They may look like wrecks to most people, but to Singaporean hotelier Loh Lik Peng creaking warehouses or unused school buildings can be architectural gems just waiting to be polished.
The former lawyer is Singapore's boutique-hotel king, and he is credited with spearheading a trend to create intimate accommodation that is both hip and historic in a city dominated by gleaming skyscrapers.
"I like finding old buildings that are a bit of a wreck," Loh told AFP in the lobby of his newest hotel, Wanderlust, which opened last year in Singapore's Little India district.
"For me, it's a huge amount of fun and it always makes my heart beat faster when I see a beautiful, old building and it's available to restore, and I imagine what I could do with it."
Loh's move into the hotel industry would never have happened if not for his previous stint as a lawyer winding up companies that had collapsed after the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.
It was during one of his assignments that he came across a derelict three-storey shophouse that generated little buyer interest because of the slump and the fact that it was located in a red-light district in Chinatown.
But Loh saw an opportunity.
"I realised there were no interesting, cool, little boutique hotels at that time," said the 38-year-old. "They were all large, chain hotels and weren't that different from each other."
Against warnings from well-meaning friends, Loh bought the site for Sg$3.5 million ($2.76 million) in 2001 with financial support from his parents, both doctors.
After a complete refurbishment, he renamed the building Hotel 1929 after the year it was built and opened its doors to the first guest in February 2003.
Customers were wowed by the 32 individually-styled rooms done in what Loh called "nouveau chic" decor, with black and white photos of Singapore in the early 20th century lining its corridors.
Janet Greasley, an English retiree from Nottingham, stayed at the hotel in January this year and liked what she saw.
"I did connect the fact that the decor and the name of the hotel were linked and liked it," Greasley told AFP.
"Too often developers throw out what they call 'dated things' unless they are over 100 years old," she said.
The success of Hotel 1929 came as a surprise even to Loh but he realised he had tapped into something worth pursuing. External source: To continue reading 'Click Here'.