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In Conversation With

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

5 minutes with: Paul Zway on ‘The Private Collection’

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 minutes with: Paul Zway on ‘The Private Collection’

To understand The Private Collection by Exclusive Tents, editor Hamish Kilburn sits down with the brand’s founder, Paul Zway…

Built with couples, families or small groups in mind – as well as for poolside, day beds and beach use – The Private Collection of innovative tents by Exclusive Tents are designed for tomorrows travellers.

Uniquely, these small-scale tents are created to be placed close to each other and still be able to maintain the social barrier that will allow for safety and luxurious comfort.

To understand more about the collection – and the man behind the Exclusive Tents brand – I caught with Paul Zway.

“In this Post-Covid world, only glamping offers the security of a natural form of social distancing.” – Paul Zway, Founder, Exclusive Tents.

Hamish Kilburn: In 16 years, why do you believe the demand for luxury tented accommodation has increased the way it has?

Paul Zway: There has been an ever-enlarging segment of people who want to get back closer to nature not only to find harmony but to also find freedom in space which Glamping naturally offers.

There is also an element of wellness and comfort that comes to those willing to experience living in a luxury tent whilst being immersed in and connected with/to nature. In this Post-Covid world, only glamping offers the security of a natural form of social distancing.

HK: What makes these new tents ideal for social distancing?

PZ: These are relatively compact tents of which the two smallest are five-sided (pentagon) and the other two are respectively rectangular and hexagonal tents. All have the luxury features of our larger Exclusive Collection of tents but they are small and private enough to be placed close to each other and still be able to maintain the social barrier.

All wall panels can be raised or lowered based on how they are spaced and placed in a grouping which will allow for privacy as well for any views where applicable. All windows have screens and roll-up canvas flaps as well as clear PVC window overlays which creates privacy and security and allows natural light to flow in.

Image credit: Exclusive Tents

Provision is also made for a ceiling fan/light mount and the curtains and inner ceiling liner finish the interior off with elegance. The two smaller five-side pentagon tents and also be arranged side by side or back to front for different views either separately or as a combination. These Private Collection Tents were designed for couples, family or small groups as well as for poolside, day beds and beach.

HK: From your vantage point over the industry, will public areas in hotels ever be the same again?

PZ: Most certainly public areas, particularly in new developments, will evolve and change with these changed times but some older establishments will have difficulties, be it budgetary or structurally, trying to evolve. This evolution, I believe, is only in its infancy but will find a more of a natural evolution in the glamping sector of hospitality.

HK: What were the design challenges when creating these new social distancing tents?

The entire idea was to create a compact tent using our existing superior frame structure along with our high-quality fabrics. Various designs and shapes were explored, but we finally settled on the pentagram because of its uneven shape and that it could be reversed to give an alternative view so it was based both on vision in and vision out.

Most of the design effort went into the two smaller tents in the Private Collection of tents, the largest being a hexagonal shape and 142 sq ft in area. The tents can be treated  with fire retardant are rated for strong winds and can be insulated and are truly four-season tents.

Image credit: Exclusive Tents

HK: How have you ensured that luxury and comfort is not scarified in the design of this product?

Every effort was made to ensure that all the luxury features from the Exclusive Collection was included into these new tents with the only difference being that all sides can be rolled up to create a gazebo if required.

The Private Collection tents can also be insulated and have the same various colour options as the Exclusive Collection.

HK: Can you tell us more about the materials you use and how long they are expected to last?

PZ: We use only the best quality materials be it the steel or the fabrics and we also use the best thermal/acoustic insulation available for this kind of application. With the correct maintenance our tents have a longevity of at least 15-20 years.

HK: How do these tents challenge conventional tented accommodation in their design?

PZ: Our tents are fully “All Season” tents with a 4-layer roof and can be used in extreme heat down to bitterly cold conditions. Our roof framing system is very unique and robust making our tents do extremely well in very strong winds and heavy snow. The load bearing capabilities from the interior roof is also incredibly good for heavy fittings. We also have a range of insulation options and all tents can me made with fire retardant. We also offer a rainwater collection system along with a solution for fire suppression sprinklers.

HK: We loved your ‘biography through tents’ piece that we published recently. What advice would you give your younger self if you could?

PZ: I have always had to reinvent myself and have battled the odds on many occasions without any formal business education but always prevailed. I don’t regret much because I seldom look back and am always looking and moving forward. That being said, the only advise I would have given myself back then in the day was to tread way more carefully when stepping through the bush with snakes around it.

HK: Some would argue that your products are limited to safari regions. What would you say to that?  

“Our Exclusive Collection of tents are not typical safari tents.” – Paul Zway, Founder, Exclusive Tents.

PZ: Granted, our Safari Collection which includes the Serengeti, Savanna and Livingston tents are all typical traditional Safari tents however we have these style tents standing in regions all over the world.

Our Exclusive Collection of tents are not typical safari tents but they too crossover well into typical safari regions. Our tents are built to specific requirements and this is most commonly related to climate. We are working currently on a tent that must weather cold conditions down to -45C which is the type of challenge that we excel in. Our tents are designed to be functional all year round and do not need to be winterised.

Exclusive Tents International is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here

Main image credit: Exclusive Tents

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

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

5 minutes with: Ian Gell, head of new product design at Aqualisa

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 minutes with: Ian Gell, head of new product design at Aqualisa

Following the launch of Aqualisa Smart Quartz Collection of showers, Hotel Designs catches up with Ian Gell, the brand’s head of new product design…

The recent launch of the new Aqualisa Smart Quartz Collection of showers shows that the shower brand is firmly in the driving seat for innovative shower technology in the UK. In order to understand the technology behind the new products – as well as some of the major challenges that come with driving innovation in the bathroom – we spoke to Ian Gell, Aqualisa’s head of new product design.

Hotel Designs: As Head of New Product Design at Aqualisa, what was the initial brief when creating the latest Smart Quartz Collection of showers?

Ian Gell: We wanted to create a first truly Smart shower that would improve the showering experience even further and offer connectivity across our Quartz Digital collection in an ever-growing IOT market. We also wanted to develop a feature rich product at an entry level price. Aqualisa are known for designing world class showers and we wanted to go that one step further making our showers that little bit more special.

A modern shower.

Image credit: Aqualisa

“From a concept perspective, having a shower that can be operated via an app or having voice control abilities seems quite straight forward however, the truth is, it was extremely challenging.” – Ian Gell, head of new product design, Aqualisa.

HD: Can you explain some of the main challenges you faced when designing these products, and the solutions you came up with to rectify these?

IG: The development of the app was the biggest challenge for us. From a concept perspective, having a shower that can be operated via an app or having voice control abilities seems quite straight forward however, the truth is, it was extremely challenging. There is no ‘off the shelf’ solution that you can incorporate and use so we had to develop something from the ground up that could communicate with all our products. As well as developing the app, we had to develop the software and hardware in our valves and controllers. Allowing all new controllers and valves to communicate with each other was key.

HD: What makes this collection truly unique from anything else on the market?

IG: Aqualisa invented the digital shower back in 2001 and we have been market leaders in this area since. Having a truly connected shower to offer is the icing on the cake for our well-loved brand as it enables so many exciting and innovative opportunities to become possible.

HD: From concept to launch, how long did this collection take to design/create?

IG: At the back end of November 2018, the designers picked up their pens for the first time and started creating some concept sketches and schemes however, the project really didn’t pick up traction until February 2019 and was launched in March 2020 so it took roughly a year. Most of the work has been developing a connected solution with some purpose. This resulted in the app being created and the hardware and software requiring a major overhaul to allow our product to become connected which took most of the time.

HD: Technology in hotel bathrooms has traditionally divided consumer opinions? How user-friendly is the design of the Smart Quartz Collection of showers?

IG: A smart shower provides a personalised experience with safe and precise water control.   Our smart and digital showers are in fact easier to use than most traditional showers. We have all used showers in the past where you need to stop and analyze the controls and work out what lever turns it on and what lever controls the temperature. Sometimes it’s the same lever and takes a bit of experimenting! In most instances, the user normally gets a cold wet arm whilst trying to get the water to the correct temperature for their liking.  This is not the case with our product.

Our product is activated by a simple on/off button so there is no confusion. Furthermore, our showers can be activated remotely by remote control, through an app also by voice command (if you a have an Alexa or Google home device), so users can turn the shower on from outside the shower. All our showers will indicate when the desired temperature has been reached giving the user confidence the shower will be at the perfect temperature before entry.

As well as having user benefits, our smart showers are quick and simple to install. As the hot and cold water is mixed away from the showering area, there are no bulky valves to fit into the wall. Our valves can be fitted out of site in a convenient location i.e. in a cupboard, in the loft space or under the bath resulting in easy access if needed.

“Quartz Touch also allows users to store their preferred showering profile that can be active through the controller or via the app.” – Ian Gell, head of new product design, Aqualisa.

HD: How does the range of products enhance the bathroom experience?

IG: Smart showers are sleek and modern devices and will compliment any bathroom interior from the more classic approach to the most contemporary design. Quartz Touch is great for tech enthusiasts out there as an LCD display is present showing the user the exact temperature. The user can also access different menus allowing full control for flow. Quartz Touch also allows users to store their preferred showering profile that can be active through the controller or via the app. You can set your preferred flow, preferred outlet and temperature with a simple touch of a button.

Our showers are also compatible with Alexa and Google so once the Aqualisa skill has been downloaded, Aqualisa showers can be added to people’s smart routines. For example, “hey google, start my relaxing bath routine” could turn up the thermostat, dim the lights and start filling the bath from your Aqualisa controller, all via that one command. With the smart technology out there, the options are limitless.

HD: How have you designed these products so that they are eco-friendly?

IG: There is growing pressure to find ways to reduce water consumption per household and per person. We all understand the benefits of reducing water usage and how it effects the environment and household bills. As showers are one of the biggest contributors of wastewater, we wanted our customers to be aware of how much water they were consuming from their shower.  As a result, we have incorporated a water usage dashboard into our app that shows how much water has been consumed for each user as well as the entire house over a specific period. This could be over the last week, month or six months. The app will clearly show who is using the most water and costs associated to them.

We also have a water saving mode on our handset that reduces flow by around 20 per cent.  Our optimised spray pattern still provides an enhanced showering experience whilst using less water.

Our Quartz Classic and Unity controllers have a boost function. The boost option allows users to have added flow if required or users can choose to have it turned off to a lower flow rate and save water.

Our Touch and Optic controllers have three flow settings, Eco Medium and Max. Our Eco setting reduces flow by 40% compared to the Max flow setting.

All of our packaging used for our smart products is made from fully recyclable material. Around 70% of the packaging components we use is made from recycled material. 100% of the waste produced during the production of our packaging is collected and recycled back into paper.

HD: For hotels looking to renovate their properties in the wake of Covid-19, why is the Smart Quartz Collection a good option?

IG: We are continuously improving the installation features of all our products but there is a particularly good replacement and refurbishment story with smart showers around less pipework and push fit cable connection. For example, the major benefit of upgrading from a traditional shower is moving the SmartValve, the brains of the system, completely out of the showering area – and potentially away from the guest bathroom altogether which is so easy for any future adjustment and maintenance.

Also, freeing up more space in the showering area itself opens up much more design and décor flexibility.  Perhaps even more compelling in the post-Covid economy is the ability of hotel management to monitor water usage and costs, if necessary, adjusting the water flow through hotel bathrooms.  Assurances around hygiene and safety have surely never been a higher priority in terms of the hotel guest proposition and contactless smart shower technology clearly meets that brief.

Aqualisa 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: Aqualisa

5 minutes with: the founders of Avenue Interior Design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 minutes with: the founders of Avenue Interior Design

Following the completion of a handful of luxury hospitality projects in the States, Avenue Interior Design has become known for its refusal to be defined by any one style, as editor Hamish Kilburn learns when he interviews the firm’s founders…

Avenue Interior Design, led by founders Andrea DeRosa and Ashley Manhan, has positioned itself as a small yet mighty powerhouse in an industry full of giants.

Most recently, the firm spearheaded the design for Palms Casino & Resort’ renovation ‘From Dust to Gold’, and brought their skills to boutique properties such as The Ramble in Denver, La Serena Villas in Palm Springs as well as SLS Baha Mar.

With the world of hospitality slowly re-opening, there remain concerns and hesitations among operators and travellers on what will become of the industry. I speak to DeRosa and Manhan, two level-headed designers who understand and respect how design evolves around cultural shifts, in order to explore how the pandemic has affected hotel design decisions.

Hamish Kilburn: Let’s dive straight in, how will public areas look in the post-pandemic world?

Ashley Manhan: Business and convention travel will likely lag compared to leisure travel as we see safer at home orders lift. Convention travel has been a critical component for many hotels as occupancy and F&B revenue are strongly tied to properties located near convention venues or for properties that have large meeting facilities.

A luxury F&B interior area with plants and cute seating

Image credit: SLS Baha Mar

Andrea DeRosa: Accommodating large groups and conventions may require smaller breakout rooms with improved air circulation and potentially live streaming speakers to these smaller rooms. On the F&B front, buffets and family-style plating will likely be put aside for individual plates or packaged meals.

HK: What new/different materials might go into hotel builds now?

AD: Given that COVID-19 transmission has found to be primarily airborne, much consideration is going into upgraded air filtration systems. Increased ventilation and better filtration will be essential components of healthy building strategies. Additionally, we may see the use of mobile and handled UV disinfection systems for sterilisation and disinfecting of high use spaces. In terms of interior finishes and materials, and those selected for FF&E, designers will face the added challenge of selecting materials that can withstand more frequent cleaning and disinfecting.

AM: In terms of lobbies, our current clients are requesting short-term solutions for partitions and countertop shields at transaction points, check-ins, and other places social distancing may not be feasible.

Fitness spaces will likely decrease in size- a trend for some properties already in major urban areas with access to specialised gyms and studios. Look for more in-room fitness options and equipment like yoga mats and lightweight dumbbells.

Restaurants face some of the largest obstacles in terms of social distancing and the use of PPE by diners. Restaurants will surely seat fewer guests to accommodate for social distancing protocol. Menus may go digital or restaurants may offer apps to place orders from your own device. Larger service counters for pickups or extended “grab and go” options maybe also be more prevalent as people warm up to the idea of eating out again.

Modern interior design in a clean open bar area

Image credit: SLS Baha Mar

AD: In the short term, we are seeing many hotel brands unrolling programs to build guest confidence and implementing quick, sometimes temporary solutions now while permanent solutions are analyzed and explored. Long term, we anticipate pandemic related measures to be modifiable to give operators the option of adjusting to meet current health risk levels. Such modifications may include digital occupancy signage, movable partitions, and digital projections indicating recommended social distances in queuing areas. A large part of the equation is understanding guests’ demands, expectations, and associations with these changes. There will certainly be varying levels of concern depending on where in the country/world the guest is traveling from. Those guests from the hardest-hit areas are likely to expect greater measures than those traveling from areas less affected. Ongoing observation of guest behavior will inform decisions owners and operators make for long term modifications to their properties.

HK: How can hotels shelter these new hygiene protocols without disrupting the design or the experience?

AM: Taking into consideration that guest safety and wellbeing is, and always has been, a top priority for any property, the next priority remains firmly rooted in good design. Ownership teams require that our commitment to creating a hospitality quality experience remains the top priority just as it was pre-pandemic. Modifications to properties should be subtle, flexible and well-intentioned. This includes careful consideration to the function of the space, the circulation of guests through the space as well as more obvious elements like materials, furnishings and even wayfinding. Creating more space for guests to comfortably, and naturally, socially distance may be as simple as removing a few clusters of lounge chairs in a lobby or replacing a communal table with a series of smaller, movable tables that can be situated individually or easily paired together.

AD: Incorporating decorative, movable screens or drapery also allows for social distancing flexibility while providing a thoughtful, well-designed element to the space. Graphics, signage, and font styles can be utilised in a way that provides informative guidance on precautions or protocol in a way that is consistent with the design language of the brand or property. For new build properties, especially food and beverage venues, you will likely see more fluid floor plans with fewer permanent features to allow for flexibility in furniture layouts and the function of a space.

A blue interior scheme inside a junior king room

Image credit: The Ramble Hotel

HK: Have you already begun incorporating any changes into the hospitality projects you’re working on?

AD: Many of the modifications we’ve made for our current projects have been temporary or short term solutions that will allow our clients to adhere to guidelines as outlined by local jurisdictions. Before making more costly or broad-sweeping modifications, our clients are waiting to gauge guests’ expectations and behaviours to ascertain what long term modifications should look like. For instance, the addition of automated faucets and hand soap dispensers seem like a logical move, however, for many properties that have been without revenue for the last few months, the expense of a modification requiring any construction or electrical work may be out of the budget. Scale is a monumental consideration as well. The cost of making such a change in a hotel with 50 keys is likely more feasible than making that change in a hotel with more than 1,000 keys.

HK: Have you made any changes to guestrooms in the projects you are working on?

AM: Guestroom size, function, and programming have also been a hot topic amongst designers and Ownership teams. In recent years the emphasis was on creating public spaces so dynamic and engaging it drew people out of their rooms and into the lobby, restaurant, bar, pool, etc. Guestroom sizes were generally shrinking and the furnishings were becoming paired down and multi-purpose in their design. It will be interesting to see if guestroom sizes increase to become more of a mini-sanctuaries that offer personalised guest experiences.

Hotel Designs will be discussing topics such as adding personality in public areas and reassuring the post-corona consumer at Hotel Designs LIVE on October 13. If you are a designer, architect or hotelier, click here to participate for free.

Main image credit: Avenue Interior Design

Technology talk with Technological Innovations Group

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Technology talk with Technological Innovations Group

Following lengthy debates regarding technology that took place at Hotel Designs LIVE, editor Hamish Kilburn caught up Technological Innovations Group’s Director of Hospitality, Leisure and Retail (EMEA) Christophe Malsot…  

Technological Innovations Group (TIG) was the headline sponsor of Hotel Designs LIVE, the new one-day virtual conference that was born out of the idea to keep the industry connected and talking during the pandemic.

Following my address to the audience of designers, architects, hoteliers and developers, I took five minutes ahead of going live to the first seminar of the day to speak to the brand’s Director of Hospitality, Leisure and Retail (EMEA), Christophe Malsot. In the quick-fire interview, I wanted to know more about the TIG ‘ecosystem of solutions’, understand how its meeting new demands of modern travellers and users as well as understanding Malsot’s view on where technology in hospitality is heading.

Hamish Kilburn: Christophe, in a sentence, what does Technological Innovations Group (TIG) do?

Christophe Malsot: We are an EMEA sales agency offering an ecosystem of brands at the forefront of leading-edge technology development – we provide a full range of AV, UC, IT and control solutions that work together to create superior smart spaces that transform your future!

HK: Your vision is to create smart spaces that transform the future. Define a smart space?

CM: Smart Spaces connect people and technology in new ways: they add real value and are created with the latest AV/UC solutions that work together seamlessly to provide a convenient, efficient and secure user experience. 

The term refers to a space that uses Internet of Things to connect every device with a simple, intuitive and user-friendly control solution. This significantly enhances the customer experience, and increases their loyalty to you.

For example, hosting a large group seminar or conference is easier than ever before. Guests will be impressed by the ease with which they can run their presentation and control the technologies in the room. Wireless presentation systems offer flexibility, enabling guests to stream uncompressed video from any laptop or mobile device, with just the touch of a button. Hosts can enjoy full control over the lighting, shades, temperature, and audio volume in the room through a simple touch screen. With cost-effective and energy-efficient technologies such as occupancy sensors and room scheduling software, the lighting and AV systems automatically shut down when the room is empty. And any system troubles can be remotely solved.

HK: On your website, you mention that TIG is an eco-system of solutions for smart spaces, can you explain what you mean by this?

CM: At TIG, we work hard to push the boundaries of technological integration for Smart Spaces. We offer a solutions-based approach to your current and future needs. There is no ‘one size fits all’, so our portfolio includes solutions that complement one another to create bespoke experiences. Our biggest technology provider is Crestron, and Crestron always sits at the heart of our ecosystem. But the other brands we represent work together to perfectly complete the desired user experience!

To help people understand how our ecosystem works, we have actually just launched a new Virtual Experience Space on our website, where visitors can see smart space examples, which demonstrate how the technologies integrate.

Our portfolio includes beautiful control hardware, AV and electricity remote management, applications and software, room booking, and furniture designed to fit in perfectly with specific technologies, making meeting rooms sleek and stylish.

“Technology will be a game changer for the hotel industry in a post-pandemic world.” – Christophe Malsot, Director of Hospitality, Leisure and Retail (EMEA), TIG.

HK: How has tech become more relevant since Covid-19?

CM: Technology will be a game changer for the hotel industry in a post-pandemic world, as it helps to cater to new habits and a different user experience.

“Customers will expect more technology to reduce the risk of contamination.” – Christophe Malsot, Director of Hospitality, Leisure and Retail (EMEA), TIG.

The hospitality industry will need to offer more contactless, but still very personalised, experiences for guests. For instance, their own smartphones will be used to manage most things, such as check in and check out, to open their room, control their environment and entertainment (Audio/Video), and get in touch with the staff or the concierge… with or without app downloading! Crestron uses QR code flashing to provide a beautiful HTML 5 layout on the phone or tablet.

Hotels need to review their existing service offerings so as to adapt to the changes in customer experience. Customers will expect more technology to reduce the risk of contamination. In order to maintain social distancing, virtual hotel tours will help to introduce the different spaces, and solutions will indicate the occupancy, availability and cleanliness status of the common areas such as gyms, restaurants, bars… For example, in meeting rooms and lobbies, expect to see fewer chairs and digital information about the last time they were used/cleaned.

Restaurants in hotels may start using contactless delivery for in-room-dining and digital menus… Paper will disappear!

HK: From a tech perspective, what will be the biggest change/evolution post-pandemic?

CM: The move to contactless control. For example, upon entering the hotel, the doors may open automatically, before you enter the elevator, you might tell it where you’d like to go with your voice, rather than pressing the many buttons. When you reach your room, you can enter with your smartphone instead of a key and sensors will turn the lights on…

Also, inside the guestrooms the learning curve must be close to zero… if you spend the whole evening understanding how the room works, you become frustrated. It needs to be quick and touchless for the guest to remain loyal.

These are just the changes the guest will see. Less noticeable in the post-coronavirus hotel would be more frequent cleaning policies, antimicrobial properties woven into fabrics and materials, amped-up ventilation systems, or even the addition of UV lights for more thorough disinfecting of the common areas at night.

Due to the reduction of travel and the increased usage of videoconferencing, the meeting rooms will have to provide an element of remote communication as well. TIG offers advanced remote collaboration tools from Hoylu.

