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Virtual roundtable: ‘sustainable does not mean natural’ in surface design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Virtual roundtable: ‘sustainable does not mean natural’ in surface design

With ‘greenwashing’ still an all-too-common term in the global ‘sustainable’ hotel design and hospitality arena, we gather a cluster of designers and architects to attend a virtual roundtable, sponsored by Architextural, to discuss sustainability solutions in surface design. Editor Hamish Kilburn leads the discussion… 

With rapid population growth, urbanisation and the ability to purchase goods at our fingertips, we in the western world have become overall a wasteful on-demand society that on the whole is unfortunately not sustainable in our thinking.

More specifically in hospitality, while initiatives such as putting a curb on single-use plastics have been celebrated, ‘greenwashing’ has become a commonly used term in order to expose those whose veneer of a sustainable establishment is actually doing more harm than good. In order to grasp sustainability’s role in the future of hotel design, and to put forward viable alternatives, we must look beyond the semi-sustainable methods of yesterday and instead research consciously with aim to find new methods that are not just kinder to the environment, but will also enhance local relationships and improve aesthetic qualities.

As ever, it falls upon the design community to put forward innovative methods that make sense for the future projects that will emerge on the international hotel design scene. In this exclusive virtual roundtable, sponsored by Architextural, we handpicked designers and architects in order to question sustainability in surface design, and learned that ‘sustainable does not always mean natural’.

On the panel:

Before we delve into materials and far-fetched, eco-driven initiatives in surface design, in order to establish misconceptions, we should look at architectural wrapping has become increasingly popular in recent years. On the surface of the debate, using PVC is contentious and, despite it being the world’s third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer, it is not particularly sustainable. However, used in the right way, surface manufacturer Architextural believes the process of wrapping can significantly help designers and their clients achieve a sustainable outcome when it comes to upcycling goods.

Hamish Kilburn: Lindsay, you’re the marketing manager for Architextural. Can you tell us a bit more about the brand’s sustainability credentials?

Lindsay Appleton: Architextural, is a new brand, part of William Smith Group, which was established back in 1832.  The concept of wrapping existing surfaces, instead of sending them to landfill, is contributing to a more sustainable future. In 2021, we have more than 1,000 patterns on the shelf, so as well as offering an environmentally friendly process, we also have a lot of variety in our ranges to suit most design applications in so many sectors – our products are incredibly versatile.

HK: Jack, you work for 3M, which manufactures Architextural’s product. Can you tell us more about this process?

Although the product is PVC it’s optimised to withstand wear and tear, UV, impact and it’s exceptionally conformable. Therefore, it can prolong the lifespan of products and eradicate the need for excess waste. 3M Architectural Finishes range is designed to meet aesthetic demand, while delivering functional benefits which can improve the sustainability of projects.

HK: What makes this process sustainable?

LA: The concept of wrapping using a PVC product, makes it a durable refurbishment solution. Rather than ripping out existing fixtures and fittings to be sent to landfill, upcycling what’s already there qualifies for all the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits around reusing existing furniture and reusing existing materials. The process is therefore much more sustainable, and there is less disruptive over having a traditional refurbishment. By upcycling what was already there, it is a sustainable way to reduce cost.

image of sustainable wooden headboard in bedroom

Image credit: Architextural

“Anything that allows you to reinvent without throwing out has got to be a good thing.” – Harriet Forde, Founder, Hariet Forde Design

HK: What is driving the rise in upcycling surfaces – is this ‘trend’ purely linked to sustainability?

Harriet Forde: I think we are trying to address the natural desire of humans to evolve and change. We are always looking forward to the next thing that is happening. We are a visual animal and looking forward to see what is trending. However, we cannot expect revolutionise all the time. We have to be able to manage that in a way that is sustainable. Anything that allows you to reinvent without throwing out has got to be a good thing.

Una Barac: When I started in the industry some two decades ago, Wenge was a popular veneer. We, as designers, allowing for it to become so popular came very close to exterminating that entire species of a tree. This is why we will now use blackened oak as an alternative– so we will find sustainably sourced oak and we will treat to achieve that dark effect without having to travel the world to find exotic species of wood, cutting it down and flying it half way across the globe.

So, for me, there are sustainable ways to being true and authentic – and we are learning more all the time. We should be designing with location in mind.

HK: Before the pandemic, I believe clients were really starting to understand the value of sustainably sourced goods beyond them just being eco-friendly. How this attitude changed since the pandemic with hygiene creeping up on the agenda?

Ben Webb: It’s definitely come up in conversations, but it isn’t the driving factor behind us putting these spaces together. Clients, and in fact people in general, are so much more aware now than they were five years ago when it was just used to sound good. The awareness now – and the fact that it is written in a lot of these briefs from day one – is very important. You need to talk about it from the beginning of a project rather than at the end.

“The greenest, most sustainable products are the ones that already exist.” – Ben Webb, Co-Founder, 3 Stories.

It doesn’t have to be some crazy new material, but it could just be the fact that you reuse the furniture. The greenest, most sustainable products are the ones that already exist. Let’s not forget that there are a lot of products and materials that already exist. In the past, we have had that shift with warehouse-like interiors, but actually the larger discussion point is the products that have been produced and we could actually reuse them. Wrapping these products, for certain brands, is extremely important.

Hygiene is coming up in conversation but our lead times are around two years – sometime longer. Therefore, there is a bigger picture and we always have to look ahead.

HF: As a designer, you should set the parameter right at the beginning of the project with how much your intention is to be sustainable, because it ultimately impacts the budget, and clients often see you reusing as a way to save money.

Geoff Hull: A lot of reused materials such as plastics can achieve ergonomic and geometric forms in a slender and elegant way. Polymer products can also carry other non-porous and hygiene friendly surfaces particularly relevant in our current Covid conscious World.

Henry Reeve: One of the ways we try to be sustainable is to ensure that our designs stand the test of time, so that we are not ripping stuff out after a couple of year, because then by definition you are not creating waste.

“In the QO Hotel Amsterdam, for example, all the carpets are made from recycled fishing nets.” – Henry Reeve, Head of Interior Design, IHG (Kimpton/Hotel Indigo).

We have introduced some interesting initiatives in some of our hotels. In the QO Hotel Amsterdam, for example, all the carpets are made from recycled fishing nets. Plastic is obviously a very durable material so this works perfectly. Also, in our Voco hotels, all the duvets are made from recycled bottles – and we have received really positive feedback from our guests regarding how comfortable they are.

One of the initiatives with furniture, is when they come to end of life with the hotel, but still in good conditions, we have donated our FF&E to housing projects and youth facilities.

When it comes to wrapping, we did implement this with the case goods inside some of the meeting rooms in InterContinental Park Lane. This was a time-saving a cost-effective process that really worked.

HK: And Henry, how do you sensitively communicate these initiatives this to guests?

HR: You have to be careful when shouting about renewables. There’s information there should the guests want to read more.

“We have to, if we are creating new products, ensure they don’t end up in landfill 10, 20 even 100 years down the line.” – Jeremy Grove, founder, Sibley Grove.

Jeremy Grove: The way in which we try to work is that we see the problem being more of a design problem and not a material one. We need to understand what happens afterwards. Wrapping and giving a product a new lease of life. A product is only desirable when we are using it and once we throw it away it is then no desirable at all. So, we have to, if we are creating new products, ensure they don’t end up in landfill 10, 20 even 100 years down the line.

The Fox & Goose is a good example, because it was designed to be dissembled, using materials that could be taken back to source and regenerated into a better quality.

For us, it’s about doing what’s sustainable and what makes good business sense. It’s really important for us to work with clients who don’t always share our ethos so that we can teach them as the project develops. Working with owners, operators and developers, if we can help to change their mindset on sustainable even by just a little bit then we are contributing to our industry as a whole thinking more consciously.

Image caption: The sustainable Fox & Goose, designed by Sibley Grove, was created to be dissembled | Image credit: Fox & Goose

Image caption: The Fox & Goose, designed by Sibley Grove, was created to be dissembled | Image credit: Fox & Goose

“We found a company that will pick up all the materials that we’re stripping on the site.” – Maria Gutierrez, Project Architect at Holland Harvey Architects.

Maria Gutierrez: I find that we also develop as designers when we are able to work on two projects under the same brand. We are currently working on designing the second Inhabit in London and we have taken so many learnings from the first, which was a fully sustainable hotel sheltered inside a Grade II listed building. We found a company that will pick up all the materials that we’re stripping on the site. All the marbles, all the tiles. When you recycle, and upcycle, them they become beautiful statements of sustainability. We are upcycling all these materials and repurposing them to be the worktops in the new hotel. Learning from the first hotel, we are able to go even further with the next project.

And then we get to the process of Value Engineering (VE), in which sustainable initiatives always suffer.

Image caption: Inhabit London is grade II listed, designed by Holland Harvey Architects, is a fully sustainable hotel that confronts the ideology that heritage buildings cannot shelter sustainable spaces. | Image credit: Inhabit Hotels

Image caption: Inhabit London is grade II listed, designed by Holland Harvey Architects, is a fully sustainable hotel that confronts the ideology that heritage buildings cannot shelter sustainable spaces. | Image credit: Inhabit Hotels

BW: A lot of VE comes down to longevity. It may be a sharp cost now, but if something stands the test of time then its value increases.

 “I have recently seen recycled terrazzo with chunks of plastic in.” – Henry Reeve, Head of Interior Design, IHG (Kimpton/Hotel Indigo).

HK: What has caused the rise in demand for exposed concrete surfaces?

GH: We have had a few projects including Ace Hotel and Village Hotels where concrete was seen as an honest and robust material. Techniques with formwork and ingredients has enabled a menu of different textures, finishes and colours for new build projects (where re used concrete can be crushed and used as aggregate) or existing retained superstructure can also add character and historic reference to any project.

HK: How can using upcycled materials in surfaces add new layers to a design of a hotel?

HR: There’s definitely interesting materials that have caught our eye, especially around recycled plastic. Technology has moved on leaps and bounds and I have recently seen recycled terrazzo with chunks of plastic in. Chunks of marble and/or wood in a terrazzo material looks stunning and create a very luxurious feel. I am expecting to see more of that in the future.

“Even the largest brands can be very excited by ideas around upcycling and recycling.” – Una Barac, Founder and Executive Director of Atellior

UB: Everyone seems to have a broader awareness. Even the largest brands can be very excited by ideas around upcycling and recycling. Here are a few examples. Park Plaza purchased an existing property which had almost 400 chairs that were made from cherry wood and upholstered with paisley patterns. We literally stripped them down with a local workshop that sanded the wood, painted each chair and then reupholstered them with a modern fabric.

Another example is a Hilton property in Bournemouth. The owner had procured antique furniture. In the spa, we decided to use one of these items – a desk – and we upcycled it which we then encased in glass because there were concerns with splinters. This piece of furniture became a beautiful focal point within the hotel.

BW: We have found that materials can have a dual purpose, when they have a very practical use but also very aesthetically pleasing.

“Just because it is natural does not mean it is sustainable” – Jeremy Grove, founder, Sibley Grove.

HK: During R&D, what far-fetched materials have your teams discovered in new surfaces?

JG: For me, a lot of what we focus on is not really the far-fetched stuff at all! Our work we did with Selfridges is a great example, which allowed us to look at a material that is upcycled fishing nets and ropes.

However, just because it is natural does not mean it is sustainable. Take oak, for example. It takes between 75 – 150 years to mature. If we were using this in a shop fit-out intended to be used for just six months then it really isn’t sustainable at all. When designing, we as an industry sometimes neglect that a lot ecosystems rely on these natural materials. We have lost vast amounts of our oak and its solutions around these problems that I am interested in.

GH: Nothing ‘far-fetched’ comes to mind but quite often we get to use many recycled materials either through manufacturing and specification choices or through the use of existing on site materials. We have many listed building examples where we have dismantled (rather than demolish) parts of a building for re-use in its altered form (stone , timber flooring , mosaics , cornicework etc).

HF: Sometimes the product that does not have the best sustainably credentials, like PVC for example, can in fact be the most sustainable if it is long-lasting and by not changing it you are actually being more sustainable.

BW: We all have a collective responsibility and awareness when we are designing a new hotel because we are making a massive impact. As designers, we have to meet the brief and make these spaces look stunning, but we there is no harm to think a little deeper to try and design in a clever way to try and source the best, most sustainable products and materials.

MG: The world and customer is starting to become more interested in sustainability and is able to make informed decisions around travel, design and fashion. This widespread knowledge is making it easier for designers to discuss this with clients. It’s also a great opportunity for hotels to tell their narrative in a unique way.

UB: It’s about designers taking developers on a journey to set the brief and parameters and educating the client as you move forward.

HK: How has this movement change the way in which design and architecture is taught?

JG: In terms of how it’s taught academically, it has always been part of academia. The largest challenge is how we translate that into the commercial world and there is a disconnect between them. It takes real resolve to challenge some of these conventions. Design has to lead that journey.

GH: I believe the use of conventional and traditional materials and methods have developed and altered considerably over the last 25 years and there is a greater choice of materials which address form ,and  function as well as embrace recycling/upcycling credentials.

HF: At the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID), we run an annual student challenge. When I was on the judging panel two years ago, the students were very focused on sustainability. In a student scenario, it is very idealislised and in the line of work there are a lot trip hazards along the way. CPD, though, is a really positive way to continually educate yourself in what is a continually evolving industry anyway.

Architextural is one of our Recommended Suppliers and regularly features in our Supplier News section of the website. If you are interested in becoming one of our recommended suppliers, please email Katy Phillips.

Hamish Kilburn

Editor Checks In: don’t make me round-up 2020

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: don’t make me round-up 2020

“For someone who always tries to see the positive in everything, this year has been a challenging and turbulent journey that has been full twists, turns and dead ends,” editor Hamish Kilburn writes when trying to round-up 2020…

Hamish Kilburn

It’s 21:00 GMT on a stormy evening in December. The eyes of the world are fixed on my home county following a new super strain of Covid-19 that was found, mutated they say, in Kent. There’s literally nothing to do apart from curl up on the sofa with a glass of red wine to write this, which is my last article of 2020 (hurrah!).

Just when this year couldn’t really get much worse, my phone lights up beside me and my stomach immediately drops. The sender is a freelance journalist who is supposed to be in Dubai taking full advantage of this ‘air corridor’ we had been granted. For any editor right now, it’s a pretty big deal commissioning an international trip, as travelling anywhere at the moment feels like undertaking a covert operation (even when you’re not the one actually boarding the plane).

“If the last 12 months have taught us anything on the editorial desk at Hotel Designs, it’s perspective and being grateful for what we have.” – Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs.

The text message read: “Hi Hamish, I’m really sorry but I’m stuck in Zanzibar, now self-isolating for 10 days having tested positive for Covid-19, and will not make it to Dubai to review the hotel.” And this, my friends, is the new world we are living in. What a way to end to 2020? Not only am I now living in a place that is being branded by the media as ‘the new Wuhan’, but I also feel part responsible for a journalist and friend being struck down by ‘the virus’, with no option but to lock himself down in a hotel, over Christmas, that wasn’t budgeted for – talk about disruption! But if the last 12 months have taught us anything on the editorial desk at Hotel Designs, it’s perspective and being grateful for what we have. Fortunately, our writer and his wife who he is travelling with are showing no symptoms and are recovering safely and comfortably in the confides of their hotel room.

This situation is a stark reminder of how shaken our market is, even now, more than 10 months after coronavirus first emerged in the headlines. While other industries wake up from a forced hibernation, unfortunately hotels around the world are still taking a battering, and the majority are still performing with less than 50 per cent occupancy due to the pandemic. Major cities that were once dominating tourist hotspots have found themselves in unfamiliar territories; vacant and on the surface without purpose – and there was me in January thinking this was all just a sensational story that will blow over…

The hotels within these metropolis’ that were designed to cater for substantial demand are currently uninhabited. And yet, the magic and power of hospitality has kept the industry’s spirits alive.

During the peak of lockdown – and even after we entered the dreaded tiered system here in the UK – wonderful and innovative initiatives emerged from hotels up and down the country. With the unanimous aim to support key workers during turbulent times, hoteliers utilised the situation and started to focus their attention locally, and as a result produced new and improved sustainable ways to operate.

Meanwhile, designers and architects were able to exhale from travelling and attending back-to-back client meetings and pitches. Instead, although being away from their creative studios was less than ideal, they were able to focus on drawing up new purposeful spaces suitable for a post-pandemic world.

It is therefore more important now than ever before to recognise and celebrate the individuals in Britain who are leading the way in international hotel design and hospitality, as we did last month when we went live with The Brit List Awards 2020.

Just when Covid-19 slapped us across the face with a wet fish – I was on the floor howling with laughter when a designer used this line earlier this year in a panel discussion – we opened the applications and nominations process for the awards. And with each completed application form that landed in my inbox, the team and I were reminded why Britain is – and will always be – regarded as a leading hotel design and hospitality hub.

There’s a lot of anticipation building around what 2021 will bring. If Pantone’s Colour of the Year is anything to go by, we’re in for a mixed 12 months that will require yet more forward-thinking to harmonise our industry. From our side, we will continue to keep the conversation flowing and the industry connected with our Hotel Designs LIVE series and the anticipated arrival of our podcast. We will also continue publishing strong editorial features (look out for that Dubai hotel review), and we will maintain our position as the leading international hotel design website by listening to the designers, architects, hoteliers, developers and suppliers who are all helping to shape our industry.

I would like to sign off 2020 by sticking two fingers up to the past and instead welcoming in new perspectives that we will amplify on the pages of Hotel Designs. I wish you all a safe and refreshing festive period and our team looks forward to reconnecting in the New Year – at least it can’t be as bad as the one we have just endured!

Editor, Hotel Designs

Main image credit: DJP Portraiture

Profile image of Dereck and Beverly Joubert, founders of Great Plains in Africa

In Conversation With: the filmmakers who designed Great Plains

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: the filmmakers who designed Great Plains

Having spent more than 40 years exploring Africa as photographers and filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the founders of Great Plains, have new standards in sustainability, hospitality and humanity. Editor Hamish Kilburn catches up with the dynamic duo to understand authentic luxury hotel design through a wider lens, capturing a broader perspective when it comes to hospitality in the wild…

Profile image of Dereck and Beverly Joubert, founders of Great Plains in Africa

There is something about Africa – the woodlands, wetlands, and seemingly never-ending grasslands in-between – that gives life deeper meaning. I’ve noticed that the sun sets differently here, almost feeling like you’re closer to the sun than any other continent on earth is.

My experience in Africa is a millisecond, though, compared to the time that Dereck and Beverly Joubert have invested in order to learn about this great natural world. Having spent more than 40 years’ exploring these plains as filmmakers and photographers – the pair have produced more than 25 films for National Geographic – to call these two wildlife and conservation experts is an unruly understatement.

In 2006, to fund their wildlife conservation work, Beverly and Dereck channeled their wisdom and love of nature and started a new hospitality venture. Their inspirational journey – which went on to challenge the cookie-cutter approach in safari travel, architecture and design – began when they set up Great Plains, an authentic and iconic tourism conservation organisation.

Today, the brand shelters 16 safari properties, in Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, each designed through the director’s lens to tell unique stories that enhance each camp’s very special sense of place and built to celebrate each destination’s individual character.

Despite being award-winning filmmakers, world-renowned hoteliers and selflessly good human beings through their ongoing charity work, there is not a shred of haughtiness about Beverly and Dereck, as I learn when I catch up with the husband-and-wife team to understand how they, through a purposeful and sustainable approach to luxury hospitality, are helping travellers to capture one-off experiences from a slightly different perspective.

Hamish Kilburn: What initially made you audition for the roles of ‘hotelier’?

Beverly Joubert: We’re explorers, conservationists and filmmakers. As we started the Big Cats Initiative at National Geographic, we soon realised that saving lions one at a time was futile and we needed to conserve large landscapes to save everything in them. To afford this, we decided on high-end tourism as opposed to philanthropy.

Dereck Joubert: To be honest hospitality runs deep in Africa; in our DNA where of course we were all born, so we were inspired by that spirit of coming home and being welcomed. As a result, as I design our camps, I do it with two ’stories’ in mind: the three act ‘ welcome home’ one and whatever story I want to tell through the design of that unique place.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert, filmmakers and wildlife photographers, in a 4x4 with an elephant in the background

Image caption: In 2006, to fund their wildlife conservation efforts, filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert launched Great Plains.

HK: What amendments have you made to the existing script of safari in Africa?

DJ: Oh, I don’t think we have amended the African safari – it transcends us! It may have been about the physical journey (safari being quite simply a journey in Swahili) but if anything I hope we expand it to an inner journey as much as a physical one. Our version of safari is one where you can explore your roots, from millions of years ago, and interrogate your relationship with the other creatures here, our history with them, our very profound and interwoven dependancy. For example there was an ancient cat called Dinofelis that stalked the caves we sheltered in 3.5 million years ago, and possibly forced us out into the grasslands more where we discovered fire and bone marrow that gave us strength, intelligence and the ability to no longer fear large spotted cats. Today we seek out leopards to marvel at their beauty rather than shy away in fear, but we’ve walked this journey of the safari together.

BJ: What does the resonance of meditating at a waterhole with elephants nearby as they rumble do to you? How can we each for that creative energy that the early philosophers and poets sought out in the wilderness, uncluttered and pure. In the style of our camps, we try to add detail and story telling like this in design, in service and as an experience.

HK: What is the current narrative in Africa?

BJ: The Covid-19 death rates in the USA is at about 800 per million people. In Botswana it is 2 per million, so the safety and risk are worlds apart. The outdoor experiences reduce the risk dramatically, but no matter what the rates are, the closed borders have obviously collapsed tourism.

What is evident is that we’re in a cycle of demise that can cause spiralling circles of pandemics. As a result of our nefarious relationship with wild animals placed in captivity in cages in wet markets (in this case), we have sparked an economic crisis, global shutdowns that will lead to a recession, closed borders, and tourism, that communities rely so heavily on in Africa and other places.

DJ: The loss of income has led to many turning to nature to feed themselves at a time when game wardens and anti poaching patrols have been cut back. This perfect storm has led to a second pandemic of destruction of wildlife and a renewed trade in illegal wildlife and bush meat, that find their ways into the wet markets again. So we are seeing a second and third wave of new unexpected viral pandemics as a result. We have to shut down wet markets and the trade in wildlife. We have to review and renew the ways we engage with all animals . We started Project Ranger to support rangers who have been furloughed and keep wildlife areas intact and protected. We have to ensure that there is actually something for travellers to want to seek out when this is all over.

HK: What makes your cast of 660 employees special and unique?

BJ: It is an ensemble cast isn’t it?! I think that the way we work at Great Plains is as a small family business, with a family of employees who do more than just show up. Hospitality in general requires skills that are more involved than that any way – much close to the work as performers – each day to smile and engage in a pleasant way no matter what is going on in your life. I recognise that, so we are sensitised to this and have a policy of support. If a guide is having a bad day, another is primed to reach out and ask him or her what is going on and to step in. Managers do the same to their staff and actually this starts at the top and someone who just joined our EXCO meetings pointed out that I start each session asking each Managing Director what we can do as a whole group to help each week. I know the names of all our staff and most of their families and I don’t want to grow it beyond that point where it becomes impersonal and corporate.

 

HK: Can you talk us through the filmmaker process of storyboarding each scene/camp?

DJ: Each hotel or in our case, camp, is a story. I start with an overall direction and message. In the Selinda camp, for example, I wanted us to re-evaluate our relationship with elephants. The camp is in the heart of the highest density of elephants in the world, but in the past, early explorers like Livingstone and Selous travelled through these areas with guns and a desire for ivory. Selinda was a hunting concession for decades and when we took it over we stopped all killing.

