Editor checks in: ‘suite’ juxtapositions in hotel design & travel

Editor Hamish Kilburn has taken the rough with the smooth this month to explore the attraction of opposites in hospitality – and how these situations can influence evolution in hotel design…

Editor Hamish Kilburn in front of a podcast microphone

I touched down in Florence with a rocket full of energy flowing through my body – since being able to legally board flights again, I haven’t quite managed to shake off the novelty of international travel. So, claiming my boyfriend as hand luggage, or my editorial assistant (depended on who asked), I arrived in Tuscany to review COMO Castello del Nero, a hotel sheltered inside a 12th century castle that I had intended to check in to in 2020, before I even knew my partner existed. And, like all quality things in hotel design, and in life that I am reluctantly realising, it was worth the wait.

“You might say that it was a well-earned break for someone whose job over the last two years largely consisted of finding the loopholes from country to country to keep the pulse of our hotel reviews flowing throughout that dreadful time that hospitality history, I hope, will forget.”

Heritage Suite inside COMO Castella del nero

Image caption: The museum-like bedroom in one of the few heritage suites that are sheltered inside COMO Castello del Nero. My review of the hotel goes live in May. | Image credit: COMO Hotels & Resorts

We arrived, and both instantly fell in love with the hotel’s pace, its people, the food and of course the design, which was yet another masterpiece from Italian designer, Paolo Navone. The significance of the hotel’s arrival, with it being the brand’s first property in Continental Europe, was unescapable. So, too, was the experience considering it was mine and partner’s first trip away together. You might say that it was a well-earned break for someone whose job over the last two years largely consisted of finding the loopholes from country to country to keep the pulse of our hotel reviews flowing throughout that dreadful time that hospitality history, I hope, will forget. Between 2020 and 2021, it was all trial and error, to be honest. And by that, I mean establishing who in my black book of contacts from around the world qualified as a ‘journalist’ and who would most likely use the opportunity to drink the minibar dry.

Days after arriving back in London, following our long weekend exploring new running trails in the Tuscan hills in-between getting acquainted with the sommelier – minibars are over rated – I found myself head locked in a day full of back-to-back meetings. Before charging through the underground barriers to get to my next engagement, I checked my phone and had received an email from the always smiling Ivaylo Lefterov. It read: “You’re good to go with the story!” The big, juicy exclusive that the developer was referring to was to unveil that Six Senses Hotels & Resorts had been confirmed to operate Svart, the world’s first energy-positive hotel, positioned at the foot of a glacier in Norway that is slated to open in 2024. The press release was scheduled to be sent out a day later, but Six Senses had given Lefterov the nod 24-hours prior. Knowing the value of the story, which we have been following from concept, I made the decision to make myself late (late) for the next meeting, and I sat in a corner of Bond Street, laptop on thighs, to publish the article – they can’t say our job is all glamour and no substance – which became the story of the week, perhaps even month!

render of side of structure on stilts in the water

Image caption: Just a few days ago, Six Senses Hotels & Resorts was confirmed to operate Svart in Norway, which opens in 2024. | Image credit: Snøhetta Plompmozes Miris

My point is that much like my role, hotel design is, too, full of pre- and often misconceptions. From what I hear, and what I’ve personally experienced, designers are not divas (well, the majority of them at least), and they don’t all order champagne at every meeting (just on Thursdays and when the job completes). And, as far as I’m aware, there’s often a seamless relationship between designer and architect – and whoever else is collaborating on a project. I love watching alliances form, innovation amplified and unconventional ideas form to shape this industry. These three factors fuel the people who are leading it forward. Our recent podcast episodes, panel discussions, roundtables and Hotel Designs LAB reports, within which we have explored the new era of luxury, sensory design’s role in hospitality, sustainability beneath the surface, modern design in heritage buildings and the science driving circadian lighting, I hope, are published examples of how people within our industry are really helping to score these topics into formally unwritten narratives.

> While you’re here, why not listen to the latest episode of DESIGN POD?

Life working in this arena is varied, subjective and full of a plethora of solutions to any one problem. It’s true, no day – even hour – on the editorial desk is ever the same. Any member of our team can be checked in to somewhere fabulous one morning and by lunchtime they are in a different city, far from home, exploring a factory to understand how products from the hotel they’ve just come from are made, which happened to me this month and created a completely different perspective over the project.

Leaving April fondly behind us, we at Hotel Designs are now focusing our attention on May, and the many events on the horizon, including MEET UP North, IHIF and Clerkenwell Design Week. Bounded by drinks and the canapés, we will find the time to explore what is arguably the ultimate juxtaposition in hotel design; indoor and outdoor spaces working in harmony. By doing so, we aim to unlock new conversations around wellbeing and wellness in hotel design and uncover how projects’ challenges and differences can in fact become their greatest strengths. After all, opposites can indeed attract.

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Main image credit: Hotel Designs