HK: In a sentence, what’s the biggest innovation in technology in hotel design right now?

For a long period guests were able to find services they did not have in their home like international channels. Nowadays, hotel clients and international travellers have everything they need at home and they want to find the same experience in the guestroom. This means that BYOD connection is especially important. Hoteliers have to provide guests with the capacity to use their own devices to control the TV, to manage presentations in the meeting room, to connect to playlists for music, and communication apps such as Zoom, Teams… this is now a must have!

The perfect user experience will come from ergonomics and, to provide a perfect integration, the technology systems need to be built into the hotel’s design from the very beginning. Having the right networks (Electricity and IP) in place is hugely important! This is the only way to guarantee the perfect guest and staff experience.

Main image credit: Technological Innovations Group

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

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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

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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

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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

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

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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

5 Minutes With: Talking modern spas with designer Beverley Bayes

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: Talking modern spas with designer Beverley Bayes

With pools and spas dominating the headlines on Hotel Designs this month, editor Hamish Kilburn has five minutes with Beverley Bayes, Director of Sparcstudio, which is responsible for the design schemes inside Cottenmill Spa at Sopwell House, The Spa at South Lodge and many more luxury wellness hubs that have challenged convention… 

Earlier this month, Sparcstudio kindly shared its insight on how the current pandemic will affect wellness in hotels going forward.

Although the feature was honest, engaging and informative, it left us and our readers with wanting to know more. Considering the significance of COVID–19, and its long-term affect on the perception of wellness, I caught up the studio’s director, Beverley Bayes, ahead of Hotel Designs LIVE on June 23, where she will be on the panel as we discuss the The Future of Wellness Post-Pandemic.

Hamish Kilburn: Beverley, some would argue that spas and wellness areas are a breeding ground for viruses. Is that a fair statement?

Beverley Bayes: There is a lot of debate about this topic and it’s even more relevant today as spas consider their reopening strategies. I don’t believe it is a fair statement. There are very strict cleaning and hygiene protocols already in place and spas adhere to these stringently. But good design is absolutely key in creating a spa that is easy to maintain and it’s all about the detail. Sadly there are examples of bad detailing even within luxury spas. A common one is not designing in good ‘falls’ to flooring in wet areas, the sloping floor detail enables water to drain off rather than pooling, which around a pool deck is critical. Get it wrong and you face either having your staff constantly going around with squeegees to get rid of excess water , or resorting to the installation of anti-slip matting (as recently witnessed in an otherwise beautiful spa that shall remain nameless!)

Going forward, when spas are given the green light to reopen, I would advise businesses to refer to their equipment and wet and thermal suite suppliers for additional advice on maintaining health and hygiene in a COVID-19 world. I am already seeing suppliers issue new guidance of cleaning rituals that will help to protect guests and staff, so it’s a case of liaising with your current suppliers and following their advice.

Image credit: The Spa at South Lodge, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: How can a hotel sensitively inject its style and branding into the spa/wellness areas?

BB: ‘Sensitively’ is the key word here. I think it’s a real missed opportunity when a spa feels like a continuation of a hotel environment, with similar materials and finishes and maybe a sense of ‘formality’ that you might experience in the Hotel public spaces. For us a Hotel Spa is a chance to enter another more sensuous world where guests can kick off their shoes and ‘let their hair down’ !

For that reason, We always strive to create an informal ‘bare foot luxury‘ vibe to the spas that we design. This can be achieved by adding playful elements, for example at Sopwell Spa where we created a central relax area in the Garden relax room with a group of suspended Swinging chairs arranged around a panoramic fireplace overlooking the fabulous spa Garden. (The garden was expertly designed by Ann-Marie Powell )

Style and branding elements that Hoteliers can inject into a spa include a great service ethic and service style and also a passion for food and beverage, For example at South Lodge Spa, the Exclusive Collection team led by Danny Pecorrelli, applied their passion for F & B to create a  unique 80 seater relaxed all day dining concept for the Spa called ‘Botanica’ (Working in conjunction with the ‘Gorgeous group’ and Sparcstudio for the interiors).

The restaurant offer is designed to complement the other more formal dining options at the Hotel and is open to all hotel, spa users and external guests and is based on botanical, largely plant-based sharing plates utilising ingredients from local suppliers from the south downs.

Image credit: Aqua Sana Spa County Longford, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: From a lighting perspective, has LED lost its place to natural lighting in the spa?

BB: Sparcstudio director Tom Howell, is responsible for all of our lighting design, ‘Being well lit in a spa is key to a sense of wellbeing. We do design spaces to utilise natural light where ever possible, but LED lighting in linear strip or curving tape form concealed in a wall floor or ceiling or joinery feature, provides subtle washes of indirect light and enables us to create great effects. The key with spa lighting is to be mindful of the lighting source position and the guest position which is often in a lying down / facing up position, so the ‘old school’ style ceiling mounted halogen spotlights are definitely  to be avoided in order to prevent uncomfortable glare for guests’.

HK: What will the spa look like in 50 years? 

BB: High tech … low tech. I think the ancient traditions and rituals developed by the Romans in terms of bathing, washing and thermal experiences in a social setting will still be at the core of the spa experience, together with ‘hands on treatments’ reflecting the power of human touch, which will always have a place in spa.

Technology will no doubt have a big role to play in terms of treatments. Fully immersive Virtual reality experiences will no doubt be on the menu, but designed to appeal to all of the senses, including sound, touch and smell, giving wellbeing, as well as cosmetic benefits.

Given our precious link to the natural world, Spas that celebrate unique settings, will be an important part of worldwide Spa Tourism. For example, the world’s first ‘energy-positive’ hotel, Svart, will open in Norway’s Arctic Circle in 2022.

Image caption: The Spa at South Lodge, designed by Sparcstudio

Image caption: The Spa at South Lodge, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: How do you find out about new products on the market?

BB: Word of mouth, trade shows and social media and we are also lucky to be kept updated with the latest innovations and cutting edge products that are being developed by the suppliers themselves. We also relish the opportunity to create bespoke individual designs – be it furniture,  (for example the double lounger with integral lighting at Sopwell’s Cottonmill Club spa) light fitting or heat cabin and thermal suite, all of  which helps to add to a Spa’s feeling of authenticity and uniqueness.

Quick-fire round

HK: What’s the biggest misconception about being a designer who specialises in spas and wellness areas?

BB: That we design ‘spa pools’- those lovely big injection moulded plastic ‘people soup’ models spring to mind! A common mistake is to design a series of spa ‘spaces’ without really understanding or thinking through the journey and how they connect.

HK: Where is next on your spa bucket list?

BB: Aman Kyoto, Anada in the Indian Hymalas and Aro Hā  (Overlooking the ‘otherworldly’ expanse of Lake Wakatipu) in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

HK: What is your go-to treatment?

BB: A Hammam. A recent Couples Hammam in Bodrum was amazing – the facial loofa part was a bit scary at the time but was amazingly effective!

HK: What has been the most significant innovation on the wellness scene in the last five years?

BB: I would say one of the largest innovations, which is much more low-tech, is the rise of the Spa Garden, particularly here in the UK.

HK: What does luxury mean to you?

BB: Uninterrupted time away from technology and work/ home life distractions relaxing in a tranquil, stimulating/ sensuous environment that is ‘authentic and unique’ and beautifully / thoughtfully designed of course!

Image caption: Cottonmill Club at Sopwell House

Image caption: Cottonmill Club at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: How is social media driving a change in the way in which wellness spaces are being designed?

BB: Social media is a powerful influence in the world of spa. Hotels and wellness spaces are very visual and this links perfectly to a social media platform like Instagram as it is all about the perfect picture. What we are seeing, in some instances, is that spas are creating experiences that are very obviously designed to create an ‘Instagram worthy shot’. An over the top (but often used) example is the placement of pink flamingoes in a spa or pool area, or a snug area that is branded and decorated with flower walls. You see this a lot in resorts in the Indian Ocean. The difficulty is that these experiences don’t place wellness or the guest experience at the heart of it. Following short term trends can be a problem as they are short lived and aren’t durable. They will quickly look outdated as Instagrammers hunt the next big thing, leaving your wellness space looking tired and past its sell-by date.

HK: There is a difference between wellness and wellbeing, how can modern spas evoke both in their design? 

BB: Wellbeing is the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and ability to manage stress Good Spa Design should create a sense of wellbeing by providing experiences that appeal to the senses and are ideally related to natural elements, and provide an escape from the stresses of work and everyday life.

Wellness, the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort. Fitness/ wellness facilities are an increasingly important element of a spa offer, in the form of yoga studio or outside Yoga deck, a well-designed gym (sensitively designed to fit with the Spas over-all ambience).

We also anticipate that there will continue to be overlaps or a blurring of the lines between fitness, wellness, spa and medical facilities. High end gyms such as ‘Third Space’ integrate spaces for relaxation and wellbeing with the inclusion of thermal suites and relaxation spaces. The sensuous Hot yoga studio that we designed at the Tower Bridge site has shaker style panelling and end grain Juniper log panelling that emit a soothing aroma when heated.

Sparcstudio, which will be involved in Hotel Designs LIVE on June 23, 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.

Main image credit: SparcStudio

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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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

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.

Open air design, with bath overlooking desert

Image caption: The open-air design of Zannier Hotels Sonop allows a connection between nature and its guests | Image credit: Tibodhermy for Zannier Hotels

That’s not to say that anyone can be a designer – far from it. Spending time with Dohogne, who accurately, in my opinion, describes herself as a designer by passion, allows one to see beyond the brilliant brand her name has been aligned to for years.

We meet in Mayfair’s The Conduit, an airy private members club that was once described by GQ Magazine as a place that provides the brightest minds with the opportunities to meet up and thrash out new ideas. It all sounds wonderfully fitting as it has also become one of Dohogne’s favourite places to work from in recent years.

“I was Zannier Hotels’ first employee.” – Géraldine Dohogne.

Although it may read shocking to some that a curious mind with no design background was asked to lead an entire luxury brand’s design ethos, Dohogne, for many reasons, was the perfect person for the job. For starters, she arguably knew the DNA of Zannier Hotels better than any established designer on the scene did. “I was Zannier Hotels’ first employee,” she explains. “I started in development and also did my time in operations before working in the design department. I mostly worked on my own, doing all the ordering and specifying by myself. It was at this point when I truly believe that my degree in international business kept me organised, focused and on track.”

It’s hard to believe that the premium hotel brand that has been so influential on the luxury travel and design scenes only launched its first property in 2011. It all started in The Alps with the opening of Le Chalet in Megéve. However, considering at the time the brand had already purchased land, properties, and had projects on the drawing boards in Asia and Europe, Zannier Hotels was considered an international player from the moment it was born.

“Without even knowing it, I was always interested in and inspired by design,” – Géraldine Dohogne.

Its unorthodox approach to luxury in both design and service soon gave it its esteemed award-winning reputation. The same way of thinking, I see, is shared – dare I say inspired – by the designer who is sat casually and confidently in front of me in a cosy beige jumper and blue jeans. “Without even knowing it, I was always interested in and inspired by design,” she says, “My curiosity in interiors and luxury travel was married up to the brand’s vision.”

For all designers, however many years’ experience they have amassed (or not), all projects come with a number of different challenges. One of Dohnogne’s most memorable projects was 1988 The Post, an intimate hotel in Ghent, Belgium, that shelters no more than 38 keys. The boutique hotel has been inspired by the old post office building’s 19th century architecture and charm. “Inside, all the fabrics, materials, lighting and colours were inspired by the atmosphere of a post office and from the building period,” the designer explains. The rooms were decorated in a warm style – with high ceilings, dark green walls and antique furniture – complementing the building’s former life.

Masculine looking luxury room

Image caption: 1988 The Post became one of Dohogne’s most challenging design briefs, because of the building’s irregular architecture and heritage in Ghent, Belgium

Although each hotel under the Zannier umbrella is unique to the destination, each follow the same journey of discovery when it comes to establishing the interior scheme and overall narrative. “We always look beyond the obvious,” says Dohogne. “Most of the antiques are sourced locally, which can be harder in some places than others.” For the brand’s most recent hotel in Namibia, more than 550 antiques were handpicked by Dohogne and injected into the property’s interiors that were uniquely constructed on stilts atop of natural boulders in the middle of the Namib desert.

Right when you thought Zannier Hotels had reached its limit of creativity, it is about to open the authentic doors of its next hotel, which will be situated in Vietnam. It’s 75 suites and villas will be sheltered under three various architectural styles, each of them melting into the lush natural background while referencing the local Ede and canal houses that are culturally embedded in Phu Yen (Vietnam). “Most of the villas and suites will have private pools and the public areas will be on the 1km-stretch of beach,” she explains. “The restaurants will really re-discover Vietnamese cuisine.”

Minimalist nature-infused public areas

Image caption: A sneak peek of the interiors inside the soon-to-open Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang, designed by Dohogne | Image credit: Zannier Hotels

While Dohogne continues to piece together Zannier Hotels’ vision of future properties with timeless interiors, in January 2020 embarked on a new, personal and profession journey; branching off to become a solo designer no restricted to hotel design. “It’s a new challenge,” she says, “but when you are challenged, you can bring much more to the drawing board. There is a gap in the market for high-end lifestyle projects in Europe and beyond.”

Quick-fire round

HK: What’s a trend that you hope will never return?
GD: I believe that if you want a project to be ‘timeless’, it should not follow a trend.

HK: What’s the most difficult project you have worked on?
GD:
1988 The Post was challenging because it was an existing building.

HK: What is the one item you cannot travel without?
GD: My Swimming costume and my noise-cancelling Bose headphones.

HK: What does luxury mean to you?
GD: A place where you can disconnect with technology and the world, and where you can feel at home.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
GD: Antarctica, Japan and Argentina.

HK: What’s the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
GD:
Always show your work to a lot of people, and always question yourself until you are 100 per cent sure.

HK: When you pitch an idea, do you keep an open window?
GD: Yes, because the world has changed so much from the beginning of a hotel project to the end.

For more than year now, Dohogne has been setting up the foundations of her own design studio. What strikes me is the link between the authenticity of Zannier Hotels’ expansion and the journey that the designer is also on. Although there is yet a comment as to what projects she is working on, it is clear that Dohogne is meaningfully expanding her reaches to purposefully design a new era of high-end lifestyle social areas and workspaces. Her journey in design continues…

Main image credit: Géraldine Dohogne

In Conversation With: Interior Designer of the Year 2019, Jo Littlefair

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Interior Designer of the Year 2019, Jo Littlefair

Securing her place in the history books, Jo Littlefair came out on top last year at The Brit List Awards 2019, spectacularly winning the coveted title, Interior Designer of the Year. A few months later, she welcomes editor Hamish Kilburn into the Goddard Littlefair HQ to give him a glimpse into studio life…

“Jo, can I borrow you for just a second,” says senior associate and architect David Lee Hood as Jo Littlefair and I walk through the studio. “This archway,” he says pointing to a life-like rendering on his monitor, “what are your thoughts on adding in a line of colour here?” As he shows the before and after, it is a game of ‘spot the difference’ to the untrained eye. But for the multi-layered studio Goddard Littlefair, where the devil is so often in the detail, it could be the difference between winning a pitch or losing it, as any design practice operating on today’s international scene will confirm.

“We have made a few changes to encourage people to come and talk to us more.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

The short but important moment is proof, if ever I needed it, that Littlefair likes to naturally lead from within her team. And as we walk through the open-planned office that is flooded with natural light towards her workstation, I notice also that there is no door, and no boundary, between herself and everyone else in the building.

Image caption: The Lowry Presidential Suite, designed sensitively by Goddard Littlefair

Image caption: The Lowry Presidential Suite, designed sensitively by Goddard Littlefair

“We got to the point last year when, as we reached 60 employees, we decided Goddard Littlefair was too big as a studio,” she confesses. “We have made a few changes to encourage people to come and talk to us more, because I would rather know about something – and be able to comment at a point where it is possible to comment – rather than get further down the line and it be too late. At the end of the day, leading this design studio with Martin Goddard has always been a collaboration, not just between himself and I but also our team.” As the designer is explaining, I notice that there’s a cordial and relaxed atmosphere in the Clerkenwell studio, and the strong relationship between the co-founders and their team is apparent.

Image caption: The bar inside Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, designed by Goddard Littlefair

“We look at the finer details, as you have just seen, that perhaps make a space look and feel more residential,” the designer explains. “Things like tabs on the curtain pole having a little leather strap and a metal rivet, and it’s those elements that give it quality and detail. It’s important that someone has thought about it in that much detail, and there is a reason why it’s leather and why it’s embossed, or whatever.”

“What’s most important is that it has to be right for our client, the property and the location every time.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

Recently completed projects within the studio’s portfolio include The Biltmore Mayfair  London, Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik , Sheraton  Grand Warsaw , the new F&B areas inside Hilton Munich City, The Lowry in Manchester and the Kimpton Charlotte Square. Having followed many, if not all, of these projects from concept through to completion, it’s fair to say that the studio believes that variety is the spice of life. “We don’t like being pigeon-holed,” explains Littlefair. “We have a great variety of style, which is fantastic. Also, we are not divas when it comes to our personal taste. What’s most important is that it has to be right for our client, the property and the location every time.”

Modern award-winning bar

Image caption: The award-winning Juliet Rose at Hilton Munich, designed by Goddard Littlefair, has become the city’s new destination bar.

Despite the studio clocking up the air miles with unavoidable trips abroad for site visits and account management, in order for the team to understand the culture and fabrics of new destinations, the studio’s HQ is positioned slap-bang in the epicentre of the design community in London, just a few streets behind some of the city’s major design showrooms in Clerkenwell. “There is always a corner of London that you can find a narrative to that is really individual,” says Littlefair. “Whether  When? you are living, working and breathing in London, like many of our designers, the city becomes a fantastic place. I think that’s because it is made up of villages that have, over time, morphed together. As a designer working on a project here, the identity of what those villages were can really shine through.”

“I literally had to work my way around the world, and it made me a different person.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

Despite London having its place in the designer’s heart, Littlefair mostly finds inspiration in design from nature, and decompresses daily from city life, after a hefty commute, in Buckinghamshire where she lives. “It’s a very open community, close enough to London for work, but full of fresh air,” she explains. “My kids love it there, and so do I!”

But where was Littlefair’s inquisitive nature born, I wonder? “When I left university and went travelling, technology as we know it now didn’t exist; email had just come out for crying out loud,” she admits. “I used to pay to sit in a café to type an email home to say I’m alive. For me, that was about really cutting off from the world. My mum didn’t think I was going to come back,” she laughs, “I did some crazy things; I worked out on boats and I threw myself into experiential travel, albeit on a shoestring. I literally had to work my way around the world, and it made me a different person. Experiencing places and learning about people and cultures.”

Image caption: The Principal York's luxe, residential look and feel was designed by Goddard Littlefair

Image caption: The Principal York’s luxe, residential look and feel was designed by Goddard Littlefair

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: What trend do you hope will never return?
Jo Littlefair: Rag-rolled walls and transitional furniture.

HK: What’s next on your travel bucket list?
JL: Chile , Argentina and Egypt.

HK: What would you say is the number-one tool for success?
JL: Hard work, and you can’t teach taste. I learn something new every day, nobody can know everything!

HK: Who was your inspiration growing up?
JL: The reason I made it into interiors is because I used to work on super yacht designed by Terence Tisdale. I couldn’t believe that somebody got paid to put this together and design with  all those beautiful timber veneers and mirrors everywhere, which I had to clean! I spent four months in the Med working on this 64m Feadship  . It had everything and gave me an insight into luxury and interior design.

HK: What is the one item you cannot travel without?
JL: This is ridiculous but my cashmere jumper, which is so not me. You will always find a lightweight cashmere jumper in my flight bag!

HK: What is the last item that will show up on your bank statement?
JL: Whole beans for my coffee machine. Always buy a small bag because you want the freshest roasted beans for your coffee.

HK: What has the last year taught you?
JL: To keep everyone in the studio on one floor, so that we are working together. Also that quality far outweighs quantity.

“Think of it as the destination’s answer to The Ned.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

Back to today, and the studio is currently hard at work with a number of projects on the drawing boards. The studio is currently working on designing four restaurants and bars inside the soon-to-open 360-key Villa Copenhagen. “Think of it as the destination’s answer to The Ned,” Littlefair teases. “But it’s so not about men and women in suits. Instead, the whole project has been about understanding the Danish vernacular, the locals’ way of life.”

Other projects that the studio is working on include five star resorts on the Mediterranean coast line, the repurposing of a beautiful Viennese building to a 150 plus bedroom five star hotel and what may be the future best spa in London.

Image credit: The atmospheric restaurant Cucina Mia inside Shertaton Warsaw, designed by Goddard Littlefair

Image credit: The atmospheric restaurant InAzia restaurant in Sheraton Warsaw, designed by Goddard Littlefair

As two people who are, parallel to others in the industry, so thoughtfully leading interior design forward in terms of meaningful innovation, Goddard and Littlefair both feel pressure to adapt sensitively with the times while also maintaining a fundamental quality. And their approach to evolution is enlightening.  “Someone once told me that everything in life is a phase,” explains Littlefair. “I have learned to embrace change and see it as a positive. It is intrinsically scary to human nature, but when you learn that it is necessary to be a little bit cathartic about things, life runs smoother.” I would argue that it is this breath-of-fresh-air attitude that led the designer to win The Brit List Awards’ Interior Designer of the Year 2020.

“You have no idea how much the award means to me.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

“I just can’t believe it,” she said fresh off stage at the event in November when her new-found title was revealed in front of a sea of leading designers, architects, hoteliers and developers. Months later, and the reality of ‘that win’ hasn’t quite sunk in. “You have no idea how much the award means to me,” she says now. “The line-up of people you had there was fantastic, they are my peer group and I am very respectful of what everyone else is doing. So, that people within this industry consider what we are doing here to such high regard means everything!”

Image caption: Interior Designer of the Year, Goddard Litterfair's Jo Littlefair with editor Hamish Kilburn at The Brit List Awards 2020

Image caption: Interior Designer of the Year, Goddard Litterfair’s Jo Littlefair with editor Hamish Kilburn at The Brit List Awards 2020

In a recent roundtable discussion that Littlefair attended, it was mentioned that all designers are having to work harder than ever before in order to differentiate from other styles and common motifs. As I sit around the table in the hub of her studio, I wonder how Littlefair and her team approach this topic when it comes to designing future hotels. “We are getting to the point where people have not seen a beautifully letter-pressed card before,” she says. “The ‘tech revolution’ has changed everything that we do and the way our work is perceived, but we can’t lose touch of humanity in the process.”