Our relationship with elephants is symbolic of our loss of harmony, so therefore harmony was the solution to ’the question’ the area and the elephants themselves impose on us.

Now I obviously didn’t want to simply populate the décor with elephant images – that would be too easy and cheap. Instead, I designed and cast two life-sized bronze skulls of elephants including bronze tusks but in the forehead of one I had the words “homo nosce the Ipsum” cut in, and in the other “homo nosce  pe Ipsum”, which is Latin for “man know thyself” and “man forgive thyself”. The sculptures are placed on either side of the main entrance with the intention to stimulate a real conversation that starts with us understand who we are and what we have done over the centuries to their peaceful animals, but then  to forgive ourselves (and our ancestors) for who we are.

But that is just the first act, and I wanted to design this with a longer and deeper path towards harmony which in Eastern teachings leans towards the laying out of five fundamental elements the first being the metal skulls, but then you enter a chamber with blue touch of furniture, to represent water and often our guests arrive by boat so I imagined them dragging that element with them, like a smoke trail from the river. Next, you enter for a welcome tea; an open space with a flowing white silk roof to represent air. Beyond that you pass through an open dining area with brown tables, where we serve fresh largely plant based food from the earth, and then to the fire and off to the third act and your resting place, in your room, presumable in perfect harmony and balance.

Only once we understand who we are, and forgive ourselves will we be able to cross a threshold, as one does in this camp, into a new unburdened relationship with both ourselves and elephants, like stepping through a vortex.

It’s not just a story though, I believe that most people arrive and feel that tranquility and settle because of the balance we have created, and so many arriving guest actually sign deeply as they enter this story, this camp. If I can I will briefly describe Mara Plains, that I felt should be an architectural and physical meeting place, also in harmony between three often opposing cultures: The Maasai, the Swahili, the colonials.

But as explorers for National Geographic, we wanted to be the glue as one is behind the lens. So I oriented the camp based on a single and lone tree five km away, drew a line through the camp, and angled it all around this tree. Then I drew a Fibonacci proportion in the ground and had the tent makers make the main tent exactly to those proportions, representing  the ideal gold rectangle one uses in a 35 mm picture frame.

Inside the camp, we imported 75-100 year old railway sleepers as recycled wood (teak) and brass from the original Blue Train 120 years ago. Reds from the Maasai culture represent this very visual association and it didn’t have be head handed because we are in Maasai world so it is everywhere anyway, but the coastal Swahili culture has in influence here so the large Swahili doors behind the showers are a not to them, associated with the sea and water. Each tent fits the Fibonacci proportions creating a film set styled ration that takes you back to the romance of the 1920’s adventures but hopefully without the embedded racism and in appropriate colonialism of that time.

“I added my own collection of campaign furniture as templates and samples for cabinet makes to replicate, which happened at the time of the Indonesian Tsunami where thousands of artisans were left without work.” – Beverly Joubert, co-founder, Great Plains.

HK: How and where do you source your props/artefacts?

BJ: In some cases, we design and make them ourselves, like in Zarafa, in Botswana, which is based on the story of the first giraffe to be seen by westerners as it went on a journey to Paris as a gift to KingCharles X.

Here, I added my own collection of campaign furniture as templates and samples for cabinet makes to replicate, which happened at the time of the Indonesian tsunami where thousands of artisans were left without work, and where tons of mahogany used for houses were smashed down from house scale to ideal furniture scale. So we used the reclaimed mahogany and hired the artisans to make this campaign furniture that is now unique to Zarafa camp. In other cases we just come across something in a market or antique store that we love and can’t live without, so we don’t!

HK: How has your approach on sustainability helped the local community?

BJ: Well, we have delivered something like 6,000 solar lanterns to families that have perviously been off grind, and an amazing addition to that was that the principal of the local school wrote to  thank us because school grades were going up because kids could do their homework after dark. I don’t think the kids liked having do that but… We send nine ladies with very little education from Botswana to India to learn solar circuit board manufacturing technology for six months and to return and develop local businesses from this. We’ve planted more than 5,000 trees and started tree growing initiatives. We have a Great Plains Academy to teach people about hospitality and who to bridge the gap from high school to university.

HK:  It’s clear that, as wildlife filmmakers, you allow nature to call the shots – can you explain more about how guests can give back to nature during their stay?

DJ: To nature, our guests and followers get involved in help fund a rhino calf by naming stand securing its protection on the wild, or supporting Project Ranger to keep front line conservationists at work to avoid this second pandemic. We have a need for $20 donations towards solar lanterns for kids learning at night, as well as $45,000 to move a rhino and indeed, we need an army of ambassadors who don’t donate but lobby against the extraction of wildlife (via hunting or poaching and trade) with their local representative. Everyone can do something.

HK: What major lesson has this journey in hospitality taught you so far?  

BJ: We can all learn from hospitality because it is all about kindness and care; paying attention to details and I find myself taking a lot more care just to find out how someone (even in my team) is doing, randomly, as if I am hosting the world.

HK: 2016 was a pivotal year for you both. Beverly you survived a fatel injury after being attacked by a buffalo while filming your latest materpiece. Dereck, did that event and your recovery change your relationship with nature?

DJ: You know the buffalo attack didn’t really change that relationship, as much as it changed our relationship with ourselves, in that I promised myself not to waste another moment, day or month not totally enjoying my life with Beverly (if I got her back, which I did four times).

HK: Has designing hotels changed your perception at all as wildlife filmmakers?

BJ: Interesting, probably in that it has made me (both of us, I think) understand story telling more, because if you base the entire design of a hotel on a story, as I do, and that is going to be its story for decades it had better be well researched and thought out. So our films have probably evolved into more layered and in depth stories and while I had not connected the two careers in many way, I can see yah prior to this, where I am designing spaces based on a deep philosophy like our relationship with elephants, or intersecting cultures there is more depth to our films.

“I think that all journeys are stories and we are all the heroes of our scripts.” – Dereck Joubert, co-founder, Great Plains.

DJ: A good example is the Okavango film/s where the story is about a river from end to end. But that wasn’t enough, so I re-read Dante’s Divine Comedy partly while Beverly was in hospital recovering from the buffalo attack. And in it, I found two parallels, one of our or my journey and Dante’s as he wove his way from purgatory to parade to find and be reconnected with his love (as I did, over nine months as Beverly slowly came back to life.) Regarding the journey of the river, I flipped the story in the theatrical release to start also in Purgatory (in the desert) and wind our story back to Paradise at the source. Those are the kinds of stories one tells around a campfire about the design of a hotel or camp, not always in a natural history documentary for National Geographic!

I think that all journeys are stories and we are all the heroes of our scripts, (why write yourself in as the bad guy) and we are the storytelling ape. But to us, as much as we love lions and elephants, there are opportunities as films to tell parables that hold up  the mirror to our lives, so we can advance in our relationships, and in our new and renewed contract with nature.

HK: In a sentence, can you explain the synopsis’ of your next masterpieces/camp openings?

BJ: As I walked the banks of the Zambezi River, under spreading pod mahogany trees, I saw a movement in the shade; a herd of elephants ambling towards me chasing their thirst, right passed me and out onto the plains, sliding into the water, leaving me with the name for the new camp on this exact site; Tembo Plains: (elephant in Shona.)

Main image credit: Great Plains

The Dorchester Terrace Penthouse living room

The Dorchester, where style will always conquer over fashion

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
The Dorchester, where style will always conquer over fashion

The new challenge for traditional luxury hotels in London – aside from navigating the obvious pandemic – is confronting the demand for a new era of contemporary luxury hotels. Editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to one of Mayfair’s finest establishments, The Dorchester, to understand the power of style over fashion in hotel design. Inside the 250-key hotel, he investigates how heritage luxury hotels are sensitively remaining relevant in modern times…

The Dorchester Terrace Penthouse living room

London, which to many is regarded a capital city of worldwide hospitality (at the very least a major hospitality hub), is entering a new era: the luxury lifestyle market is answering to the demand of modern travellers and, as a result, a new wave of contemporary hotels is approaching the city on an unprecedented scale.

According to the data analysts at STR, pre-Covid, 2020 was expected to become the year with the highest number of hotel openings that the city has ever seen, which was fuelled somewhat by the fall in the pound against other currencies in the on-going Brexit saga. Although this can only be seen a positive for the holistic hospitality industry in London, it no doubt puts into question the demand for – and therefore the role of – traditional luxury hotels that are dotted around Mayfair.

If we were to personify these illustrious jewels in a theatrical manner, think of them as the headline acts; their roles so impressive and unique that they have earned the right to a residency following countless standing-ovation and headline-grabbing performances.

Within this cluster of legends is The Dorchester, a 250-key luxury hotel that shelters a distinct classic English residential style, which has stood proud on Park Lane – majestically on the fringe of Hyde Park – for nearly nine decades. Within that time, it has managed to build and retain a legacy while effortlessly leading London’s premium hospitality scene to rank itself time and time again as an award-winning luxury hotel.

To truly understand what sets The Dorchester aside from other luxury addresses in London, I invited our official videographers at CUBE Video along with me to check in and capture luxury hospitality meeting stylish design. Here’s how we got on:

Since first opening in 1931, after being built in record time over just 18 months (which is the equivalent to the speed of completing one floor per week), The Dorchester has been favoured by royalty and celebrities alike. It was here, in the Park Suite, where HRH Prince Phillips famously spent his last night as a bachelor – and down the corridor where Queen Elizabeth II was spotted on the day of her engagement.

> Since you’re here, why not read our ‘In (Lockdown) Conversation With’ Robert Whitfield, The Dorchester Collection’s Regional Director (UK) & General Manager of The Dorchester.

The hotel’s style was originally created by Oliver Ford, who also handled the decoration for the Queen Mother’s residence at the Royal Lodge in Windsor and Clarence House in St James. Ford introduced details such as handmade carpets on each floor in different floral patterns.

One of the most iconic, and most photographed, areas inside The Dorchester is The Promenade, which is adorned with rich coral coloured silk draperies, custom gold-framed mirrors and striking chandeliers. Rumoured to be as long as Nelson’s Column is high, The Promenade is a clever use of space that stretches right down the hotel’s spine and is aptly decorated with sumptuous seating and striking floral displays that feature ‘The Dorchester Rose’, which was dedicated to the hotel by award-winning rose breeders Meijer Roses. The hotel’s in-house designer florist Philip Hammond explains how a small detail like a rose can compliment the hotel’s design scheme. “This specially selected rose is blousy in composition and has a pale blush colouring, with the pink tone gaining more colour as the rose gradually opens up,” Hammond says. “When you see it against the backdrop of The Dorchester, you really appreciate how it complements our timeless interiors.”

The Promenade at The Dorchester

Image caption: The Promenade at The Dorchester, which features stunning floral displays using the signature Dorchester rose| Image credit: The Dorchester

The Grill has been an integral dining outside within the hotel since it opened. However, with the recent appointment of head chef Tom Booton – who at just 27 years old happens to be the restaurant’s youngest ever head chef – the restaurant has been led into a new chapter (and the critics love it!).

As well as serving up a creative and playful menu that was designed by the man who, in his own words is, “all about fine dining without the formality”, everything about The Grill’s modern personality is surprisingly applauded by the hotel’s luxury status. The lobster thermidor tart, for example, has become somewhat of a signature dish for The Grill: a cheesy cheddar tart with thermidor foam and a rich lobster bisque, topped with a roasted lobster tail.

For dessert, The Grill’s twist on tradition now challenges the very nature of conventional dining, subtly, by introducing The Pudding Bar, which is the perfect way to finish off Booton’s dining experience. By pulling up a stall (quite literally), guests can break away from their tables to watch their sweet treat, such as the rich Double Decker (it is as delicious as it sounds) being prepared. Not only does this create a welcome disruption to a standardised dining formula – not to mention putting apt emphasis on what is, let’s face it, the best part of any meal – but it also tactfully injects a healthy dose of theatre within the experience, with guests able to interact with the chefs.

The Pudding Bar complete with artefacts on a feature wall inside The Grill | Image credit: The Dorchester

Image caption: The Pudding Bar inside The Grill | Image credit: The Dorchester

There is no doubt about it, the public areas and F&B outlets inside The Dorchester are breathtaking, and operate smoothly under awe-inspiring original design features. But public areas aside, what about the private areas within a hotel where guests demand modern flavour; the guestrooms and suites?

With such a bold and distinctive design narrative comes great challenges and enormous responsibility when the time inevitably approaches to renovate; finding the balance to create the right level of contemporary flavour while staying true to the hotel’s traditional leafy design scheme is an ambitious and somewhat arduous task for any designer, regardless of previous credentials.

Image caption: The bedroom inside The Dorchester Suite | Image credit: The Dorchester

In 2002, the hotel underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment with an all-encompassing renovation of guestrooms and suites, including the addition of a custom-built, high-tech entertainment and business console in each guestroom and a remarkably advanced telecommunications system.

In 2007, award-winning design firm Alexandra Champalimaud, design studio that created the interiors for Raffles Singapore, The Carlyle and Monkey Island Estate, was given the responsibility to refurbish a handful of the property’s most prestigious suites: The Audley, Terrace and Harlequin Penthouses. And with the studio’s ability to effortlessly transform these areas to become tech-savvy yet timeless abodes, the design plot for The Dorchester thickened and a new era for the hotel was born. Whilst these suites stayed true to the hotel’s classic English residential style, the design within them fused contemporary comfort with timeless glamour.

In 2012, Champalimaud Design returned to sensitively renovate a further 22 suites. As well as redesigning the bedrooms and living areas, the design team also remodelled the statement marble-flooded bathrooms, which feature a separate stall shower with large drench shower head and what are said to be London’s deepest hotel bathtubs.

An all-marble bathroom inside one of the finest hotels in London

Image caption: The Dorchester bathrooms are said to shelter London’s deepest baths | Image credit: The Dorchester

Having now secured landmark status, The Dorchester’s majestic glow is physically protected from change. In terms of its secret to remaining relevant nine decades since first opening to the world, the answer is perhaps unclear. What is transparent, however, is the hotel’s ability to evolve with meaning into modern times while also retaining and celebrating the building’s history, which has become its legacy.

What’s more, by consistently choosing style over fashion, The Dorchester remains a much-loved and integral part of history in British hospitality, and stands as proud today as it was in 1931 as one of London’s most refined headline acts.

[Cue The Dorchester’s post-lockdown curtain call.]

Main image credit: The Dorchester

Virtual roundtable: lighting solutions for tomorrow’s hotel

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Virtual roundtable: lighting solutions for tomorrow’s hotel

Following a number of recent roundtables where lighting was unintentionally put under the spotlight, Hotel Designs collaborates with innovative lighting expert Moritz Waldemeyer and a number of designers to understand lighting’s role in tomorrow’s hotel…

There is arguably no one in the industry who is more dedicated, more aware and more creative in lighting design than Moritz Waldemeyer.

As well as working with a number of hotels to create powerful installations, the lighting guru has designed LED ‘couture’ pieces for music icons such as Ellie Goulding, WillIAm, Take That and Rhianna (to name a few). He has dominated catwalks during collaborations with the likes of fashion design legend Philip Treacy OBE and Versace.

Just when we thought Waldemeyer had found his rhythm, he surprised us yet again by unveiling a fresh and innovative lighting scheme for Bentley Motors, which magnificently went on display to mark the car company’s 100-year anniversary.

So, when curating an exclusive virtual roundtable on ‘lighting solutions for tomorrow’s hotel’, it felt only fitting to collaborate with the LED master himself. To help Waldemeyer and I shed light on this heavily debated topic, we invited a handful of leading designers and consultants from around the world to join the conversation…

On the panel:

“For me, the advancements in LED has been the enabler to what lighting designers have been able to achieve in recent years.” – Moritz Waldemeyer, Founder, Studio Waldemeyer.

Hamish Kilburn: When did lighting become more than just a decorative accessory in hotel design?

Neil Knowles: Lighting has always been important, but in my career, it has taken off from being created by lighting engineers to now being designed by lighting specialists. For me, that is the key difference. Lighting used to be very uniformed and efficient, and slowly we have evolved to make it more theatrical.

Hayley Roy: Guests’ expectations have changed, and they now expect lighting to create an experience. This, I believe, has happened in the last 20 years with guests valuing what interior designers do more.

Moritz Waldemeyer: About 20 years ago I was working as a research scientist for Phillips. I remember looking at a graph about light output for LEDS. It was a revolutionary piece of tech that would half lighting costs. For me, the advancements in LED has been the enabler to what lighting designers have been able to achieve in recent years.

Marie Solimen: Our lifestyles have changed massively in the last 20 years. I believe that guests were acknowledging design before, but all of a sudden, we were able to capture these moments with the evolution of social media. People started realising the impact and drama lighting can have in a space.

Six years ago, I saw it change. The lighting designer’s role became more significant and there was definitively a rise in the use of colour, which was driven largely by social media.

HR: The industry has realised for some time now that they are certain projects where you absolutely need to bring in a lighting consultant, because lighting is such an integral element to get right in an interior design project 

Asao Nakayama: In Japan, we had a massive lifestyle change just before the millennium. At that time, wellness became a dominant consumer demand for travellers.

HK: Japan is a great example of a destination where technology and wellness can work in harmony with one another. How do you find the balance?

Atushi Kaneda: Japan manufactures a lot of high-tech products, but in places it is lacking good and meaningful design. The end user, in many, circumstances is more sophisticated than the designer.

HK: Asao and Atushi, you have recently worked together to design Tokyo’s debut Aloft hotel. Can you tell us more about the lighting scheme in this hotel?

AN: The hotel, both interior and exterior, has been designed to challenge conventional lighting design. The concept was to create a “hotel that wears light” in the city, with the exterior being inspired by ‘Japanese lanterns’.

AK: The Interior space is dramatic. We specifically designed the public areas with the aim to create a strong 70s vibe. To achieve this, we used a new LED technology to ensure the lighting was the best quality.

What’s more, the lighting in the hotel can be changed easily with the idea being that the lighting scheme within the hotel will be unique to the seasons. It’s a subconscious change for the guests but one that we believe will enhance their experience.

HK: Let’s talk about personalisation. Will all hotels, like Aloft Ginza Tokyo soon shelter this ability to personalise lighting, and can you see this technology being utilised in all guestrooms in the future?

GC: I love that idea, but being a realist I just don’t think that every hotel within the Marriott brand at least would be able to utilise this concept to its potential. [As designers], we can only control so much in regards to training of staff, for example. There are certain properties worldwide that are more suited to this style of tech hotel.

A luxe and modern suite

Image credit: W London/Marriott International

“A solid lighting scheme will create a purposeful experience and help the design narrative to unfold.” – Marie Soliman, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Bergman Interiors.

HK: Marie you are working on projects that will open years from now, and I assume that you are trying to take technology to its limits within the boundaries of wellness. What is lighting’s role in these projects?

MS: Lighting for us is a huge part of what we do. Once we have a project, we immediately speak to a lighting designer.

First of all, lighting enhances the whole experience within a hotel, and secondly it creates memories. A solid lighting scheme will create a purposeful experience and help the design narrative to unfold. We can achieve this by playing with light and colour.

Typically, hoteliers want guests to feel at home, and naturally comfortable. One area that is very interesting to explore is circadian rhythm, and understanding how we can change how areas feel throughout the day.

“We are now focusing more on creating that warmth of hospitality and not the ‘wow factor’.” – Gabriella Callinan, Interior Design Manager, Marriott International.

HK: Gabriella, Marriott International is a hotel group known for its research when it comes to lighting and sound. What innovations have you seen recently?  

GC: Across all 30 brands, we have many different styles of hotels. The guest is savvy and whether they are in a high-end luxury hotel or a cheaper lifestyle property, their demands when it comes to lighting are the same. Today’s guest knows what they want and we have to deliver that.

Today, as well as there being more technology for the guest, we are also able to monitor what elements within our hotels are being used most. We can design the most amazing lobby complete with presets and light levels. However, if it is not being used then that is a poor investment. Sometimes, six months after the opening of a hotel we will return to find that nobody has touched those controls. Perhaps the General Manager or Director of Engineering has left. Practically, we do see this scenario.

A sedated interior scheme inside the guestroom of the hotel

Image credit: Tokyo Edition/Marriott International

Recently, we have pulled back on the ‘wow factor’ and instead given the consumer a simple, clean and effective design. We are now focusing more on creating that warmth of hospitality and not the ‘wow factor’.

We have looked at how lighting can work in loyalty. So in your app, we have looked at giving that customisation without overwhelming guests. It’s difficult to make everyone happy.

Image credit: Moritz Waldemeyer

HK: Moritz, your studio straddles between design, fashion and other industries. What advantages does that give you?

MW: One thing we like to do in the studio is jump from one industry to another and bring something from an previous experience. We regularly bring together design and fashion, for example, which always takes our projects to a new level. I think that universal curiosity gives a real advantage when approaching a new challenge – and it is that magical connection that allows us to breathe fresh life into projects.

“If the idea is strong then you have a greater chance to create something timeless.” – Moritz Waldemeyer, Founder, Studio Waldemeyer.

HK: Fashion is short shelf life, do you see some of your designs being more long-lasting?

MW: At the studio, we try to use technology to create our own electronics and circuit boards, but it’s important that the idea stands out and is the driver of any project we are working on. If the idea is strong then you have a greater chance to create something timeless. It has to be idea-driven and not tech-driven.

HK: Marie, what’s lighting’s role in fitness?

MS: Lighting is so important in a wellness and fitness setting, and our studio has been able to pioneer new fitness spaces by utilising lighting. We found a formula that allowed lighting to enhance overall performance.

In a hotel, you want to give a warm welcome but in a HIIT studio, for example, you want to bring the energy up! We designed a new boutique rowing studio called the Engine Room. To really make the design work, we connected the ceiling lights, which were deliberately designed as arrows, to work in sync with the user rowing. All of a sudden, the light was enhancing the performance.

Image credit: The Engine Room, designed by Bergman Interiors

We have also recently worked with Accor to replace that one-size-fits-all mentally when designing fitness spaces. The environment we designed inside Pullman Power Fitness is bold and offers much more than just a gym. We want guests to feel the vibe. The idea is that our guests – their bodies – are the art. It’s all inspired by fashion and how your body is a sculpture.

HK: Do you think we are missing a trick in lighting F&B spaces?

HR: No, I don’t think we are. Every design we do is tailored to the client. At an entrance, the wow factor is there – you want that! When you walk into the F&B experience it is normally about bringing that mood into that F&B area. It’s really important to bring drama but you do this in a different way and in more of a subtle manor.

NK: It’s really important to remember, especially in F&B areas, good lighting design shouldn’t be noticed. It’s about setting an appropriate mood and not always about creating a statement.

HK: What lighting trends should hotels avoid in the future?

GC: It was trends – and still is for some people – to create that moody experience; to dim the lighting and mute the space. Although that may look appealing, you have to understand how that space would then function during all times (day and night). So we asked our guests across different brands what they thought. What was interesting was that the response – especially amongst women – was that travellers actually felt unsafe.

While you’re here, click here to read our exclusive panel discussion on the role of UV Lighting in a post-pandemic world.

In conclusion to this panel discussion, new LED technology and software is allowing designers and consultants to utilise lighting when finding new, innovative ways to enhance the guest experience and cater to new demands of modern travellers. However, like all elements in international hotel design, lighting scheme concepts should not be dictated to by trends. Instead, in order to find the right balance – and to create a timeless statement and/or ambiance – it is wise to collaborate with a credible lighting designer/consultant.

If you would like to have your say about lighting solutions for tomorrow’s hotels, please Tweet us @HotelDesigns. A special thanks to Studio Waldemeyer and our expert panellist for joining the conversation.

