Editor checks in: the real value of ‘pride’ in hotel design

To conclude Pride Month 2023, Editor Hamish Kilburn shares a behind-the-scenes on the significance of one interview that was published this month, while also giving his pick of impactful stories and reviews written recently, including the launch of The Brit List Awards 2023…

Pnoé Breathing Life lobby and main hub with low level furniture

When James Bermingham, this month’s ‘cover star’, if you like, agreed to sit down with us to discuss Virgin Hotels’ growth strategy, we felt a sense of pride on the editorial desk – and not just for securing the exclusive perspective from the CEO calling the shots.

Image of Sir Richard Branson and James Burmingham, CEO, Virgin Hotels

Image caption: James Bermingham, CEO of Virgin Hotels, this month’s ‘cover star’, pictured with Sir Richard Branson at the opening of Virgin Hotels Edinburgh | Image credit: Virgin Hotels

It felt apt to publish an article about a brand like Virgin Hotels during Pride Month. What I believe has always resonated loud from the Virgin empire is its ability, and now responsibility, to push forward human-centric agendas. It has achieved this through design, hospitality and fashion – sometimes all at the same time – to make bold and meaningful statements. Fuelling this characterful (at times unruly) personality are the people behind the brand’s expansion who face challenges and opportunities to grow, dare I say dominate, without losing Virgin’s distinctly warm style, which feels etched and protected in its DNA.

JUNCTION Virgin Hotels NYC - artwork piece in lobby

Image caption: The lobby inside Virgin Hotels New York City. | Image credit: Michael Mundy

In-between opening hotels in Scotland and New York City, while also preparing to cut ribbons and pop open bottles of fizz in Miami and Denvor, Bermingham took a moment to exhale; to capture for us what these moves on the hotel development chess board really mean for the disruptive brand, which is still very much in its infancy.

Opened last year, Virgin Hotels Edinburgh stands as a milestone for the brand as well as ourselves. Last year, shortly after it received its initial rave reviews, it became a proud protagonist among the entries in The Brit List Awards 2023. That’s because one of the individuals from the architecture studio responsible for ensuring the 222-key hotel was designed with and not just in the listed-building architecture shell was recognised for her work on the project. Not only that, Kerry Acheson, Associate at Ica, became the first woman in the award campaign’s history to win Architect of the Year.

Now in its sixth year, The Brit List Awards 2023 is a fabulous – and I should remind you, free – application/nomination process, which offers designers, architects, hoteliers and suppliers alike the opportunity to amplify their proudest projects and products. It’s a chance to break free from boundaries to share design and hospitality projects that deserve to be celebrated. It’s a way to showcase what, on the global hotel design landscape, is taking the industry to new heights – or depths.

Editor Hamish Kilburn with a glass of rosé in hotel room

Image caption: Editor Hamish Kilburn ‘balancing’ his priorities this month while scooping the design exclusive review of a new hotel in Crete, Greece. | Image credit: @hotel_travel_editor / Instagram

As well as launching The Brit List Awards 2023, serving the industry with the hottest VIP arrivals, sharing the latest products launches, publishing various hotel reviews – from Doha to New York – and reaching the conclusion of our fourth series of DESIGN POD, this month, somehow, I managed to sneak off to Crete, Greece.

I touched down in Heraklion, and it began my mission to scoop the design exclusive of Pnoé Breathing Life, a new wellness hotel, rich in texture and character, that should, going by the theme of this Ed’s Letter, be proud of what it has achieved – going from concept to complete in just 10 months.

Perhaps more than that, though, the hotel should also be proud in its achievements to open something on the luxury hospitality scene that the locals have embraced, which looks and feels new yet also deeply rooted into its location. It shelters – if ‘shelters’ is the right word given the open, low-level architecture throughout – an unexpected take on Greek wellness that feels totally balanced with a contemporary design ethos and a forward-thinking hospitality vision. The local rosé they serve isn’t bad either…

Editor, Hotel Designs.

Enter now – applications and nominations for The Brit List Awards 2023 close on August 12. This year, the campaign, includes 12 categories, and the top 25 entries in the interior design, architecture and hospitality categories will also be profiled in The Brit List 2023.

Shortlisted finalists (interior designers, architects and hoteliers) will issued with a complimentary ticket to attend The Brit List Awards Ceremony 2023, which takes place on November 2, 2023 at Circa Embankment

Main image credit: Pnoé Breathing Life