“We crowned a really worthy winner,” I can’t help by think to myself after I’ve said my goodbyes to the  Goddard Littlefair team. For me, it’s not necessary  necessarily? Littlefair’s work that is the most inspiring thing about but  the designer, but more her incredible journey, which was fuelled by hard-work, passion and determination, that I believe every single designer can learn from – or at least be energised by.

Main image credit: Goddard Littlefair

5 Minutes With: Emma Masters, associate at Richmond International

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: Emma Masters, associate at Richmond International

Taking five minutes out of planning and designing luxury hospitality scenes of the future, Emma Masters, Associate at Richmond International, speaks to editor Hamish Kilburn about landscape changes, client demands and over-used words in the industry…

Hamish Kilburn: How long have you been involved in interior design, and how has the landscape changed from when you started to now?
Emma Masters: I’ve been working in the industry for around 16 years, 15 of those have been with Richmond International. In this time the industry has steadily changed, largely due to technological development, i.e. the changes in the ways we research subjects and destinations, to retrieve design references and influences. The proliferation of imagery shared internationally makes the world feel smaller and more accessible.

CGI and VR experiences are becoming a minimum expectation, having replaced hand drawn and coloured renderings. Whilst computer generated images provide almost an exact representation of the design proposal, hand drawings were very evocative and left some element of wonder to what would finally be revealed in reality.

We’ve also seen massive advances in manufacturing techniques, the materials used, and specialist finishes to the extent that we can add unique signatures to interiors.

There’s also certainly a greater awareness of our environment and the need to be mindful of our design impact, ensuring our designs have longevity, rather than being based on trends that will date and need replacing frequently.

Large, luxurious and grand penthouse

Image credit: London West Hollywood penthouse, designed by Richmond International

HK: What are your clients currently looking for in hotel design?
EM: We’re seeing a demand for public spaces that are transitional, for environments that work for social dining, meetings, shared workplaces and seamlessly blend together to create one holistic space.

Additionally, we’re regularly creating designs that are authentic to the location and with strong narratives – this helps us bring the interiors alive for their guests.

“We as a company have regular team meetings where everyone from junior designers to associates can contribute their ideas and participate in the building of the narrative of a project.” – Emma Masters, Director, Richmond International

Bath in modern marble bathroom, with skyline of Chicago in the background

Image caption: Bathroom in Langham Chicago suite, designed by Richmond International

HK: Where do you find inspiration to keep your designs fresh and meaningful?
EM: Trade shows like Salone de Mobile and Maison et Objet are a great source of new products and styles. I also get a lot of inspiration from travelling, working with artisanal manufacturer and, in general, a lot of research.

HK: How important is nurturing young talent for Richmond International?
EM: It’s a very important part of our company and something I experienced first-hand having started at Richmond as a junior designer. It was a hugely nurturing experience and I was able to work with talented designers who allowed me to explore my capabilities and mentor me in my development. We as a company have regular team meetings where everyone from junior designers to associates can contribute their ideas and participate in the building of the narrative of a project.

“F&B areas have also evolved to become destinations in their own right aside from the hotel and are a draw not just to hotel guests but the general public that wish to dine.” – Emma Masters, Director at Richmond International

HK: We had Terry McGillicuddy join us on the Vision Stage at the Hospitality Restaurant and Catering show. How are F&B areas in hotels evolving?
F&B areas now blur the boundaries between lobby lounge, restaurant, bar and meeting spaces. The public spaces are the heart of a hotel and the is a desire for them to be vibrant has activated a move away from the traditional lobby lounge space. F&B areas have also evolved to become destinations in their own right aside from the hotel and are a draw not just to hotel guests but the general public that wish to dine. They now have a different identity to the rest of the hotel, where it previously was designed to work with the overall feel of the rest of the hotel. F&B is now more independent and can have a completely different narrative that may relate to the food served, for example rather than being simply a functional part of the hotel.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What trend do you hope will never return?
EM: String curtain dividers, they were everywhere and not surprisingly disappeared as quickly as they arrived after the realisation that they were really impractical for public spaces and looked neat for all of five minutes before tangling an unwilling hotel guest who had stumbled into one.

HK: What is one word that is overused in our industry?
EM: Two words admittedly and the phrase we all dread – Value Engineering.

HK: What would you say is the biggest catalyst driving change in the hotel design area recently?
EM: Sustainability and authentic experiences across the board.

HK: What would you be if you were not a designer?
EM: I had always wanted to be an art teacher until I went to St Martins for my foundation year. My tutor was very inspiring and introduced me to the idea of interior design as a career instead of teaching.

HK: What’s one lesson about the industry that studying didn’t teach you?
EM: My role at Richmond has been predominantly FF&E focused and I feel it can really complete and enhance a design. As an Interior Architecture student, spatial design was key, and furnishings were more secondary, but I feel one cannot work as a cohesive design without the other.

HK: What’s your biggest bugbear in interior design?
EM: Designing to a trend and not for longevity.

Luxurious longe area in suite

Image caption: Metro Suite inside London West Hollywood, designed by Richmond International

HK: What has been your favourite project to date?
EM: My favourite project would have to be working on The London, West Hollywood Penthouse with Vivienne Westwood. Alongside the interior design we also worked closely with her team to develop custom fabrics, rugs and wallcoverings, as well as bespoke bath robes and towels. We worked with an archive of scarves that were then mounted and framed to use for the penthouse artwork.

Main image credit: Richmond International

In Conversation With: Hamish Brown, Partner at 1508 London

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Hamish Brown, Partner at 1508 London

Following some major global project wins, 1508 London’s entrance into hospitality was one that was led by a burning desire to reference local culture, unique design and organic materials in a new generation of luxury hotels. Editor Hamish Kilburn joins one of the firm’s Partner, Hamish Brown, in the London-based studio to learn more…

“There’s a real desire at the moment for brands not to be completely dictatorial about what their hotel should look like,” comments Hamish Brown, Partner at 1508 London, who warmly welcomes me into the studio moments before arriving himself having just walked off the red-eye flight from New York to London. “There are operational and functional standards, for sure, but in terms of design and aesthetics, there is so much more freedom now than there ever has been in hotel design.”

Could it be this movement that opened the door from residential into hospitality for the design studio? Or maybe it’s Brown’s ability to sharply define where the industry is at in this moment even while enduring transatlantic jetlag. Before then, the team at 1508 London were residential pioneers who had created a unique thread of new design standards on the high-end market around the globe; an appealing DNA for developers and operators in the hospitality arena.

It’s a refreshing experience, visiting a working studio that is – despite having already completed The Spa at The Lanesborough, awarded Best Hotel Spa 2019, and is currently working on new spaces for brands such as Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Park Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels and Jumeirah – still relevantly new on the international hospitality scene. It is perchance the gems that are on the boards, as well as the major project wins that the studio has achieved recently, therefore, that is causing the heads in the industry to turn towards the direction of 1508 London.

“I have always really hated the ‘one size fits all’ approach in design.” – Hamish Brown, 1508 London

Most recently, the studio’s pipeline of statement projects includes Rosewood Doha, which is said to become “Qatar’s latest landmark five-star hotel”, the first branded residences in Beverly Hills’ golden triangle and the redesign of Jumeirah Carlton Tower in London, which will infuse a new, lighter sense of grandeur to elevate the guests’ arrival experience.

Render of two towers in doha

Image caption: Render of the majestic towers that will shelter Rosewood Doha, slated to open in 2020 | Image credit: 1508 London/Rosewood Hotels

The structure of the 70-strong designers at 1508 London is supported by four design directors, one of which, Akram Fahmi, was published in The Brit List 2019 following his recent move from his success at another studio. “We try as much as possible here to throw things up in the air, because I have always really hated the ‘one size fits all’ approach in design,” Brown tells me. “We start by first understanding the building’s context – the architecture and the local vernacular – and, as designers, it is our job to be able to draw inspiration from that.”

Brown, who The Times named as a ‘tastemaker’ in 2018, joined the firm in its infancy in 2010. Before that, he worked for a property development firm, swerving anything design-related succeeding a full-on interior architecture degree at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. “To be honest, I was a bit overwhelmed after my studies,” he admits. “The modules were attempting to be sensible, but, in reality, they did not prepare me for what life is really like as a designer. It felt a bit like passing my driving test and then merging onto the motorway for the first time.”

Render of the outside of the building

Image caption: Render teasing what the front of Jumeriah Carlton Tower will look like when it majestically remerges back onto the London scene later this year. | Image credit: 1508 London/Jumeriah Hotels

After flirting with the idea of working in high-end residential and retail development, giving student life some time to deliquesce in the memory, Brown initially joined 1508 London as a Business Development Manager. Climbing the ladder rapidly, in 2011 he became Head of Projects, was promoted one year later to become Studio Director and in 2013, he joined CEO and Partner Stuart Horwood as a Partner. “Originally, we were just four people with one vision, and we deliberately didn’t have a house style.” Walking around the studio, I am presented to the brand’s perhaps most impressive creation: the carefully curated cluster of characters – AKA, the designers – who are all driven, I’m told, by the idea of producing better spaces. “We take pride in being very client-centric, and that’s not to put anyone else or any other studio in the industry down – we really do try to respond to briefs with creativity,” Brown adds.

In a recent exclusive roundtable discussion on the topic of meaningfully differentiating luxury in hotel design, Brown mentioned that the studio tries to always capture and create sense-of-place with every project it works on. “Intrinsically, we believe that the exterior and interior of a building should have a strong relationship,” explains Brown. “And that’s often the starting point on most projects. We ask about the location, the architecture and the materials. Quite often, our inquisitive nature then takes over and we will investigate more about things like the culture, the art and the food.”

Luxury pool area inside The Lanesborough

Image caption: Thoughtfully designed, The Spa at The Lanesborough shelters a luxurious hydro pool area. | Image credit: 1508 London/The Lanesborough

In regards to the company’s own sense-of-place, the studio is situated in the heart of the capital and has famous neighbours, sharing the same roof as fashion house Tom Ford’s studio and showroom. With 27 different nationalities under one roof, 1508 London is an outwardly thinking practice that is inspired by different cultures. “Britain is a design hub because of its education,” Brown says. “Our studio is a perfect example. There is a natural flow of talent in London, and that is because individuals from all over the world choose to operate here.”

“Although the first impression in a hotel usually comes from the look and feel, the last impression is of equal importance.” – Hamish Brown, 1508 London.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: Where do you feel most at home in London?
Hamish Brown: In South London, with my wife and two children

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
HB: Sri-Lanka

HK: Was there a designer/or designers who inspired you when you were studying?
HB: Zaha Hadid and Antoni Gaudi, I’ve always fascinated by their uses of materials.

HK: What is the most rewarding part of your role?
HB: Working with people, and learning about cultures. I have learned more about geography as a designer than I ever did at school.

HK: If you were not a designer, what would you do?
HB: I would restore furniture, which is what I want to do when I retire.

HK: How would you describe your four design directors?
HB: They are completely open-minded and expansive beyond belief. You give them a challenge and they will each respond in the most wonderfully exciting ways.

HK: What’s the last item that shows up on your bank statement?
HB: A tactical coffee a Gatwick airport.

One of Brown’s most valuable lessons that he has learned is the balance between design and function. “Although the first impression in a hotel usually comes from the look and feel, the last impression is of equal importance,” he says. “The lasting memory comes from the service and function. To make someone fall in love with their stay, to attract them in the way it looks, you have to be able to deliver on that promise – and that is where the symbiosis happens between design and function.”

For most designers, one project will stand out in the portfolio. For Brown, that project sits majestically on Hyde Park Corner, just a few miles from the studio, and was also one of the first luxury hotels I checked in to as a journalist. “Working with the hotel’s Managing Director at the time, Geoffrey Gelardi, on the design of The Spa at The Lanesborough was incredible,” he says. “He had unbelievable knowledge on how the back-of-house operated, which allowed us to design spaces with complete precision, and enabled us to learn exactly how each area should be utilised. Without a doubt, those lessons have been the major transition between residential and hospitality.”

striking bar with marble surfaces featuring distressed mirrors

Image caption: Worlds away from the hustle and bustle of London life above, The Spa at The Lanesborough is an urban sanctuary unlike any other. | Image credit: 1508 London/The Lanesborough

The fact that we are sat around a beautiful oak table that I find out was rescued by the 1508 London team from an antique shop in Chelsea, exemplifies the studio’s respect for objects and restoration. “In many ways, you are only as good as your materials,” explains Brown. “This rug, even, came from a woman I met in the Middle East. She devoted her life to travelling to tribal areas, bringing groups of people together in the process to make these detailed rugs.”

“I remember using a recycled car windscreen in a bar, which a supplier fused together in order to create a striking bubble-like surface.” – Hamish Brown, 1508 London

The studio is so passionate to learn about new materials and products that it even dedicates time, one day a week, to invite select suppliers into the studio. “This time is an opportunity for us to learn, which is fascinating,” he says. “I remember using a recycled car windscreen in a bar, which a supplier fused together in order to create a striking bubble-like surface. When you backlit it, the result was incredible. The point is, I would never have thought about doing that on my own, and it added a new layer to the high-end project.”

Inspired by the studio’s infectious ethos – as well as its ability to sensitively lead the industry’s evolution ­– I leave Brown and his team in peace to continue reshaping the international landscape of luxury hotels. My evaluation of Hamish Brown? He is a polite and modest man who you can effortlessly spark up a conversation with. Listening intently to hear his passion for design, architecture and the carving out of a new era of hospitality, I can conclude that we do, after all, have more in common than simply a memorable name.

Main image credit: 1508 London

In conversation with: Pierre Yovanovitch, interior design’s answer to haute couture

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In conversation with: Pierre Yovanovitch, interior design’s answer to haute couture

With his latest project Hotel Le Coucou in the French Alps as an apt backdrop, Wallpaper*’s Designer of the Year Pierre Yovanovitch joins editor Hamish Kilburn to discuss milestones, new directions and his signature couture approach to interior design…

In my official review of Hotel Le Coucou, I mention that it is the hotel’s idiosyncratic take on slope-side luxury that has made it onto the radar of winter luxury travellers. Far removed from the conventional ski-in/ski-out luxury hotel, Hotel Le Coucou, more than 1,400 metres above sea level, takes unapologetic risks in its design to boldly shelter contrasting tones, bespoke lighting and animal-shaped furniture.

“They told me about the project, and mentioned that I was the only designer they were interested in working with for it.” – Pierre Yovanovitch.

The creative genius behind the project who in just three years sensitively created the 55-key new-build hotel, from a piste ski route into the jewel it stands as today, is Pierre Yovanovitch. The fashion designer who turned architect/designer was recently crowned Wallpaper*’s Designer of the Year 2019. He joins me for breakfast during my review of the hotel in the property’s Bianca Neve restaurant. Together, we discuss overcoming project obstacles, working to tight deadlines as well as the key moments that have shaped his abstract career.

Making the headlines recently for becoming Wallpaper*’s Designer of the Year 2019, Yovanovitch’s unique style is in hot demand. “For me, being celebrated in that way was completely unexpected,” he tells me. “For the business, though, it has been a real turning point. We have just opened an office in New York, which was completely necessary because of the increase in projects we are working on in North America. However, regardless of where we open offices, we will always be proud to be a French design studio in our approach to all projects.”

Room with interesting pieces of shaped furniture and art with man lying dead on beach

Image caption/credit: Chateau de Fabrègues, Provence/Jérome Galland

Hamish Kilburn: Let’s talk about Hotel Le Coucou. Why was was it your most challenging hotel project to date?

Pierre Yovanovitch: First of all, where we are sat right now was a piste slope before. Meribel has many constraints when it comes to architecture. Some ski resorts in France made a lot of mistakes in the ‘70s and ’80s when they built new properties without respecting the mountain-chalet style.

“Hotel Le Coucou is a complex design; its structure cascades down more than 10 levels and has very narrow areas.” – Pierre Yovanovitch.

Here, buildings have to be made from local materials, they have to match the colour of other buildings in the area and even have a specific shape. While in some ski resorts, designers and architects are able to create architectural masterpieces, in Meribel that simply is not possible. Hotel Le Coucou is a complex design; its structure cascades down more than 10 levels and has very narrow areas. Therefore, it was not an easy project to work on.

White fluffy chair and bold blue sofa

Image credit: Hotel Le Coucou

HK: Can you explain how Maisons Pariente reached out to you with this project?

The Pariente family approached me three years ago, which only feels like yesterday to be honest. They told me about the project, and mentioned that I was the only designer they were interested in working with for it. Yes, there was a burden, but I was also very honoured, and the pressure was good. 

HK: What inspired you when you first started drawing the design for Hotel Le Coucou?

PY: The views! In most hotels, you have rooms with good views and bad views. Here, though, every room opens up to capture an amazing panoramic vista of the area. It was important to me that each room utilized this fabulous site. Sometimes, the view even becomes more important than the décor.

HK: How did the hotel’s concept come to life?

PY: There were so many local constraints, so I worked with a very local architect on the building’s construction. Once we had the shell of the building, I started to draw everything inside, and some changes were made in order to open up the space. The ceiling in the lobby, for example, was too low and we had to lose a bedroom in order to create that dome-like structure you see when you arrive.

We designed everything and we had to work as quickly as possible. We drew and designed more than 140 pieces of furniture and lighting for this project. I wanted to create something special, and when we decided to purchase something over making it, it was usually because it was vintage. Creating so many pieces was a good exercise for me, because I want some of my items of furniture and lighting to become more accessible.

HK: What is it about the Scandi/American style of furniture that you love?

PY: Scandinavian furniture is instantly recognisable, but it is also timeless and I like the fact that you cannot link it to a period in time or a trend. It becomes more chic. It is also simple, made from nice wood and has a good shape. My experiment was to blend this with a Californian style, which was something new to me and other French designers.

Bear chair next to lamp and on snow-inspired carpet

Image credit: Hotel Le Cou cou/Jérôme Galland

HK: What was it like to work with Christian Louboutin in 2015, and how did that change your career?  

PY: Chistian Louboutin called me one day, out of the blue, and asked me to design the global concept of his first boutique dedicated to beauty. It was a lot of fun, and I love working on projects that are very different because they challenge me in the best way.

Image of Christain Louboutin and Pierre Yovanovitch in white space

Image credit: Louboutin Beauty Boutique Paris, 2015

HK: What other highlights in your career can you now identify as milestones?

PY: As you can see, I have a very strong interest in furniture, and I have always taken a lot of inspiration from the short yet impactful ‘Swedish Grace’ movement from the early 20th century. In 2005, my profile as a designer grew quickly after I decided to create an exhibition that was inspired by this movement.

Another moment happened two years ago when I was asked to put on an exhibition at Villa Noailles Hyères. I invented a narrative about a woman. In each room, different pieces of art and furniture as well as text told the story of this character. The area sparked a lot of interest from press and the design community. People understood my love and passion for art, theatre and literature. You see, design is larger than interiors. It sits somewhere between art and craftsmanship. I don’t like to be enclosed and I work better when I have freedom on where I source my inspiration from.

HK: Who inspired you to take risks in design?

PY: I worked with fashion designer Pierre Cardin. He warned me that if I didn’t take risks then I would stay small. He has a very strong style and, in a way, he is an architect. Working with Cardin was a very good experience for me, and his words still inspire me today.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND:

HK: What trend do you hope never returns?
PY: Trends are not interesting. I hate the idea of following trends.

 HK: Where is next on your travel bucket list?
PY: Glasgow. I am taking my whole team there next week to learn the work of architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I really need to learn new things when I travel.

HK: Describe your team in three words?
PY: Family, friends and positivity

HK: If you could start from scratch with Hotel Le Coucou, would you change anything?
PY: I would change everything! I have new ideas all the time, but this project is a moment in time that I am proud of.

HK: What have your learned from this project?
PY: That constraints are fantastic because budget and time limits allow you to be more creative.

While working on the final stages to complete Hotel Le Coucou, Yovanovitch’s time was split among other projects. In London, he was given just two months to design new interiors for high-end restaurant Hélène Darroze at The Connaught. With the history and heritage of the building on his shoulders, the designer injected style into the space with a sensitively blend of salmon-toned surfaces, bespoke curved furniture and a distinct refined yet comfortable style.

“For me, there are two reasons why I liked that project, Yovanovitch explains. “The first is the chef, Hélène Darroze, who is such a lovely lady. And second was the building itself. Darroze asked me to design something feminine and she ended up loving my idea to narrate through design the tension between masculine and feminine. This project was another example of me drawing everything from scratch – from the lighting to the furniture and even the ceiling. It became a haute Couture project unique for her.”

As our breakfast comes to an end, I am left with little more than a teaser that unveils the designer/architects next movements will be as bold as his latest project. “I am currently working on a few projects, which means that I am travelling a lot” he concludes. “Expect something loud and over the top.”

It’s difficult not to be touched by Yovanovitch’s approach to new challenges. His confident approach to say yes to projects that will stretch his limits as a designer has allowed his to take the industry to a new level – one that is playful, couture-driven and always meaningful.

It’s clear that overhauling iconic spaces into something more is, each time, a personal journey itself that allows Yovanovitch to grow as a creative and artist. Although the challenges that Yovanovitch faces often come with insomnia and the inability to simply switch off, it is his passion and devotion to innovation in the industry that has made him one of the greatest designer/architects of our time.

Main image credit: Pierre Yovanovitch Studio/Vincent Desailly

Discussing biophilic design in hotel surfaces

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Discussing biophilic design in hotel surfaces

Ahead of their panel discussion at the Surface Design Show next week, editor Hamish Kilburn and Parkside Architectural Tiles’ architectural consultancy manager Fraser Lockley discuss sustainable surfaces in hotel design… 

Design is all around us, and we interact with it from the moment we get up in the morning, through our working day and into leisure time.

Design is a reflection of society and impacts on how we interact in our daily lives. The way in which buildings and spaces are designed has the potential to greatly impact the wellbeing of those interacting with it, so to promote biophilic design seems a given.

Ahead of hosting a panel discussion (February 13 at 12:30pm on the Main Stage) at the Surface Design Show next week, I caught up with one of my panelists early to understand, from a suppliers perspective, how designers’ methods for injecting biophilic design into projects is allowing new possibilities to emerge in surface design.

Hamish Kilburn: What makes biophilic design more than just a trend?
Fraser Lockley: The ideas and principles of biophilic design have been around for many years, it is only the term that has come to the forefront of the design world more recently. The use of natural materials was a foundation for many of the classic societies (Egyptians, Greeks etc), so biophilic design is definitely not a new trend. It’s more a return to exploring the use of natural shapes, colours, textures and patterns as well as sustainable materials and interpreting these to modern designs and how they impact on end users.