How conscious design studio Harris & Harris was born

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
How conscious design studio Harris & Harris was born

Harris & Harris has earned Hotel Designs’ stamp of approval as an environmentally and socially responsible interior and product design studio…

Founded in 2014 by husband and wife team Alexander and Sharon Harris, Harris & Harris emerged onto the design scene as a sustainable breathe of fresh air. Working internationally, the studio creates chic yet playful designs focusing on craftsmanship and quality whilst minimising the impact on the planet – and it was this unique blend that caught our editorial attention.

The dynamic duo met in 2007 whilst working for an architecture practice in Melbourne, Australia. They moved to London in 2010 and later married and started a family whilst growing their dream design studio.

Prior to founding Harris & Harris, Alex worked for some of the biggest names in design; Terence Conran’s furniture company Benchmark, David Collins, Kelly Hoppen and Yoo, co-founded by Philippe Starck.

Sharon has a truly international perspective having worked as an interior designer in Singapore, Melbourne and London for blue-chip clients including China Construction Bank, Citigroup, Molton Brown and Goldman Sachs as well as the Dubai property developer Emaar.

In 2019, the team boldly stepped into a new territory by unveiling the conscious bedroom for the Independent Hotel Show London. The guestroom set that was designed sensitively challenged conventional hotel design from every angle.

The Harris & Harris team now creates inspiring and innovative designs for clients that include hospitality brands, interior designers and developers such as The Arts Club, Conran, Finchatton, Four Seasons, Hakkasan, The Hoxton and Soho House as well as private individuals. Products and projects reach far across the globe including Monaco, The Hamptons, Miami, Seoul, Munich, Limassol, Macau and Paris.

The studio’s Product Collection features more than 100 pieces of furniture, lighting, outdoor furniture and interior accessories, all designed in-house by the studio. The designs are influenced by the founders European and Asian heritage, together with their love of modernism, art deco, mid century and 1960s pop design.

Each product is handmade to order by skilled artisans and workshops and are named after the places Alex and Sharon have frequented around Singapore, Australia and Great Britain.

Image caption: The Raffles seating range, named after the iconic hotel, is a refined family that injects refined glamour into an interior space. The pieces are influenced by art deco style of designers, including Eileen Gray and Charlotte Perriand.

Aside from being a studio that shelters awe-inspiring design, Harris & Harris strives to be environmentally and socially responsible wherever they can and in all areas of the company. The studio developed the Product Collection to include as many of their self-initiated ‘Responsible Factors’ as possible:

1) Designed For Life Foundation

The studio established the ‘Designed For Life Foundation’ to donate a percentage of every sale from the product collection to charity. Their furniture and lighting is predominantly specified for luxurious hotels, bars, restaurants and high end private homes and the founders felt it was important to help balance this. So for every product sold from the Collection their clients are automatically donating to the following three charities concerned with providing those without the basic needs of food, water and shelter: FareShare – the UK’s national network of charitable food re-distributors, WaterAid – providing clean water and hygiene solutions worldwide and ShelterBox – an international disaster relief charity, providing emergency shelters.

2) Made in the UK

Most of the collection is manufactured in the UK. Being a London-based company, this helps reduce transport energy consumption, particularly when a project is also UK based. Producing in the UK also helps support local industry and communities.

3) Sustainable upholstery option

Most of the upholstered seating is designed to have the option of being manufactured with natural materials including coconut fibre, natural latex, wool & cotton wrap and feathers. This minimises the impact on the environment by reducing the use of harmful chemicals, plastics and oils as well being biodegradable at the end of the product’s life. Natural materials are also far better for the health and well being of those using the seating.

4) Made from recycled materials

Recycled materials have been introduced into many of the products. This includes working with the German manufacturer Magna to provide their ‘Glaskeramik’ material for table tops in the collection, which is produced from 100% recycled waste glass. Harris & Harris also works with London stone specialist Diespeker to provide their terrazzo material which includes crushed recycled glass and marble off-cuts. A selection of the products are produced from clay and terracotta which create very little waste as off-cuts and unused material can be easily reused in future production

5) Made from renewable, low-embodied energy and natural materials

Most of the products are made from abundant and sustainable materials. Harris & Harris uses timbers including Ash and bamboo, which is very fast growing and requires no fertiliser or pesticides. They use natural stone, glass, clay and terracotta on many of the products which have a very low embodied energy (the total energy within the material from extraction to finished product). The natural upholstery option minimises the impact on the environment as highlighted above and Harris & Harris work with UK based Alma Leather to provide their natural cow hides that have a sustainable 100 per cent vegetable tan finish. The studio will also be introducing a vegan option as an alternative to the current leather selection very soon

6) Made from FSC or PEFC-certified timber

Harris & Harris ensures its factories and craftsman only ever use sustainably sourced timber that has been given either FSC or PEFC certification. The studio will never use exotic tree species from non-renewable forests

7) Supplied with Low Energy LED Bulbs

The Azzero and Kyoto lighting ranges utilise efficient LED G9 bulbs. For the Wharf, Siloso and Chalford lighting ranges Harris & Harris works with the UK based lighting brand Tala to provide their long lasting and low energy LED bulbs. Tala bulbs look fabulous thanks to their old filament style design but with using the latest LED technology. Tala are committed to reducing carbon emissions in the atmosphere and support reforestation programmes around the world

8) Built for longevity and durability

Harris & Harris work with well respected craftsman, factories and workshops who use high quality production methods, together with durable and premium materials, to ensure the product collection is created for a long life span. The team is passionately against a throw away culture and design all of their products to be resilient and long lasting that can be handed-down over generations rather than thrown away

9) Easily disassembled and recycled at end of life

Many of the products are easily disassembled and can be taken apart by hand (or are single-material) so they can be separated into their individual materials to be recycled, biodegraded or reused.

Harris & Harris was a PRODUCT WATCH pitch partner for Hotel Designs LIVE, which took place on October 13, 2020.

Image credit: Harris & Harris

(Video exclusive) In conversation with: Simon Whittaker, Architect of the Year 2019

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
(Video exclusive) In conversation with: Simon Whittaker, Architect of the Year 2019

Simon Whittaker, architect and Associate Director at Orms, joined editor Hamish Kilburn to exclusively reveal details of the firm’s latest project: to redesign the former Central St Martins building in London…

Lover of retro-buildings, Simon Whittaker is a modest architect with a modern vision. Partly responsible for designing the impressive building that now shelters The Standard London – a hotel that in many ways challenges conventional hospitality in London – Whittaker was rightfully crowned Architect of the Year at The Brit List Awards 2019.

With this year’s awards ceremony imminently approaching, Whitaker joined me to launch the Interior Design & Architecture Summit (IDAS). In an exclusive interview, the award-winning architect revealed for the first time the mix-used development plans for an iconic site in London. Over the years, Central St Martins Building in Holborn sheltered significant moments in time for legendary figures in design and fashion, such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Christopher Kane and Stella McCartney.

Nearly a decade after University of Arts London moved out of the site, Orms is currently working with a world-renowned team to sensitively restore the building and give it a new lease of life as a mixed-used development site, which will include a new lifestyle hotel.

“We were very conscious that had to be more than just a hotel.” – Simon Whittaker, Associate Director, Orms.

At a pinnacle moment in the project’s development – having just secured planning permission – Whittaker reveals all, as well as discussing The Standard London’s statement and architecture in a pandemic world.

Watch the full interview below.

> While you’re here: check out our review of The Standard London.

Orms were approached last year to, through the power of architecture, secure consent for a hotel on the iconic site. The plot within the Holborn area includes the Grade II listed building, formerly Central St Martins, that fronts Southampton Row as well as a collection of 60s buildings behind. “We were very conscious that it had to be more than just a hotel,” Whittaker told Hotel Designs. “As a result, we have developed the concept for a new neighbourhood that happens to include a hotel.”

The ‘new neighbourhood’ has Whittaker describes it will include a new lifestyle hotel, exhibition spaces, a refurbished lecture theatre, a screening room, various F&B outlets, a library, a series of function rooms and co-working spaces. “There’s a huge variety which will offer real benefits to the local area,” Whittaker adds.

Orms and the wider team have recently been granted the necessary planning permission they need, with a unanimous consent from the committee, in order start work on the new urban development.

About the Interior Design & Architecture Summit (IDAS)

The Interior Design & Architecture Summit (IDAS) is Hotel Designs’ premium meet-the-buyer event for designers, architects and suppliers.

“Couldn’t fault the organisation and we also got some decent opportunities.” – Schlüter Systems (supplier)

“I thought the calibre of delegates was high and all seemed open to discussion.” – The Soho lighting Company (supplier)

“It was great to meet new people and the meetings were largely a success.” – Anglepoise (supplier)

“Fast-paced event with quality contacts and lots of opportunities for new work.” – Vivid Hospitality (supplier) 

If you are interested in learning more about the event, please contact our team. For all supplier enquiries, please speak to Jennie Lane on 01992 374098, or email j.lane@forumevents.co.uk. If you are a senior designer and/or architect, please contact Victoria Petch on 01992 374082, or email v.petch@forumevents.co.uk.

Main image credit: Orms/The Standard London

Checking In: The Cave Hotel, Canterbury – Kent’s tech-savvy luxury pad

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking In: The Cave Hotel, Canterbury – Kent’s tech-savvy luxury pad

In a sea of standard ‘luxury’ hotel offerings in Kent, The Cave Hotel in Canterbury, which opened late last year, has certainly made a statement. Editor Hamish Kilburn checks in to The Penthouse to discover the warm design scheme inspired by multiple hotels around the world…

Before humans had yet understood the concept of a home – let alone a hotel – we sheltered in caves for warmth, comfort and safety. They were practical and offered natural protection from the harsh elements and predators on the outside. The original hotel, one could argue, and once a fire was lit, these territories became sanctuaries.

Positioned on the outskirts of Canterbury, in Kent, and attached seamlessly to Boughton Golf Club, a new unexpected hotel has emerged. The Cave Hotel is not really like a cave at all. Instead, it is a well-designed luxury hotel that cleverly removes all who check in from the stress of modern life. It shelters an authentic design scheme – from the room layouts right down to the technology that works behind the scenes – that was inspired by owners James Tory and Jonathan Callister’s own experiences during their many years of checking in and out of some of the world’s finest hotels. “We have lived hospitality for years,” Callister told Hotel Designs. “Having travelled the world, we have injected the best design and architecture that we have experienced into this hotel.” The result is a well-rehearsed and well-timed arrival onto the luxury hospitality scene.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

On the outside, the 41-key boutique hotel is an isolated gem, surrounded only by undulating hills in the county that is known as the Garden of England. But inside, the hotel shelters a very different vibe, one that challenges conventional hospitality and hotel design in Kent and beyond.

The arrival experience creates a powerful first impression with a modern take on the nomadic lifestyle (times have evolved since caves were our homes). Walk past the heavy curtained entrance, and the lobby becomes a comfortable den that features a high-vaulted ceiling and dark warm tones – a secluded sanctuary far away from the outside world with an atmosphere that is automatically muted and relaxed. It is complete with low-level furniture and contemporary shelving, which provides textured décor as well as clever boundaries between spaces.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

An exposed elevated walkway above – accessible via lift or stairs – leads to the ‘Firepit’, a sleek bar and restaurant, which serves up a contemporary sharing-plate experience. A burst of flavours of world cuisine meet and fuse together in the fresh, re-imagined menu. The smokey, barbecue aromas of the American west combine with the delicate spiced tastes of the far east to create ambitious dishes that excite.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

Upstairs, the 41 guestrooms and suites are serene havens, and further reveal intuitive design features inspired by the owners’ travels. The lighting, for example, is set simply via moods (chill, romance and blaze), which automatically adjusts the temperature and harshness of the light in the room, allowing guests to simply personalise their own hotel experience from a touch of a button.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

With no expense spared – and leading its market in terms of using 21st century technical innovation – the hotel puts emphasis on guests’ digital needs and demands. Each room is complemented with state of the art Wi-Fi, super-fast internet, bespoke 65″ Smart LED televisions with music, digital art and connectivity for laptops and smart phones. 

Even the function of the bed has been carefully considered from concept through to completion, with there even being an area under its structure where guests can store their luggage. “It was a a big bugbear of mine,” said Callister, “checking in to a hotel where there was no where to put my suitcase after I had unpacked. It was therefore an important element to include when designing the bed, and was it was only achievable by designing everything bespoke.”

“I have never slept in such a comfortable bed and mattress in my life.” – Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs.

In addition to the beds being functional and stylish, the mattresses are also unique to the hotel. They have been designed bespoke by manufacturer Harrison Spinks. The brief from the owners was to create a mattress that guests would sink into but also felt secure on. “This idea came from sleeping on so many hotel mattresses that didn’t offer the right level of support or comfort,” Callister explained. “I was yet to find a mattress that met my two demands [as a modern traveller].”

Image credit: The Cave Hotel

“We provided Johnathan and his team the opportunity to sample a range of hospitality beds, each with its own unique look and feel,” said Stephen Truswell, Hospitality Sales Director at Harrison Spinks. “Once we had established the look and specification, we moved on to feel. Because we have the facility to provide different tensions, our showroom allowed them to select the tension that would deliver their guests the ultimate night’s sleep.”

In my editorial opinion, although bed and mattress preference differs from person to person, it was the most comfortable sleep experience I have ever had in a hotel, which is a testament to both the hotel and the manufacturer.

While the guestrooms offer their corner of luxury and unparalleled comfort, the jewel in the crown is the custom-build penthouse, which is located on the fifth floor at the end of the architecturally lit corridor and offers more than a bed for the night – it is an experience; a unique space and an opportunity to explore a cutting-edge smart hotel in style. Framing what are unreservedly the best views of the gold course and surrounding landscape of rolling hills, the expansive suite, at just under 3,000 sq ft, features a unique space that is layered with technology to enhance and enrich the consumer journey.

The living area is flooded in tech – from the Gallo acoustic speakers to the personalised Lutron lighting and blinds. To add personality into the space, a distressed leather bar from Timothy Oulton provides the perfect minibar. Adjacent to it is a large dining table, which filters into the suite’s private kitchen. A separate work area in the lounge plays well into the new ‘workcation’ travel trend that has emerged in recent months. Once the work emails are answered, guests can sink into what the hotel describes as “the most comfortable sofa in the world”, which was imported in from America.

The style of the bedroom within The Penthouse is similar to other rooms within the hotel, but the bathroom is an open-planned area of indulgent luxury. Complete with a freestanding bath, a large shower and dark, moody and textured stone surfaces (giving a nod to the inside of a cave, perhaps), this area further provides laid-back character and seductive design.

Meanwhile, downstairs on the ground floor the spa and wellness area may be small but it is fit for purpose. Complete with a sauna, steam room, hydro-pool and a gym, the wellness facilities are there to cater to modern demands of luxury ‘bleisure’ (business/leisure) travellers.

Image credit: The Cave Hotel & Resort

The hotel recently appointed award-winning hotelier Robert Richardson to take the helm as General Manager, who believes The Cave Hotel’s independent status gives it an advantage in a post-pandemic world. “As an independent hotel we can be boundlessly creative in our approach to providing a memorable guest journey,” he said. “The natural beauty of the stunning Garden of England, our close proximity to London, and the singular vision of the hotel owners has all been combined to create a destination venue never before seen in Kent.”

What makes the hotel that much more interesting – other than it just being a superb luxury countryside hotel with an urban personality – is its expansion plans. It may well be an independent hotel at the moment, but the aim is for The Cave Hotel in Canterbury to be the first of what is said to be many hotels that will open in the portfolio in and outside of the UK.

As I come back down to earth to check out of The Penthouse, I can see how The Cave Hotel’s effortless style and thoughtful design would work in metropolis’ around the world. It’s refreshing to immerse myself in a hotel that answers to the hefty demands of modern luxury travellers. With its luxe contemporary design and laid-back atmosphere throughout, the hotel in many ways erases conventional hospitality and replaces it with a completely new hotel experience that makes a lot of sense in the tech-fuelled ‘new normal’ world we live in today.

Main image credit: The Cave Hotel 

In Conversation With: Dale Atkinson, Founding Director, Rosendale Design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Dale Atkinson, Founding Director, Rosendale Design

Editor Hamish Kilburn catches up with Dale Atkinson, Founding Director of Rosendale Design, to understand more about his latest project inside The Stafford London as well as how F&B design on the luxury scene is changing…

It is arguably more important now than ever before to support those who are leading our industry forward with purpose; the solution-driven individuals who with each project they complete are challenging conventional design while meeting new demands of modern travellers – often ahead of time.

It may be too early to predict the long-term impact the pandemic will have on hospitality, but it is clear that main cities will be quieter territories in the near future. Therefore, hotels have to work harder to meaningfully attract tomorrow’s travellers and guests.

In this new and unwritten era, the power of F&B will play a major role. And to understand more, I met with Dale Atkinson, former Foster + Partners designer who is now Founding Director of Rosendale Design. Shortly after he had completed his latest project – The Park Suite and guestrooms inside The Stafford London – I wanted to know more about how his studio is gearing itself up for a post-pandemic world.

Hamish Kilburn: Can you tell us about your latest project?

Dale Atkinson: We were originally tasked with the redesign for the Game Bird, the Stafford’s main F&B offering and due to its success we were then asked to look at the redesign of their destination bar, the American Bar. We were able to redesign and optimise the main bar to ensure that the bartenders were able to send out more orders at once increasing turnover. The redesign was more of an evolution than revolution due to the devout following it already boasted.

“As the Stafford is seen as a quintessential British hotel, we wanted to celebrate that by employing, predominantly, British brands.” – Dale Atkinson, Founding Director, Rosendale Design.

Following the American Bar’s success, we were then asked to look at designing the rooms of the main house. As the hotel boasts and a very high occupancy rate, it was decided to redesign the rooms floor by floor, so not to lose revenue. Our latest rooms that we have handed over include the Park Suite, a maisonette suite with the bedroom and bathroom on the lower floor, and the sitting room and feature terrace, with stunning views over the London skyline towards the London Eye, on the upper floor. As the Stafford is seen as a quintessential British hotel, we wanted to celebrate that by employing, predominantly, British brands (ie. Morris and Co, Perrin and Rowe, Brintons as well as British artisan craftsmen.

Image caption: The Park Suite inside The Stafford London | Image credit: The Stafford London

Image caption: The Park Suite inside The Stafford London | Image credit: The Stafford London

HK: Have you pivoted the Rosendale Design business model since the Covid-19 crisis hit?

DA: There is no doubt that the hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit. Luckily, as a studio, we have always been quite malleable to hardships and obstacles. As designers it is up to us to be creative not only in our designs for our clients but also in business and how we deal with these hardships. We have always taken on residential work as well, albeit this has been less of a focus, but due to people spending more time at home due to the lockdowns and also being asked to work from home, many are now seeing this as an opportune moment to change their space due to new ways in which they live and use their homes. We have also looked to start a new line of furniture and lighting products that we feel exude the design principals that we have become known for, timeless, contemporary, and refined.

HK: F&B is your core pillar. Are you noticing that your luxury clients are requesting any specific design features, such as booth seating and utilising outdoor spaces?

DA: We are still seeing a lot of interest in spaces despite everything that is happening, so we know there are lots of projects waiting to happen because we often are asked to accompany clients when seeing potential sites to get our views.

Image credit: Norma Restaurant, designed by Rosendale Design

Image credit: Norma Restaurant, designed by Rosendale Design

One aspect that is now more prevalent than ever before is outdoor/terrace spaces. In light of the recent pandemic, people want to be reassured they are in safe spaces, and outdoor seating areas can provide this confidence. Once terraces and outdoors spaces were a nice to have, now they have become a must have, which is also quite hard to come across in a condensed city such as London.

We believe that booth seating is here to stay, where tables can feel more segregated but still feel a part of a buzzing atmosphere. It is the designer’s job to use creative ways to create divisions, whilst not killing the atmosphere of any F&B outlet, whether it be a stand-alone restaurant or within a hotel.

Another new expectation is that people will, for some time at least, feel uneasy sitting so close to another table. So, restaurants, bars, and hotels will need more space which will be very difficult for many smaller London restaurant where the whole business model was based on getting in as many tables as possible.

HK: Are there any interesting or quirky ways that you can make spaces fit into a world with Covid-19?

DA: There will be many ways to take designs forward in this ’new normal’ we are experiencing, and copper is an excellent example of antimicrobial materials that are proven to kill bacteria within a couple hours. We are also seeing that brass also has similar properties so these will, most likely, be materials that pop up even more at various touch points. New microbial sprays are being used that will last a few months, and there will be a lot of fabrics that will be produced with antimicrobial properties.

We have seen fabrics impregnated with pure silver to help stop bacteria multiplying and creating odours and I believe there will be more fabrics produced with copper or similar ores imbedded into the threads to help kill bacteria and stop the spread of viruses.

Image caption: The American Bar inside The Stafford London. | Image credit: Rosendale Design

Image caption: The American Bar inside The Stafford London. | Image credit: Rosendale Design

HK: How will the typical dining experience change for a luxury consumer?

DA: For the luxury end of the dining experience, the issue of more space around the tables is already common place due to things such as trolley services and the like, but there will certainly be more of a shift towards not only paperless, but touches experiences. The technology has been around for years, so is nothing new, but there will be far more sensor-controlled toilettes and sinks.

One aspect I think that we must never lose is the element of human interaction. There is no replacement for having the waiter explaining the menu and the ingredients used within the dishes, or the intricacies of the wine list. It is in our nature to crave interaction; it just needs to be in a safe environment.

Has Covid-19 created barriers as you work with teams and suppliers around the globe?

At the start of the lockdown, it was an extreme paradigm shift not only in the way work but the way we live. There were, what we perceived, many barriers to begin with but we learned to circumnavigate them and if anything, I believe we have learned to streamline the way we work. For example, travel to and from meetings is now seen as unproductive time that is lost, when you can now just have a Zoom chat. Of course there are certain meetings that one must be on site to see everyone and things such as snags or how the colour temperature or luminous output of certain light fittings might affect a certain space, or how certain finishes within a room affect how it is perceived, but on the whole it has forced us to re-evaluate our perception of the value of time, increasing productivity which only benefits the client team.

HK: How do you envision for the future of hospitality and hospitality design? 

DA: It will take time to settle again and we will all be living by a new set of values, but I do believe the industry, as a whole, will persevere and come out on top. It will have to. As one of the largest sectors of employment not only in the UK, but the world. Hospitality will respond and I believe the major changes will be in how much space we see as safe.

Hotels and restaurants will need to provide patrons with more of it but this is easier said than done especially for those who are already operating in tight spaces. A big shift that we have already seen occur here in the UK is that people are now preferring to go to the countryside for short escapes as opposed to staying in the cities. Even after the theatres and the like reopen, I think there will be more of a celebration of the great outdoors, which will in itself, present new exciting opportunities.

HK: How do you differentiate Rosendale Design from other design studio’s – what are your core team’s USPs?

DA: We view each project as an individual, quite often we are designing for a client whether it be their home, or a restaurant for a chef, or for a brand for a hotel, and each project has its own concept. As a studio we never start by saying, ‘ok, so what is cool right now’. This way one ends up with a project that resembles many others of a time or epoch, and we strive, as a studio, to create timeless spaces so that they are as relevant 10 years later as the day they were built. We feel that to achieve this individuality we must tell the story of the client and their values/ personalities.

For residential projects we develop close reports with the client and try to get to know them as best we can. They will be living in the space afterwards so they must be fully onboard with our vision. Equally with restaurants, Chefs can spend more time in the kitchen than at home so the restaurant can in effect be their second home. We do often use the menus as a base to our design concept with gives it stronger roots. With hotels we look to bridge the ethos of the brand with the vernacular materials and cultures. Research forms the bedrock of any of our projects as it is what grounds it and gives it roots, otherwise it risks becoming a fashion.

