through my mental and physical toolbox – meditation, exercise, very little alcohol (I don’t drink at all these days) and eating well. I’m a big gardener and that really helps me to stay mindful and live in the moment. Mother Nature is the best healer and teacher.
What’s next for Hotel Provincial and the Coghlan family?
We are just about to launch an exciting extension of our brand so watch this space! It’s going to offer a really exclusive opportunity for our guests to enjoy a unique country experience so I’m in the middle of styling and designing that. I’ve left The Project so that’s really exciting, I’m ready for new adventures, more singing and time to work out what I want to do in my career next.
Photography: Tara Moore Photography and Marcel Aucar photography.