HK: Can you explain what Parkside is looking for when it investigates new materials?
FL: We are always looking for opportunities to bring new products to the interiors and A&D sector. Our Sequel range is a great example, using recycled glass and ceramics normally discarded in the sanitary products manufacturing process, we were able to offer a great looking tile that appealed to the aesthetic requirements of clients while embracing sustainability and a biophilic ethos.

“While 15-20 years ago the idea of using recycled content was associated with inferior or cheaper products, now producers are more comfortable in declaring the resourcing of products to create new tiles.” Fraser Lockley, architectural consultancy manager at Parkside Tiles.

HK: What would you say are the least sustainable materials available in the marketplace?
FL: Sustainability can be measured in various ways, so it is not always easy to pinpoint exact materials, for example some materials may be more energy intensive to produce but then have a much longer product life than sustainably produced equivalents. In addition, products that stand the test of time in terms of look and performance could arguably be more sustainable over something very niche and on-trend for a particular timeframe. For us, it’s about achieving a balance across all of these and providing products that have a long-term design, good product life and made without over-exploiting earth’s natural resources.

HK: How is technology unlocking the potential for designers to affordably access sustainable tiles?
FL: Digital printing technology means that a majority of looks, finishes and styles can be replicated onto tiles, thereby protecting valuable natural resources such as marble, slate, quartz etc. It’s worth bearing in mind that tiles are generally long-lasting and hardwearing. In fact, tiles are only likely to be removed because someone wants to change them rather than through necessity. Looking around modern-day London, our tube stations are testament to some of the iconic tiles from the 1900s that are still in use today.

HK: How many of Parkside’s tiles would you consider to be sustainable?
FL: With the longevity that tiles provide we consider tiles to be a sustainable option for exterior and interior finishes. Many of the major manufacturers are using a percentage of recycled content within their production processes. While 15-20 years ago the idea of using recycled content was associated with inferior or cheaper products, now producers are more comfortable in declaring the resourcing of products to create new tiles.

HK: How can designers on a budget sensitively inject biophilic design in public areas?
FL: Designers can concentrate on one or two of the biggest elements of a project that will impact on the overall design, this could be key features or focusing on particular aspects like the lighting or flooring and sourcing one or two products that embrace the biophilic ethos. This one change may seem small but incorporating even just a single element can have an impact on how the end user interacts with public areas.

HK: In your role, how has demand for sustainability increased in recent years?
FL: There has been a massive increase! Architects and designers continue to incorporate sustainability within their projects and the latest generation of designers have been introduced to sustainability from the start of their careers, so we predict continued demand for new products that address these practises.

HK: What are the consumer benefits of biophilically designed tiles?
FL: Any biophilic design which helps end users connect with nature while inside, provides the benefits of reducing stress, supporting wellbeing, and helping with performance in an ever-hectic environment.

Hotel Designs’ Hamish Kilburn will host the panel discussion entitled: Biophilic Materials in Surface Design. He will be joined on the sofa by Fraser Lockley (architectural consultancy manager at Parkside Architectural Tiles), Jeremy Grove (Managing Director of Sibley Grove) and Richard Holland (Director of Holland Harvey Architects).

5 minutes with: Interior designer, Yuna Megre

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 minutes with: Interior designer, Yuna Megre

Following the impressive VIP Suite that was unveiled Sleep & Eat 2019, interior designer Yuna Megre joins editor Hamish Kilburn for a five-minute chat on how the design concept came together…

It was one of the most popular elements of last year’s Sleep & Eat. Not only was the VIP Suite fit for purpose – giving designers, architects and the press a place to hide from the exhibition – but it was also flawlessly designed to look and feel like a premium space.

Named ‘Gather’ by the designers, the original oak panelled Olympia Club Room was transformed into a whimsical flora and fauna-inspired space. Drapes, upholstery and even the flooring were in a fabric depicting exotic flowers. Specially designed by MEGRE INTERIORS cascades of fabric flowers looped through the space and, in the epicentre, a large-scale light installation flickered warmly like a fire. Surrounded by orbicular seating – referencing the circular gathering places of human history and drawing a parallel to the primeval pleasure of coming together around a fire pit – the space was inviting, exciting and original.

Hamish Kilburn: Sum up your Sleep & Eat 2019 experience in one sentence?
Yuna Megre: Meaningful, inspiring, humbling experience, and there was an overwhelming appreciation of our ‘Gather’ concept.

HK: What was the brief?
YM: The brief was to create a VIP lounge that would reflect this year’s theme of the event of Social Flexibility. We went beyond that brief and created an experience rather than just a space, attacking all senses and immersing guests into a powerful atmosphere.

Image caption: Yuna Megre inside the VIP Suite at Sleep & Eat 2019

HK: Can you explain your choice of materials?
YM:
Straight away we knew we would keep to a mono-material / look as much as possible to create an atmosphere of immersion and to make shapes disappear, taking a back seat to colour and pattern. Originally we were aiming to cover all surfaces with fabric, and developed such fabric with Sahco, that could withstand all the application we would need. However, in development, we came to the conclusion that for fire safety, for ease of cleaning, for ease of application – we will produce glue backed vinyl with the same print to use on floors and some furniture. We further pushed the boundaries by creating fabric flowers and leaves that matched those drawn on the print and strategically placing them as if they burst out from the two dimensional world into the three-dimensional one. Everything but the print we wanted to disappear as much as possible and to create some spacial illusions – which we achieved through the use of mirrored furniture and surfaces. We also view the scent and music that we created for this project as the materials we used. Because for a concept to be experiential and immersive it must work with all human senses. 

“It is no longer enough to design spaces. We have to design experiences, environments, emotions.” – Yuna Megre, Founder and Head of Design at MEGRE INTERIORS.

HK: How does your design challenge conventional ideas of a public space?
It goes beyond space – that I feel is the biggest challenge to the convention. The way that our world is evolving, the way we consume our surrounding is evolving. It is no longer enough to design spaces. We have to design experiences, environments, emotions. There has never been such a cross-disciplinary overlap as today between interior design, event and experience design, art, digital design. And we are only at the beginning of this new paradigm. Our concept explores this new reality, a new approach to public spaces. It looks at space as an environment of interaction which has to create an emotion, a memory, rather than just serve a function.

HK: Can you explain your use of layers within the design?
YM: As we used a mono-material approach, we layered the project through senses rather than conventional visual layering. We addressed all six senses – the visual, the sound, the smell, the touch and with it ergonomics, the taste, and our last but most important one – emotion. We unravelled the concept of gather through them all. This is layering in the new era of design, not just visual layering. 

HK: What were the main challenges throughout this project?
YM:
Many people believed it could not be done. Throughout the journey multiple people were telling us to simplify it, to make it less complex. But we achieved what we set out to do, at 60 per cent of original cost estimations, on time, with everything as we envisioned. It is our teams approach to everything we do. There is always a solution, always to get things done. If you cannot see it, you are not looking hard enough. GATHER was such an overwhelming success because of this unwavering dedication to the concept and the support of all-out partners and contractors.

Main image credit: Megre Interiors 

In Conversation With: Hotelier of the Year 2019, Thomas Kochs

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Hotelier of the Year 2019, Thomas Kochs

The Managing Director of Corinthia London, Thomas Kochs, has confidently evolved – and arguably led – the luxury hospitality scene in London for decades. Editor Hamish Kilburn joins the man of the moment who was recently crowned Hotelier of the Year at The Brit List Awards 2019

London’s luxury market stands and operates alone on the global hospitality map. Although ‘competition’ is a rare word spoken among hotel operators in the city, there is no denying that the luxury hotels in the capital are all vying for the title of being the best and most interesting hotel in London.

One man who knows more than most hoteliers about the luxury hospitality scene is Thomas Kochs, the Managing Director of Corinthia London. In the last decade alone, the German-born hotelier has managed properties such as The Berkeley, The Connaught Hotel, Claridge’s and Hotel Café Royal. More than likely, it was this impressive portfolio that qualified him as the man for the job to take the helm of Corinthia’s flagship property in 2017.

Roof terrace that has modern furniture, a large chess board and the view of the London Eye

Image credit: Corinthia London’s Whitehall Penthouse

Since its opening in 2011, in a building that dates back 1885, the 300-key property has proven, time and time again, that Mayfair is not the only neighbourhood for premium hotels in London. Sitting undisturbed on the bank of the River Thames; a hop, skip and a jump away from London landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Corinthia London faces, and in some suites frames, the iconic London Eye and the contemporary and eclectic South Bank.

Having just clinched the prestigious title of Hotelier of the Year at The Brit List Awards 2019, Kochs is rightfully considered one of the best in his field. With an acute eye for detail, and a calm, collected yet dynamic approach to leadership, the hotelier has seen – perhaps even led – the evolutions of many hospitality trends driven by consumer behaviour and demands. “Design has evolved,” says Kochs. “10 – 15 years ago, hotels had more opportunities to impress through design. However, a good design formula alone is no longer enough in today’s market. There are some design-driven brands where the customer only checks in because of the design and aesthetic, but we don’t consider ourselves one of them.”

Spacious and luxury hotel lobby. Grand piano in the centre, and a large chandelier in the background

Image cpation/credit: Corinthia London’s luxurious lobby | Jack Hardy

Last year, Corinthia London was the backdrop of a BBC docuseries entitled: A Hotel for the Super Rich & Famous. The two-part series, which echoed a similar format of another series that featured Kochs when he was General Manager of Claridge’s, gave consumers a window into the inner workings of a luxury hotel.

As well as following the day-in-the-life of housekeepers, florists and the concierge, the cameras were also given access to creative meetings with the hotel’s Futurists-in-Residence, The Future Laboratory. The trend forecasters, who began their partnership with the hotel in 2018, believes the future of luxury is about intelligent encounters – think cool cultural exchanges, and the kind of exemplary food for the mind, body and soul that stimulates thinking. “These are dear friends of ours,” Kochs explains. “The Future Laboratory were trying to make the point that that consumers are too busy with themselves, to the point that only severe disruption would make them talk to each other.” One option suggested was to deliberately shut down one of the lifts. “That’s all well and good,” Kochs adds, “but that just doesn’t work in hotels. The aim of the partnership was to position ourselves as a forward-thinking hotel that also respects our history and brand values.”

Another common theme explored in the TV series was how decisions were made, and often changed. “Why would you stick to something that your mind is warning is not the right decision?” Kochs rhetorically questions. “I know it can sometimes be exhausting and an inconvenience to people around you, but it’s important to get it right and sometimes you just have to trust your gut.”

Quick-fire round

HK: Congratulations on your win at The Brit List Awards 2019. How does it feel, being Hotelier of the Year?
TK: It’s amazing, I have never been a hotelier of the year before.

HK: Why is Britain a hospitality hotspot?
TK: Because creativity, design and hospitality is deeply rooted in British culture.

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

HK: What’s the one item you cannot travel without?
TK: My Bottega Veneta holdall travels everywhere with me.

HK: What is the one hospitality trend you hope will not return?
TK: The idea that the most expensive is the most desirable. That was vulgar.

HK: What is the last item that will show up on your bank statement?
TK: Organic dog food, hand-cooked in Devon, for my new puppy.

HK: What is the most important element to get right in hospitality?
TK: The team is essential. The team here really do inspire me every day.

HK: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
TK: A GP in the countryside.

HK: If you were not living in London, where would you be?
TK: Somewhere with a beach, potentially Los Angeles.

HK: Who inspired you when you were early on in your career?
TK: It was more the feeling of quality hospitality that inspired me.

HK: What’s your favourite part of the hotel?
TK: I really like the Northall Bar. I like the high ceilings and the historic elements, but also there is space to breathe.

As a someone who has been at the top of the luxury hotel triangle in London since 2001, Kochs understands that the roles of a hotelier are changing, and evolving fast. “The structure of having your strategy, the next five-year plan and the budgets has remained the same, explains Kochs. But now, more than ever, you need to be really close to your team; understand your employees and what they are working on. You also need to spend time with the guests, and really consider the sense of location when doing so. The minute you lose interest in any of these components, you’re fighting a losing battle. That brings me nicely onto relevance. The hotel has to understand how to remain an exciting place. It is a beating heart; a live operation. It’s not something that we can put into storage and sell later. Instead, it’s happening now.”

modern, contemporary guestroom with green cushions and bed throw.

Image caption/credit: Corinthia London’s Duluxe King guestroom | Jack Hardy

It’s an interesting time for Corinthia Hotels. Following its announcement to debut in Dubai, which CEO Simon Naudi explained the ins and outs of in an exclusive interview last year. While the brand expands sensitively, the London hub remains the mothership of the group, where the DNA of its award-winning style and service was born and refined. “I do certainly feel the responsibility,” adds Kochs. “We are in one of the most exciting cities in the world, which is all too easy to forget because we have access to it every day. We are lucky and blessed that we identify trends before others. This, I believe, comes with experience. It’s crucial to stay alert and awake to consumer trends and shifts in demands so that we capture them both verbally and intellectually, which we can then communicate seamlessly through the hotel experience.

Render of luxe, light and airy suite.

Image caption/credit: Render of Corinthia Dubai | Corinthia Hotels

Considering its widely known reputation, it’s easy to forget that the hotel group currently only has one hotel on UK soil. “We have the advantage of being small,” says Kochs. “Look at what is going on around us. Everything is getting bigger. Travel to Vietnam, for example. You enter Saigon and the streets are a bit dusty, and souk is steaming on the side of the road. But then you are confronted with Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada; the same brands and products you would find on Bond Street.

“The hotel industry is not too dissimilar. The Corinthia brand is small, and we are quick in our decision making. There isn’t a corporate paralysation and we are not overly governed by brand guidelines. A large brand would argue that the opposite is their advantage, which can also be true.”

Dark spa with fire on the left and luxe sauna on the right.

Image caption/credit: The Spa inside Corinthia London | Jack Hardy

What I believe is most telling of Kochs’ style as a hotelier is the fact that, throughout our interview, he had a subtle, non-invasive watch on everyone else in the room. The self-proclaimed perfectionist continues to stand as a leading example for the brand that is slowly by surely expanding its luxury offering in far-flung destinations around the world.  Personally, I believe that Kochs’ attention to detail is what sets him apart – like how, during this interview, he paused politely to ask for the lighting to be lowered as the last of the London light filtered into the late afternoon. Despite his impressive background in hospitality, Kochs remains humble, warm and a worthy Hotelier of the Year.

Main image credit: Corinthia London

In Conversation With: The founders of design studio BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: The founders of design studio BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

With W Ibiza about to open, Hotel Designs gets a backstage pass to exclusively interview the design and architecture heroes behind the project. The founders of BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG, Irene Kronenberg and Alon Baranowitz, have led the completion of some of Europe’s most iconic hotels. Editor Hamish Kilburn joins the pair to understand how to effortlessly confront convention in the ever-evolving hotel design arena…

A few miles away from where the spotlight is being cast on the designers and architects who are attending Sleep & Eat 2019, The Standard London’s playful interior design scheme provides an apt and backdrop for my next interview to take place. I don’t know it yet, but I am about to experience a pivotal moment in my career as I prepare to meet face-to-face with the designers behind one of my very first ever hotel reviews, which took place almost half a decade ago.

Irene Kronenberg and Alon Baranowitz are the founders of BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG, and have – for some time now –  led an exciting movement on the hotel design scene in Europe and in the Middle East. Their two studios in Amsterdam and Tel Aviv consist of a group of talented designers and architects, all of whom have graduated from institutions around the globe.

Among a sea of residential projects within the studio’s portfolio, there are also a number of hotels that have marvellously opened to disrupt the tide of the pre-existing hospitality spaces. These include the likes of Sir Albert Hotel, Mendeli Street Hotel, Wyndham Grand Frankfurt, as well as a handful of W Hotels for good measure in pockets of Europe that have become major travel hotspots.

“I like to think it’s the building talking back when we face challenges.” – Alon Baranowitz, Co-founder, BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG.

It’s a daunting prospect to reconfigure a respected building that has formed part of history and a community for centuries, and sensitivity from concept through to completion is called for for such briefs. “We have a beautiful dialogue with buildings that allows us to converse and work with them,” explains Baranowitz. “I like to think it’s the building talking back when we face challenges. It really is a journey. When you start from scratch, anything is possible. And then you start confronting elements that affect the original ideas and plans. The trick then is to work around constraints and not against them. Often, these end up being the most exciting and rewarding projects.”

“In that moment, we moved from being functional designers and became narrative creatives.” – Irene Kronenburg, Co-founder, BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG.

1998 was a defining year for the studio. The two designers were approached by a client to create a new restaurant and dining experience. “We remember the birth of Zo Zo Bra’s design concept like it was yesterday, and it was a turning point for us,” says Kronenburg. “I even remember what the lady was drinking on the table adjacent to us during our meeting. We sat there for hours trying to understand the concept of ying and yang. We went in completely open-minded, and only after we had succeeded in defining the energy of the concept and space did we start designing. “In that moment,” reflects Kronenburg, “we moved from being functional designers and became narrative creatives.”

projector above tables and open front windows, the studio's design take on ying and yang

Image caption: The ying and yang concept executed in Zo Zo Bra in Tel Aviv

A few decades later, having perfected their innovative design method with a string of hotels and residential projects, the studio was awarded the opportunity to design W Amsterdam, which I first reviewed in 2014 during its soft opening. It was another one of those projects – a ‘labour of love’ hotel, which I’m assuming received more labour than love during key moments. “It was an incredible project to work on,” beams Kronenberg. “It felt like our role was to stitch all the elements together. Before we made any decisions, we had to understand the buildings as well as the city of Amsterdam. The biggest challenge was to breathe new life into the building while remaining sensitive throughout.”

The hotel, which takes shelter in the pre-existing 1920s telephone exchange building as well as the former KAS Bank down the road, challenges design and behavioural conventions in many ways. For starters, the check-in area is positioned on the top floor of the exchange building, which flows seamlessly into the rooftop bar and restaurant and heated outdoor pool, allowing visitors to feel part of the W’s energy immediately upon checking in. “It’s a party place, but Amsterdam does not the same night life you have here in London,” explains Kronenberg, and I can only assume the designer is referencing the city’s open-minded attitudes as well as an underground party, design and fashion scene. “It was important for us to create a venue that the locals would accept as a new destination that breaks boundaries. Without the locals using the hotel’s facilities as we intended, the design would not have worked as a concept.”

Hotel designers are moving – or have already shifted – into a new era, where their design projects on the boards being influenced as much by quality materials as they are aesthetics. Having led the industry as innovators for so long, I am intrigued to understand how this greater awareness has impacted the studio. “It’s a really exciting time to be operating in the industry at the moment,” explains Baranowitz. “Perspectives on sustainability are definitely changing. Before knocking down a building, for example, we should be investigating what we can restore in order to create a continuation of urban fabric that would otherwise be forgotten. Thinking in this way has become more of a reflex.”

“It really is as simple as adjusting the way we live in order to design more thoughtful spaces.” – Irene Kronenburg, Co-founder, BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG.

For the studio, while consumers checking in and out of hotels become more savvy to consciously designed properties, it is less about designing purposely, and more about living sensibly and within ones means so that an eco-approach becomes second nature. “There shouldn’t need to be someone telling us to design responsibly, just like there shouldn’t be someone telling us to recycle,” adds Kronenberg. “It really is as simple as adjusting the way we live in order to design more thoughtful spaces.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn (HK): Where’s next on your travel bucket list? 
Elon Baranowitz (EB): Japan
Irene Knonenberg (IK): The Azores

HK: What is the secret to good design? 
IK: Good design is about what you don’t see.

HK: Why should people visit your hometown of Tel Aviv? 
EB: We live each day like there is no tomorrow. No, really, the energy on the streets is electric!

HK: What would you say has been the most significant change on the international hotel design scene recently?
IK: Respect for specialists and sourcing inspiration outside of design territory.

Not understanding the 360-degree relationship between the designer, architect and operator is a pitfall I try to avoid when reviewing hotels. When researching into the studio’s latest project it is about to complete, W Ibiza, I find it uncommon and interesting that BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG was commissioned to work on the architecture as well as the interior design scheme.

W Hotels has a habit of doing things differently – and considering the studio’s wealth of architecture experience as well as interior design – the renders of W Ibiza say rather a lot about the buildings need for a strong relationship between both elements. The colourful renders depict a vision that is the result of a seamless and understood relationship between the shell of the building, its practical properties catering to the modern traveller and and evolution of the W-style within the vibrant interiors sheltered inside. “When we first entered the building, which is positioned on the beach front, we couldn’t even see the sea. There had been no thought as to how guests would and should use these public spaces,” explains Kronenberg. “As a result of us opening up the structure of the building sensitively, guests now capture the sea from the outside of the property.”

Render of a colourful green and blue architecture of W Ibiza

Image credit: W Ibiza/Baranowitz + Kronenberg

W Ibiza is slated to open in April, ahead of the 2020 Summer season. Located off the beaten track, the 167-key hotel will strike a pose on the palm-fringed beachfront of Santa Eulalia. As the only global brand on the island, the design brief was to marry the parallel realities of Ibiza with a magnetic pull that turns up the sass.

By opening up the public spaces to become a flexible social hub, the hotel becomes a place that nurtures human connections, and through the use of subtle levels creates touchable distance between each functional area. “The idea is that the energy descends into the unconventional pool area,” adds Baranowitz. “As you move up levels, the lobby/lounge area becomes more reclined, but the open architecture scheme allows for a clever connection between all spaces.”

 

60 minutes in the company of Kronenberg and Baranowitz has allowed me to find a fresh perspective on the industry, as well as the possibilities that can emerge from taking the time to listen before acting. As the pair rush to catch their flight back to Tel Aviv, their boundless energy has awakened my senses. Nearly five years after checking in to W Amsterdam, it is as if fate has finally brought this moment together. My barely touched coffee has gone cold, which I now believe is the sign of a great conversation that will continue soon.

Main image credit: BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

In Conversation With: Marcel Wanders – “bathroom design can be poetry”

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Marcel Wanders – “bathroom design can be poetry”

Ahead of Sleep & Eat 2019, editor Hamish Kilburn speaks to acclaimed designer Marcel Wanders to understand how he hopes his new collection and collaboration with bathroom manufacturer Laufen will create long-lasting poetry in the modern bathroom…

Designing interiors and designing an interior design product are two very distant things that should not be confused with the other. They both require two separate methods, and most of the time, two separate designers.

For an individual to be able to effortlessly switch between the two disciplines shows great versatility, creativity and passion. Combine these three elements together and you have something close to Marcel Wanders’ drive, determination and dedication when it comes to creating timeless interiors. “Designing a product is much like creating a new word in an empty sentence,” Wanders explains. “Depending on how the words are curated will determine the dynamics of the sentence, and in effect, the quality of the poem it becomes. I love seeing what sentences and poems designers will create with my empty words.”