Another USP is our extensive concept document that we produce, which includes layout options, furniture options, mood boards, and key to this document, are the 3D concept sketches (we boast a very accomplished artist) that gives clients an initial idea of how the space will look. In fact, most of our studio time goes into the first two stages of the design process, ensuring that the concept we are delivering is in line with the client’s expectations.

“We like to think of ourselves as a personable studio and so the people we are working with will, more often than not,  be our first source of inspiration.” – Dale Atkinson, Founding Director, Rosendale Design.

HK: Where do you look to for inspiration?

DA: We see every project individually so our inspiration will come from different sources every time. One of our main strengths is the research we undertake to understand the culture of the area or people. We like to think of ourselves as a personable studio and so the people we are working with will, more often than not,  be our first source of inspiration, ensuring our project with be as individual as the client/brand behind the project.

HK: What are you working on at the moment and what projects are in the pipeline?

DA: We have a couple residential projects in the UK that we are working on and we are also in the middle of a project with the Santa Marina Resort in Mykonos, which is due to open in May 2021. This will be a very exciting project and cannot wait to see how it will be received. We are also working on a very exciting restaurant concept, in Mayfair, which, has also been put back to the end of spring 2021.

Main image credit: Rosendale Design

Rosewood brand to arrive in Amsterdam in 2023

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Rosewood brand to arrive in Amsterdam in 2023

Rosewood Amsterdam will open in 2023 as the ‘ultra-luxury’ group’s 11th property in Europe and first soiree in the Netherlands…

Following several development growth announcements, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has announced that it will open a property in 2023.

The hotel group, which has recently announced entrance strategies in destinations such as St Barths, Madrid and Venice, has been appointed by CTF Amsterdam B.V. to manage Rosewood Amsterdam.

Sheltered in the former Palace of Justice, a building of great architectural, historical and social significance that overlooks the Prinsengracht (the Prince’s Canal), one of the city’s most beautiful waterways, in the UNESCO World Heritage listed Amsterdam Canal District.  The hotel will be ideally situated near many of Amsterdam’s finest attractions including the museum district, the high-end shopping district on P.C. Hooftstraat and the hip De Pijp neighborhood. With its central location and befitting design carefully conceived to offer an inviting and amiable atmosphere, the property is poised to serve as an unparalleled gathering place for visiting guests and the local community alike.

Originally constructed in 1665 and later expanded in 1836 by Dutch architect Jan de Greef, the Palace of Justice was Amsterdam’s main courthouse for over 175 years and one of the finest examples of de Greef’s classic, multi-cultural style influenced by his travels to Paris and Rome. Working closely with the Bureau Monumenten en Archeologie (BMA) and The City of Amsterdam to preserve the rich heritage and quintessential character of this iconic building, Netherlands-based architectural firm Kentie & Partners has been selected to spearhead the property’s evolution into an ultra-luxury hotel. Leading the property’s interior design is acclaimed Dutch designer Piet Boon, of Amsterdam-based Studio Piet Boon. Known for his ability to balance functionality, aesthetics and individuality, Boon will honour the property’s original elements and distinctive Dutch identity while incorporating a contemporary sense of style that captures the energetic and exciting Amsterdam of today’s times. 

Given its esteemed reputation for being one of the leading architecture firms in the Amsterdam, it is unsurprising that Studio Concrete will have a major role in the design of the hotel. The firm has been appointed to design the hotel’s main restaurant, which will become a fresh and vibrant interior in the heart of the building, flanked by two courtyards with outdoor seating. London-based interior design firm Sagrada, led by David D’Almada, has been appointed to design an intimate bar in rich colours and high-end finishes, with stunning views overlooking the canal.

Rosewood Amsterdam will offer 134 guestrooms and suites, with many boasting spectacular views across the two adjoining canals, quiet internal courtyards and iconic townhouse rooftops. Amenities will include three restaurants, one of which will be an Indian restaurant, and bars; Sense, A Rosewood Spa offering ayurvedic treatments; a state-of-the-art wellness and fitness centreand an indoor swimming pool. 

In addition, multiple event spaces and meeting rooms, including a 3,000 square-foot ballroom, will offer advanced audio and visual services and natural daylight.

Decorative details throughout the hotel’s public spaces will pay homage to the signature spirit of both the building and city while creating a selection of differentiated yet unified spaces through subtle albeit impactful means, such as contrasting colour schemes that seamlessly separate one setting from another. Notably, the lobby lounge will feature a library adorned with beautiful legal books doubling as art pieces, photographs and artifacts, as well as comfortable and stylish seating, to create an enticing enclave that will invite visitors to linger and laze.

The library will also host an Indian Business Club which will stimulate high-level business and networking in an exclusive setting. All public spaces will overlook the three distinct, internal landscaped courtyards of the building, imagined by renowned landscape designer, Piet Oudolf. Internationally renowned for his work on the High Line and The Battery, both celebrated New York City attractions, Piet Oudolf will use his extraordinary expertise to artfully varnish the property with lush gardens and outdoor communal spaces.  

“Through design, décor and service, Rosewood’s properties worldwide mirror their surroundings and the souls of the destinations, and Rosewood Amsterdam will be no different,” says Sonia Cheng, chief executive officer of Rosewood Hotel Group. “With a unique character and culture, Amsterdam is a fitting locale for which to bring Rosewood’s guiding A Sense of Place philosophy. We’re looking forward to combining the city’s quintessential charm with a modern sense of style to meet and exceed the latest standards of luxury hospitality.”

As the latest demonstration of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts’ thoughtful growth strategy, Rosewood Amsterdam joins three existing European properties – Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, Rosewood London and Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco. Additional European locations with Rosewood developments in the pipeline include Edinburgh, London, Madrid, Munich, Porto Cervo, Vienna and Venice.

Main image credit: Rosewood Hotels & Resorts

Virtual Roundtable: health & wellbeing in hospitality and hotel design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Virtual Roundtable: health & wellbeing in hospitality and hotel design

With a question mark on what the future of health and wellbeing will look like in tomorrow’s hotel, editor Hamish Kilburn, in collaboration with HDR | Hurley Palmer Flatt, asks industry’s experts to decipher what’s fact and what’s myth when predicting tomorrow’s wellness scene…

One of the major challenges that hotel designers and architects are facing globally at the moment is how much emphasis to put on Covid-19 when making decisions that will impact the future look and feel of hospitality. The pandemic has no doubt changed the demands of modern travellers, no more so arguably than in what will be expected in the wellbeing and wellness areas of tomorrow’s hotels.

In an attempt to define realistic solutions, we speak to leading designers, architects and developers from around the world – and ask about the future of health and wellbeing in hospitality and design.

On the panel: 

Hamish Kilburn: We have never seen this before; every single hotel around the world putting together a reopening strategy. How has the pandemic, and the reopening of these hotels, changed the mindset of operators when it comes to health and wellbeing?

Chris Lee: Any operator will say that guest safety is their first priority. Obviously with Covid-19, that’s paramount. In times like these, the majority of travellers are leaning towards brands they can trust.

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts set up a working party back in March. We looked across the whole spectrum of the business, including all brands and hotels, to identify what we needed to do to get ahead of this pandemic, all the time with the aim to keep our guests in a place where they trust us, whilst feeling safe and comfortable.

As a result, we launched an initiative called ‘Count on Us’, which is a long-term initiative with the emphasis being on additional cleanliness to address the characteristics of Covid-19 . We have had to adapt certain procedures, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and it has allowed us to enter into partnerships with new suppliers. For example, Ecolab is supplying the EPR-approved cleaning chemicals and products for our hotels across the region. As part of that deal, they have offered product training to our staff. These team members are, bit by bit, becoming ‘Covid safety officers’.

HK: How will Covid-19 impact how hotels are designed?

Mark Bruce: The truthful answer to that is that our clients are all trying to figure that out themselves, which is why this discussion is very timely.

Six Senses arriving in London is a good example, with its core focus being wellness. What I will say, strictly architecturally, is that there is a wider emphasis on indoor/outdoor spaces, which I think makes sense to us. On the luxury end, customers want things to be the same but with more space. On the more lifestyle and budget end of the scale, travellers want confidence.

Image caption: Rendering of Six Senses London, slated to open in 2023

Working closely with our mechanical and engineering suppliers to understand the practical aspects, such as air conditioning systems and finding ways to bring in natural air, has been fundamental in order to understand our limits as architects.

Matthew Voaden: We are finding that working more closely with architects from early stages of design is beneficial in not only addressing the concerns of enhanced ventilation to the space, but also to the architecture/interior design as integrating the services from outset does not later compromise the initial concept.

Tom Bishop: From a project management perspective, we usually get operator and design feedback far too late (usually during stage three or four). Do you reckon that this support system will bring forward when we are able to have these discussions?

MB: Yes, I think it’s a good point. 50 per cent of our clients are owner/operators, developers, which means from day one you can have good conversations about it. This is a huge challenge for operators – and you’re right, these conversations do not currently happen early enough.

HK: Covid-19 has amplified the need for service and design to work in harmony, something that the lifestyle sector was already very good at. What are the new challenges in lifestyle hotels? 

TB: Ruby Hotels is a great example of a lifestyle hotel that shelters design working with service. Typically, guests checking in to a Ruby hotel are looking for a bed for the night. You check in to ‘lean luxury’ ­– it’s clean and well designed and you are not spending that much time in your room. The public area space is minimal, cool and trendy while the F&B offering is limited – so they are almost already designed for the post-pandemic world and naturally cater to new demands from travellers. It will be interesting to see what the hotel group does next. I know the brand is looking for sites still, and it’s an exciting time for them.

Image caption: A playful interior design scheme inside Ruby Lucy, London

There is definitely a difference in demand from guests checking in to a five-star hotel than travellers checking in to a three-star hotel. On the luxury end, the question is now how to create the same atmosphere pre-pandemic in a space that now limits how many people are in that area.

“We are trying too hard at the moment and, dare I say it, over reacting.” – Ivalyo Lefterov, Hotel Development Director, Miris.

HK: Ivaylo, talk to us about SVART. How is this project challenging conventional methods of wellbeing and wellness?

Ivaylo Lefterv: That’s a very wide question, I have to say. I’m addressing this situation having worked on both the design and operational side. From my perspective at least, we are trying too hard at the moment and, dare I say it, over reacting.

First of all, we have no idea how things will evolve six months from now, so making any assumptions or drastic changes could be quite damaging. But equally, with SVART in particular, sustainability and wellness were already key pillars of that project. So, Covid-19 has somewhat brought attention to what we were already trying to achieve, which is a positive.

Image caption: SVART, which is slated to open in 2022 as the world’s first ‘energy-positive’ hotel

The building itself, sheltering a new F&B concept, is part of the wellness journey. We have been discussing how we activate the building, and our conclusion is that we want the guest to be in control. We are talking about touchless without losing human interaction. That is an important balance. We are trying to allow the customer to be guided intuitively but also using technology as a tool to allow us to measure the condition of their stay and be able to adjust their experience accordingly. I do believe that lighting will become much more of a focus in the post-pandemic world.

 MV: I agree, having worked recently with a number of clients on integrating smart technologies into new and existing buildings, we are trying to strike a balance between introducing technology that benefits the development and not just an innovation that is an immediate reaction to the current Covid-19 situation, which ultimately might not be required.

HK: It’s a given that hygiene is creeping – no, leaping – up on the agenda for hoteliers. When it comes to Value Engineering though, what will fall off in its place?

Dan Curtis: We have seen a move towards less cluttered space. When you walk into a hotel room there is now more clean space with natural materials, focusing on the light and scenery.

“Value Engineering should not be a factor when considering safety” – Kobi Karp, Founder, Kobi Karp Architecture and Design.

Kobi Karp: I agree. Value Engineering should not be a factor when considering safety. Traditionally we have used copper pipes in buildings before we discovered the properties in PVC. I now see a movement that is drawing designers and architects back to raw materials, such as copper. In my firm we design a lot of restoration projects, and it’s very easy to convert those hotels into sustainable hubs as a result of Covid-19.

Over the last few months the focus has also switched to technology – it is evolving rapidly! To date, we have not felt the need to implement this. Now, we are taking another look at it technology’s role in a post-pandemic world.

HK: We can have all the best will in the world, but let’s realistic and talk about scalability – change is very expensive for global hotel brands that need to maintain branding across all hotels. Chris, how are you making these decisions?

CL: It’s such a difficult call! If I was in a developer’s position, and it was my money, I still wouldn’t know what to do.

We’ve had numerous discussions internally about reviewing our design standards. At the moment, we have to stay where we are because no one has the answers on timing. Like Tom said, if you double the size of your lobby then you are doubling the size of your real estate, which naturally reduces your ROI. I don’t think we are yet in a position to fix these financial and design issues.

Image caption: Wyndham Introduces new hybrid meeting concept at Dolce Hotels in Europe

TB: Let me explain this from a refurbishment approach. An owner has an asset. It was worth X in January 2020 and it’s now worth Y. If they are trying to loan against the asset, that value has reduced. This means your refurbishment budget has reduced along with occupancy levels (for example, from 85 per cent to 65 per cent) and a lower room rate. Ultimately, you are going to see, I believe, more QS-led design in the four-star and below market because ultimately there is more of a budget constraint that has to be adhered to. There is a delicate balance between health, design (to ensure that the hotel is competitive within its market), increasing room rates and overall yield.

Image caption: Minimalist design-led guestrooms inside Ruby Hotels’ properties

Veronica Givone: In the last six months, I have been talking with a lot with investors. My conclusion is that the last decade has already seen a shift in what brands wanted to provide. 10 years ago they were designing for their brands. Now they are designing for the people checking in to the hotel.

“We now need to avoid designing hotels that look like hospitals.” Veronica Givone, Managing Director, IA Interior Architects.

I believe that the pandemic will just amplify this. People are more aware when it comes to wellness and wellbeing. We now need to avoid designing hotels that look like hospitals. It’s the balance the find when applying tech and keeping service fresh. We need to understand how to make our staff feel confident and comfortable to use the space. We need to make short-term solutions, and I hope that social distancing will not be a long-term hurdle. In 15 years from now, who will be the guest? That’s what we now need to think about.

HK: Matthew, HDR | Hurley Palmer Flatt Group has its ear to the ground when it comes to identifying and utilising new innovations that will improve building quality. What have you seen emerge recently?

MV: When cultural changes happen, it always results in a lot of discussions around new innovations and products.

UVC Lighting, and air purification systems are really interesting, but would be better and easier to cost, if they were disguised in the foundations of a new build. Upgrading filters in maintenance, CO2 monitoring, modification to the Building management system to extend fan runtimes etc and other factors are constantly being analysing as part of our teams initial response to the pandemic.

I would say, it is easier to integrate new innovations into budget hotels. It’s more challenging for luxury properties and brands in order to not disrupt the familiar luxury guest experience and journey.

IL: I can see the industry moving forward towards the guest designing their experience before check in. That will allow the actual hotel stay – take the arrival experience for example – to be more like a performance, a theatre if you like. The guestroom itself would become your butler to make it more personal without removing the human factor. Your reception becomes your living room, as opposed to being purely a practical and frankly unenjoyable element.  

“Gen Z want to be in control – they like choices.” – Chris Lee, Director of Architecture, Design & Construction, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.

CL:Hotels have changed in the last decade. Lifestyle didn’t really exist much 10 years ago. Gen Z want to be in control – they like choices. What better way to make a choice: on your phone, you have everything you need. But, regardless of the evolution of tech, hospitality is about people and you can get that interaction in all hotels. I just hope the pandemic doesn’t adjust the people factor in our industry, because that is so important.

VG: The key is balance all possible demands and offer flexibility, allowing the guest to decide.

HK: Can sound offer solutions in the post-pandemic world?

MB: I was really pleased that this came up as a topic. I have never really spoken about sound in a roundtable discussion, but it’s important to consider. Like many of the sub topics we have explored in this session, we were analysing sound in hospitality before Covid-19 was a thing. The pandemic has allowed us to refocus on new ways to create atmosphere, and one of the most impactful ways to subconsciously evoke a mood in pursuit of wellness is to consider sound.

A great example is Six Senses, and it is an absolute joy working with the brand. They talk about anti spaces, the moments in between moments. I believe that the spaces in between create the emotion and memories. We have been helping Six Senses to transfer their look and feel and their renowned focus on wellness into an urban environment, and sound has been a massive part of that.

The minute you walk in, sound from the outside is­ muted –  the perception of the city gets left behind and the focus turned to the naturally aerated lobby. As you move further towards the spa, the way sound is treated is going to be a very exciting part of the project. To see a leading brand like Six Senses embrace sound to elevate the experience is very exciting! I think it will add a lot of value to hospitality in the future.

Thanks to HDR | Hurley Palmer Flatt and all of our international experts, we have started the conversation around health and wellbeing in hospitality in hotel design. Now it’s over to you. Have your stay by tweeting us @HotelDesigns.

Less than 1 week until Hotel Designs LIVE

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Less than 1 week until Hotel Designs LIVE

Calling all designers, architects, hoteliers and developers: Hotel Designs LIVE is a free one-day conference that takes place on October 13…

On October 13, designers, architects, hoteliers and developers will virtually gather to attend Hotel Designs LIVE, sponsored by Technological Innovations Group in association with Crestron.

Whether you are in need of a guide to hotel design or you simply want to keep up to date with the latest conversations that are happening in the industry, Hotel Designs LIVE promises to keep the conversation flowing throughout and beyond the Covid-19 crisis.

As well as broadcasting thought-provoking interviews and panel discussions, the one-day virtual conference will also frame a number of dynamic PRODUCT WATCH segments throughout the day in order to identify the latest product launches and innovations within each of the four topics areas that will be explored.

“When we first launched Hotel Designs LIVE in June, we made a pledge that the event will cut through the noise in order to broadcast what we believe are the most relevant conversations happening in the industry right now,” explains editor Hamish Kilburn who will host the event. “We have worked incredibly hard over the last few months to ensure that our next broadcast of Hotel Designs LIVE does the concept justice. This has included filming a segment with our new videography partner CUBE Video, working closely with our sponsors and suppliers and inviting relevant leaders and visionaries from around the world to sit on the virtual sofa in order to add value to the conversations we are airing.”

Here’s what’s coming up:

09:20 – 09:30: EDITOR’S WELCOME

Editor Hamish Kilburn will open by acknowledging the success and highlights from the inaugural virtual conference, which took place on June 23. In addition, he will discuss the rationale behind the four sessions that Hotel Designs LIVE will position under the spotlight for the second edition of Hotel Designs LIVE.

09:30 – 10:30: Discussing sustainability with Bill Bensley
(Sponsored by Silentnight Group)

In order to definitively understand sustainability in international hotel design, while also highlighting new, unconventional methodology in the process, Hotel Designs LIVE will welcome Bill Bensley as the event’s headline speaker.

Affectionately known as the “Willy Wonka of Design”, Bensley is a dedicated eco-warrior and a highly qualified jack of all trades – gardener, fisherman, architect, interior designer, lover of all things natural, and most of all, a wide-ranging explorer of as many corners of the earth as he can.

The award-winning designer, who never fails to deliver innovative solutions when designing sustainable spaces, will join Kilburn to discuss how design, architecture and hospitality can coincide with nature.

Click here to participate.

11:00 – 12:00: Adding personality in public areas
(Sponsored by Falcon Contract Flooring)

Following on from the inaugural Hotel Designs LIVE, where the panel questioned the very existence of lobbies in the wake of Covid-19, this session will move away from pure sterile solutions and instead inject design back into the public areas. Kilburn will ask a handful of leading designers and architects how we, as an industry, can authentically create purposeful areas that evoke interesting first impressions.

Click here to participate.

12:30 – 13:30: Reassuring the post-corona consumer
(Sponsored by Room To Breathe UK

The industry may well be re-opening its doors, but recent studies suggest that the post-corona consumer is hesitant to re-explore the hospitality scene. In an engaging panel discussion, Kilburn will ask a number of leading hoteliers from all corners of the globe how tomorrow’s hospitality arenas can effectively and sensitively reassure modern travellers that hotels are safe spaces.

Click here to participate.

14:00 – 15:00 BST: The revival of smart tech post-pandemic
(Sponsored by GROHE)

To kickstart the debut Hotel Designs LIVE, tech-influencer Jason Bradbury, the former presenter of The Gadget Show, took us on a wild journey to understand the boundless possibilities when it comes to technology in hospitality. One of the main takeaways from the session was the importance of making technology invisible for the modern consumer.

Ahead of putting the spotlight back on technology, Kilburn checked in to a completely contactless hotel experience to understand tech’s role in tomorrow’s hotel. The full feature will be broadcasted to the audience attending ‘The revival of smart tech post-pandemic’. Here’s a teaser filmed and edited by CUBE Video.

Continuing this quest, but also grounding it in the context of hotel design in the wake of Covid-19, Kilburn will invite a number of expert designers to discuss, in detail, whether or not the hotel experience will ever be truly contactless, as well as asking how to authentically and meaningfully inject smart technology into a modern hotel.

Click here to participate.

Editor checks in: will design ever be the same again?

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor checks in: will design ever be the same again?

Weeks ahead of celebrating the best British designers, architects, hoteliers and suppliers in The Brit List Awards 2020, editor Hamish Kilburn warmly remembers a design legend, Sir Terence Conran, in his monthly column…

I have procrastinated long enough over writing this month’s Editor’s Letter. Perhaps it was a case of word block. More likely it was the anticlimax I experienced after my previous column didn’t achieve the level of engagement I had hoped it would. That’s not to say it wasn’t read – it was, and its context has emerged in many conversations since – but it seems people were afraid to ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on a topic that carries such heavy stigma in a desperate and lonely landscape. Not only that, but we are all operating with fatigued resources while not having the faintest clue about what tomorrow will bring – and yet our role in all of this is to offer solutions.

“He, the man who founded Habitat, the Design Museum and Conran and Partners, was very much that: a visionary.”

Just when we thought we had reached the pit of all lows – locked away from each other, and somehow busier than ever – our phones light up with a newsflash from the BBC. The headline reads: Sir Terence Conran ‘visionary’ designer dies at 88. He, the man who founded Habitat, the Design Museum and Conran and Partners, was very much that: a visionary; a legend in every sense of the word who during his near 70-year career revolutionised design in Britain and Europe. And we have everything to thank him for, whether we knew him personally or not.

Image caption: Sir Terence Conran (1931 – 2020)

Architect Thomas Heatherwick said it best in Dezeen. “For me, Sir Terence Conran was one of a small handful of amazing people who dragged Great Britain out of the post-second world war gloom and modernised the country by revolutionising how we think about our homes, the products we buy for them and even the food we eat and how we eat it,” he wrote. “His impact and influence is around us every day and has been so successful that we don’t even realise where it came from. Without Terence, there would have been no Habitat. Without Terence, there may still not be excellent food in the United Kingdom. And without Terence, there certainly wouldn’t be any Design Museum in London.”

Conran’s passing, especially in a year that has shaken the hotel design and hospitality industry on a global scale, begs the pertinent yet terrifying question which (let’s face it) is on all of our minds at the moment: will British design ever be the same again?

‘Yes’ and ‘no’ – not what you wanted to hear, I understand, but it’s the only honest answer we have at the moment. One could rightly argue that nothing will ever be the same as it once was. The industry will evolve as it always has done. And people, brilliantly talented and authentically charismatic people, will come forward to offer real-life solutions for the challenges we are currently facing.