“I wanted The New Classic to break into a new territory, which I think makes it interesting.” – Marcel Wanders.

If Wanders’ latest collection was to be described in one word only, he would use simply the adjective of ‘contemporary’, which balances both sides of the coin when it comes to sensitively depicting the delicate, classic lines with modern architectural details that seems to be the DNA strand within all the pieces in Lauren’s The New Classic collection, which first previewed in Milan earlier this year. “I wanted The New Classic to break into a new territory, which I think makes it interesting,” Wanders explains.

The collection, which makes its UK debut at Sleep & Eat 2019, is complete with washstands, countertop and vanity washbasins, WCs, faucets, bathtubs, showers and furniture to match, and arrives on UK soil after a healthy amount of anticipation in the build-up to the event, making it one of the most exciting product launches of this year’s two-day show.

“The idea is not about throwing away the past,” adds Wanders. “Instead, it is about trying to blend the past into the now and the future. I started with the concept of a table you would find in your Grandma’s home, for example, and used that as a strong metaphor to create the structure of the range,” explains Wanders. “I then added some soft, elegant shaping and the whole collection started to take form.

“Like all architectural fittings, The New Classic had to feel timeless and designed with purpose. I kept imagining these pieces in a house that’s just been sold. I wanted the new owners to feel as if they didn’t need to change the fittings, because they become the foundation of its design. Bathrooms are not meant to feel disposable or stuck in the past. The durability of the materials, therefore, was paramount.”

Originally, Wanders had designed this collection to be made from ceramic, but Laufen’s unique SaphirKeramik gave the design – and its creative process – unmatched strength. “SaphirKeramik is differnet because it allows you as a designer to create thinner products that don’t loose their strength,” says the designer. “Considering the design concept was to create elegant pieces, it was the perfect material.”

The major challenge when designing the new iconic statements was to ensure that the idea and design approach was also functional. “We are talking about minuscule changes that can totally change the way in which the product performs,” adds Wanders. “For me, this area of product design is interesting as well as complicated – and it takes time to perfect.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: If The New Classic was a music artist, who would it be?
Marcel Wanders: Puccini, because I think opera can also be contemporary.

HK: What item can you not design with?
MW: Honestly, I can design without anything. It is all in my mind.

HK: What would you say has been the most bizzare collaboration you have worked on?
MW: Antiques Capellini, because I don’t think anyone was expecting something so bold.

HK: Which bathroom trend to you hope will never return?
MW: Trends in general!

HK: What is the secret to a successful collaboration?
MW: Mutual respect.

For a designer who is well-known for entering meaningful collaborations, I am intrigued to know more about what makes this particular project special and memorable among the more than 1,500 other projects to his name. “I love to work,” Wanders projects. “It’s been the first time we have done a serious project of scale in the bathroom. I am so excited to see my designs injected into projects around the world.”

In regards to the humble designer behind Lauren’s The New Classic, I believe this collection has the narrative and strength to win the hearts of designers and specifiers and to become the great bathroom love story sheltered in many hotel projects in all corners of the globe, that we, as industry, will reflect on decades from now as a significant moment in bathroom design.

Laufen, which will be showcasing The New Classic collection on stand L10 at Sleep & Eat, 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: Marcel Wanders

In Conversation With: Britain’s design legend Martin Brudnizki

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Britain’s design legend Martin Brudnizki

Last year’s crowned Interior Designer of The Year at The Brit List Awards, Martin Brudnizki, invites editor Hamish Kilburn to his Chelsea London studio to explain some of the major milestones in his career as well as how he logistically manages his time in a truly international market…

Design gems are not hard to come by on the British hotel design scene. You have only to open the pages of last year’s edition of The Brit List – and this year’s shortlist for that matter – to find the top 75 influential designers, architects and hoteliers.

However, design legends are less common. It’s not a question of talent or ability, but more a reflection of style, class, personality and being about to really set oneself aside from others in the heavily congested international hotel design market.

There is only – and will only ever be – one Martin Brudnizki, for example. Last year, Hotel Designs’ The Brit List crowned the acclaimed visionary as its Interior Designer of the Year – and for good reason. “Brudnizki is an international leader, standing as an icon as well as inspiration to so many young aspiring designers,” commented last year’s expert judging panel. “His recent work in University Arms Cambridge is a credit to his studio’s ability to give a building a new lease of life in the most sensitive and creative way.”

Image caption/credit: The Library designed by MBDS/University Arms Cambridge

Almost one year later, while the editorial team at Hotel Designs are gearing up for yet another spectacular awards ceremony, I aptly caught up with the Brudnizki in his Chelsea studio in London to find out more about our ‘poster boy’s’ journey to become one of the world’s most celebrated interior designers of the moment.

“I grew up in Stockholm; my mother was a stylist and my father an engineer and I think this blend of approaches to living and design, in particular, rubbed off on me,” Brudnizki explains. “My mother is incredibly stylish and filled our home with beautiful colours, patterns and objet. My father on the other hand, worked in a very precise and thought-through way. Both aspects of their personality has certainly informed the way I work today.”

Brudnizki’s early career in design saw him working at the likes of David Gill Gallery and David Collins Studio before branching off and putting his own practice in 2000, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio (MBDS) in 2000. “I learned a lot during my time in other places,” he adds, “which has served me well when establishing my own studio.”

“We have a number of up-coming projects that I also hope shape our studio’s story. It’s an exciting time.” – Martin Brudnizki

Since then, MBDS has become one of the leading international design studios, with bases in London and New York and projects including The Beekman, University Arms and Four Seasons Athens. But, like all designers, Brudnizki remembers the milestone moments; the hotels and buildings that captured his and his team’s incredible imagination, usually sheltered in iconic shells. “All the projects we work on are exciting and help shape the future of the studio however, there are a few that really stick out as being pivotal,” the designer explains. “Scott’s in Mayfair presented us with the opportunity to design our first fine dining restaurant, it also cemented our relationship with Caprice Holdings, who have since become important clients of ours. Working with Nick Jones on Soho Beach House Miami was exciting as this saw us introduce the successful Soho House brand to a new region. The Beekman in New York opened in 2016 and helped stamp our mark on New York. It’s located in a beautiful building and we were lucky to garner a lot of attention from it. Finally, Annabel’s in London has proved incredibly popular for us. It’s such an iconic club so we felt very honoured to be asked to redesign its incarnation. We have a number of up-coming projects that I also hope shape our studio’s story. It’s an exciting time.”

Dividing his time between both London and New York has given Brudnizki the unique freedom to position himself in two of the world’s most respected design hubs. “Both cities have very unique identities,” Brudnizki explains. “They are both are melting pots of culture and excitement and whilst very different, they both present wonderful opportunities to mark your mark.”

“Luxury travel to me is being able to combine a sense of curated experience with spontaneity; finding new places but also the having the flexibility to be adventurous and go off piste.” – Martin Brudnizki

From the outside looking in, the luxury market in hotel design may look like a desirable place to start when setting out to build a reputation as being a leading designer, but it also comes with risk to cater to the ever-changing demand of the modern luxury traveller. For Brudniki, the true art of luxury travel is a reflection of his own experience and personality. “Luxury travel to me is being able to combine a sense of curated experience with spontaneity; finding new places but also the having the flexibility to be adventurous and go off piste,” he defines.

Since winning at The Brit List 2018, Brudnizki’s vision on a new hotel brand has come to life in the shape of Mr C Hotels, which opened in Miami earlier this year – and has, as a result, put him in the running for the second consecutive year for this year’s awards. “Mr C is situated in a modern new build in the green surroundings of Coconut Grove,” he explains. “New builds have many benefits, including up-to-date technology and no listed statuses to content with however, new builds often lack the characterful details of older properties. With this in mind, we often have to dig deeper to find a strong narrative to wrap the hotel’s design in. For Mr. C we looked to the landscape of the region and the glamorous boating heritage and incorporated elements of this into our scheme.”

As well as technology, another area that has peaked recently in popularity among developers as well as designers and architects is the value of sustainability and designing consciously. “I think it depends on the project and the client, Brudnizki admits. “We are working with Six Senses on their new hotel and resort in Kitzbuehel Alps and the whole design is focused on sustainability and using organic and local materials. This is to mirror the brand’s values so we’ve had an interesting time researching new materiality and local artisans who can help reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint and up their sustainability accreditation.”

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: Where is next on your travel bucket list?
Martin Brudnizki: Portugal.

HK: What is the number one item you simply cannot travel without?
MB: A silk eye mask.

HK: What is the last item that will show up on your bank statement?
MB: Probably food from Bayley & Sage.

HK: What is your favourite place to unwind in London?
MB: My home in Parsons Green. As a travel so much, it’s nice to just come home and relax in the peace and quiet.

HK: What trend do you hope will never return?
MB: International Beige.

HK: Where are you travelling to next?
MB: My New York Studio next week.

Before I leave the designer in peace to create with his team the hotel interiors of the future, which include hotels in London, Austria, LA and Cape Town (among others), I am interested to explore, on the surface at least, new materials that have emerged on the designer’s radar. “I am really interested in straw marquetry at the moment; it’s such a beautiful natural fibre that can be used in the most unusual of places, such as walls and furniture,” Brudnizki says.

MBDS itself is incubating a strong network of talented designers that will further position Britain as a globally regarded leading design hotspot. With his name on the door of two dynamic studios – and also in the minds of I would argue all aspiring interior designers – Brudnizki is leading the ever-evolving industry into new territory.

The shortlisted finalists this year’s The Brit List have been invited to The Brit List Awards 2019, which takes on November 21 at Patch East London (Aldgate). To purchase limited tickets, click here

Main image credit: Luca Marziale

In Conversation With: Andrew Sadler from CTD Architectural Tiles

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Andrew Sadler from CTD Architectural Tiles

Editor Hamish Kilburns sits down with the Andrew Sadler, CTD Architectural Tiles specifications sector manager, to discuss how the industrial trend in surfaces is evolving, sustainable wall covering solutions and how tech is driving a new age in tile design… 

2019 is proving to be a pivotal year for surfaces. While trends are being replaced for a burning need for designing with purpose, sustainability is being discussed widely in more ways than ever before.

Meanwhile, art on the international hotel design scene continues to spill outside the frame, and often onto the walls. To understand more about how surface suppliers are coping with the rise in demand for vivid wallcoverings that can completely change an interior designs space, I spoke to CTD Architectural Tiles’ specifications sector manager, Andrew Sadler.

Hamish Kilburn: Can you explain how the industrial trend (especially in wallcoverings) has evolved recently?

Andrew Sadler: The industrial trend has developed mostly due to production technology. The introduction of ‘Continua Plus’ has allowed the production of larger sizes than ever before, which has been a real change in the trend, and the products specified. The first generation slabs were marble-based designs but now we are seeing more industrial design themes such as concrete and metal coming through. See Maiora Concrete 2.4 x 1.2 metre slabs.

Some factories are however are embracing the desire amongst specifiers and clients for authentic production techniques. We can see this in both our Zelij and Croma ranges.

Image caption: Zelig from CTD Architectural Tiles

Another development has been the fusions of traditional ceramic techniques and new industrial design concepts. This is best captured in a range like Diesel Glass Blocks, where a 1950s style glass brick has been captured in ceramic tile using decade-old glazing techniques updated for the 2020s.

HK: What would you say is the biggest pitfall among designers when specifying wallcovering?

AS: With tiles, the biggest pitfall among designers is probably understanding that the tile is just one element of a system. Consideration needs to be given to the substrate the tile is being fixed to and how the area is tanked to mitigate water ingress and potential failure. CTDA work with both Schluter Systems and Jackon to offer the specifier peace of mind through provision of a wide range of wetroom and substrate solutions. From a design perspective, trying to replicate the popular brick bond or herringbone/parquet style of floor tile used on walls can cause a challenge when the room is fitted with spotlights. All of a sudden the lipping on the tiles, unevidenced on the floor becomes all too apparent.

HK: Why are surfaces within public areas more important now than ever before?

AS: The public areas are the key selling areas of the space – the face of the project – so an aspirational appeal is crucial. This appeal needs to married however with a floor surface that is safe to use to protect the client from slips and trips and the hotel from litigation or reputational damage. We have seen the adoption over recent years in the UK of the Pendulum Test as the acceptable measure of a tile’s slip resistance. The implication of this is that we are seeing public spaces being fitted with tiles that have a higher slip resistance than was previously the norm. Whilst this is great from a safety perspective, it does cause challenges with cleaning these spaces as the more textured surfaces are more attractive to dirt. We see therefore a move away from lighter tones (whites, creams and ivories) towards darker tones (grey and anthracites) where the floor does not reveal its secrets so easily.

HK: How sustainable are CTD Architectural Tiles’ products?

AS: There are many advantages to ceramic tiles against alternative materials. Made from water, clay and fire – these elements give rise to a natural and quality material which is free of toxic substances, making it a strong alternative to materials such as plastic laminates or vinyl. Ceramic also has a very long life cycle and is therefore sustainable from a longevity point of view. There also isn’t the need for excessive maintenance, which makes it more advantageous than wood or parquet flooring for example.

HK: How was nature used as inspiration in your latest collections?

AS: Launched earlier this year, our Amazonia collection is the epitome of how botanical influences are finding their way into the commercial and hospitality sector. A celebration and seamless marriage between rustic handmade influences and the trend for biophilic design, the Amazonia collection is versatile and unique. Combining botanical patterns with a pared-back, nature-inspired palette to enliven spaces of all sizes, the collection offers endless opportunities to combine and mix distinctive tiles.

Image caption: Amazonia Grey Hexagon from CTD Architectural Tiles

For a more floral take on the botanical trend, ranges such as Maiora’s Custom Décor’s offer the possibility to create true feature walls with over-sized tiles – see p36 in this catalogue.

HK: How is technology allowing you to create more immersive products?

AS: One of our key launches this year was our 20mm-thick Porcelain Pavers collection, which is a testament to the advances in technology having a direct impact on the options that are available. The Porcelain Pavers collection is made up of 22 different tile ranges and each and every product meets all the technical and design requirements for exterior applications as well as indoor applications. The 20mm thickness means that it is extremely durable and resistant to breaks and scratches as well as being fade and frost resistant. Boasting a +36PTV (wet) slip-resistant structured surface, the tiles are also extremely low maintenance thanks to their exceptionally low porosity.

Image caption: Porcelain Pavers from CTD Architectural Tiles

Offering the added benefit of easy installation, the 20mm ranges can be installed in a number of different formats depending on the environment and project requirements. Providing the ultimate flexibility, the products can even be loose laid onto gravel, sand or pedestals, making them both accessible and re-usable. 

Advances in technology and production have also led to the introduction of a more diverse product portfolio in terms of styles, colours, patterns and designs. One of our most recent collections, Venice Villa, delivers the beauty of terrazzo captured in porcelain. The terrazzo look originates from using left over marble chippings into cement as a way to use excess product. A reinterpretation of this famous look, the Venice Villa collection is an exquisite contemporary twist on the traditional terrazzo trend, combining the appearance of crushed marble fragments with the excellent properties of fully body porcelain stoneware. Available in eight colourways in a polished, natural or structured finish, from monochrome Silver, Grey, Zinc and White to the more colourful options of Earth, Beige, Graphite and Ivory, the Venice Villa tiles offer an intriguing combination of colours that capture and reflect light, enhancing commercial spaces of all types. Expressing the beauty of the material that inspired the collection, the porcelain surfaces of the tiles combine the traditional look with modern materials making a surface that is easy to maintain and clean.

To find out more about CTD Architectural Tiles, please click here.

Main image credit: CTD Architectural Tiles

In Conversation With: Outstanding Property Award London’s Jesper Thomsen

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Outstanding Property Award London’s Jesper Thomsen

Making its debut on the international design stage, Outstanding Property Award London (OPAL) has begun its global search to identify the most innovative design and architecture projects. As the exclusive media partner of the awards, Hotel Designs speaks to OPAL’s  co-founder to understand what sets the initiative aside from others. Editor Hamish Kilburn writes…

“What makes a building, a project, a person and/or a hotel’s design outstanding,” I ask myself as I weave between some of London’s architectural skyline statements while running embarrassingly late to meet with Jesper Thomsen. It feels like only yesterday we were both sitting down over coffee for the first time discussing the bones of what has now become the Outstanding Property Award London (OPAL).

Fast-forward to today, and I am on the jury –  as well as at the helm of a very special media partnership -imminently about to be asked to identify the ‘outstanding’ from the ‘extraordinary’ and ‘unique’ – all of which are buzzwords that are overused and I struggle at the best of times to define. Considering the vast amount of innovative architectural gems that have appeared in cityscapes around the world in recent years, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the entire weight of the industry’s judgement pressing down on my shoulders. It’s an interesting concept becoming a judge, and ironic that what follows is then the feeling – or apprehension at least – of judgement. But it’s reassuring to know that I’m not alone when casting my opinion, as the awards now has significant number of jury members, all of which have been hand-selected to offer different perspectives from all corners of the industry.

By the time I make it to meet Thomsen, I have decided that, for me, something unconventional will be my winner, which is a word that I feel would best describe Thompson’s ambitions for OPAL, along with ‘bold’, ‘courageous’ and ‘about time.’

Hamish Kilburn: What was the aim when setting up OPAL? 

Jesper Thomsen: The aim was created out of a passion for creativity in the property industry. We aim to highlight and celebrate the most exceptional design projects in the world, raising their awareness and honoring its creators. Buildings last for decades, sometimes centuries, they tell our history and legacy, where we come from and where we are now. They are fundamental to our existence, so it’s essential that they are well designed and serves humanity in the best way possible.

We seek to reveal projects that are not only highly creative but show useful function, provide better living experiences for its users, and meeting the clients’ expectation. Class-leading projects that demonstrate innovation and embracing new technologies, setting new trends, respecting and protecting the environment, and pushing boundaries of human ingenuity.

OPAL was established with my friend and business partner Hossein Farmani, founder of the Farmani Group of companies, who has vast experience in the design awards industry since 1985. Having worked together in the past, the award feels like a natural progression of our combined experiences.

HK: Can you tell more about your experience in the industry? What’s your story? 

JT: I always wanted to become an Architect. Since a young age, I’ve been fascinated by design, and for me, architecture was the ultimate expression of human creativity and design evolution. However, my father was the third-generation owner of a printing and design practice in my native Denmark and got me interested in graphic design. At the time of A-level graduation in Denmark, I wanted to apply for the School of Architecture, but the ministry of education regulating the free admissions had almost no openings for new students due to a slump in that industry.

Instead, after one year as an apprentice in an architectural firm in Paris, I moved to London and began a Masters degree at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, which related more to graphic design, I also supplemented my studies with photography. Following graduation, I was a creative director, designing websites for major companies during the dot com boom era. Here I gained considerable experience in digital marketing and branding. After a seven-year itch, I became tired of commercial design, and my love for the arts was calling.

I launched a private art gallery in Londons’ Knightsbridge, including spending one year developing and designing the gallery space. In this process, it felt like all creative aspects came together, and after completion, I would subsequently spend another seven years running the gallery exhibiting artworks by artists such as Damian Hirst and Bill Brandt.

I decided to move on from the gallery business, and fate got me involved in developing a few properties in Londons Knightsbridge, I spent nearly 3 years responsible for all operations, learning hands-on all the disciplines from interiors to architecture, planning, research, 3D modeling, materials, procuring and team management. It was a very creative period but also learning the hard way how complex the creation of properties really is. So my past really covers hugely varied types of creative practices. I’ve learned that creativity, in all its forms, is about ‘seeing’, sensing, letting your imagination unfold, and this can be applied to all its disciplines.

HK: Why is London such a significant destination to base these awards? 

JT: London has always been incredibly important for creativity and design in the built environment, spanning from historical landmarks up to today’s groundbreaking contemporary designs. Some of the most famous developers, architectural firms, and interior designers, have a base here and continue to inspire and influence the global property industry. The OPAL Award is open to entries from around the world, and we want to bring outstanding projects to London and celebrate them in our fantastic capital we are so proud of.

“OPAL offers a three-way synergy between our three main entry categories; Property Development, Architecture and Interior Design.” – Jesper Thomsen

HK: What sets OPAL aside from other design awards? 

JT: Many awards are confined to a single industry within the property sector; An Architecture Award, is for Architects, by Architects. An interior design award, is for interior designers, by interior designers and so on. OPAL reaches fully across the property sector. It offers a three-way synergy between our three main entry categories; Property Development, Architecture and Interior Design. These industries continuously collaborate to create exciting projects, each bringing their expertise, and combined, they deliver outstanding designs. We are also very proud of our talented jury panel who will evaluate the global entries, they are our backbone and aspiration to those who enter our award.

HK: What other destinations around the globe would you are design hotspots? 

JT: It’s incredible how major cities in Asia have become design hotspots. Shanghai for example, really pushes boundaries fuelled by a concentration of industrial partners and strong government support. As the countdown to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games draws closer, the Japanese capital is in the middle of a hotel gold rush. Anything from boutique design hotels to glittering skyscrapers, a raft of new establishments are opening or are in the pipeline. Mexico City is also one to watch after being nominated for World Design Capital last year. I love their particular design language, elegantly fusing original colonial architecture with contemporary.

HK: What’s the number one thing you cannot travel without?

JT: This is an obvious one; my laptop. It’s glued to my fingertips at all times. I travel extensively, and this enables me to run operations and be connected at all times. Oh, and an online back-up of it too.

HK: What is your favourite hotel you have ever stayed in and why?

JT: There are so many. I recently visited Extremadura, a remote and less traveled part of Spain. Here, in the historic town of Cáceres, inside its UNSECO walled city and housed in a beautifully restored 16th-century palace is the stunning hotel Atrio. Striking white minimalist architectural features blends lovingly with the old stone walls and shiny black wooden floors. The surrounding streets have no tourist shops, nor huge crowds with selfie sticks you’d typically find in places of such beauty, just quaint, peaceful alleys defined by sandstone and ivy leaf clad palaces. The rooms and amenities are styled in a fashionable 60s Scandinavian design, Miles Davies’ Blue Note years playing softly in the background, a pleasing opposition to the striking view onto the empty medieval square below. Atrio is also home to a fabulous two-starred Michelin restaurant boasting one of the finest wine cellars in the world. I thoroughly recommend a visit here.

HK: What do you look for in an outstanding property?

JT: What really excites me about a great project is when the original vision of a completed building shines like a star, its purpose is evident to the eyes and the senses. Those projects are likely to be those who have seen mostly green lights during the creation process.

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

JT: My sights are on Mongolia, away from civilisation and buildings. When I take time off, I grab my camera bag and go shooting landscapes, happy to be off-grid. No place is better for me to clear my mind than to connect with solitary, vast open expanses or wild roaring oceans.