“I think it’s safe to say that British design and hospitality is resilient and evolving quickly to meet new demands of modern travellers.”

There are no boundaries, and we can literally reimagine the world to design better and healthier cities, like WATG has done for the new New York concept it unveiled recently, transforming the concrete jungle into, well, a jungle!

GIF credit: WATG

In many ways, now is the perfect time to celebrate such innovative forward thinkers. Last week we opened the floodgates to unveil the shortlist for The Brit List Awards 2020. With more than 120 individuals and projects selected across eight categories, I think it’s safe to say that British design and hospitality is resilient and evolving quickly to meet new demands of modern travellers. We will proudly reveal and celebrate this year’s top designers, architects, hoteliers and suppliers in our virtual awards ceremony, which takes place on November 12 at 2pm (GMT).

Aside from building up to our annual awards, Hotel Designs has also sheltered some thought-provoking conversations this month. In an exclusive roundtable discussion that will be published shortly, we heard from a developer who has become a distant friend of mine during the pandemic. He said that he can envision the day when travellers will design their own hotel experiences on their smartphones before they have even checked in. This will, he hopes, eliminate public areas being seen as clinical, functional and at times unwelcoming spaces, which they have unexpectedly become since the pandemic emerged onto the scene. Instead, this design concept will allow lobbies to be filled with personality once more and become, if you like, a sort of lounge area where guests can relax and unwind in.

“This month I had the opportunity to physically check in to a completely contactless hotel experience.”

Don’t underestimate technology’s role in the post-pandmeic world, is certainly a lesson I have learned during this turbulent time. As well as zooming in and out of virtual roundtable discussions, this month I had the opportunity to physically check in to a completely contactless hotel experience (the novelty was almost overwhelming). Following an opportune tech overhaul, Bloc Hotel Gatwick has been able to reimagine the hotel journey. With software from SymbiOT and hardware from Crestron, the hotel’s guests are now able to check in and operate their entire stay – everything from lift calls to light and temperature adjustment – by using their smartphones without even having to download an app. The video feature we filmed will be broadcast at Hotel Designs LIVE on October 13, and will kickstart our panel discussion on the revival of smart technology in the post-pandemic world.

Yet again, it has been an unstable and explosive month on the editorial desk at Hotel Designs. On behalf of the entire team, I would like to send our condolences to Sir Terence Conran’s family and friends. We have lost a British and world design icon, and his legacy lives on through those who were inspired by his immeasurable talent and class.

Editor, Hotel Designs

Main image credit: Dale Southfield Portraiture

In Conversation With: interior designer Lisa Haude

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: interior designer Lisa Haude

Interior designer Lisa Haude, founder of PDG Studios, is known for her creative and unique approach to design. Editor Hamish Kilburn sits down with the storyteller to understand why she is considered one of the industry’s finest…

A storyteller in her own right, designer Lisa Haude creates one-of-a-kind spaces that breathe a new level of authenticity into the projects she touches. Working predominantly with the larger brands, such Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International, Haude’s style is to celebrate the history of each hotel’s destination, which is channeled through an meaningful design narrative that is sheltered inside each project. 

One of her recent projects – among many others – is AC Hotel by Marriott Washington D.C. Downtown, a hotel in the heart of the city that’s design marries together the architectural relevance of Washington D.C. with a modern twist.

Image credit: AC Hotel by Marriott Washington DC Downtown

“The one-of-a-kind light fixture that spans from the bar through the lobby space is actually a replica of the Potomac River from an aerial viewpoint.” – Lisa Haude, founder of PDG Studios.

To learn more about the project, and the designer who brought it to life, I caught up with Haude, the founder of PDG Studios.

Hamish Kilburn: What inspired you to be a designer? 

Lisa Haude: I’ve always loved being creative. Thinking outside of the box and bringing a vision to life is such a rewarding experience and one that I treasure the most.

HK: One of your recently completed projects was the AC Marriott DC. Can you explain for us the design scheme and what the challenges were for this project? 

LH: With this project, we wanted to take the iconic, historical architectural elements of Washington DC and reinvent them with a modern interpretation. This was done by juxtaposing strong structural lines (which the building already had) and incorporating softer curves and fluid movement via furniture and unique, yet focal, point details. For example, the one-of-a-kind light fixture that spans from the bar through the lobby space is actually a replica of the Potomac River from an aerial viewpoint, which was reinterpreted in an artistic light form to provide soft, fluid lines and movement throughout the space.  

Our biggest challenge with this space was working within a very small building that had many structural constraints. Although difficult at times, these challenges are what really allow us to expand our creativity and bring something truly unique to life! 

HK: As well as high-end luxury you have also completed some recent budget hotels. How do you achieve adding personality on a budget? 

LH: With a small budget, we focus on being strategic with how the funds are allocated, paying attention to every little detail and having a very strong design story that can be implemented from start to finish. This requires some flexibility and creativity as you work through the execution of the design with the contractor to ensure that the design intent is carried through and will make the most  out of the budget you are working with. 

Image credit: Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman

HK: Can you explain to us more about the projects you have on the boards? 

LH: We are currently working on a historic/adaptive reuse property, a modern mountain get-away, and another very fun project that will be a nod to history but with a modern twist, among a few others! 

HK: In your work, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on art. What is your secret to persuade the client to allocate enough budget for artwork? 

LH: We believe that art is part of the design story and we are very intentional with the placement and selection of the pieces we use. We work closely with our owners to make sure we have some money carved out to include some unique pieces in the spaces, as they are the necessary cherry on top that helps complete the design. 

Image of an art exhibition

Image credit: Hilton Garden Inn Sunnyvale

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What is one trend that you wish will never return?

LH: Wallpaper borders! This may be dating me slightly, but when I started in the design industry, a guestroom or residential project was not complete unless you had a wallpaper border in the space.

HK: What items during lockdown could you not have lived without? 

LH: Computer, iPhone and wine (and, of course, my daughter and dog!)

HK: What makes a good design team? 

LH: A team of like-minded individuals who respect each other and truly value each other’s input and love to collaborate.

HK: Who is your interior design hero? 

      LH: I have so many people in the industry that I look up to, but today, the people I admire the most are those working around the clock to find safe alternatives and vaccines so that we may all soon be able to travel freely and be inspired by the people and places around us.

HK: Describe PDG Studios in three words…

    LH: storytellers, authentic and collaborative! 

“It’s important to plan for and design zones that allow for individual space.” – Lisa Haude, founder of PDG Studios

HK: How have the challenges of the pandemic allowed you to challenge conventional design? 

LH: We now need to be more adaptive and creative with how we approach design. In our current designs, we encourage the incorporation of more green and outdoor space (i.e. rooftop  terraces, balconies and courtyards), the use of larger windows/natural light sources and less toxic materials, such as natural materials and plants. It’s important to plan for and design zones that allow for individual space, where one can work and be conscience of the materials that are being used. Moving forward, it will be imperative to source materials that do not harbour germs and can be easily cleaned—and those people spending time in these spaces will want to know that! 

Image credit: AC Hotel by Marriott Washington DC Downtown

HK: How will smart tech evolve in the hotel guestroom post-pandemic? 

LH: Easy/quick access to tech will become even more of a necessity. From the ability to work from your room via teleconferencing to the ease of being able to fully automate your room via your smart device, tech is most likely going to continue to evolve and become more mainstream and expected.  For example, the ability to turn on/off lights, control the AC /heat, open/close the door, etc., without contact (using voice activation instead) will be very desired and important to many people. The technology is already there for many of these items, but I believe there will be a greater push to make it more affordable and mainstream to the greater public in a hospitality-type setting.

HK: Has sustainability slipped off the agenda in hospitality? 

LH: I don’t think so. I feel like it is now even more important that we use products that are sustainable, locally sourced and easy to clean and maintain. I believe that this period of time has taught us all to take a step back and appreciate the people in our life and our surroundings. We have also become more conscience about our choices and how products are used and/or disposed of. 

Main image credit: PDG Studio/Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman/AC Hotel by Marriott Washington DC Downtown

In Conversation With: Mark Kelly, Partner at PLP Architecture

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Mark Kelly, Partner at PLP Architecture

Looking ahead, past the pandemic, editor Hamish Kilburn sits down with Mark Kelly, Partner at PLP Architecture, to understand how to build a meaningful hotel landscape…

With the world the way it is at the moment, the conversation in the industry has steered sharply towards how architecture and design will be affected in the post-pandemic world.

PLP Architecture is a firm behind some of the world’s smartest and most sustainable buildings, which will soon include Pan Pacific London. Expected to be completed in 2021 – and already being described as an ‘architectural marvel’ – the project’s vision is to balance a design that is sensitive to the Asian heritage of the brand whilst creating an ultra-modern, timeless hotel and complex that challenges conventional architecture.

As a result of the firms sustainable mission, the building will shelter mix of 42 native wildflower and some sedum species populate levels 34 and 42 – 44, protruding above the structure’s rooftop, seeking to create a sense of continuity between the tower and the outdoor public spaces and gardens on the ground floor. 

Representing a number of firsts for London, such as being the first tower development in the City of London to harmoniously fuse private apartments with a luxury hotel, PLP Architecture’s collaborative approach with Yabu Pushelberg and developers UOL and Stanhope ensures the delivery of an integrated and seamless design at every level of building, helping to bring to life a bold, emblematic and creative new embodiment of urban expression for the capital. Most importantly, though, it has been built with tomorrow’s consumers and travellers in mind.

So how are architects evolving to meet the hefty demands of modern travellers and budget conscious clients in the post-pandemic world? I spoke to Mark Kelly, Partner at PLP Architecture, to find out.

Hamish Kilburn: How will coronavirus reshape architecture?

Mark Kelly: Architecture is an inherently flexible process – always evolving while constantly questioning and reinventing itself. As such, it is well placed to respond to the current and seemingly ever-changing Covid crisis and, for that matter, other current and future global concerns such as the climate emergency. Covid has specifically put extra focus on the health of the architectural spaces we inhabit – not just in the way they operate, but in the way they make occupants behave and feel.

We are already seeing a shift towards greater implementation of technology to reduce levels of contact. There is also now a greater recognition of the benefits of architecture enhancing a state of health and wellbeing – achieved through more natural lighting and ventilation, improved climate control, larger areas of personal space more robust and cleanable surfaces, increased sizes and more options for circulation, clearer signage and better management of wayfinding – as well as more pragmatic inclusions like well-designed and integrated places for washing / sanitising hands and select use of screens and shields where required in areas of frequent interaction.

“The current environment is a perfect opportunity for hotels to think creatively about ways to not just reconsider and reactivate their existing spaces.” – Mark Kelly, Partner, PLP Architecture.

HK: How should the hospitality industry prepare for post-pandemic work in terms of architecture and design?

MK: Though we are in very challenging times at the moment, we see opportunities for an exciting future across the industry – one that addresses the requirements of a post-pandemic world and also reinvents itself into a more dynamic, safe and inclusive environment for people to use and enjoy. Ultimately hospitality, as a service-based industry, has the goal of accommodating and providing comfort – not just for guests, although they are a clear priority – but for staff as well. Everyone involved has a right to feel safe and protected at all times.

Image caption: Final mock-up room inside Pan Pacific London

During the pandemic, we have seen some creative uses for hotels being implemented – including people using them as remote offices, exercise studios and other support for a newly mobile workforce. This has not only helped to counteract the problems associated with lower occupancy levels but started to address other issues that were present before the pandemic. The current environment is a perfect opportunity for hotels to think creatively about ways to not just reconsider and reactivate their existing spaces, but transform their business models to help further diversify and futureproof their assets.

We see a real need to shift towards the inclusion of more local target groups, with a new and expanded reliance on the local population to add authenticity and ensure year-round activation and use of hotels. The pandemic has provided, and in some cases necessitated, an opportunity for the industry to expand from a more straightforward offering of overnight accommodation with perhaps a restaurant and gymnasium, into a truly community-minded hub where locals, tourists and business men and women alike interact and intermingle in an environment that entices each.

Premium hospitality can remain a core function in hotels, but it will need to be flexible enough to adapt to take advantage of this exciting and beneficial adaptation into a Hospitality Integrated Business that brings together the workplace, wellness and placemaking.

HK: What kinds of spaces will we be willing to live, travel and work in now?

MK: Everyone’s goal is and will be to avoid contamination with the virus. As a whole, many of the types of spaces we will be willing to live, travel and work in already exist in limited quantities and going forward their designs will become more widespread through the adaptation and retrofitting of existing spaces and the creation of new ones.

Image caption: Render of the hotel entrance at Pan Pacific London

Density control is easier than ever now, and in hotels we believe that good design for the management of arrivals and departures in a reception space, for instance, can be easily integrated with new goals for sustainability to achieve environments that actively help prevent the spread of the virus and, ultimately, are healthier and more invigorating for everyone.

The inclusion of more natural light, better ventilation, clearer wayfinding, more generous sizing, and adaptable personal spaces – all things we as a practice have been incorporating into our designs for many years – have become crucial visual indicators of safety that allow us to feel comfortable and protected at our homes, in our places of work, and while moving around outside of both.

“No longer a futuristic dream, loop circulation systems with horizontal movement will help optimise people movement across levels.” – Mark Kelly, Partner, PLP Architecture.

HK: How can architecture mitigate pathogenic risks in an interconnected world?

MK: Architecture will play a crucial role in supporting our control of pathogenic risks in our increasingly globalised world. Natural ventilation and better air management, including the use of HEPA filters, for instance, are already recognised for their ability to reduce infection rates and virus spread. Easy-to-clean materials, such as high-pressure laminates and other smooth, anti-microbial surfaces, enabling efficient management of contagion mitigation measures.

Spatial use and organisation are also important, including the ways in which shared spaces (corridors, lounges, lobbies, dining areas) are activated. New developments in vertical circulation are poised to be a game-changer for taller structures in our cities. No longer a futuristic dream, loop circulation systems with horizontal movement will help optimise people movement across levels, spaces, and even buildings and reduce risk associated with unnecessary interaction.

Crucially, we believe that changes in architecture can be carried out subtly and effectively, preserving a sense of design identity and uniqueness, accommodating luxury and comfort, while embracing risk reduction and contagion prevention to ensure we can get back to close to what we define as our normal lives as possible.

Main image credit: PLP Architecture/Pan Pacific London

Checking in to No.5 Maddox Street, London

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to No.5 Maddox Street, London

Embracing change – and predicting a rise in demand for luxury apartments post-pandemic – editor Hamish Kilburn checks himself in review No.5 Maddox Street

It was the first time since the start of lockdown I had made the trip into the capital, but certain things were not how I remembered.

For starters, not a single person on the train journey had demanded for me to move my bag on the empty seat next to me. Pre-Covid, not standing on the commute would have been seen as a miracle. Five months after the government put us into a forced hibernation, the empty carriage felt lonely. I disembarked the train at St Pancras International, checked my watch – it was 08:59 on a Wednesday – I could hear the echo of an barren terminal in what was supposed to be ‘rush hour’.

On my walk from the station to Maddox Street in Mayfair, the stark reality hit: most of London’s iconic hotels were closed and lifeless. And yet, while the majority of hotels in the city were shaking up re-opening strategies and not cocktails, other accommodation offerings – like for example No.5 Maddox Street – were able to open fully because of their design scheme being friendly to social distancing.

I launched the Living Rooms concept in 1999 after recognising the modern traveller’s desire for privacy and independence.” – Tracy Lowy, owner, Living Rooms.

Nestled between high-end art galleries and luxury boutiques – conveniently tucked behind Bond Street and metres away from Regent Street – is the discreet entrance to No.5 Maddox Street.

Sheltering just 12 luxury apartments – all of which were renovated last year by the owner herself, Tracy Lowy – No.5 Maddox Street is part of the Living Rooms collection, which also includes The Laslett and Weymouth Mews. Offering what it claims is ‘the best of apartment living and hotel service’, it’s almost as if the collection was unconsciously designed for the post-pandemic world. “I launched the Living Rooms concept in 1999 after recognising the modern traveller’s desire for privacy and independence,” Lowy told Hotel Designs. “From concept through to the finished product, we sought to create the best of both worlds; design-led apartments that combine the services of a luxury hotel, complete with the privacy, space and the comfort of home.”

Image credit: No5. Maddox Street

The arrival experience at No.5 Maddox Street is unlike any hotel I have ever stayed in – there is no lobby, for example, which immediately creates an understated entrance with no room for drama. With no lift, meaning that No.5 Maddox Street is not accessible for everyone, I climbed the industrial-like stairs to check in.

While each apartment sheltered within the building is different, all of them are competitively spacious. In fact, the smallest apartment, at 27 sqm, is almost double the size of a typical London hotel guestroom, which adds to the home-from-home setting that Lowry has created. In addition, and something of a rarity in the city where space is a premium, many of the apartments feature decked terraces, balconies and open fire places.

A luxe masculine bedroom

Image credit: No5. Maddox Street

The property was given a refurbishment last year to mark its 20th anniversary. Impressively, No.5 Maddox Street remained open throughout. “As the refurb was mostly cosmetic, we remained open for guests and blocked apartments out in groups  – it was a bit of a game of Tetris,” explained Lowy.

“We sourced a lot of vintage design pieces which come with their own set of challenges.” – Tracy Lowy, owner, Living Rooms.

Although Living Rooms decided not to hire in a design firm for the project, Lowry carefully selected items that she believed would create an apt homely environment in the centre of the action. “We sourced a lot of vintage design pieces which come with their own set of challenges,” she said. “But we are lucky to have some great partners in that area that we can always count on to help us come up with the goods.” 

The apartments have been refreshed, nipped, tucked and brightened with modernised interiors. As well as vintage rugs by Larusi, the spaces feature one-of-a-kind furnishings from Les Couilles Du Chien and a curated selection of photography and artwork that reflects the rich history of the local area.

With as much emphasis on service as well as design, guests of No.5 are encouraged to ‘live like a local’. Those checking in can explore the city by using the constantly updated neighbourhood guide, as well as tapping up the knowledgable and friendly concierge service.

an open light kitchen

Image credit: No5. Maddox Street

As I checked out of No.5, following a relaxing and comfortable nights sleep, I am intrigued to understand from Lowy’s perspective whether or not the demand for this style of accommodation has increased following the pandemic. “Travellers, both leisure and business, are really seeing the benefit of the personal space we can offer,” she explained. “In this part of London, where hotel rates can be very high, we can often offer an entire apartment for the price of a hotel room.”

In conclusion, I agree with the term ‘hotel alternative’ when describing No.5 Maddox Street. Although I am not fully won over by apart-hotels stealing the limelight in hospitality completely, the apartments at No.5 Maddox Street are smartly designed to offer a discreet urban pad, suitable for one or two nights. They are warm and inviting but, in my opinion, feel more like you are staying in someone else’s home-from-home – similar to a stylish, well-stocked and well-hosted AirBnB, if you like.

Main image credit: No5. Maddox Street

Editor Checks In: the price tag eliminating diversity in design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: the price tag eliminating diversity in design

An independent investigation on diversity in design, carried out by Hotel Designs, has highlighted the potentially ‘unethical’ lengths that studios are willing to go to in order to win projects on the international hotel design scene. Editor Hamish Kilburn writes…

Traditionally – as well as recently – in the international hotel design and hospitality arena, the word ‘unethical’ and the phrase ‘dirty money’ was targeted largely towards the abusers of power; a handful of hotel owners, for example, have used money laundering to fund ostentatious and, quite frankly, outrageous development projects in luxury addresses.

However, it turns out that even some design firms have also been sheltering their fair share of unethical methods when it comes to business development, and I believe it is having a dramatic impact on equality within the industry – something that I was once proud of, but as I scratch beneath the surface, I am beginning to realise that we are at risk of this being nothing but a façade.

In new supporting evidence, there have been an increased number of design firms that have been exposed of deliberately undervaluing the proposed cost of a project in what has been described as “a desperate bid” to win the client’s commission. And especially in these challenging times that lie ahead, it is apparent that the scales are no longer level and the playing field is no longer fair.

“These allegations could drastically disrupt the design industry’s performance, as well as put several question marks on how ethical and diverse the industry is becoming.” – Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs.

It is understood that for some design firms, certain prestigious projects – or more accurately all projects won during these unstable economic times – are considered more valuable within a portfolio now that we are are heading into a recession. As a result, firms are strategically pitching to clients with a significantly lower cost on the table – eliminating any possibility to make a profit – in order to drastically further the chances of winning the account.

One anonymous business development manager from a design studio, who Hotel Designs spoke to, described how he/she lost a commission for a recent project after a competitor allegedly undervalued the development by roughly 80 per cent to what he/she believed the project should achieve in design fees.

Furthermore, another anonymous leading designer reached out to Hotel Designs with a claim that he/she has witnessed projects being won by competitors at up to 75 per cent lower than what he/she believed was a reasonable professional fee to complete the hotel project.

In addition, other designers have come forward and claimed that they have witnessed situations whereby even suppliers have agreed to pay the design studio separately in order to be specified in a particular project, again this is with the understanding that being specified in the project’s design will generate positive PR around the brand as a result – effectively out-valuing the fee to the design studio.

Although not directly linked, these drastic methods of securing new business have circled back towards further inquiries regarding how design firms are actually funding their existence in the already competitive market.

If proven correct, these allegations could drastically disrupt the design industry’s performance, as well as put several question marks on how ethical and diverse the industry is becoming, especially, for example, if mystery backers are then funding the project on behalf of the design firm.

What’s more, the risk design studios are willing to take in order to secure these projects rings deafening alarm bells in my head, because it will inevitably be the talented individuals – often juniors on low-pay packages – who will be working on the project and who will ultimately suffer the most.

“Fees have seriously been trending lower after every recession when clients demand from firms.” – Anonymous designer.

There are also concerns among the industry that Covid-19 – and the pressures that are attached to the pandemic regarding a lack of new business opportunities on the horizon – will create further desperation between design studios that are responding to client briefs.

We have heard from a number of design studios regarding this, and many have decided to reduce project costs in ratio with the cuts they have made to staffing. One firm, again which would wish to remain anonymous, has confirmed that it has made a 20 per cent cut to all current project costs, and the studio has taken this decision in full knowledge that when or if the industry ever returns to what we recognised as normal, then the studio will work at full capacity but will only receive 80 per cent of the original fee. “We have seen this continuously,” said another anonymous designer. “Fees have seriously been trending lower after every recession when clients demand from firms.”

So, you tell me, will greed take its toll, and will meaningful and creative hospitality solutions be overshadowed by a tempting lower project cost? I certainly hope not, as I believe the industry is still made up of solution-driven individuals who understand and respect the need for thinking long-term, despite living and working in what feel like desperate times.

This is the first article within the series of this investigation. If you would like to speak to Hotel Designs – on or off the record – about diversity in design, please email the editorial desk

Editor, Hotel Designs

Discussing luxury furniture design with Oki Sato, founder of Nendo

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Discussing luxury furniture design with Oki Sato, founder of Nendo

Following our official ‘first look’ of the 2020 Minotti Collection – and to mark putting furniture under the editorial spotlight this month – editor Hamish Kilburn speaks to one of the designers behind the collection; Oki Sato, founder of Nendo

Airy with constructive details linked to Japanese tradition, the Torii modular furniture, designed by Nendo for Minotti’s 2020 Collection, plays with round-edged volumes, thin profiles and the apparent formal simplicity of an extremely detailed design.

With an interlocking game, the horizontal elements within the furniture are laid on the vertical supports, ensuring a sophisticated visual lightness that accommodates the padded volume, characterised by couture craftsmanship.

The Torii family includes sofas, armchairs, dining and lounge little armchairs, ottomans, coffee tables and console tables. To understand more about these pieces within the context of the timeless collection, I spoke to the visionary behind Torii’s creation; Oki Sato, the founder of designs studio Nendo.