HK: What is your favourite restaurant/bar in London at the moment?

JT: I like Aquavit in St. James. Maybe I’m a bit impartial due to my Scandinavian roots, here you can eat classic dishes such as gravid lax in a beautiful, sumptuous setting. I also like the buzz of The Ned, the physical scale of it is bars, and restaurants area is incredible. I just had a sneak peek of the yet to be launched upstairs bar and restaurant of the Standard Hotel, a funky design offering fantastic views over Londons’ city to one side and the clock tower of St. Pancras to the other, so close it feels glued onto their windows.

HK: What trend do you hope never returns?

JT: Brutalist 60s’ architecture. Its primitive obsession with concrete made an austere generation of buildings where function superseded design, creating discouraging living conditions for its users. I don’t think architects and developers of that time really understood or considered the human factor as part of a design concept, that a building serves to improve peoples lives and its environment, not just a structure to keep you dry from the rain. They are genuine eyesores and should be demolished, and only the best examples should be preserved for the record. I doubt this trend will return anytime soon due to a much better understanding of peoples needs along with technological advancements in the building industry, 3D printing, new materials and simulation methods give designers today far more freedom, flexibility, and individuality to create exciting designs.

Main image credit: OPAL

In Conversation With: British designer Bim Burton

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: British designer Bim Burton

Following the unveil of his latest collaboration with bathroom manufacturer Kaldewei, Bim Burton sits down with Hotel Designs to discuss sustainability in design and the inspiration behind ‘those bath chairs’… 

Bim Burton is an innovative modern furniture maker and designer, creating timeless design with space saving ideas. Taking this year’s themes of (Re)act at designjunction, Bim and Kaldewei worked together to create, exclusively, for designjunction, a series of recyclable, sustainable unique bath chairs in three different styles.

These were showcased within the Installations area, located in Lewis Cubitt Park, Kings Cross, London, throughout designjunction, which was very well attended and hosted cutting-edge designers, breakthrough brands, an unrivalled talks programme and unique design experiences.

Kaldewei steel enamel baths are 100 per cent recyclable, made from Kaldewei’s ownsuperior steel enamel and have been ingeniously crafted to Bim’s unique design -creating beautiful, designer chairs for designjunction’s visitors to relax in.

Hotel Designs: Why did you want to be part of designjunction?

Big Burton: I was really flattered to be asked to take part in designjunction this year. I was recommended by British Designer Steuart Padwick, the creator of the breathtaking sculpture “Head Above Water’ also on show in London. Designjunction is one of the best destinations during the London Design Festival (LDF), so obviously, I just couldn’t say no.

Image credit:: Bim Burton/Kaldewei

HD: Where did the idea to create bath chairs come from?

BB: The theme this year is (Re)act and renew so when designjunction asked me what I would design, I immediately thought of the bath chair as it’s an object which is notonly functional but has the chance of a second life. The Kaldewei bath makes a great exterior for seating and I thought this was relevant today with the theme re- use as well as being great for an outside seating area.

HD: Why is sustainability so important to you?

Sustainability should be important to everyone. Kaldewei’s baths are 100 per cent recyclable so perfect for this product. During my time as a designer, I have recycled many objects into practical and interesting pieces of furniture.

“I’ve found Kaldewei to be very enthusiastic when working with their baths.” – Bim Burton

HD: Why Kaldewei?

BB: Again, this was a recommendation, this time from designjunction. I’ve found Kaldewei to be very enthusiastic when working with their baths. I couldn’t believehow well made and strong they are, I would definitely recommend them as a bath for their design and durability alone. Kaldewei were very generous in providing me with the chance to realise my design idea of turning baths into chairs – to reuse baths as seating. Kaldewei provided their steel enamel baths for me to cut and workout different ways to use the parts as chairs. I turned them up, sideways, and discovered how many variations I could make. I am very grateful for them trusting me and my imagination.

HD: How did you find working with steel enamel?

BB: Cutting the steel wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined, cutting the steel with the right tools is very forgiving!

HD: What was the biggest challenge?

In a word – “time”. There just isn’t enough of it. Time is so precious, I usually havevery little of it to bring a project together.

HD: What was the most enjoyable part of the project?

BB: I’ve enjoyed working with the challenge of the bath shape and its material, as well as having the freedom to use my creativity bringing to life my design – transforming the baths into bath chairs!

HD: What’s happened to the bath chairs now that the event has passed?

BB: Good question! They will probably go for sale. I already have a list of people who would like one… so let’s see.

From Inside to Out is in collaboration with – Kaldewei, AJ Wells, Agua Fabrics & AHEC.

Main image credit: Bim Burton/Kaldewei

Empty room with various styles of seating

In Conversation With: Matthew Balon at Ruby Leni’s first showing

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Matthew Balon at Ruby Leni’s first showing

Ruby Hotels has re-entered the stage to take a second bow in Dusseldorf, Germany. The 170-key Ruby Leni, which takes shelter in a former 1950s theatre, is the hotel group’s seventh hotel to harness ‘lean luxury’. Editor Hamish Kilburn travels just south of the city’s fashion district to meet the group’s lead designer, Matthew Balon, the morning after the night before’s launch party to discuss design details, the significance of paper puppets and the brand’s highly anticipated 2020 arrival in London…

Empty room with various styles of seating

They say that to make any act truly memorable, the performer must enter the stage armed with a spectacular encore up his or her sleeve. In the case of Ruby Hotels in Dusseldorf, the main performance took place last year with the arrival Ruby Coco. The dynamic property is a contemporary urban hub that is nestled within the city’s main shopping district, just off Königsallee – AKA a fashionista’s heaven. The interiors inside are sharp, considered and give more than an apt nod to the fashion quarters that surround it.

[CURTAIN UP]

If Coco was used in the opening scene, engaging its captivated audience with the allure of couture costumes, then the encore is Ruby Leni, which is situated a mere 10 minutes down the road. Although the neighbourhood may feel quieter, its entrance certainly isn’t: a large marquee sign with the words ‘make it your own stay’ frames an appropriate first impression.

Exterior shot of the hotel, showing a colourful courtyard

Image credit: Ruby Leni

[PUBLIC AREAS ENTER FROM STAGE RIGHT]

With large, expansive public spaces that filter into plush private break-out areas, the hotel is designed for both locals and guests checking in. The character and soul has been channelled into the lobby/lounge, where the real story of the iconic 1900s building, which sheltered the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus theatre, comes to life. “We looked at the materials, shapes and forms that you would associate to a theatre of that era,” says Lead Designer Matthew Balon. “We then separated that into front-of-house and back-of-house. We wanted to challenge that idea by merging those areas. For example, we have included stage cases in the lobby to really create an authentic feeling of being part of the production, behind the scenes.”

[GUESTROOMS ENTER FROM STAGE LEFT]

Upstairs, the sharp and stylish guestrooms have been designed around the original peculiar structure of the building, creating an interesting layout in each. The design and general make-up of the room, though, is a reflection of the others in the entire hotel group’s portfolio: crisp white beds, refillable toiletries and eco-friendly rain showers to match. The brand calls it ‘lean luxury’, which is posh for ‘uncomplicated, laid-back comfort’ – and it works, especially for bleisure travellers.

White, bright and contemporary guestroom

Image credit: Ruby Leni

Although you would recognise the rooms as ‘Ruby Rooms’ guests with eagle eyes will notice subtle differences, like the wood panelling for example.  “It’s been designed to also reference the story of the hotel,” explains Balon. “I looked into how sets were built and was inspired by the fact that guests in the theatre only ever see the pretty side. I wanted to show the back of the sets, the flats. I was interested to know how these things stood up and how they were constructed. That provided the inspiration for the wall panelling and the reinforced corner detailing.

Another quirky touch that sensitively helps set the theatrical scene is the art above the beds. Bolan initially wanted to do something with shadow puppets, which evolved into creating an immersive and playful paper puppet stage. “I really love introducing interior design elements that are fun and interactive,” says Balon. “We like to have fun with it and make an interesting element to guests’ stay.”

[APPLAUSE]

Image caption: Editor Hamish Kilburn (left) dragged the Lead Designer for Ruby Hotels, Michael Bolan (right), out on ‘stage’ the morning after the launch party before…

Quick-fire round:

Hamish Kilburn: What can you not travel without?
Matthew Bolan: My Darth Vader suitcase. I just love it!

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

HK: What’s your biggest bugbear when checking in to a hotel?
MB: Queuing!

HK: What is the number-one tool for success?
MB: You have to create an emotional connection.

HK: What is the last thing that showed up on your credit card transactions?
MB: A round of drinks I bought last night. It’s your round at the next launch, I’m told…

Most hotel designers are working with many several brands and brand standards, and so it is interesting how Bolan, within his creative realms, can piece together many different stories with the same Ruby strand running through each. “It is all-encompassing,” he says. “What the brand stands for in regards to design is something I can really get behind. When I think about Ruby, I think of all the people who bring the brand to life.”

[CURTAIN CALL]

The brand’s design is spilling out of the seams and leaving a permanent stain on new destinations. The next hotel design hotspot to welcome the arrival of Ruby Hotels is London – to the Southbank to be more specific. “We have done a lot of research into the location, which is a really interesting corner of London,” Balon explains. “I can tell you that Ruby Lucy is going to be fun, colourful, unexpected and I am really looking forward to the opening party!”

Ruby Hotels first unveiled its unique concept with Vienna hotel Ruby Sofie in 2014, before opening two further hotels in Vienna, Ruby Marie and Ruby Lissi, as well as Ruby Lilly in Munich, Ruby Coco in Dusseldorf and most recently Ruby Lotti in Hamburg. In response to the success of these properties, the brand plans further openings including Ruby Lucy in London’s bustling Southbank in early 2020, as well as hotels in Zurich, Cologne, Frankfurt and Shanghai before the end of 2020.

[CURTAIN CLOSED]

In Conversation With: Unidrain’s Kenneth Waaben on modern bathrooms

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In Conversation With: Unidrain’s Kenneth Waaben on modern bathrooms

Hotel Designs exclusively sits down with innovative head designer at Unidrain, Kenneth Waaben, to understand more about the process behind the brand’s design of the modern bathroom… 

With the aim to “create aesthetic and functional designs that enhanced the company’s existing portfolio,” Kenneth Waaben started working for Unidrain in 2014. Since then, his clear methodical way of thinking when it comes to balancing practicality and good design has led to the launch of many of Unidrain’s hero products, including the dynamic Reframe Collection. 

For Waaben, who graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, design is an iterative process that is based on a specific problem, as we find out in our exclusive Q&A.

Hamish Kilburn: What made you want to take on the challenge of designing for Unidrain?

Kenneth Waaben: In my view, good design has to be durable, a design that makes a difference, both aesthetically and functionally. Unidrain wished for products that stood out and solvedproblems in amore elegant and intelligent ways than other products in the market. I was able to design these products, so it was a fine match.

As a designer it is my mission to improve what already exists. Unfortunately, these days many new products are created with no real focus and are not designed to improving anything.

In these days of eco awareness and sustainability this is neither an interesting nor effective approach to product development. As a designer I feel we have to do everything we can to make a positive difference.

“One should dare to be critical of general practice, see possibilities and be open and brave enough to try new things.” – Kenneth Waaben, Unidrain

HK: What is your motto?

KW: Improve the existing – the devil is in the detail!  One should dare to be critical of general practice, see possibilities and be open and brave enough to try new things.

HK: What is the process behind your designs?

KW: I like to look at the things we use and find out where there is room for improvement, and then generate ideas around this.  It can be a challenge to connect the aesthetic with the functional. The process requires repeated tests and adjustments, it’s important to be aware of even the smallest details, since it is often these that make all the difference.

The road towards the goal, the actual design process, is to a great extent an iterative process where inspiration, the idea, the form and function is developed in a constant interactionbetween mind and hands.

It is all collaboration between drafts in 2D and 3D on paper and drafts shaped in cardboard and foam,as well as 3D printing and CAD. Through the entire process it is extremely important to use your experience and intuition.

HK: What was your most recent project?

KW: The Reframe Collection has been taking up my thoughts most recently.  One of the designs that have been under the design microscope is the Reframe corner shelf. I wanted to give new life to an everyday product, improve on the design.

Two other products in the Reframe Collection,the toilet brush and shower wiper, were also being re-framed and re-designed.    We looked at each item; the new toilet brush has been designed with a splash collar that eliminates the accumulationof bacteria between the inner and outer containers.

There is a small, integrated handle, so that you can easily empty the container without coming into contact with any bacteria.  The actual brush head has also been designed to collect as little water and paper as possible, to reduce unwanted dripping.

The shower wiper is a difficult product to keep tidy in the shower space so we designeda way of integrating the shower wiper with the soap shelf.  It is held in place by hidden magnets, which avoids having the wiper standing on the floor or hanging on the mixer tap.

HK: Do you design your products to be long lasting?

KW: Products have to be durable, this is important, plus time has proven that well-designed, long lasting products are also often the most popular.

As a designer, it’s important not to focus on what’s popular right now, as you risk designing a product that quickly becomes irrelevant.  It’s far more interesting to take a long-term approach. Many of the design products that are now celebrated around the world were often created many years ago and not on the basis of contemporary fads and trends.

Unidrain 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.

In Conversation With: Fashion designer Jack Irving

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In Conversation With: Fashion designer Jack Irving

Having previously designed statement outfits for many international music and fashion icons, Jack Irving’s alternative style has recently spilled out onto the hotel design scene. Editor Hamish Kilburn joins the fashion designer, in between photoshoots, to understand how two worlds have recently collided…

The brand ‘Jack Irving Studio’ and the creative man behind the logo are two very different things. One is bold, disobedient and you would expect – almost encourage – to cause an outrageous impression in almost any social scenario.

The other orders a lemonade on a hazy Thursday afternoon at a media interview as he catches his breath between work engagements. Opposites do attract, after all.

Made famous by creating outlandish outfits for the likes of Lady Gaga and The Spice Girls for their come-back tour, the talented story-telling designer, Jack Irving, made his mark on the fashion industry by producing items that infused glamour and engineered technology.

His innovative work recently emerged on my radar when he unveiled the result of a collaboration with W London Leicester Square, which has been the designer’s first interior design project to date. “The idea of working with W Hotels was mentioned to us at Pride London last year,” says Irving. “But it wasn’t until November, following my first show at the V&A, when we met the team to really discuss what we could do together.”

Fashion shoot of models on bed with cushion

Image credit: Charlotte Rutherford

Presented by a loose brief to bring a flavour of ‘Jack Irving’ into the hotel, it became clear that that the W brand was willing to give the designer the creative reins in order to produce a statement piece for their newly designed guestrooms and suites. “They wanted a replacement for the current cushions and bed throw that met brand standards,” he explains. “The bed, for us, became the canvas.”

One month after the brief was given, Irving pitched what he explained at the time to the client as a ‘crazy tech idea’ for the concept of new cushions. He wanted the items to be inspired his signature sea urchin style, which became famous by his work with Lady Gaga. Irving then wanted to make the interiors more instagrammable. The spiked pillows’ fabric would appear muted to the naked eye until they are brought to life through the click of a camera flash. Through the lens, the smart fabric would transform into an iridescent masterpiece. “To be honest, we were hesitant as to whether or not the client would see our vision,” explains the designer. “What we pitched was as far away from convention as we could have gone.”

Irving and his partner (in life as well as well as in business), Rhys Beynon, received a call from the client while they were on a yoga retreat in Goa over Christmas 2018. “They wanted to see prototypes the first week of January,” Irving explains. “At this point, the pressure for us was on to meet the deadline.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: What would a Jack Irving guestroom look like if you were to design it?
Jack Irving: It would be ridiculous – think sea urchin chairs and UFO beds. I also have the idea to design a Chesterfield sofa in the rainbow smart material.

HK: What’s been the most challenging part going from fashion to interiors?
JI: It hasn’t actually been that challenging because W Hotels were so on board with our idea.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
JI: New Zealand and LA!

HK: How do you switch off from work?
JI: Both Rhys and I are really into techno. Oddly, it’s become our sanctuary.

HK: What’s your biggest bugbear when checking in to a conventional hotel?
JI: When hotels don’t stay in their lane.

HK: What materials are really inspiring you at the moment?
JI: For me, smart fabrics and metallic fabrics are really fun to play around with. I want to experiment more with the manufacturing of the material we have been using. That being said, you can’t rely on the fabric. The shape and structure is just as important.

Models on bed with cushion

Image credit: Charlotte Rutherford

With time depleting by the day, and with fabric supplies on order to be delivered when they returned home from India, the next challenge was to secure a manufacturer. “The word ‘impossible’ landed in our inbox a few times,” explains Irving. “We did receive a lot of kickback at this stage from manufacturers, mainly because of the demand and the order size.” Undeterred, Irving and Beynon’s ‘when there’s a will there’s a way’ approach led them both to source the materials themselves to prove that it could be done. “I remember sitting on the beach with Rhys making a cardboard model of the cushion,” says Irving. “It’s one thing drawing the design, but it becomes very real when designing a 3D model.”

As well as the shape of the accessory being unconventional, so too was the material that designer decided to work with. “We call it rainbow smart fabric,” he explains. “We were worried that it would look to synthentic when not lit up, but in reality it was the perfect material to use for creating that contrast.”

As with all creative projects at pitch stage, there is an air of uncertainty, especially when it comes to unveiling to clients a prototype as futuristic as this one. “I was terrified when it came to pitching because you just don’t know how it’s going to go,” admits Irving. “We hadn’t seen the new rooms that our statement accessories would sit in, so it could have gone either way, as these things often do. But they loved it, and the second prototype we made on the beach in Goa over Christmas became the product that’s in the W London today.”

Irving’s interior design work for W Hotels may be just a dip in the ocean for now, but the designer’s ability to disrupt convention through the use of innovative materials and shapes unquestionably makes him a true innovator on the international hotel design scene.

Main image credit: Jack Irving Studio

In Conversation With: Michele Salvi, Associate at Zaha Hadid Architects

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In Conversation With: Michele Salvi, Associate at Zaha Hadid Architects

Following the opening of the 770-key Morpheus Hotel in Macau, Zaha Hadid Architects’ Michele Salvi sits down with editor Hamish Kilburn to discuss pushing boundaries, ever-changing public areas and how the pioneering practice is continuing the legacy of a design legend…

When Morpheus first opened to the public in June of last year as the “world’s first free-form high-rise exoskeleton” hotel, to the surprise of nobody, it quickly became one of the most talked-about new-builds of the decade.

Six years in planning, the ambitious brief that the team at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) received by Melco Resorts Entertainment was to design and build the fifth and final tower to complete City of Dreams Resort in Macau.

“Morpheus is a step into the unknown.” – Michele Salvi, Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

To understand more about the challenges that were attached to such an enormous project – and to get a glimpse into the inner workings of one of the leaders behind many of the decisions – I join project architect and Associate Michele Salvi for one of his typical lunch hours in London’s bustling Clerkenwell district. “I love it here,” he says tucking into a fresh salad. “London’s vibrant culture scene makes Britain such a significant design hub.”

Establishing shot of site against other buildings

Image credit: Ivan Dupont

The architect, who operates from the ZHA’s London HQ and has recently been confirmed among other visionaries to be a jury member for the Outstanding Property Award London, is currently working on projects such as Mandarin Oriental Melbourne as well as several high-end competitions in Europe, Asia and Australia. And while these buildings that are on the boards are full-on commitments, there was nothing that could have prepared Salvi and the ZHA team for the opening of Morpheus. “Throughout the year there were many launch events with the hotel’s grand opening being the most important and expectations were high,” he admits. “The large atrium had been unwrapped from its scaffolding only a few days before and we had been working full speed with the interior contractors to deliver a project of premium quality right up until the last day. To be honest, it was a huge team effort.”

Instead of referencing architectural styles from around the globe, like the majority of other buildings in and around Macau, Morpheus ascended from its own unique environment juxtaposing its neighbouring buildings. “As our client says, Morpheus is a step into the unknown,” adds Salvi, “an unprecedented mix of challenges. More so than previous projects as parametric design tools methodologies have been used extensively in all design stages until construction.”

“It takes more than a comfortable room and premium facilities to make a hotel experience truly special.” – Michele Salvi, Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

Rewind six years, and it was the late Zaha Hadid herself who had originally signed off the plans for the project. “We started with the envelope and exoskeleton,” explains Salvi. “The massing was given by the brief, the limited footprint leftovers from the existing City of Dreams development and 160m height restrictions because of being in close proximity to the airport.”

To create a fitting first impression that allowed all guests to experience the full scale of the project, the design team decided to keep the public areas as open and exposed as possible. “It takes more than a comfortable room and premium facilities to make a hotel experience truly special,” Salvi explains. “We wanted people to physically experience the building, be amazed and discover something unexpected.” Examples of this can be found no further than the 12 panoramic lifts, which through the full-height atrium provides what can only be described as a breathtaking 45-second experience of defying gravity.

What gives the 40-storey Morpheus its iconic free-form exterior shape are a number of delicately created pockets within the architectural structure. “We carved out three voids from this solid block to increase the amount of unique corner rooms,” explains Salvi. “By bending and curving the façade towards the centre, we enhanced visual connectivity and created unexpected crossing views between different areas of the building, such as two panoramic bridges that host restaurants.”

Exterior shot of the hotel, with irregular details

Image credit: Ivan Dupont

The guestrooms and suites within the hotel are somewhat hidden in the non-uniformed design in collaboration with interior design studio Remedios Studio. “Most rooms are within the flat façade and corners, with unique suites in the transition between flat façade and the voids,” Salvi continues. “All of them are behind the exoskeleton, and the variation of its pattern provides shelter from direct sunlight and generates dynamic filter towards the city.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: How do you escape from the daily grind?
Michele Salvi: Sailing, when I can, and I love travelling

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
MS: Hong Kong and Jordan are on my list. I would love to visit Patagonia and La Tierra del Fuego

HK: Renders or sketches?
MS: Both of them in every stage of design

HK: If I were to give you unlimited budget to design a hotel, where would it be in the world?
MS: I would love to design a floating hotel, always in motion rather than anchored to a specific context

HK: In your career, so far, what has been the largest change that has affected the way in which you design hotels?
MS: For me, this was when I started to use parametric tools, which could manage more information and has a much higher level of complexity

HK: Who inspired you when you were training to be an architect?
MS: Primarily Zaha Hadid. But also Frank Gehry and later on, from other creative fields, Ernst Haeckel and D’Arcy W. Thompson.