Luxury interiors with Minotti furniture

Image credit: The Torii range of the 2020 Minotti Collection

Hamish Kilburn: Can you describe the Torii range in three words?

Oki Sato: Traditional, lightness, and secureness.

HK: How does your design within this collection challenge conventional furniture design?

OS: Generally, furniture legs are reinforced by connecting vertical members to horizontal members. On the contrary, the leg structure resembles a “torii,” a traditional gate of a Shinto shrine, with a horizontal member sitting on the two vertical timbers.

Moreover, the ends of the horizontal member are designed to look like they are biting into the seat, reminding us of traditional “wood joinery” often seen in vernacular Japanese wooden architecture. The design goal was to maintain the visual lightness while expressing a sense of secureness with each component firmly locked together in unity.

HK: In your own words, what were the major challenges when designing these pieces?

OS: We had received a presentation from Minotti family for this project. This was our very first time to receive a presentation from the brand, despite having presented many times before. I think it was a challenge to design Nendo-like details to evolve Minotti family’s first rough concept and to exceed their expectations. 

HK: Can you describe how the design evolved from initial sketches to the finished product?

OS: After we received first presentation by Minotti, the initial sketch was drawn by Minotti. It was 100 per cent Minotti design at the very first moment. And then, the essence of Nendo was gradually added to the sketch through meetings and prototypes with the Minotti family.

Minotti shared a specific image at the very beginning, which helped us to proceed prototype making faster than ever and we could devote more time to considering the details.

HK: How long did this process take?

OS: I believe this process took about nine months.

HK: Can you explain more about the material you used in the upholstery?

OS: Minotti’s high technology and extensive experience coordinated our idea to concrete shape. The brand arranged everything, including a selection of materials and the softness of the cushion.

HK: What is it about Japanese design that attracts so many luxury brands?

OS: I believe it is about light and shadow. Let’s say for Italians, when one says red, Italian designers can see a lot of different reds. They have hundreds of colours of reds, but not just red.

On the other hand, I think the Japanese perceive more tones of light and shadow. I guess light and shadows are about minimalism, poetry which is one of  the values of Japanese design.

Minotti London, which is exclusive style partner at MEET UP London, is one of our recommended suppliers. To keep up to date with their news, click here. And, if you are interested in becoming one of our recommended suppliers, please email  Katy Phillips by clicking here.

Main image credit: Minotti

The Brit List Awards 2020: entries close soon!

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
The Brit List Awards 2020: entries close soon!

Calling all designers, architects, hoteliers and suppliers: the deadline to submit your free entry for The Brit List Awards 2020 closes on August 27 (two weeks from today)…

Free to enter, The Brit List Awards 2020 is Hotel Designs’ nationwide search to find the top designers, architects, hoteliers and suppliers who are operating in Britain.

As well as selecting the the top 25 designers, architects and hoteliers who will be profiled in The Brit List 2020, the campaign also selects individual winners of the following categories:

  • Interior Designer of the Year
  • Architect of the Year
  • Hotelier of the Year
  • Best in Tech
  • The Eco Award
  • Best in British Product Design
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Hospitality Industry

What’s more, the application process to enter or nominate somebody deserving is completely free – simply click here to apply/nominate.

Unlike previous years, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, The Brit List Awards 2020 will take place as a virtual event on November 12, with a live winners party scheduled for January 28 2021 at Minotti London. Katy Phillips, publisher at Hotel Designs, explains: “While we would prefer to physically bridge the gap between all of our shortlisted finalists by hosting a live awards ceremony, we have made the sensible decision to carry out this year’s awards ceremony virtually,” she explains. “However, in order to ensure that we are offering the valuable networking element of our event, we look forward to welcoming the shortlisted finalists, the winners and key-industry suppliers to our live winners’ party celebration as part of MEET UP London in January 2021 at Minotti London.”

Over the last three years, The Brit List Awards has becoming a significant event in the design, architecture and hospitality calendar, as Hamish Kilburn, editor of Hotel Designs, explains: “The Brit List Awards was born out of the concept to celebrate Britain as a major design and hospitality hub,” he says. “Arguably, it is more important this year than any other year before to mark that success while celebrating the talented individuals who are continuing to design innovative spaces on the international design scene. It is therefore my pleasure to host this year’s event, albeit virtually, and I cannot wait to personally congratulate the winners when we all meet again in January 2021 for the winners’ party.”

If you would like to discuss various sponsorship packages available, please contact Katy Phillips via email, or call 01992 374050. Tickets to both the virtual event and the winners party will be available to secure soon. 

Sponsors of The Brit List Awards 2020:

Hotel Designs LIVE: speakers & sessions announced

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Hotel Designs LIVE: speakers & sessions announced

Designers, architects, hoteliers and developers can attend Hotel Designs LIVE for free on October 13, 2020…

Following the success of our first ever virtual conference, Hotel Designs LIVE is back on October 13, complete with new sessions and speakers.

Hotel Designs LIVE was born out of the idea to keep the industry connected and the conversation flowing during the lockdown period following the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus. However, considering the noise the virtual conference created, the team at Hotel Designs have decided to return with part two. “The aim of this event on October 13 is to look beyond today’s pandemic in order to find real solutions for designers, hoteliers, architects and developers,” explains editor Hamish Kilburn who will host the virtual event. “To do this meaningfully, we have invited industry experts from around the world to sit on our virtual sofa.”

If you are designers, architect, hotelier or developer, click here to secure your complimentary seat in the audience.

On the agenda

 

In addition to the live interviews and panel discussions with handpicked industry experts – and to ensure that the event is aptly bridging the gap between hospitality suppliers and designers, architects, hoteliers and developers – the conference also included structured ‘PRODUCT WATCH’ pitches around each session, allowing suppliers the opportunity to pitch their products and services in a ‘live’ environment to the hospitality buyers that are tuned in.

If you are a designer, architect, hotelier  or developer and would like to secure your complimentary seats in the audience, click here.

If you are a supplier to the hotel design industry and would like to promote your latest product or services to the Hotel Designs LIVE audience, please contact Katy Phillips via email or call +44 (0)1992 374050.

Checking in to Hotel Brooklyn, the best of both worlds

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Checking in to Hotel Brooklyn, the best of both worlds

Two years after Hotel Designs reviewed Hotel Gotham, editor Hamish Kilburn is transported to New York City without having to leave Manchester as he checks in to review Hotel Brooklyn…  

Could checking in to places like Hotel Brooklyn – experiencing the unequivocal flair and flavour of a destination from the safety and comfort of your once hometown – become a new method of travel in the post-pandemic world, I wonder?

Positioned, I’m told, in the exact spot which used to be the main stage for Manchester Pride, on the fringe of the Gay Village, Hotel Brooklyn is anything but closeted. Its playful and at times voyeuristic design scheme reflects the authentic personality of a city that I have grown to love, Manchester.

The hotel’s new-build shell not only sets it apart from other properties in the Bespoke Hotels portfolio, including its big sister in the same neighbourhood, Hotel Gotham, but it also presents a unique opportunity for the building and brand to play a role in rewriting the lifestyle hospitality scene in the north.

A modern lobby with white and black flooring, brick wall and exposed ceiling with 'Brooklyn' in white

Image caption: The welcoming lobby inside Hotel Brooklyn.

“Weaving the lines between Manchester and Brooklyn is a bold and inspirational project that draws many parallels and it was incredibly fun to do, partnering with some of the best local suppliers to create the finished look.” – Olly Redfern, lead interior designer of Squid Inc.

After much anticipation, and two years of sworn secrecy from me, Hotel Brooklyn finally opened in February with the aim to become an epicentre of eclectic substance and a home-away-from-home to the creators and style setters.

The concept for the hotel, which was imagined by design studio Squid Inc., was to create sanctuary for urban explorers – think of a living room away from home and a workplace away from the office.

Image credit: Brooklyn Heights inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image credit: Brooklyn Heights inside Hotel Brooklyn

3,334 miles away from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan – the most obvious source of inspiration for hotel’s creation – Hotel Brooklyn is about raw, unpolished creativity, irresistible in its youthful heat. “Weaving the lines between Manchester and Brooklyn is a bold and inspirational project that draws many parallels and it was incredibly fun to do, partnering with some of the best local suppliers to create the finished look,” explained Olly Redfern, lead interior designer of Squid Inc. “It was an honour to work with Bespoke Hotels again on creating another iconic Manchester hotel with a strong identity and character.”

That bold spirit starts in the lobby, often blended together with the sound of live music as guests check in. The walk-in-the-park design scheme, complete with charming park benches under an exposed industrial ceiling, is uncluttered and smartly blends in biophilic design elements while reflecting modern, industrial vibes. Around the corner from the understated check-in desks is a tiered seated cinema, which offers a communal area unlike anywhere else in the city, where guests can relax and unwind.

Runyon’s Bar and Restaurant was named after New York journalist and writer Damon Runyon, who was renowned for his depictions of Brooklyn characters. The F&B area, complete with chandeliers made from upcycled glass bottles, is an energetic and refreshing in its design. The iconic backdrop of a wall mural featuring the hybrid cable-stayed Brooklyn Bridge, which was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States of America, can be seen from all angles of the restaurant and further distorts guests’ sense of place.

Upstairs, while the 189 rooms are impressively designed, it is the 18 fully accessible suites that set the hotel aside from others. With Bespoke Hotels being award-winningly famous for pioneering stylish accessibility in hospitality for all, the group turned to Motionspot, the UK’s leading accessible design company, to help delicately balance style and functionality. “Accessible accommodation at Hotel Brooklyn features subtle details like basins with integrated hand grips, removable matt black grab rails, accessible bedroom storage and a hidden ceiling track hoist”, said Ed Warner, Founder and CEO of Motionspot. “We hope this high level of attention paid to inclusivity will make Hotel Brooklyn one of the most sought-after venues for guests of all abilities.”

Accessible, well-designed large bathroom inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image caption: Hotel Brooklyn shelters 18 accessible design-led suites

The aesthetic of each guestrooms was inspired by Brooklyn’s loft spaces, peppered with immaculate features that favour quality and high-spec finishes. The beds, for example, have brass adornments, while Turkish-inspired carpets by Brintons contrast with the concrete walls. Wooden pink and blue chairs, supplied by TON, compliment black desks, while modern lamps by R&S Robertson and a traditional dial phone from Orbis add to the interior’s overall mise en scene.

Large suite with grey bath and modern furniture inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image caption: A large, modern suite inside Hotel Brooklyn

The modern bathrooms within the rooms feature matt-black fixtures and fittings from Geberit, which stand out against a simple white-tiled backdrop. The majority of bathroom configurations in each room have been cleverly-angled to allow their back walls and semi opaque windows to look out across the bedroom – a nod, I feel, to the city’s voyeuristic and playful side.

On the top floor, the hotel’s meeting and event space has been aptly named, Brooklyn Heights. Complete with hanging baskets and panoramic vistas across the city, Salvation Bar has the swag to become a new destination venue.

Terrace and suite inside Hotel Brooklyn

Image caption: Terrace Suite inside Hotel Brooklyn

Now familiar with its surroundings, Hotel Brooklyn has redefined luxury lifestyle in the city by bringing together the best elements of two vivacious destinations. With another Hotel Brooklyn ‘lair’ in Leicester on the way, and Bespoke Hotels welcoming a new CEO in Thomas Greenall who is taking the helm, the Manchester property is officially re-emerging from the Covid-19 hospitality slumber on August 21, and it is determined not be ignored as a middle sibling. With its comfortable, timeless guestroom interiors layered with vibrant and adaptable public areas, I predict that Hotel Brooklyn will be standing loud and proud, giving guests checking in each time an accurate taste of Brooklyn in Manchester, for many years to come.

Main image credit: Hotel Brooklyn

IN PICTURES: inside the new Villa Copenhagen

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
IN PICTURES: inside the new Villa Copenhagen

The 390-key luxury hotel, Villa Copenhagen, has officially opened. Hotel Designs takes a peek inside…

It has been one of the most anticipated openings of 2020, with architecture and design from award-winning studios such as Universal Design Studio and Goddard Littlefair, Villa Copenhagen has officially opened its doors.

Housed in the century-old Danish Post and Telegraph office, adjacent to Tivoli Gardens, Villa Copenhagen is a Grande Dame hotel for the 21st century, offering approachable, conscious luxury through a commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and meaningful experiences that connect guests to the landscape, culture, and energy of the city.

Exterior of the building in Copenhagen

Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

To ensure that the new interiors matched the grandeur of the 1912 Neo-Baroque architecture, and to keep the building at the forefront of Scandinavian design for another hundred years, the hotel appointed several design and architecture firms. The overall look and feel is credit to Universal Design Studio, which was appointed to create 381 guestrooms across the hotel’s five floors and Goddard Littlefair, which, following a number of recent award-winning projects, was responsible for the design of no less than five F&B areas sheltered within the hotel, as well as the wellness areas and meeting areas and conference rooms.

light modern room inside Villa Copenhagen

Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Evoking the ambiance of a sophisticated Danish residence, rooms feature high ceilings, herringbone floors, restored original windows, gold accents, and muted colour palettes that pay homage to paintings by 19th century Danish master Vilhelm Hammershøi. Thoughtful touches include keyless entry and remote check-in, virtual check-out, and an optional white glove service.

The two-storey Universal Penthouse Suite features a grand walnut and steel spiral staircase leading up to lounge space and a master bedroom. Other contributors include Danish architect Eva Harlou, who designed the sought-after Earth Suite, a fully sustainable suite entirely comprised of recycled materials and textiles with eco-friendly furniture by Mater Design; and Shamballa Jewels, a Danish fine jewellery brand that designed the remaining seven suites, including The Shamballa Master Suite, which is the most expensive suite in Denmark at US$8,100 per night, as well as two other spaces within the hotel, specifically The Courtyard and Old Boardroom.

Image caption: The Courtyard | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen/Stine Christiansen

Image caption: The Courtyard | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen/Stine Christiansen

Villa Copenhagen is also home to the city’s finest private art collection valued at more than US$2 million. With celebrated art curator Sune Nordgren at the helm, current artworks on display include pieces by local talent and celebrated international artists, including Jaume Plensa, Per Kirkeby, and Ian McKeever.

The new luxury address features ample outdoor and interior green spaces, including a generous rooftop pool, to promote a sense of wellbeing and tranquillity across its public areas, going above and beyond current government health and sanitation regulations while maintaining its vision of delivering an inspiring and playful ambiance.

Rooftop pool on top of Villa Copenhagen

Image credit: Villa Copenhagen/Stine Christiansen

Executive Chef Tore Gustafsson is responsible for Villa Copenhagen’s sustainable food profile, which focuses on ‘carbon-free’ dining and zero food waste. He worked with Epicurean, an F&B design studio from celebrated interior design house Goddard Littlefair, to develop all five of the hotel’s food and beverage outlets.

Located on the ground floor in the former sorting room of the Post House, the Public and Rug Bakery outlets make up a spacious breakfast and flexible event space with an open kitchen, where guests are provided with personalised options for fresh bread, pastries, and coffee, including individually sealed to-go ‘FIKA’ bags, as well as à la carte options that can be served via in-room dining.

The T37 Bar & Lounge offers a menu of tongue-in-cheek aesthetic, craft cocktails, and light dishes in a beautifully restored corner with original marble columns.

Image caption: Kontrast | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen/Stine Christiansen

Next door, the Playroom is stocked with table and board games, books, and plush furniture for laidback evenings. Kontrast brasserie has its own street entrance facing Central Station, and provides a cosy all-day restaurant open to city residents with contemporary takes on mid-century décor. Fresh, flavourful dishes made with organic ingredients from the hidden garden and local suppliers are served by Gustafsson and his team from a bustling open kitchen.

Image caption: The Brasserie inside Villa Copenhagen

Image caption: The Brasserie | Image credit: Villa Copenhagen

Opening in the post-pandemic world, in this new era for hospitality, the 390-room hotel has developed its health and hygiene policies in tandem with operational procedures to ensure travellers and local visitors enjoy a seamless guest journey, finding comfort in every corner– from the private sanctuary of the guestrooms and suites, to social hubs and dining outlets.

Main image credit: Villa Copenhagen/Stine Christiansen

Hotel Designs LIVE: Technology’s role in tomorrow’s hotel with Jason Bradbury

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Hotel Designs LIVE: Technology’s role in tomorrow’s hotel with Jason Bradbury

On June 23, Hotel Designs hosted its first ever virtual conference. To kickstart Hotel Designs LIVE, sponsored by Technological Innovations Group, editor Hamish Kilburn welcomed tech influencer and the former presenter of The Gadget Show Jason Bradbury to discuss technology’s role in tomorrow’s hotel…

Following a warm welcome from editor Hamish Kilburn to officially launch Hotel Designs LIVE – and quick-fire Q&A round with the event’s headline partner, Technological Innovations Group – Jason Bradbury made a dramatic entrance, on a hover board (we wouldn’t expect anything less). The former presenter of The Gadget Show, who has built an international career as a futurology and tech-trends corporate speaker, took the microphone to start the conference’s debut session entitled: Technology’s role in tomorrow’s hotel.

“The last 10 weeks have defined the next 10 years of innovation.” – Jason Bradbury

Sponsored by Hamilton Litestat, the session started by Bradbury suggesting that the current coronavirus crisis  – and indeed all cultural changes in the past – opened up an opportunity for new technology to be utilised in the hotel experience. Using the case study of Bainland Park, which is a luxury escape just a few miles from his home in Lincoln, Bradbury explained how the resort is redesigning its concept to dissolve the conventional public areas altogether. “Bainland Park is completely self-sufficient, ideal for the post-corona consumer, and the architecture and design really does set the scene,” he said. “Before lockdown, the owners were intending to renovate the public areas. However, as a result of the pandemic, and the change of consumer demands, they are now eliminating the the communal areas completely. What’s most interesting is that this change has been driven in the last 10 weeks alone.”

“Technology that offer peace of mind and wellbeing are going to be central to the buying experience from consumers.” – Jason Bradbury

Another case study that Bradbury referred to when predicting technology’s role in the future hotel experience was Eccleston Square, a tech-savvy  boutique gem that sits in the heart of London. With the aim being to understand where technology is heading in hotel design, in 2019, Hotel Designs asked Bradbury to review the hotel 30 years in the future. “The technology in Eccleston Square is almost invisible, if you exclude the media lounge,” he explained, “which results in a seamless experience for the guests. However, post-pandemic, I wonder if in the future we are going to see more overt instances of technology [when it comes to cleaning], because that will make us feel safer as consumers.

During the seminar, Hotel Designs LIVE featured a PRODUCT WATCH segment, which allowed the audience to hear from key-industry suppliers within within the technology sphere to ultimately find out about the latest innovations and products that have appeared on the hotel design scene recently.

Below is the full seminar (in two parts), with PRODUCT WATCH pitches from Hamilton Litestat, Technological Innovations Group, NT Security, Air Revive and Aqualisa.

In part two (see below), Bradbury continued to explore, through technology lenses, what he believes will likely be the hotel of the future. In addition, he answered some tough questions on which piece of technology he believes should never have been invited, what tech item he simply cannot live without and how long he could go living without technology…

Born in the chaotic realms of the coronavirus crisis, Hotel Designs LIVE, sponsored by Technology Innovations Group, is Hotel Designs’ way to simply, meaningfully and virtually keep the industry connected while keeping the conversation flowing. Bradbury’s future-gazing session, where he predicted technology’s evolution in the hotel experience, kickstarted a full day of insightful talks and panel discussions on topics such as Public Areas, Sleep and Wellness, which will all be published shortly.

In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Dean Winter, Managing Director, Swire Hotels

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Dean Winter, Managing Director, Swire Hotels

Following his recent appointment as Managing Director of Swire Hotels, Dean Winter sits down (virtually) with editor Hamish Kilburn to explain the brand’s change of direction…

Swire Hotels, which shelters luxury and lifestyle brands The House Collective and EAST, has recently announced a new Managing Director.

Dean Winter, who first started working with the hotel group in 2006, has more than 25 years’ experience as a hotelier and restaurateur in destinations such as London, Hong Kong and Singapore. Taking over from Toby Smith, who will now sit as Deputy Chairman for the group, Winter’s new role is part of a wider internal restructuring of management for the group with the aim to continue to inspire teams across the brands.

Following his appointment, I caught up with winter.

Hamish Kilburn: Dean, congratulations on your new role! What are you most looking forward to as Managing Director at Swire Hotels?

Dean Winter: People are central to what we do at Swire Hotels – both our guests and our dedicated team members – and their personal satisfaction is a main priority for me. By training our team and then empowering them to make decisions, we enable them to exceed expectations and build personal relationships with guests and other team members.

This dedication to service is core to our ethos at The House Collective and EAST, Hotels and I couldn’t be more excited to continue to support the people and guide the beliefs of a company that I’ve been part of for over a decade.

woman walking down modern staircase

Image credit: The Middle House, Shanghai

HK: How much does the design of the hotel affect the guest experience of Swire Hotels?

DW: Design lies at the heart of Swire Hotels and its brands. First impressions matter to our guests. When you walk into a hotel, its interior design can affect the way you feel and can influence your mood.

Each hotel within The House Collective all have their own identity, which boast some of the best design signatures in the industry. For example, behind The Opposite House’s unique design as an art gallery-inspired hotel there is visionary architect Kengo Kuma, who made our hotel one of Beijing’s hottest spots to visit.

HK: What are the key characteristic differences between Swire Hotels’ brands, The House Collective and EAST?

DW: All our hotels provide an extremely personalised service with each guest treated as a valued individual. The House Collective is all about design-led homes away from home, each with its own identity rooted in the destination, and a spirited, cultural soul. EAST is adapted to the new business traveller experience in destinations like Hong Kong, Beijing and Miami, blurring the line between business and leisure and enabling authentic experiences through art and design. At EAST, creating spaces that effectively accommodate guests at various points of life or of their day is also and important element. Examples of this would be the Domain spaces at our EAST hotels which function as cafés, meeting spaces, co-working zones and early evening bars; Sugar the rooftop bar is a popular nightspot for guests as well as locals and BEAST with well equipped gym, pool and wellness programmes helps keep our guest fit.

HK: Can you give us an overview of Swire Hotels’ commitment to sustainability?

DW: Swire Hotels is committed to making a positive impact on the environment and in order to manifest this change, we start from our people. What we envision is creating a healthy ecosystem of people who embody our values and care about our impact on the environment. We’re always looking to create meaningful initiative across our properties focusing on reducing water wastage, energy savings and better waste management. Some of these initiatives include removal of single-use packaging, amenities made of recyclable or biodegradable materials, paperless check-in and at EAST Miami, we have a smart pump that regulates water pressure throughout the hotel in order to reduce water usage. We are determined to find new ways to improve the sustainability of our properties, for our guests and the community around us. This way, we can continue delivering wonderful experiences not just for right now, but for many years to come.

“We have been taking advantage to accelerate some planned projects for both in terms of rooms and restaurants enhancements or systems development.” – Dean Winter, Managing Director, Swire Hotels

HK: What does 2021 look like for Swire Hotels?

DW: Overall I think everyone will have a more positive attitude towards travelling given how 2020 has unfolded. This year we’re celebrating the 10th Anniversary of EAST Hong Kong with new packages available to book directly from the hotel’s website and The Opposite House exciting new relaunch with the completion of an extensive renovation of the restaurant and bar spaces will have the celebration continue into the new year.

During the recent downtime, we have been taking advantage to accelerate some planned projects for both in terms of rooms and restaurants enhancements or systems development. So there will be more new spaces to reveal in 2021. We have also embarked on an expansion plan to grow both our brands, The House Collective and EAST, through management contracts throughout Asia Pacific and hope to have some announcement in 2021.