“Zaha’s loss was devastating.” – Michele Salvi, Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

Despite Morpheus being no-doubt an impressive piece of architecture, it is perhaps the fact that it was one of the last projects that the late Zaha Hadid herself worked on that makes it an important building – and a poignant moment – in the firm’s journey. “Zaha’s loss was devastating,” says Salvi. “However, there is a strong sense of community within the company and we all share the responsibility to continue her legacy.” Salvi joined the studio just more than 15 years ago, first starting in the firm’s Italian studio before moving to London to work within – and later lead – a larger team. “I do feel as if I have contributed to making the company successful,” he says. After more than three years, we are doing incredibly well and continue to deliver unique projects.”

Just like the project itself did over many sketches and renders, Salvi has also evolved since early stages through to the completion. “Due to the extraordinary scale of the project, I feel I’ve learnt a lot,” he says. “From façade technology and interior design to form structure and workflow management, which is now a precious resource on every new project.”

With the architect’s lunch hour over running, and a design competition deadline looming, it’s time for Salvi to head back to the London studio to contribute further in changing the skylines of our cities for the better, all while continuing the work of the woman who changed architecture – and equality within the sector – forever. And with that, the extraordinary work taking shape behind the firm’s studio doors continues into a new chapter, which will no-doubt be complete with new, unique and elegant dimensions.

Main image credit: Jacopo Spilimbergo

In Conversation With: Simon Naudi, CEO of Corinthia Hotels

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In Conversation With: Simon Naudi, CEO of Corinthia Hotels

With a Dubai debut around the corner, Corinthia Hotels is strategically expanding its luxury arm one region – and one hotel opening – at a time. Editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with the CEO of Corinthia Hotels, Simon Naudi, to understand the trials and triumphs of evolving one of the world’s most luxurious hotel brands…

Given its esteemed reputation among the design community, luxury enthusiast and of course its loyal returning guests, the news that Corinthia Hotels will open a property in the Middle East comes with little surprise.

The 55-storey hotel, which will add to the ever-expanding city skyline of Dubai, is slated to open in 2020. Considering that the destination’s hotel room supply is set to reach 132,000 by the end of 2019, according to a study by the emirate’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) – and occupancy levels are forecast to remain at 76-78 per cent despite growth in capacity – the question is not why, but rather more ‘why now’. “Real Estate is expensive,” says Simon Naudi, CEO of Corinthia Hotels. “We are looking to expand sensitively. Our plan is to grow the portfolio sensibly and steadily, prioritising on looking for the right building or site in the right location.”

According to STR, the UAE as a whole gained approximately 8,000 new branded hotel rooms last year. As of June 2018, the Middle East had 358 projects/113,830 rooms under construction, up 13 per cent by projects YOY. “We’ve had several opportunities in the past, but we are happy to have waited for this project to come along,” explains Naudi. “We have the right partners, Meydan Group, and the right location, prime seafront on JBR, and a top-notch project being built to make the very best in the city. From the design of the building itself to the interior elements, the aesthetics of Corinthia Meyden Beach with be synonymous with the Corinthia brand: confident, exquisite and elegant.”

Image caption: Interior render of a suite bedroom inside Corinthia Meydan Beach Dubai

While all eyes and ears focus on the brand’s Middle Eastern arrival, further west there’s also much happening between now and then. “Our main focus remains on Europe and the Mediterranean,” Naudi says. “We are currently working on projects in Bucharest, Brussels, Moscow and several other projects are under consideration. We’re also focused on the USA, Manhattan in particular.”

Having recently featured in a two-part documentary with Corinthia London’s Managing Director Thomas Kochs, who also appeared on Hotel Designs’ Brit List last year, Corinthia London is arguably the brand’s most iconic building, and for good reason. With its headline-grabbing extravagant suites, innovative public areas and an out-of-this-world four-floor spa, the hotel has been a timeless gem for almost a decade since it was redesigned. But while the 283-key majestic hotel has stood the test of time, its interior design has had to evolve along with the brand in order to cater to the shifting demands of modern travellers. “Larger bathrooms, the less decreased demand for fixed TVs, connectivity and interactivity are all trends that have required guestroom designs to be functionally different today than they were previously,” explains Naudi. “In our case, we also continue to explore multiple uses of the foyer and lobby space, to double up as a space for meetings, social interactions and evening dining to a degree.”

With esteemed regular guests including a long list of celebrities as well as world leaders, Corinthia Hotels seems to have mastered the formula for offering seamless luxury. “It is tantamount to making an effort,” explains Naudi. “It is an effort in terms of investment on all levels, in the product, in the generosity of space, the quality of materials, the beauty of finishes and in the architecture. It is investment in technology, upkeep, maintenance. It is also effort in terms of choice of colleagues, investment in their training and wellbeing, and above all giving time to the pursuit of happiness. Uplifting lives is our company philosophy, and that is what we aim to do, both with our guests and our colleagues. If all of the above is in place, luxury follows.”

“Our single most effective weapon is indeed our size,” – Simon Naudi, CEO, Corinthia Hotels

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: What is the number one item you cannot travel without?
Simon Naudi: My passport!

HK: What has been the highlight of your career to date?
SN: Developing and launching Corinthia London

HK: What is the next destination on your travel bucket list?
SN: The regions of Spain

HK: What would you say is the number-one tool for success?
SN: Hard work, and more hard work

HK: What book are you reading at the moment?
SN: The Wise Men by Walter Isaacson

With so many lifestyle brands emerging in the market under the umbrella of large hotel groups, it’s refreshing to see an independent hotel group, like Corinthia Hotels, expanding and evolving without taking away its own core values as a brand known and loved by so many around the world. “Our single most effective weapon is indeed our size,” Naudi explains. “Being independent, and relatively small, means we can be, and are more open to be, true to who we are, and crucially nimble. We can also stay closer to our colleagues in all our hotels, the people who matter most to our guests and ensure we are all part of the spirit driving the company towards our aim of uplifting lives.”

“In most of our hotels, the spa is a key, central component, with large physical spaces allocated to this activity wherever we could.” – Simon Naudi, CEO, Corinthia Hotels

One of the major trends that seems to be dictating international hotel design, with the aim no doubt to ‘uplift lives’, is wellness and wellbeing, which is one topic that the brand identified early, if its London hotel is anything to go by. “We have always taken wellness seriously,” says Naudi. “In most of our hotels, the spa is a key, central component, with large physical spaces allocated to this activity wherever we could. Our guest profile has evolved over the years, and we are now more geared towards leisure guests, than corporate visitors, although all segments engage with our spas.”

Corinthia London ESPA spa

Image caption: Corinthia London ESPA spa

Hotels, especially ones operating in the luxury sector, seem to be adding value to their properties with the openings and renovations of in-house spas. And with Corinthia Hotels arguably leading the way for other hotels to follow suit, the challenge for brand is more around how to build on its already successful products. “We have had several highly successful partnerships with spa brands and products, but we are evaluating all options for our future in 2019,” says Naudi. “We have beautiful spas being built to add to our portfolio and wish to use this as a basis for a spa strategy that is relevant to our guests.”

Now that the hotel brand has pin-pointed its next destinations and is signing on dotted lines to secure them, calling the shots may be stressful and high-pressure at times, but it also carries with it unparalleled rewards. “I would count two main sources of satisfaction,” adds Naudi. “The first is to see old, abandoned properties, many of which may be heritage sites, rebuilt and launched as luxury hotels, with a legacy to span decades. Corinthia London was a case in point, but also our current projects in Moscow, Brussels and Bucharest too. Secondly, is seeing younger colleagues grow into more senior roles and take on leadership and entrepreneurial positions.” And with that, Corinthia Hotels continues to inspire generations by designing a healthy and strong family of hotels worldwide with a luxury metaphorical thread of impeccable service and innovative design connecting them all together.

In Conversation With: Senior designer Kate Jarrett on Hard Rock Hotel London

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In Conversation With: Senior designer Kate Jarrett on Hard Rock Hotel London

Since becoming a Hotel Designs’ 30 Under 30, Kate Jarrett, senior designer at Scott Brownrigg has completed the Hard Rock Hotel London. Sitting down with editor Hamish Kilburn, Jarrett talks job satisfaction, preferred materials and the challenges that come with being a young designer in 2019…

The early summer vibes are in full swing; the sun is out over the capital and its latest hotel, Hard Rock Hotel London, has arrived.

Upon entering, the hotel is humming with activity. Guests are soaking in the iconic memorabilia hanging on the walls, while locals gather around the bar enjoying a post-work refreshment or two.

The Lobby Bar feels like an apt place to meet Scott Brownrigg’s Kate Jarrett, the senior designer on the project, who earlier this year became a Hotel Designs’ 30 Under 30. “This started with a passion for illustration, something I studied before moving to Brighton University to study Interior Architecture,” she says. “I then started as an interior designer and I haven’t looked back. I have worked across several sectors but my real passion is for hospitality design.”

“We have used drumsticks to create unique lighting over the concierge desk.” – Kate Jarrett

The completion of the new 900-key hotel, which is located a stone’s throw from Oxford Street, is the perfect stage for the designer to amplify what has become a milestone moment in her career. “We drew inspiration from the history of music and specifically instruments themselves, breaking them down in detail seeing how they have been made,” she says. “This was an unusual take on the obvious theme of ‘music’ and we never lost sight of this unique brief in our design. For example, we have used drumsticks to create unique lighting over the concierge desk.”

Drumsticks used as lighting in the hotel's lobby

Image credit: Philip Durrant

The hotel’s walls are plastered with memorabilia that reference the legacy of legends who stayed in Hard Rock Hotels in decades past, including Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and Madonna. Balancing the history and heritage of the brand in a timeless style to avoid cliché moments was the first task for design firm Scott Brownrigg when confronting the motifs that will be sheltered in the new hotel. “We knew we had to represent the Hard Rock brand in an innovative way for the contemporary London market,” Jarrett explains. “The hotel scene here is competitive so we knew we had to create something that tied into London and Hard Rock’s music heritage, while still being completely contemporary.”

Contemporary bar

Image credit: Philip Durrant

The F&B structure at the Hard Rock Hotel London originally took its inspiration from the original art-deco style ceiling of the Lyons Corner House that original stood on the site in the early ‘90s. “Great F&B and bars are key to the success of a hotel as they offer a destination for non-hotel guests too,” explains Jarrett. “For that matter, the expectations of hotel customers on what they want from the hotel experience has also changed. They want it to feel like a home, workplace and a space to socialise; the brief is more open than it used to be.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: If budget was no object, what product would you include in a project you are currently working on?
Kate Jarrett: An incredible art collection

HK: Best thing about being a designer in London?
KJ: The constant source of inspiration

HK: Where is next on your travel bucket list?
KJ: Japan – it would be like an experiential mood board. I already have a list of places I want to visit

HK: Where was the last hotel you saw that took your breath away?
KJ: I recently visited the Beekman in New York, and it really impressed me. That central atrium is like something straight out of a 1920s novel.

HK: What does luxury mean to you?
KJ: For me it represents a space that I want to spend time in, a collection of pieces whether its furnishings, art etc. that make me feel like I can sit back and slow down.

HK: What’s the last item that will appear on your bank statement?
KJ: Most likely ASOS… or coffee, as I’m always running around at the moment!

Without a doubt, it’s her ability to let the project do the talking that has made Jarrett the designer she is today. But the challenges of being a young designer in 2019 are far deeper than simply securing projects, or belonging to a leading firm. “London has a lot to offer, however it also means that you have to shout louder, metaphorically, to get yourself heard and to stand out in the industry,” says Jarrett. “Platforms like the 30 Under 30 I find career-affirming as they enable us to get our names out there and really help to showcase the talents of young designers.”

With sustainability arguably as big a talking point as any other at the moment in interior design and trends, Jarrett is insistent, where possible, on using naturally sourced materials within her projects. “I really enjoy working with natural materials,” she says. “Specifically, I like working with the tactile qualities of natural timbers, stones and the effects achieves by a neutral palette.”

“Scott Brownrigg has been really supportive and encouraging with the projects I have worked on.” – Kate Jarrett

At the root of Jarret’s decisions and place in the market is a design firm that has incubated and supported the young designer’s creativity to ultimately develop better places to live, stay and work. “At Scott Brownrigg, we are all encouraged to enrich lives through the environments we design,” she explains. “Scott Brownrigg has been really supportive and encouraging with the projects I have worked on. As a young designer it can be hard to establish yourself in a company, but Scott Brownrigg has really been great at championing me every step of the way. We’re a friendly, social bunch so I have also make some great relationships with colleagues along the way which has really helped.”

Aside from the Hard Rock Hotel London, current projects that Jarrett is working on that on the boards are firm proof that she is anything but a one-trick pony in the race. “We are working on an exciting hotel project in Stratford,” she explains. “This area is having a surge at the moment with lots of new developments, particularly in the hospitality sector. There are also some further Hard Rock projects we are working on; it’s great to get repeat work as it means we are doing something right!”

The fresh and vibrant interiors that surround the new hotel that everyone seems to be talking about are a reflection of the designer that Jarrett is becoming, or arguably already become. Modest, calm-natured and enthusiastic, Jarrett is, in my opinion, a credit to the firm that has helped support her on her way.

Main image credit: Tash Busta Photography

In Conversation With: Jacu Strauss, designer & founder of Lore Studio

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In Conversation With: Jacu Strauss, designer & founder of Lore Studio

An architect or a designer can become one of the most dynamic hoteliers, as editor Hamish Kilburn learns when sitting down with Jacu Strauss, the founder of Lore Studio and the mastermind behind some of the world’s most awe-inspiring hotels…

“Being a great storyteller is essential,” says designer Jacu Strauss as we start discussing what it takes to be a leader in design on the international hotel design scene.

It’s the first time we have caught up properly in a whirlwind three years. We catch up immediately where we left it in 2016, when the designer was putting the finishing touches onto The Pulitzer Amsterdam – an independent hotel project that allowed Strauss to break free with his creativity. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he says, “that through a cocktail of heavy research, team work and some brave risks turned out to be a tremendous success.”

Growing up in the diamond rich area of South Africa, Strauss moved to New Zealand to train as an architect at the University of Auckland before travelling to London to study at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

After graduating in 2008, Strauss worked as a senior designer at Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio, and started to add major hospitality projects to his growing portfolio. “My architectural training and education proved helpful and I was responsible for the project from concept development through to completion,” explains Strauss. “As we won larger projects, we were eventually given the green light to design Mondrian at Sea Containers on London’s South Bank. It was there where I completed my first hotel and, eventually, I was offered an exclusive role as Creative Director of what is now called Lore Group.

“Designing a successful hotel is so much more than just choosing colours and fabrics.” – Jacu Strauss

Following the completion of The Pulitzer Amsterdam in 2016, which continues to capture the attention of the world’s media on a mass scale with its timeless yet quirky interiors, Strauss went on to not only design hotels, but also own them by becoming the founder of Lore Studio. “I have not so much changed as become more attune to what does and doesn’t,” he adds. “I have tried to refine how guests and visitors experience our hotels, so it is more than just the visual. It involves a balance of senses that when you get it right means an enjoyable and memorable experience.”

Image of the designer flicking through a book on the floor

Image credit: Emily Andrews

Today, in between jetting around the world being inspired by life’s movement, Strauss and his team are working to complete a new independent hotel, RIGGS Washington DC, a hotel, slated to open in heart of the city at the end of this year, sheltered in what was the Riggs National Bank building. “Washington DC is a city with a particularly strong and quirky evolving hotel and F&B market,” he explains. “So much so, in fact, that there may be another hotel in DC to join the portfolio, but it will be completely different to RIGGS Washington DC.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND:

Hamish Kilburn: What would you like to be if you were not a designer/architect/hotelier?
Jacu Straus: A jeweller

HK: What’s the first rule to learn when designing a hotel?
JS: You can only open the hotel once, so make everything count!

HK: Where is the next hotel design hotspot?
JS: There is a great need for more hotels in urban centres that act as calm retreats for peace from the hustle and bustle of dense cities, but without being gimmicky.

HK: What one hotel would you have liked to have designed/or would like to redesign?
JS: I would have loved to be part of the design team of the Negresco Hotel in Nice. It’s so crazy and magical – I love it.

HK: What is the number one item you cannot travel without?
JS: Tabasco! I always have little sachets of Tabasco in my travel wallet. The little bottles are cute but the sachets are more convenient for travel. Tabasco makes everything taste better.

HK: What trend do you wish would emerge again soon?
JS: Decent table manners.

HK: What was the last hotel you stayed in?
JS: Downtown hotel in Mexico City.

HK: Explain London in three words…
JS: Quiet, polite, multicultural.

HK: What’s your favourite colour this season?
JS: Rust. Something nice about earthier and natural  tones as we move away from sterile palettes.

HK: What’s the last thing that shows up on your credit card statement?
JS: Uber. It is the first item that appears and most of what is inbetween!

As someone as visual as Strauss, the urge the design came as almost a natural instinct. “I think I was always a designer,” he narrates. “My mother says I was always observing my surroundings as a child and I think to this day it’s perhaps one of the reasons that I am doing what I am doing. What I really think makes you a professional designer is being able to process criticism. That you learn over time and does not come naturally.”

“F&B, I believe, is once again thriving in hotels.” – Jacu Strauss

As we converse over cocktails in a rooftop bar overlooking east London, it feels apt to discuss the rise of food and beverage facilities within hotel design. “I think hotels have historically been an important “pillar” in a city or town or community,” he explains. “But towards the end of the last century hotels became massive and exclusive only to its guests, and that meant it became inaccessible to their neighbours. Hotels are unique to their locations and I think guests have become more interested in feeling like they are part of a community even just for a night, than staying at a non-descript hotel that is removed from its surroundings. F&B is a tell-tale sign of how it was once the place to eat and drink, before it then became sterile. F&B, I believe, is once again thriving in hotels – as we’re proving this afternoon – because hotels are opening up to locals as well as guests making it feel less like a “hotel restaurant” and more like a restaurant that happens to be in a hotel.”

In reference to the quick-fire round above, Strauss is a man that believes in detail. “I have realised how important it is to research a new market thoroughly and avoid having a cookie cutter approach,” Strauss explains. “Designing a successful hotel is so much more than just choosing colours and fabrics. It is about the neighbourhoods, the greater contexts of the city and its people, and ensuring the longevity of a product. There are always things to improve on, but we believe you only open a hotel once.”

For the designer who has just as much in the pipeline as what’s already on his impressive portfolio, what makes him stand out his ability to be different. “At some stage,” he adds, “you need to ignore what others are doing and focus on your own task at hand and making decisions based our own hotel and not what others are doing.”

Another distinct characteristic that quite clearly sets Strauss aside from other hoteliers, designers and architects is his ability to effortlessly – on the surface at least – to balance work and life. Living his best life through both travel and work and sometimes a combination of both, Strauss is anything but a one-trick pony, constantly absorbing ideas, concepts and themes that time and time again capture the world’s attention each time the ribbon is cut. And for those wanting a snippet of the inspiration behind his designs, you have only to follow him on Instagram account.

Main image credit: Patrick Meis

In Conversation With: Felipe Ávila da Costa, CEO of Infraspeak

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In Conversation With: Felipe Ávila da Costa, CEO of Infraspeak

Arriving in the UK, Infraspeak is a powerful platform that offers fully customisable, sustainable technology for the hospitality market. Hotel Designs sits down with the company’s CEO and co-founder, Felipe Ávila da Costa, to find out more…

For years, the industry has been crying out for a platform that has been developed to make buildings smarter. Cue the UK arrival of Infraspeak, a solution for chaotic hotels that would benefit from improved operational efficiency and reduced costs of maintenance.

From humble beginnings in Porto, Portugal, the company was very much born out of the concept to bridge the communication gap between C-level executives and managers on the ground. Infraspeak’s journey, like so many other innovative tech-driven products, started at university with the initial idea to reduce paperwork for service men by introducing a digital platform. “It was Luís Martins who had the lightbulb moment for his final project,” explained co-founder and CEO Felipe Ávila da Costa. “His lecturer encouraged him to progress the idea, and it was at this point when he developed the foundations of Infraspeak.”

“Infraspeak emerged from the wings to take centre stage – and fast become one of Portugal’s largest start-up companies.”

After graduating, Martins kept Infraspeak as a side project – a hobby if you like – while working on other things. In his downtime, the he grew the brand’s roots in its colourful hometown of Porto. Soon, the demand for the game-changing software grew to the point that justified investment, which involved bringing Ávila da Costa on board. Infraspeak emerged from the wings to take centre stage – and fast become one of Portugal’s largest start-up companies.

Fast forward four fascinating years, the company now has offices in London, Porto, Barcelona and Florianapolis and 180 customers in seven countries benefiting from Infraspeak’s regularly updated software packages. “Every three weeks we automatically update the software, taking on board customer requests and the shifting demands from consumers,” explained Ávila da Costa. “Our software ensures that everything behind the scenes runs smoothly so that the staff can offer seamless service.”

One of the most recent case studies is InterContinental Palacio das Cardosas, which opened in 2011. By using Infraspeak, the hotel’s maintenance manager has reported a substantial reduction in maintenance calls. “Instead of 40 maintenance calls per day, now I only get 10,” he told the company. “For me, one of Infraspeak’s main advantages is that it allows me to stop worrying about everything that’s happening. It displays everything I need to know in a single platform.”

As well as improving communication between maintenance staff and the hotel, Infraspeak is a communication tool that is now used in other areas of hotel, such as house keeping, F&B and even energy management. “Every three weeks we launch a new software on the product so that the product starts to become a platform for all operational elements,” says Ávila da Costa.

How Infraspeak works:

One of the many unique selling points of the software is its sustainable aims. In a press release from the brand, the company explains that a staggering “80 per cent of hotel administration is largely paper-based and excel is most commonly used to run all hospitality maintenance. Infraspeak completely removes the need for paper as all facility management can be logged and traced to completion through the software. In addition, the product’s intelligent software uses data to start to predict problems in advance, rather than simply reacting to issues when they arise. This predictive approach to maintenance means Infraspeak saves time, money and resources with a sustainable and efficient approach.”

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: What is your number one bugbear when checking in to a hotel? 
Felipe Ávila da Costa: Waiting too long

HK: Iphone or Android? 
FAC: Android 

HK: What did you want to be when you were growing up? 
FAC: I wanted to be a film director, and then a bridge engineer and then a software engineer – it’s been a journey! 

HK: What’s the best thing about Porto? 
FAC: By far the personality of the city 

HK: What has been your largest regret in business? 
FAC: I’ve made lots of mistakes, but none have been regrets 

Although from the outside, the journey for the pair looks a seamless one, the reality is quite the opposite. “There have been many, many challenges. The first challenge was for hotels to come on board with our thinking,” explains Ávila da Costa. “We were lucky enough to get one of the largest hotel brands in Portugal to work with us. With 35 hotels in their portfolio, we really needed to understand their needs.”