HK: Are you able to give us an insight into any new openings?

DW: We do have some evolving plans for new restaurant spaces next year. I’m excited by these opportunities and how we can continue to demonstrate our creativity on what is a core competency for the group.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
DW:
Montenegro; I’m facinated by the history and the architecture. Followed by a drive along The Adriatic; ideally in a classic sports car!

HK: What’s one item you cannot travel without? 
DW: A great novel!

HK: Can you describe the Swire Hotels ethos in three words?
DW: Innovation, design, people.

HK: How have Swire Hotels and its two brands been preparing to welcome guests back following the health crisis?

DW: The relationship between The House Collective and EAST, Hotels and our guests have always been centred around trust – we are dedicated to providing the best for our guests, and will continue to uphold our standard of service moving forward from this pandemic. We have already been hosting guests from neighbouring cities to our destinations and are looking forward to welcoming guests from all over the world again. We have introduced various prevention and control measures since the very beginning of the health crisis, such as temperature and travel history checks for all guests upon arrival including our staff members, increased frequency of deep cleaning as well as preparing care kits for our guests with hygiene wet wipes, hand sanitiser and face masks.

Main image credit: Swire Hotels

5 Minutes With: F&B talk with Mark Bithrey, Founder & Creative Director, B3 Designers

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: F&B talk with Mark Bithrey, Founder & Creative Director, B3 Designers

There is a serious question being put to the industry on whether public areas will ever be the same again. In an exclusive interview with Hotel Designs, Mark Bithrey, the Founder and Creative Director of B3 Designers sits down virtually with editor Hamish Kilburn to discuss F&B design in a post-pandemic world…

In just a few days time, Hotel Designs will go live to the world with its debut virtual conference. The topics we will explore during Hotel Designs LIVE will include technology, sleep, wellness and whether public areas will ever be the same again. In order to understand the role of F&B areas, while also getting an access-all-areas deeper look into the inner workings of the studio, I caught up with Mark Bithrey, the Founder and Creative Director of B3 Designers. The award-winning studio has transformed many F&B hospitality projects, such as The Prince Akatoki, Marriott Hotel Budapest and Ritz-Carlton Geneva among many others.

Hamish Kilburn: Thanks for joining me, Mark. How are you feeling right now as a hospitality interior designer?

Mark Bithrey: The world has been through really tough times, but this one has definitely knocked the hospitality industry for a six. I have always believed in 2 things: that hospitality will forever have a strong place in the world in some form or other, and two, that design plays a pivotal role in shaping a changing world. So I’m feeling a mix of anxious and eager.

HK: When restaurants do eventually open up, we are still looking at reduced covers and therefore revenue. What are your thoughts there?

MB: We have been helping clients redesign their restaurants for social distancing, with beautiful screens and additional features like plants and cushions. But you are right, it can mean reduced revenue. Some of our clients have been really creative and opened up whole new streams of revenue.

Image caption: Design in F&B has spilled into the marketing and packaging of products with a rise in demand for deliver/takeaway service. | Image credit: B3 Designers

HK: There is obviously a lot of focus on takeaways at the moment. How can F&B businesses be more creative when adapting to the times?

MB: Quick service has immense potential. Think about kiosks where you are able to churn out dishes quickly. Our clients at Mei Mei are doing just that, with Michelin star winning Chef Elizabeth Haigh at its helm. Also consider Itsu/Pret style shops, with impactful branding and graphics on the floor. You can look into takeaway/delivery-only kitchens with creative food packaging. Extra brownie points for eco-friendly packing! We are working with a Vietnamese restaurant in London at the moment to use clever packaging to build out loyalty, repeat orders, and engagement.

Image caption: Mei Mei has adapted its offer during the pandemic to focus on takeaway service | Image credit: B3 Designers

HK: Speaking of food delivery, it does mean that restaurants are reliant on the large delivery services that eat into their revenue considerably. How can they move away from using the shared delivery systems?

MB: Yes, indeed! Have you heard of Mumbai’s dabbawalas? It’s an incredible concept. Think localised kitchens, subscription meals, and your own fleet of delivery folk racing food on bicycles. Typically, a kitchen will cook a few hundred meals a day. The subscription lunch will include food that can be batch cooked – so a lentil dish, a curry, rice, and perhaps some bread. This is then packed into stainless steel “tiffin” boxes, and delivered quickly, while the food is still hot. Because the kitchens are localised, nobody is travelling more than a couple of kilometers and they are often the service teams themselves. The previous day’s box is picked up and brought back – no packaging waste!

Food trucks are another way to circumvent delivery commissions. With all the right permissions, you could set up in a park/outdoor space and serve up anything you want to, really. Think also about drive-throughs or walk-past counters for food pick up. You can even offer an interesting experience (graphics/games) while they wait in line.

Image caption: Gourmet takeaway food truck | Image credit: B3 Designers

Image caption: Gourmet takeaway food truck | Image credit: B3 Designers

HK: What about fine dining, how can businesses integrate social distancing into this concept?

MB: Without a doubt, fine dining is going to change for a while. Restaurants that get very crowded are going to have to give customers more room – which can be quite cool if you think about it.

Smaller restaurants however, are quite fortunate and can use their spaces to offer truly caring experiences. We have worked with Michelin star winning Chef Tom Aikens in the past, whose restaurant Muse spans 950 sq ft. “Muse is very unique in that it is for guests not only looking for great food in a very special restaurant, but welcomes them as if they were in their own home. Guests will always get special care and now more than ever, of being looked after and pampered,” said Aikens.

If you have outdoor space, however small, milk it. Erect pods or beautiful temporary structures. Adapt for weather changes with fans and space heaters. You could also think about bringing your restaurant completely outside – are you on a street that could be pedestrianised, or do you have parking space that could be converted?

For indoor spaces, think gorgeous on-brand free standing folding screens. In hotels, use your banquet rooms as restaurants so you can offer more space between tables.

If you want to be really creative, as the rules relax more, consider catering services for small gatherings, or even a fine dining experience that you can take to people’s homes. We may follow off where you mention that Muse is small, and say that it is massive in experience.

HK: Is there a way for F&B professionals to go where customers already are?

MB: Supermarkets and the internet! This is a great time to consider creating your own line of sauces/pastas/food kits. Paired with solid branding and graphics, it could open up a whole new stream of revenue. Could you create barbecue kits for example, with recipes and ingredients?

We are spending a ridiculous amount of time on the internet now. Host cooking lessons and sell kits after. And remember to up your digital presence – it is the only way people will learn of your restaurant/hotel’s F&B offerings.

Main image credit: B3 Designers

LOCATION WATCH: Hot hotels opening soon in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

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LOCATION WATCH: Hot hotels opening soon in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

Ever since Hotel Designs started the concept-to-completion article series with SB Architects to cover the honest journey to design and build Conrad Punta Mita, Riviera Nayarit has been on our editorial team’s radar. Here editor Hamish Kilburn discovers which other hotels are opening in the area soon…

Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, a remote 192-mile-long coastline that frames the majestic Sierra Madre mountains, is tipped to be in hot demand once travel restrictions have lifted. Later this year, the region will welcome two new five-star luxury properties for those looking for isolated remote escapes whilst keeping hygiene, health, and wellness front of mind.

Riviera Nayarit is welcoming two unrivalled luxury hotel openings (Conrad Punta Mita and One & Only Mandarina), that will complete its extensive luxury hotel offering, in preparation to be one of the most anticipated destinations of 2021.

Conrad Punta de Mita

Accepting reservations now and opening in October, Conrad Punta de Mita is a new 325-key property that will offer a tranquil retreat for guests, surrounded by palm trees and the Pacific Ocean. Explored by our team throughout its design and build, the hotel draws influence from Mexico’s rich history and unique culture, indigenous artwork integrates with the luxurious amenities to create an environment that will allow visitors to connect authentically to nature and to the sophisticated, contemporary architectural design.

Image credit: Conrad Hotels/SB Architects

Dovetailing with the dramatic scenery, resort bungalows, pavilions, and cabanas are nestled in coastal vegetation and all boast views of the aquamarine ocean, with suites offering fully-furnished kitchens and living rooms, perfect for larger groups, large patios, plunge pools, freestanding soaking tubs and outdoor showers.

Hilton’s first Conrad-branded resort property in Mexico will be set in the same private development as the Litibu Golf Course, an 18-hole experience designed by Greg Norman. 

One&Only Madarina

One&Only Mandarina is located just north of Punta Mita, on a spectacular cliff-side overlooking the Pacific Ocean with dramatic vistas and a lush rainforest setting. Blending chic interiors amid the lush jungle wilderness, the resort offers a combination of 104 free-standing villas that float above the treetops or perch against the cliffs – each with their own private plunge pool. 

Image credit: One&Only

Allowing nature to take centre stage, One&Only Mandarina has been designed and built to respect and blend with the environment. Experts were consulted on the development of the resort to minimise the effect on the existing natural landscape, and careful low-density planning has preserved the ecological importance of the destination. 

In addition, the resort will feature 54 Private Homes, among the first One&Only residences in the world. Available to own, One&Only Mandarina Private Homes offer privacy, seclusion, and comfort with unparalleled service – offering luxury resort living for a privileged few. 

The hotels will join an already thriving luxury hospitality scene and will sit alongside St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, Imanta Resorts Punta de Mita and other luxury hotels and villas.

Main image credit: One&Only

In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Design legend Jean-Michel Gathy

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Design legend Jean-Michel Gathy

If the renders on the boards are anything to go by, Jean-Michel Gathy, who is widely considered as one of the industry’s finest, has embarked on one of his most ambitious hospitality projects to date, to design Amaala Island. Editor Hamish Kilburn learns more…

There is not a hotel designer or architect alive today who has not heard of the name Jean-Michel Gathy, and for good reason. The creative mastermind, who doesn’t just design but more reinvents hotel experiences, has been repainting the backdrop of luxury for what is coming up to three decades.

Not shy of his ambition – he once stated that he wanted to be the first person to design a hotel on the moon – Gathy’s approach to a project is all-encompassing, allowing him to further push (and at times break through) conventional barriers.

Arrival experience, luxury

Image credit: Capella Sanya, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

His latest project, Amaala Island will be an ultra luxury resort destination spanning three sites, a first for the region of Saudi Arabia. Designed to evolve and elevate the very best in travel, the island is an ultra-luxury destination that focuses on curating transformative personal journeys inspired by arts, wellness and the purity of the Red Sea.

To find out more about the project, and in homage to the designer’s award-winning career, I managed to speak to the architect/designer.

Hamish Kilburn: Jean-Michel, how will the ultra-luxe Amaala Island – aka the “Diamond of the Red Sea” – challenge conventional island developments?

Jean-Michel Gathy: The development of ‘The Island’ will be an immersive and interactive art-inspired jewel. Its lifestyle components, its landscaping, the museums, and art installations together with the art community will transform this island into the “Diamond of the Red Sea”. It will feature many different venues for permanent installations or temporary exhibitions and artistic performances. The graphic layout of its spine will be distinctive from the air and will be recognised internationally as an iconic landmark. The project features all elements programmed and reflects the areas, numbers and facilities. This is truly unique, nothing like it has ever been planned before.

“It’s not a matter of a specific place; it is the fact that when you travel, your mind is continually challenged by the happenings around you.” – Jean-Michel Gathy

HK: How does your approach differ when designing a destination from you’re designing a hotel?

JMG: Constant travel is a huge part of the job. It allows me to observe and to be constantly inquisitive about my surroundings. Travelling builds a subconscious library of ideas, which are expressed in my work and helps my ideas remain innovative and fresh. It’s not a matter of a specific place; it is the fact that when you travel, your mind is continually challenged by the happenings around you. It’s not about where you travel, either – what counts is that you explore. No matter where you are, every country has something new to offer in terms of inspiration.

Luxury spa area that frames unspoilt view through rustic blinds

Image credit: Image credit: The Chedi Muscat, Oman, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

HK: What have been some of your design highlights in your career?

JMG: Perhaps the one for which I am most renowned is the overwater hammocks or ‘basking nets’, which I initiated in the Maldives at the One&Only Reethi Rah in 2000. Until then, you would find balustrades around the terraces of villas. I decided to alter that – if anyone was going to fall off the terrace, they could fall on to the nets. And I put scatter cushions on them.

Image credit: One&Only Reethi Rah Maldives, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

Today, just about every hotel uses this idea. Another pioneering step was turning standalone tents for safari-style camps into a commodity. The accommodation at these hotels used to be basic but this started to change after I designed luxurious tents for the Amanwana in 1990. I am also known for my oversized, dramatic swimming pools such as the one on the roof of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Large, oversized swimming pool

Image credit: The Setai Miami, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What has been the most demanding request you have received from a client to date?

JMG: I guess I take every client that I work with as a challenge more than a demanding request.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?

JMG: I would love to travel to Iceland to see its rugged landscapes, glaciers, rough seas, hot springs and volcanoes. I’d also like to visit the south of Chile and the peninsula of Kamchatka in Russia, which has extraordinary wildlife and endless forests.

HK: What’s your biggest indulgence when travelling?

JMG: Collecting art – I like to collect and invest in local artwork whilst on my travels.

HK: What lesson would you teach to your younger self?

JMG: The pathway to success is never easy, it takes hard work, dedication and passion.

HK: If you could design a hotel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

JMG: I’d love to design a hotel in Antarctica. There’s an ice hotel in Sweden, but that’s only open four months a year, so I want to do one that permanently remains ice.

HK: What’s been your favourite year on the international design scene?

JMG: To be honest, every year working with my team at Denniston has been and is special to me.

HK: What’s one item you cannot travel without?

JMG: I travel light, but I always ensure I have a cashmere scarf for the plane, and a sweater (I’m a big cashmere fan). I also travel with my camera, a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

“The hotels where you arrive and lay on the beach and do nothing have progressively disappeared.” – Jean-Michel Gathy.

HK: How is the perception of luxury changing – and how is this evolving the way in which you create spaces in the luxury arena?

JMG: Before, hotels were just a place where you go and relax. Today, guests are connected: they want spas, they want food and beverage, they want activities, they want things to do. The hotels where you arrive and lay on the beach and do nothing have progressively disappeared, because life is such that people have become more and more active. I think luxury property clients are now asking for more than simply great rooms. They want retail facilities, a cinema, an extraordinary spa, award-winning F&B offerings and outdoor activities all integrated into the hotel.

“In terms of reliability, price strategy, and brand positioning, Toyota is a fantastic commercial car – but I prefer a Bentley.” – Jean-Michel Gathy.

HK: What’s the value of having designers and architects in your practice?

JMG: There are many good architects, but we have a specific niche. I’m going to compare us to branding: thousands of people buy Toyotas, but few people buy Bentleys. I believe that we are more Bentley than Toyota. This doesn’t mean that a Toyota is not a good car. In terms of reliability, price strategy, and brand positioning, Toyota is a fantastic commercial car – but I prefer a Bentley. Designers are the same; many prefer commercial projects and properties, because their interest is financial. They just want to make money, which means they’re not romantic about their projects. Then you have other designers, which is where I belong, who are more interested in the success of the project, the excitement of the journey of designing a hotel, and having the pride of making something fantastic, even though you earn less money.

Restaurant overlooking ocean in the Maldives

Image credit: One&Only Maldives, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

HK: Has the way in which you source inspiration changed over the years?

JMG: I’m someone who designs from the heart so my style is one that’s charismatic. It’s not an ego trip like the architects who design for themselves. I design elements that are a composition of dramatic effect; I create large and dramatic space, in opposition to intimate areas, so the space is always dynamic. Secondly, I design for the sensation you get out of it. I want every space in the hotel to be comfortable and for my clients to come back and say, I like this space. Sometimes they don’t know why they like it, but if they walk in and feel good, I know I’ve succeeded.

And succeeded Gathy has in widening the path of innovative hotel experiences in far-flung destinations around the world. While his past hotel projects have firmly etched his name into the architecture, design and luxury hospitality history books, his latest ideas and concepts that are currently on the boards highlight Gathy and Denniston’s ambitions. Inspired by his worldly perspective of design and architecture, I believe that Gathy’s aspiration is yet to peak as he continues to think big with the future landscape of luxury international hotel design patiently waiting in his sketchbook for its cue to emerge.

Main image credit: Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

VIRTUAL ROUNDTABLE: The role of UV lighting in hotel design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
VIRTUAL ROUNDTABLE: The role of UV lighting in hotel design

With the industry’s attention focused towards possible solutions following the Covid-19 crisis, Hotel Designs, in collaboration with the human-centric lighting brand humanlumen, has brought together a handful of industry experts to discuss UV lighting’s role in the post-pandemic world. Editor Hamish Kilburn moderates… 

On the panel: 

Recently, humanlumen switched on our attention at Hotel Designs to focus our editorial gaze, during pandemic paralysis, towards the possibilities and boundaries of architectural lighting design. The launch of the brand’s Clean Air Series inspired us to investigate how figureheads of the industry are reacting to UV Lighting.

No question was off limit as the panel of interior designers and lighting designers put humanlumen through its paces to understand Clean Air Series and UV lighting’s role on tomorrow’s hygienic hospitality scene.

Hamish Kilburn: Andrew, so that everyone can familiarise themselves with the product, can you briefly explain humanlumen’s Clean Air Series?

Andrew Boydell: We have invested a lot of time and money in the new technology around UV lighting and its effects on bacteria in the workplace as well as in hospitality spaces. We believe that UV lighting in these areas is going to be fairly revolutionary going forward. From a hospitality point of view, we have developed Clean Air Series, a purification product that integrates a high level of UV light within the system. This allows up to 300 cubic-metres of air to be cleaned in four hours – think of it as a remote AC unit with multiple UV light chambers. 

Image caption: humanlumen’s Clean Air Series UV Lighting unit.

Mark Elliott: There has been a lot of research around the risks attached to UV lighting around eyesight and artwork, for example. One of the benefits of using LED lights over halogen lights is that the reduced UV prevents issues such as degrading artwork/finishes. How have you considered this in Clean Air Series?

AB: The product that has gone to market is a completely sealed unit. There are nine high intensity UV bulbs within a purification unit, which is basically an aluminium housing. Within that unit is a motor, a cooling unit and a number of chambers. The air is passed through the chambers, and no UV light is exposed to the outside world. It has been a major consideration of ours, as well as an engineering challenge.

“As manufacturers and designers, we all need to start looking and thinking outside the box now!” – Chris Peach, Principal lighting designer, FUTURE Designs.

HK: Mark, has UV Lighting been on your radar as a lighting designer?

ME: From our perspective, to be honest, it’s not something we have been investigating, which is probably because our focus as lighting designers is the beautification of spaces while enabling task-based solutions. However, it’s interesting to hear how lighting is being used to create more sterile environments.

Chris Peach: As manufacturers and designers, we all need to start looking and thinking outside the box now! With the ability to integrate the UV element within a luminaire could have major benefits. UV lighting is used throughout hospital environments, and there has to be a way of integrating that in hospitality.

Ariane Steinbeck: I want to continuously led by science. What I know that has been proven is that the detectability of the Covid-19 virus continues for between two and three hours in an aerosol format. What scientists don’t know yet is how much virus is needed to make you sick. From a practical standpoint, when this lighting is switched on out of hours, and the virus has settled on different surfaces, what does your product do to eliminate it?

AB: There are three elements: airborne particulates, surface particulates and particulates carried on the person. Airborne has been tackled with a continuous clean air unit that will run 24/7. Essentially, you will leave that in a hospitality space throughout the day. The surface element is different. The exposed UV light’s role, to be used when someone is not in that space, will help to clean the surfaces, and be used in harmony with the cleaners. We have been investigating an exposed UV product that will clean 25 square-metres of space. Of course, there would have to be a very clear protocol of use and we are looking at this to be linked to a control system so it can be activated when the room is not active. For a typical hotel room, we are estimating that this process will take an hour.

HK: What are the pitfalls in today’s lighting design?

Dylan Wills: Across the board, everyone would value in being more educated in lighting technology. Too often is lighting an afterthought behind the interior design itself.

David Mason: A lot of clients realise the benefits of lighting designers. There was a time where we would only ever use lighting designers in high-end projects. Now, though, we collaborate with lighting designers for most of the hotel projects we work on. 

“As soon as we all started to save energy and technology advanced, lighting design became a lot more convoluted.” – Mark Elliott, Global Creative Director, FPOV.

Neil Andrew: I worked on a project once where they didn’t have a lighting consultant. When I had won the argument to bring one on, they ended up removing 30 downlights, which of course saved a lot of money.

ME: As soon as we all started to save energy and technology advanced, lighting design became a lot more convoluted. As a lighting designer, keeping up-to-date with tech every day is very complex. That has driven designers to realise that they are not experts in that area.

HK: From a wellbeing perspective, how is lighting climbing up on the agenda in hospitality?

ME: I think we can take inspiration from the aviation industry. There have been studies carried out on how significant lighting can be to help combat jet lag. I’m not sure about UV lighting, but there are certainly applications at the moment on lighting being used to enhance wellbeing in hospitality.

NA: In terms of mental health, it’s hard to know the impact of Covid-19 right now, but I guess in general the big one for me is circadian lighting systems. The research and technology that will allow a room to intuitively adjust the lighting to where you have travelled from in order to aid jet lag is pretty impressive.

DM: We were working with a hotel chain to design windowless rooms. The idea behind the lighting was so that you could adjust the lighting to time zones. This also worked around your circadian rhythms.

HK: In these sessions, we always try to look at these new innovations and conversations with clients and budgets in mind. How realistic is it therefore for you to pitch these new innovations to clients?

DW: In this exact moment in time, the focus should be on the businesses that are having to reopen hotels in cost-effective ways. Adding new products that will incorporate expenditure will be a big focus. We have been speaking to hotel operators who are just moving furniture around and changing the lobby configuration because they simply don’t have the money to spend.

I can see UV lighting being integrated into new-builds. However, with existing buildings it will be difficult considering the financial positions of developers and operators at the moment.

ME: I believe there are two sides in this. On the one side there are people who are trying to cut corners, while others are trying to find a unique sales point. Also, the more a piece of technology gets adopted, the cheaper it becomes. When that happens, the benefits are then able to be used on a wider scale.

AS: I believe, at this point, everyone is trying to ‘out market’ their cleaning protocols. Personally, I doubt it will inspire the consumer to choose one brand over the other. There was a big opportunity missed to do something unanimous across all brands in all countries to inspire confidence. In terms of mandating improvements, it will be difficult because hotel owners are struggling to pay the bills.

HK: So Andrew, is the product better suited to new-builds?

AB: Not necessarily. We were approached yesterday by a boutique chain with nine hotels. They were looking for us to fit the UVC light units and the centric lighting units in their existing properties

DW: There is another sector of the market that we should highlight, and that’s distressed assets. As we move forward, we will see hotel operators purchasing those struggling hotels and rebranding them to become new products. There, I see the UV lighting working and it will instil security in consumers’ minds.

AS: What is the cost of one of these units?

AB: It’s variable depending on the volume. But if you work between the parameter of 1,200 – £1,700 per unit.

NA: How visible are these units?

AB: The best way I can describe them is similar to a free-standing water dispenser. The unit is mobile and will sit in the corner of the room.

Matthew Voaden: I’m assuming that you are looking at exposed UV units in guestrooms and the purification in public areas?

AB: The exposed UV will benefit the turnaround, for sure. The air purification unit will give a constant purification of the space.

HK: Where do you see lighting in hospitality going in the future?

“One of the main elements I see being a focus of innovation in the future is control systems.” – David Mason, Director and Head of Hospitality, Scott Brownrigg.

DM: The margin between too much lighting and not enough lighting is very small. Most guests, I would argue, checking into a hotel want something simple.

ME: David’s right, people want flexibility. They want it to be intuitive. It’s a challenge to operate all those functions and not have a complex control system as a result. It’s a mass quandary. One of the main elements I see being a focus of innovation in the future is control systems. I can see these systems using tech that is embedded in each fitting so that the consumer can control each light from one device.

DM: That, as well as Covid-19, will steer more things being operational from your own device.

ME: Lighting is a constant; it is everywhere. Development of lighting will be multiple carriers of different things, which as a result simplifies ceilings. A good lighting solution is tailored to work around any space.

DW: Lighting design and interior design have to work hand-in-hand. Decisions have to be communicated throughout the entire process.

DM: This is going to be a catalyst in a lot of industries. I believe there is going to be a lot more collaboration between other industries to discover purposeful solutions.

HK: What lighting solutions are you integrating into the projects you are working on at the moment?

ME: David and I are working on a hotel where in the public spaces there will be a focus on day to night technology.

DM: We wanted to create a particular experience in the corridors, which are currently long and bland. Together with FPOV, we developed and prototyped a light fitting and it will now be manufactured and installed. Together we were able to get the client on board with this and it really does come down to designers working closely together to produce the best solution.

AS: Making things simpler is our objective. If we can add benefits that are automatic then that’s even better and I am looking forward to seeing what added value UV lighting can bring to the table.

HK: So there you have it, collaborations between designers, manufacturers and specialists are allowing the industry to navigate a clean path forward in hospitality for a post-pandemic world. In case there was any doubt, UV lighting is now on the agenda as today’s hotel designers are looking for new ways to functionally adapt spaces so that they meet the hygienic demands of tomorrow’s travellers with the ever-evolving demands for characterful, design-led spaces. If you would like to have your say on UV Lighting and other lighting solutions, please tweet us @hoteldesigns.

humanlumen, which is based in Clerkenwell, is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here. And, if you are interested in also benefitting from this  three-month editorial package, please email Katy Phillips by clicking here.

In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Robert Whitfield, GM of The Dorchester

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In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Robert Whitfield, GM of The Dorchester

With the UK hospitality industry drastically adjusting its strategy during lockdown, Hotel Designs takes the opportunity to re-connect with one of the world’s most prestigious hotel brands, Dorchester Collection. Editor Hamish Kilburn speaks to Robert Whitfield, the brand’s Regional Director (UK) & General Manager of The Dorchester

For centuries, Mayfair’s leafy Park Lane has been the epicentre of London’s luxury hospitality scene. At present, though, the streets are bare and the extravagant entrances into opulent lobbies and extraordinary lifestyles remain (for the time being at least) sealed shut – and its not the kind of lock-in one is familiar with.

Among the five-star (currently empty) shells stretched along the east side of Hyde Park is The Dorchester, an iconic place that really does define its destination. Since its grand opening in 1931 – the same year the Empire State Building was completed in New York – the hotel, designed by architects William Curtis Green and Sir Owen Williams, has been setting new standards in premium hospitality.

89 years from when the famous doors first opened, the hotel stands majestically as ever having adapted sensitively to meet the demands of modern luxury travellers while also retaining its illustrious character. However, it, along with the rest of the hospitality industry, is facing unprecedented times, as the COVID–19 pandemic sends hospitality into paralysation.

To learn more about what the hotel is doing during lockdown, as well as celebrating its recent successes, I speak to the man at the helm, Robert Whitfield, who is the Regional Director UK of Dorchester Collection and General Manager of The Dorchester.

Hamish Kilburn: Robert, can you tell us a bit more about how The Dorchester is coping during the global health crisis, and how are you staying connected with your community?

Robert Whitfield: There is no denying that the global crisis has hit everyone hard, and sadly the hospitality industry is one of the worst to be affected. However, what it has re-affirmed for me is the true connection our team members have, keeping morale high and each other in good spirits. If you work in hospitality you have a natural instinct to want to be around people and make them feel at home, it’s in our DNA. So, we have channelled that passion into further helping our community.

Image caption: The living room inside the Harlequin at The Dorchester-

Image caption: The living room inside the Harlequin at The Dorchester

The Dorchester is very proud to have established an ongoing partnership with Manorfield Primary School in East London, working closely with pupils and staff on a number of initiatives since 2019, including helping raise funds to go towards developing their learning kitchen and donating furniture for areas of the school. As part of our continued partnership and as a response to the current global health crisis, we are providing chefs from The Dorchester’s staff restaurant to cook for the faculty and children of parents who are part of the essential workforce. We are also offering recipe classes to the pupils of the school to help keep them engaged and interested in cooking.

Every evening, The Dorchester illuminates in bright blue as a ‘thank you’ to the NHS and essential workers. Employees of The Dorchester, 45 Park Lane, and Coworth Park have pledged their support to the NHS and are assisting in the donation and distribution of food and necessary supplies to those impacted by COVID-19.

Image caption: During the COVID–19 pandemic, The Dorchester illuminates in bright blue each evening as a nod and ‘thank you’ to the NHS and essential workers

Executive chef Stefan Trepp and executive pastry chef Daniel Texter, along with chefs Jordan Champions and Sanjam Nagpal, handcrafted Easter Eggs for distribution amongst patients and staff of Great Ormond Street Hospital to help them celebrate the Easter weekend.

Dorchester Collection has also donated £25,000 on behalf of its UK hotels to Hospitality Action, a non-profit who supports hospitality workers who are in need and to help feed their families. Several colleagues have also signed up to the Golden Friends scheme via Hospitality Action and are making regular check-in calls to hospitality retirees in isolation due to the crisis.

Image caption: The living room inside The Dorchester's Terrace Penthouse

Image caption: The elegant living room that captures a unique London skyline vista inside The Dorchester’s Terrace Penthouse

HK: How do you stay connected to guests when they aren’t able to physically come to visit the hotels?

RW: Several of our team members have fostered great relationships with our guests over the years and are in regular contact with them via calls and email. We are also engaged with our most loyal guests to keep them in touch with news and updates from the hotel.

One of the best ways for us to stay connected to our guests after they have stayed with us is through our social media platforms. We are transferring our team’s talents online, showcasing our chef’s recipes and how-to’s, as-well-as expert tips from our sommelier or florist. This is a fun way for our social community to still see the smiley faces of some of our team members and hopefully learn a thing or two.

Quick-fire round:

HK: What is your favourite luxury item that you own?
RW:
My MGB sports car

HK: What was the last hotel you stayed in and what was the purpose of the trip?
RW:
The Pendry in San Diego meeting up with my kids for the Presidents Day Holiday weekend.

HK: In three words, can you describe the Dorchester Collection family?
RW:
Caring, passionate, fun-loving! 

HK: What superpower would make your job easier?
RW:
Teleporting.

HK: Why is Britain such a hub for luxury hotels?

RW: The hospitality sector contributes hugely to the British economy, with the hotel industry in particular a significant contributing factor. The growth of the hotel market over the last few years here, and indeed looking at what’s to come over the next couple of years, clearly demonstrates how important Britain, and London in particular, is a world class destination for leisure and business travellers.

“You also cannot deny that certain charm Britain has, which lends itself perfectly to hotels at the luxury end of the market.” – Robert Whitfield, Regional Director UK & General Manager of The Dorchester.

It makes sense, then, that some of the world’s most renowned luxury hotel brands are opening their doors in Britain. You also cannot deny that certain charm Britain has, which lends itself perfectly to hotels at the luxury end of the market – travellers are drawn to the rich history and heritage of a quintessentially British experience. Combine that with the fact that Britain occupies a vibrant position on the world stage and it’s a winning destination for the luxury traveller.

It is not just London at the forefront of luxury hospitality; across the country you have the best hotels in the world. Coworth Park in Ascot celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year and from the moment it opened became one of the world’s best country house hotels and remains at the top a decade later.

HK: How does The Dorchester differentiate luxury on the London hotel scene?

RW: There are many hotels that claim to provide the best in luxury, whether it’s the biggest pool, or most expensive wine list, but for The Dorchester our definition of luxury is: service. How do you feel when you come to stay with us? How can we go above and beyond what you were expecting? That is what is most important, everything else is just a given, and for us to be world leaders in service really is a testament our talented people.

HK: How has luxury changed since you started in hospitality?

RW: The biggest change has to be the level of competition, especially in London where all the global luxury players want to have a presence. And that’s a good thing. It has kept London’s hospitality scene at the top of its game.

Luxury used to be about the physical elements of a hotel. The décor, the facilities and this has evolved away from the material to the experiential. Personalised service and recognition is more valued. The guest is also more sophisticated and knowledgeable. Search engines allow access to so much information our team members need to stay up to date and have an intimate knowledge of the very best experiences that might appeal to our guests.

We look for ways to surprise and delight our guests with small and meaningful touches. Often, it is the small things that make all the difference.

“Before I started my role at Dorchester Collection I spent ten years at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii, and prior to this I worked for the company in California and Nevis in the Caribbean.” – Robert Whitfield, Regional Director UK & General Manager of The Dorchester.

HK: How has travel enriched your life and made you into the hotelier you are today?

RW: I have been lucky enough to work in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Before I started my role at Dorchester Collection I spent ten years at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii, and prior to this I worked for the company in California and Nevis in the Caribbean. Having that experience, learning how other countries approach service and operate day-to-day, has really helped inform my management style here in London. I was able to travel to a wide variety of locations from Bora Bora, to Bali, to Jackson Hole in Wyoming to the snowy peaks of Whistler.

I have developed an appreciation for different cultures and for diversity and the strength that this can bring to a business. It has also told me that service is about humility and caring for others. I am so proud to have worked with some extraordinary people who have shaped my career and taught me so much. Many lessons have come from my bosses, but also from the employees I have worked with.

HK: There has been a huge buzz around the re-launch of The Grill at The Dorchester. Why did you choose to relaunch?

RW: The Grill has been an integral part of The Dorchester since the opening in 1931, in order to keep the restaurant busy you need to ensure its identity and offering is relevant to your guests. We appointed Tom Booton, who happens to be our youngest ever head chef of The Grill, to lead the next chapter of the restaurant, supported by a fantastic team of fresh talent. The idea of creating an experience that would juxtaposition away from people’s  more traditional expectations of The Grill at The Dorchester was exciting and Tom was the perfect catalyst that made this come to life.

Image caption: Head chef of The Grill, Tom Booton and a few of his  special dishes on the new menu

Our aim was to create a more relaxed dining experience for guests through the development of new menus and a series of interior updates. The most prominent interior change is our statement ‘Pudding Bar’, which adds an element of theatre to the dining experience. Guests are invited to dine here for their final course to watch the pastry chefs in action.

HK: How will the newly adapted restaurant embrace the legacy of the 89-year-old hotel while also reflect the future of luxury F&B offerings?

RW: Our rich past matched with our ability to embrace ‘the new’ is deeply rooted in The Dorchester’s culture, and our guests are charmed by that.

At its core, The Dorchester has always been a hotel to celebrate. The new chapter of The Grill is no exception, and Tom’s dishes alone are a reason to come back to visit. Original features of the restaurant have remained, but new elements such as The Grill Bar, with a cocktail menu by award winning senior bartender Lucia Montanelli, and the Pudding Bar concept offer something new.

HK: You have, for the first time, a physical florist boutique within the hotel. Can you tell us more about this project?

RW: The Dorchester has become world-famous for its floral arrangements, all to the credit of our in-house designer florist Philip Hammond and his fantastic team. It is also a place of celebration. Guests come to celebrate, birthdays, anniversaries and all kinds of milestone moments in their lives. Flowers are a wonderful sign of celebration. We wanted to create a physical space where guests and visitors to the hotel could buy flowers and we found the perfect spot at the entrance to The Promenade.

Image caption: Philip Hammond, the Florist at The Dorchester

Image caption: Philip Hammond, the Florist at The Dorchester

We coincided the boutique opening with the launch of ‘The Dorchester Rose’, which is a really beautiful new variety of rose. The rose took seven years to make and was created by Meijer Roses, a family company with a long tradition of creating the highest quality roses who selected The Dorchester to carry the name of this new variety. The rose now fills the entirety of The Promenade and the colour is perfect to complement the interior tones of The Dorchester.

Main image credit: Dorchester Collection

Editor Checks In: Emerging from pandemic paralysis

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: Emerging from pandemic paralysis

As the lockdown measures continue to the halt the industry’s reawakening from its slumber, editor Hamish Kilburn confronts the pandemic from a new vantage point…

The front cover of this month’s US Condé Nast Traveler has managed to harmonise the opinions of the uncertain, and no-doubt anxious, hospitality, design and travel industries worldwide.

“See the world in a new light” was the entirely relevant theme that the always forward-thinking Editor-in-Chief, Melinda Stevens, chose to run. I like to imagine the decision was made while working from home, after a new-found mindset enabled the self-isolating editorial desk to take a deep exhale before thinking about future issues, both in print as well as the complexities that lie ahead for the now-suffering travel industry.

“My role, I feel, is to identify how we, the international hotel design and hospitality industry, can emerge from the hibernation with a positive mental attitude when looking towards the future with (dare I say it) optimism.”

I say this because, as well as cheerleading Stevens’ sharp and at-times eccentric writing style from afar, I too am trying to broaden my horizons to look past the pandemic paralysis. My role, I feel, is to identify how we, the international hotel design and hospitality industry, can emerge from the hibernation with a positive mental attitude when looking towards the future with (dare I say it) optimism. As I write this, I am reminded by a friend that Issac Newton discovered the law of gravity while in self-isolation from the Great Plague of London. The point being that a change of focus – a welcome break from studio life, commuting hell and general disruption from our typical weekly routine – may just allow us to bury our heads into new drawings to metaphorically sketch the route towards a fresh, creative destination that is waiting on the other side.

Going back to drawing board is not only relevant for designers and architects, but also hoteliers in order to maximise service with design. In this month’s exclusive roundtable, it was mentioned that many hotels are using this time to enter a ‘re-opening’ mindset. For some leading luxury establishments, which opened nearly a decade ago, their doors being forced shut is an opportunity to confront challenges and to tweak and enhance the hotel’s design and service so that when it reopens, it is more relevant to tomorrow’s travellers and their hefty demands.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about how the pandemic will impact the industry in the long-term. But one thing, among others, is  crystal clear: post-pandemic, the definition of hospitality as we know it will change, perhaps permanently, to become more of an inclusive lifestyle where formalities are dissolved. Many designers, of course, such Geraldine Dohogne, the former Head of Design at Zannier Hotels, have caught on to this already, and are using this time to plot the ambiance of hospitality and lifestyle brands that will arrive in the future to challenge the conventional shells of yesterday’s luxury hotels.

Exhibitions, as we know them, are being forced to confront the inevitable change of scenery that lies ahead in the next chapter. HIX, for example, has themed its debut event ‘All together now’. The all-new interiors event that takes place in November at the Business Design Centre is encouraging designers to go as far as “unlearning what they know about industry” in order to explore new behavioural patterns and shifting perceptions that are dictating tomorrow’s hotel design landscape. The aim, with a dynamic exhibition line-up and inspirational speakers, is to inspire new and meaningful concepts to allow our industry the freedom to continue churning out boundless possibilities for tomorrow’s hotel guests. Sleep & Eat has also announced its return to London Olympia in November with its focus being on collaborations. “As we emerge from the crisis, there will be a vital need for new collaborations, new engagements and different ways of doing things,” explained the show’s director, Mark Gordon.

During the turbulent times that we are currently self-isolating in, Hotel Designs is committed to ensure that the industry is supported. Therefore, in direct response to the COVID–19 pandemic, we have launched an ‘Industry Support Package’ to help brands to engage with the hospitality sector spanning designers, architects, hoteliers, developers and those that supply to the industry. The exclusive package includes, among other benefits, three pieces of editorial content. If you would like to learn more on how you can take advantage of this one-time offer, please email Katy Phillips.

As the pandemic forces us to get used to a ‘new normal’ and to, as Stevens puts it: “see the world in a new light”, Hotel Designs has launched its official podcast. Six months in planning, DESIGN POD is the contemporary podcast for all on-the-go interior designers and architects globally– and will launch episode 1 shortly after the lockdown measures are relaxed.

In the meantime, the editorial team will keep you updated on all the latest developments in the COVID–19 crisis, while also supplying you with some inspirational content to speed up that much-needed change of perception. And, just for laughs, here are some images that capture freer times…

We will be released back into the wild again shortly… In the meantime, feel free to keep in touch with our team on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, because we are all in this fight together.

Editor, Hotel Designs

Main image credit: Zannier Hotels/tibodhermy

MINIVIEW: Equinox Hotel, New York – the world’s ‘fittest’ hotel

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
MINIVIEW: Equinox Hotel, New York – the world’s ‘fittest’ hotel

The luxury fitness and wellbeing brand Equinox opened its debut hotel to sit proudly in the epicentre of New York City’s Hudson Yards, an iconic architectural marvel that reflects a new style of neighbourhood. Editor Hamish Kilburn explores… 

Until recently, the Equinox brand was limited to the cluster of exceptional fitness and wellbeing clubs in major cities dotted around the world.

However, in June of 2019, the affluent brand hit a major milestone by opening its first ever hotel –not a surprising move considering the link between wellbeing, fitness and hospitality that has strengthened over the years.

The hotel is sheltered within a 14-storey limestone and glass skyscraper designed by architecture firm SOM, and is situated in the heart of Hudson Yards, a major up-and-coming neighbourhood along Manhatten’s westside that is arguably most known for Thomas Heatherwick’s The Vessel, an elaborate honeycomb-like structure that rises 16 stories. Adjacent to the giant public space, Equinox’s new hub has settled in and is setting standards.

Designed by David Rockwell and Joyce Wang to evoke comfort, creativity and focus, the ‘world’s fittest hotel’, as Hotel Designs labelled it ahead of its opening, is an ideal hub to meet, eat, sleep and connect. Extraordinary environments, such as a co-working community space, and thoughtfully chosen elements come together in order to reimagine how people move, eat, sleep, work, and live.

Sunset pool

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

From the moment guests arrive at the 212-key hotel, and throughout their stay, they are immersed in a world that the brand describes as “infinite possibilities”.

When it come to specifying the luxury elements inside, selecting products and materials that fit perfectly with the Equinox aesthetic was paramount. In addition to Zaha Hadid Design sofas in the public areas, all guestrooms feature the brand’s proprietary sleep system that ensures the best quality sleep. Complete with total soundproofing, a total-blackout window system, the areas also include CocoMat all natural fibre mattresses and Scandinavian-style duvets that allow temperature regulation. In true Equinox fashion, each guestroom and suite comes with a foam roller, yoga mat, blocks and straps, whilst the mini bar contains a juice press and magnesium-based sleep supplements.

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

Elsewhere, in the presidential suites, British brand Lusso Stone was chosen by the nominated interior designer to supply its Vetrina stone bath. With an ergonomic design, smooth contours and matte black finish, the timeless piece complements the hotel’s vision of performance and regeneration. “The Equinox project is something we are incredibly proud to be a part of as it allows us to showcase our designs in a truly unique setting in the beautiful and exclusive project in New York,” said Mike Manders from Lusso Stone. “We’re constantly evolving as a company and we make sure that we know exactly what we want to develop next. Whether it’s a new design, expansion or the latest bathroom collection, we want to be leading the charge in design and innovation.”

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

Fresh, seasonal flavours, market-driven menus and dynamic social spaces work in harmony to create modern and clean F&B areas. On the menu, as well as in the architectural design aesthetic, discipline and decadence merge.

The modern and contemporary bar area

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

Upstairs, the iconic rooftop bar operates in an open-air casual setting, and all activity happens around the dramatic Jaume Plensa sculpture, a startling monolith on the terrace’s infinity-edge water feature.

Large structure that sits on rooftop at the edge of an infinity water feature

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

The hotel’s immersive 27,000 square foot spa area, which was the brainchild of Joyce Wang Studio and spa design and consultancy firm TLEE, maximises the most valuable commodity, time. The luxury wellness facilities include tailored treatments, an indoor salt water pool, hot and cold plunge pools, and our E.scape Pods — private relaxation areas that capture unparalleled views of the Hudson River.

Light and bright pool area in the spa

Image credit: Equinox Hotels

The overall design of the brand’s debut hotel transcends hospitality and elevates the art and science of fitness – it is clear why the hotel has been described as an ideal place to meet, connect, train and sleep, with all four of these elements playing a vital role in the overall performance of the design and service.

The arrival of the Equinox Hotel New York, along with a number of luxury boutiques and high-end restaurants that have opened, has given the Hudson Yards life as the neighbourhood continues to evolve and take shape.

Main image credit: Equinox Hotels

Hotel Designs launches its official podcast for designers & architects

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Hotel Designs launches its official podcast for designers & architects

Six months in planning, DESIGN POD is the contemporary podcast for all on-the-go interior designers and architects globally…

Hotel Designs’ official podcast, DESIGN POD, will be presented by editor Hamish Kilburn and interior designer Harriet Forde

The topics and personalities amplified on the podcast will give texture and perspective on the key issues that face modern A&D professionals as deadlines become tighter and briefs become narrower.

“I am so very excited to be starting DESIGN POD with Hamish,” says Forde, “and I am looking forward to discussing some interesting topics with great guests.”

In each episode, Kilburn and Forde will welcome influential designers, architects and experts to share their opinions on the conversations and challenges that are shaping our industry. Together, they will embrace innovation while balancing the important issues we all face as modern designers and architects, but are often too busy with life to explore fully.

“Since November, we have been working on the concept of DESIGN POD, in order to introduce an engaging and entertaining media platform for the industry,” explains Kilburn. “I cannot think of a better co-host than Harriet Forde, interior designer and the current President of the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID), who always makes me think, smile and laugh when we discuss our fabulous industry.”

Episode 1: Choosing your lane in design, architecture & business (coming soon)

Whether you are working for a brand, independently or are about to embark in a new journey, choosing your lane – your style, if you like – is an integral and pivotal moment of any design/architecture process. With the COVID–19 crisis adding further uncertainty to all industries around the globe – and arguably hitting the hospitality, building and construction industry the hardest – balancing consistency with creativity is key. To explore this topic in depth, from a creative and business perspective, DESIGN POD welcomes the former Creative Director of HBA London, Constantina Tsoutsikou, onto the show, who has recently launched her own venture: Studio LOST.While we are surrounded by a plethora of voices in design, it is very important to differentiate oneself and take a stand, like Hamish and Harriet are doing with DESIGN POD,” explains Tsoutsikou. “Focus on the values that are important to you, and in time , your work will be an illustration of these, and become what you are known for.”

During lockdown, please tweet us at @HotelDesigns if you have a topic you would like to us to explore.

In Conversation With: Geraldine Dohogne, former designer at Zannier Hotels

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Geraldine Dohogne, former designer at Zannier Hotels

The designer behind many of Zannier Hotels’ authentic properties, Geraldine Dohogne, is expanding her horizons to go solo on the international design scene. Speaking exclusively to editor Hamish Kilburn, the designer unveils the truth behind her unorthodox arrival into the industry, discusses the challenges she encountered when designing many of Zannier Hotels’ success stories and explains why the meaning of ‘lifestyle’ in design is rapidly changing…

It comes as somewhat of a surprise – I was almost lost for words – when Geraldine Dohogne tells me that she didn’t have any design experience whatsoever prior to when she was handed the reigns to become Zannier Hotels’ Head of Design. In fact, she was not a designer at all, nor was she some talented ‘inner designer’ who was trapped in an architect’s title, which is not uncommon in this industry. Armed with simply an international business degree and a naturally acute eye for detail, Dohogne proved that you didn’t require a design degree to become a top-notch designer.