From airports to shopping malls and of course hotels, the widespread demand for reducing paper waste and incorporating a seamless communication technology has allowed the company to straddle many markets. “Infraspeak is designed to be flexible, but the demand for hotels is massive,” explains Ávila da Costa. “We currently have more than 250 hotels using the product.”

Recent headlines in the mainstream news have demonstrated the need for individuals and companies alike to think further outside the box in order to become more sustainable. Platforms like Infraspeak are looking towards the future, providing practical solutions that are reducing carbon footprints around the world.

In Conversation With: Designer Mark McClure ahead of Clerkenwell Design Week

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In Conversation With: Designer Mark McClure ahead of Clerkenwell Design Week

Ahead of Clerkenwell Design Week 2019, Morgan shares an insight into the mind of one of its latest interior design collaborators. Mark McClure discusses how the Goodwood table came to be… 

Furniture brand Morgan is preparing to once again wow visitors who are attending Clerkenwell Design Week later this month.

As well as inviting artist David Shillinglaw to redecorate the showroom with a vibrant feature wall, the company will also unveil two new interior design collaborations – one of which is with designer Mark McClure. Ahead of CDW 2019, Hotel Designs turned the tables, asking its recommended supplier Morgan to carry out an interview with its new design collaborator.

Morgan Furniture: Why did you choose to collaborate with us specifically?
Mark McClure: I worked with you in 2017 – when you invited me to create an installation and exhibition of artworks in their showroom and I found their whole approach to creativity and crossing over of disciplines very much aligned with my own. That, coupled with the beautiful quality and style of their existing collections, made them the obvious people to approach when I was looking to collaborate on some furniture.

MF: How was the experience/process compared to solo working?
MM: The whole process has been so very much smoother than I imagined. Collaborating in general – and especially with the folk at Morgan – brings the benefit of working with experts in their own field. Their knowledge of materials and processes added a whole new thought angle to my own thought process – and Katerina’s creative ideas overlapped nicely with my own even though we were coming to it from different directions.

Image of Goodwood side table in two sizes

Image credit: Goodwood by Morgan

MF: : What sparked your interest in furniture and combining art with a contract piece of furniture?
MM: I’ve always been drawn to the blurred lines between function and creativity. I’m lucky in that my work can be applied all kinds of disciplines and mediums – whether that be a mural on the side of a building, a sculpture in a gallery, or a mosaic for a table surface. I love that change of context and the change of audience and perception that goes with it.

MF: What inspired your design?
MM: A lot of my work is originally inspired by structural and architectural forms – but I’m increasingly contrasting these shapes with more rounded forms which lend the softer, more organic feel to the designs. This addition of more natural forms definitely feels more in tune with the natural grain and colours of the wood.

MF: What was your starting point for this project?
MM: We looked at a selection of existing Morgan pieces – with a view to combining the Morgan shapes with my design – so it all started with the choice of table shape. We opted for quite an understated Goodwood base in two nested sizes. This understated shape avoids a clashing of styles but also lends a complementing elegance to my work, which can be quite bold. Once that decision was made – I had a literal and metaphorical framework to work within.

MF: What is the collection’s USP?
MM: Bold, dynamic, abstract shapes – held together by the modernist elegance of the framework. The contrasting styles balance really well together.

MF: What was the main goal for the collection?
MM: To create something contemporary but classic – a meeting of styles.

MF: What were the challenges?
MM: The biggest challenge was showing restraint. It’s hard not to get carried away with exciting materials and details. But the saying ‘less is more’ exists with good reason – and after exploring a much broader range of materials and colours – we naturally returned to this palette. Even this restrained version still feels dynamic and exciting.

MF: What materials were used for the project?
MM: A mosaic was made up of Beech & Walnut – both painted and untreated – finished with brass details.  This was then integrated into a walnut table framework.

MF: Where do you foresee the collection being specified? (i.e. hotels, restaurants, etc.)
MM: I’d like to think the tables would sit comfortably in hotels, receptions and workplaces. The elegance of the table shapes make them adaptable – while the tabletop design – although distinct and dynamic – isn’t overbearing.

MF: Generally, where do you find your inspiration?
MM: I like to think of my work as a landscape. I’ve always seen beauty in the architectural shapes and structure of the city and these shapes are a constant, but increasingly sparks comes from everywhere and anything – with more organic, rounder elements coming into play. So whilst the structural shapes often form the base for a work – there’s other contrasting elements creeping in that might be inspired by plants, fabrics, music, lighting. The melting pot of disciplines and styles is what makes things interesting – it all makes up the landscape that surrounds us.

MF: What’s the key to a successful collaboration?
MM: I think the key is to collaborate with people you admire and respect. Everyone comes to a solution from their own direction – depending on their background and experience. That’s the beauty of collaboration – and appreciating those different backgrounds and routes is key.

MF: What’s the most interesting trend you’re seeing for 2019?
MM: Playful, geometric tabletops combined with modernist elegance. You saw it here first.

MF: What technology has made the biggest difference to the way you work?
MM: I’m about 20 years late to the CAD party – but I’ve only just started using it as my work has become more engineered and three dimensional. I created a bar with a drinks brand last year and taking what is quite a painterly approach – and drawing it up in CAD was a challenging – but exciting next step. To become loose and instinctive within that realm of 3D CAD is pretty exciting.

Morgan 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, click here.

Hotel Designs is a proud media partner for CDW 2019. In order to arrange a meeting with the team, please tweet us @HotelDesigns

In Conversation With: Patricia Urquiola on Laufen’s latest bathroom collection

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In Conversation With: Patricia Urquiola on Laufen’s latest bathroom collection

As Hotel Designs continues its month putting Bathrooms under the spotlight, editor Hamish Kilburn sits down with designer Patricia Urquiola to understand more about her latest collection reveal with Laufen…

Patricia Urquiola is no stranger to Laufen, as the Spanish designer celebrated at ISH 2019 the launch of her third – yes third – generation of SaphirKeramik, and by doing so has created the new collection, Sonar.

Rediscovering the formal scope of the bathroom – and designed to be insurmountable in bathroom aesthetics – the expressive Sonar collection has already gone on to win an iF Design Award. The material, SaphirKeramik, was first used by the designer for Laufen in 2013 in novel washbasin designs that were simply not possible using conventional bathroom ceramics. Six years later, the material has been used in the brand’s Sonar collection and now offers even greater variety thanks to the addition of more washbasins, WCs, a bidet, a new bathtub and a suite of bathroom furniture.

I recently sat down with the designer in order to understand the context of Sonar as well as what she thinks the future holds for international bathroom design.

Hamish Kilburn: Why do you think more attention is being payed to the design of the bathroom within international hotel design?
Patricia Urquiola: I think that more attention is being payed to all aspects of hospitality and not just bathrooms. Hotel design is now all about an experience that one wants to transmit to the unknown user, and bathrooms are no exception. The design of the bathroom in a hotel project is very important, it is part of the whole room space, of the experience that a certain room can offer in terms of relax and wellbeing.

modern bathroom with colour and slick design

Image credit: Laufen

HK: What are your thoughts on color in the bathroom?
PU: My approach to colour, for bathrooms and every aspect of a project, is not absolute; it very much depends on the project. At times, color is central and it is therefore given a lot of importance and space, it becomes essential for forms to come to life. Other times, palettes are a lot more intimate with very little color and more attention to textures or materials. For example, the bathrooms at Room Mate Hotel Giulia in Milano are extremely colorful, they reflect the language that we used throughout the whole project.  On the other hand, for a recent project in Mumbai in which we featured the Sonar collection, the focus isn’t on color but rather on materials and textures: marble and wood contrast beautifully with the ceramic of the collection.

HK: How has SONAR evolved? What’s changed, in regards to bathroom technology, since the first generation of SONAR?
PU: Sonar is manufactured using a high-tech ceramic material called SaphirKeramik, a material developed by Laufen that allows for the ceramic to be very thin for an industrial product. When I started my collaboration with the brand it had already been used for previous collections, what I wanted to do was to really exploit the material’s characteristics: strong yet light, it has a glow to it and a certain amount of detail can be incorporated. I wanted to work with all these positive aspects of SaphirKeramik and experiment with three-dimensional surfaces, to try and add spatial volumes to it.

“I think that in 30 years’ time things will be very different, from the houses we will live in, the cars we will drive, the hotels we will stay in…” – Patricia Urquiola

HK: The inspiration for your latest collection was ‘soundwaves that spread in water’…Was this a lightbulb moment, and if so – when and where were you at the time?
PU: Usually inspiration comes to me in waves of moments, images, trips, people… it is hard to pinpoint it to a specific time. The strictness of architectural minimalism was definitely on my mind, a sense of lines, purity and geometry. But also water, its energy and its dynamic movement that never stops. The meeting point of these two ideas is the inspiration behind the Sonar collection, sort of a game between such contrasting shapes, between softness and severity. The lines etched on the exterior of the pieces fade on one end, disappearing back into the material, just like the waves in the ocean.

HK: In your eyes, what does the bathroom of the future (say 30 years from now) look like?
PU: That is very hard to imagine! I think that in 30 years’ time things will be very different, from the houses we will live in, the cars we will drive, the hotels we will stay in… we are moving towards a smarter future, things will be more specialised, personalised, mobile. Frameworks and systems will become more complex and we all will learn to navigate them. We are already seeing a very big change in materials, in how we make them and reuse them and this will also affect architectural projects, the way in which bathrooms will be designed and built will change radically. Spaces and functions are becoming hybrid, they are being redefined because our focus is shifting towards functionality.

Laufen 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, click here.

The designer shaping the future of water at GROHE

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The designer shaping the future of water at GROHE

Post-ISH, Grohe’s Vice President of Design, Michael Seum, sits down with Hotel Designs to explain how its latest innovations are vastly reshaping the bathroom industry. Editor Hamish Kilburn writes…

If one were to imagine the bathroom industry as a quiet, glass-like lake, surrounded by tranquil surroundings, then ISH 2019 was a competition between creatives on who could make the greatest and loudest splash with just one throw.

While some manufacturers opted to hurl large rocks at the water, GROHE on the other hand decided to make its impact in numbers, by launching more than 500 new innovations and arguably creating the largest ripple effect, which has ultimately disrupted conventional bathroom designs as we know them today.

Ensuring that each product that launched skimmed across the surface, GROHE had a strategic throw to avoid it become submerged in the noise of the show. Its latest collections were designed around five mega trends, ‘new living spaces’, ‘consumers become creators’, ‘simplicity seekers – the search for simplicity’, ‘taking control’, and ‘intelligent life management’. The man leading the innovation of each product is Michael Seum, the Vice President of Design at GROHE, who describes his role simply as “connecting the creative horsepower design team to a business need.”

Image credit: Grohe/ISH 2019

Seum, who is the bridge between the innovators and the board at the company, knows more than anyone that the bathroom products of today will help to shape the way in which all buildings and hotels that are conceived in the future. “We identified big shifts in society, technology and the rise in rejecting single-use objects,” he explains. “We wanted to understand the mindset of consumers and concluded that we should be giving consumers the ability to take better control over the environment and one large framework was built around looking at the consumer, identifying a problem or strain and coming up with a solution.”

Once the solution has been established and visualised, Seum can unleash his weapon; his world-class team of in-house designers to create a new direction in bathroom design. “We honestly go through about 100 prototypes before the end user sees the result of a finished product ready for market,” Seum explains. “Within these, we explore different means of technology and this really in the power of design at GROHE. In a low fidelity way, we can sketch and build a product that can help to get the industry flowing in a certain way.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: I now have in my head that your house is full of prototypes… Am I correct?
Michael Seum: That’s funny. Unfortunately not, my house is actually very minimalist – think Nordic and simple.

HK: What is your biggest bugbear in design?
MS: lack of originality. In our sector in particular, things are copied a lot

HK: Should designers strive to put more colour in the bathroom?
MS: Absolutely!

HK: What is the number-one travel item you cannot travel without?
MS: Books, my headphones and my sketchbook

HK: What is your favourite trend at the moment?
MS: Lightweight furniture!

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
MS: Surfing in Portugal!

HK: In your opinion, what is the number-one tool for success in this industry?
MS: Learning and understanding the customer experience!

HK: Sustainability is a huge driving force in what you are doing. Is there a hotel that stands out in your mind as being built purely to be sustainable?
MS: Yes, actually. Zuri Zanzibar, which was designed by Jestico + Whiles, is really cool!

The bathroom industry is arguably the most congested sectors in interior design. Staying ahead in such a landscape takes true innovation and not being afraid to disrupt the current lay of the land – something that Seum does with ease. “Our products are not inspired by the bathroom industry,” he says. “Instead, I am more interested to look outside the boundaries of bathroom design and towards wider trends in, for example, lifestyle, fashion and lighting.

Image credit: Grohe

With bathroom manufacturers specifically, there has been a rise in the number of companies that are welcoming outside renowned designers and architects to inspire the look of new collections, but for Seum who is a former design consultant himself, the demand for this at GROHE is non-existent. “I’m not critiquing the designers when I say this, but I am yet to find a designer who has worked on a collection with a bathroom manufacturer that has done anything to conserve water and/or to eliminate single-use plastics,” he explains. “Therefore, its clear that these collaborations are aimed to purely add aesthetics to a product.”

The result of GROHE’s presence at ISH is that the company has defiantly launched products that are tailored to the needs of consumers as well as architects, interior designers and hotel investors. Creating intelligent water solutions to transform lives for the better, Seum and his team is succeeding in providing products that have the power to help designers build and create more intelligent and sustainable hotels around the world.

Main image credit: GROHE

In Conversation With: Harry Allnatt, Richmond International

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Harry Allnatt, Richmond International

Following Hotel Designs’ public unveiling of its 30 Under 30 at Meet Up London, editor Hamish Kilburn catches up with one of the winners, Harry Allnatt from Richmond International, to discuss challenges and opportunities that come with being a young rising star of the industry…

Among Hotel Designs’ celebrated 30 Under 30s, which were spectacularly unveiled at Meet Up London, is Harry Allnatt (29).

A unique and talented young creative whose ability is most certainly not defined by his date of birth, Allnatt is a senior designer at Richmond International. Having been at the firm for eight years, he is now a vital team member who has worked on some of the company’s most important hotel and hospitality projects in recent years, including Four Seasons Hvar, Langham Boston, The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, P&O Britannia and many others.

The foundations of Allnatt’s career started following an early admiration of design. He attended Nottingham Trent University to study furniture design having been inspired by the ethos of the likes of Jasper Morrison. “My goal at the time was more to be an architect and, in my head, furniture design was like mini architecture.” he says. “As part of the course, in 2009, I was encouraged to partake in a placement year. Before I knew it, I was working for an architectural practice in Milan that specialised in hospitality and high-end design.” It was at this point in his career when Allnatt’s curiosity took over. “Why stop there, I thought. I started to think about more than the pieces I was creating, to the room and space around the furniture,” he explained. “Milan certainly enriched my interest in furniture design, but the placement year also exposed me to so many new projects, which led me into the path of interior design.”

As a result of his studies and the valuable experience he gained in the design incubator of Milan, Allnatt started to acquire a unique set of skills as a creative designer in order go beyond  decoration. “It’s actually really helped me to add value to projects, especially when required to design certain looks,” he said. “It also allows me to design interiors and furniture that is not just aesthetically pleasing, but that also meets operational standards – standing the the test of time and enabling staff to maintain excellent service.” An exceptional example of this is The Sterling Suite in The Langham London, which is frequently praised for its effortless functionality and timeless feel. Allnatt admitted to working on almost all of the six-bedroom suite’s casegoods and laughs: “I don’t think I could do that one again.”

The plush Sterling Suite at Langham London

Image caption: The Sterling Suite, Langham London

Approaching every project around peoples’ movements and behaviors, Allnatt’s ethos is a tight fit for Richmond International, which is known for being a company that designs awe-inspiring hotels that are also practical spaces. “I’m inspired by stripping things back to discover what is necessary,” he says. “To me, that’s what makes a beautiful project – and it’s this approach that is now very relevant in interior design. If a space is designed to be used well, then it will enrich the overall experience of the people using it.” Allnatt’s explanation gives credence to the obvious shift in how modern design is perceived by those checking in; the knowledgeable and more aware consumer.

Unchartered waters ahead

With its prestigious reputation on the international hotel design stage, Richmond International was asked to repackage its luxury hotel visions onto the high seas. With the aim to modernise all spaces, the team, led by Director Terry McGillicuddy, were asked by P&O Cruises to redesign two new ships, Britannia and Iona. “Britannia was by far the most challenging project, purely because of the amount I had to learn and work out on the job,” explains Harry. “I learnt quickly about the regulations from Terry, P&Os incredible technical team and the shipyard. However, going from designing for land to designing for sea was a challenge, but I am so proud that we were one of the first hotel designers to really tackle a project of that magnitude at sea.”

Simple, minimalist cabin on board P&O Britannia

Image credit: P&O Britannia

Following the success of both vessels, Allnatt, the retentive designer, is now a senior designer working on the firm’s next marine project, to create the interiors of a new luxury cruise liner of which the details are yet to be unveiled. “It really is like designing a city on the sea,” Allnatt laughs. “The beauty of it [designing cruise ships] is that we get to create so many different spaces – from the casinos to the theatres, cabins to bars.”

The challenges for young designers

Being young in an industry full of legends can be daunting, to say the least, which adds to weight on the shoulders of having to prove oneself as an individual. The somewhat right-of-passage feeling of unease and overwhelming responsibility that comes to us all in the start of our journey, was for Allnatt the time to stand out. “The industry is saturated with great designers, and the landscape is so subjective,” he explains. “Creating an identity and establishing yourself, inside and outside the company I believe is one of the major challenges that young designers have to face in our industry.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: What’s your favourite colour?
Harry Allnatt: Blue, I love grey and all the different shades.

HK: What’s been your favourite year so far?
HA: 2018 was the year that shaped me the most. It’s been lovely having a local project in London and seeing it through from concept to site completion. Seeing something take shape on a daily basis has been very rewarding, but not without it’s problems.

HK: What is your favourite hotel?
HA: Rosewood London because it all ties together. The rose-bronze gallery from the courtyard entrance, the staff uniform… even the guest signage, which is an open book sitting on a plinth. There is an unmatched sense of discovery in this hotel. Details you notice makes the space more than just a good-looking luxury hotel.

HK: Are there any shortcuts or secrets for getting ahead?
HA: I wish I knew them. It’s as simple as working hard and soaking up information as a sponge. Being a designer is a lifestyle.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
HA: I would love to go to the Amalfi Coast.

HK: Who is your current design icon?
HA: Tony Chi and Yabu Pushelberg. They both fool you into thinking a detail is simple, but the process of making something look simple is complicated. 

Having worked on a variety projects, Allnatt is grateful to the company that supports him in becoming a rising star. “Without Richmond International I would not have been given these incredible opportunities to work on so many amazing projects,” he says while reflecting. “Working in collaboration with Vivienne Westwood’s team, for example, on the London West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, was an incredible experience. The aim was to merge fashion and design together, and during this project we created a feature console inspired by their prints and graphics – it was great!”

Large and spacious public area of plush suite

Image Caption: Penthouse of London West Hollywood

The sensitive designer who sits before me is a knowledgeable leader who makes the most of the opportunities that present themselves – and is, as such, a worthy name alongside 29 others who deserves to be included in Hotel Designs’ 30 Under 30.

In Conversation With: Pedro Colaco, CEO, Great Hotels of The World on bleisure

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In Conversation With: Pedro Colaco, CEO, Great Hotels of The World on bleisure

With the global rise in bleisure travel, one company and its members are more equipped than ever before to cater to the demands of modern business travellers. In light of this, and ahead of leading a panel discussion on the topic, editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with Pedro Colaco, CEO of Great Hotels of The World, to find out why independent hotels need to rethink their business facilities in order to maximise on every opportunity…

The saying goes: “Turn your wounds into wisdom”, which is a slightly dramatic term that, in short, means learn from your experiences. One man who built his empire on this motto – albeit it learning from other brands’ wounds but very much his own bleisure travel experiences – is Pedro Colaco, the CEO of Great Hotels of The World (GHOTW). Colaco is also the founder and CEO of tech company Guest Centric, which completed the acquisition of GHOTW last year, and with it brought valuable digital experience. Having spent years seeing hotels getting it wrong, Colaco decided to help GHOTW’s members get it right. “How many times have you checked in to a hotel late at night, perhaps because of a delayed flight or whatever, you were hungry and tired but there was no food?” Colaco rhetorically asks. “Welcome to the glamorous life of yesterday’s business travel,” he laughs.

As we skip the small talk and start discussing the current landscape of the hotel development, both in our element identifying great independent hotels as well as off-the-grid hotspot locations around the world, I wonder what Colaco’s definition of a ‘great’ hotel is. “For us, in terms of our memberships, we work with larger hotels in the bleisure segment in order to bring as much value to them as we can,” he explains. “A GHOTW hotel needs to have something special about it, whether that is a cinema, a theme park or simply just a great rooftop pool or bar.”

Establishing shot of Atlantis The Palm

Image credit/caption: Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, one of GHOTW’s members

It strikes me that becoming a member of GHOTW is something that should be seen as a prestigious complement, an accolade celebrating potential if you like. “Take Dubai, for example. There are many incredible hotels within the city, and more opening every day, but we want to ensure that we do not have too many hotels within one region,” Colaco explains. “Therefore, we have to think strategically and hand-select the independent hotels that we can best help to take to the next level.” In essence, a hotel can only become part of the GHOTW portfolio if it meets the company’s criteria and if Colaco and his team genuinely believe they can help. “One of the large segments that we provide in terms of marketing is MICE,” adds Colaco, which makes sense considering the facilities from Guest Centric that it can lean on.

“A staggering 75 per cent of business travellers want to extend their stay for leisure.”

The company, which provides global hotel sales and marketing services, recently shared the results of new headline-grabbing survey that it led. The study showed a staggering 75 per cent of business travellers want to extend their stay for leisure. What’s more is that of the 75 per cent, more than two-thirds would turn their work trip into a holiday while staying in the same hotel. “Long gone are the days when business travellers had to stay in soulless business districts,” explains Colaco. “I’m sure you will agree that modern business travellers want check in where the action is. Independent hotels are born in a place and live in a place, and it’s that personality of each property that we want to capture and amplify to the world of prospective business travellers.”

Luxury spa with detailed wallcoverings

Image credit/caption: The spa at Al Bustan Hotel & Spa Beirut, one of GHOTW’s members

QUICK-FIRE ROUND:

Hamish Kilburn: I have just given you a large sum of money, and you are only allowed to use it to build a hotel. Where in world would this hotel be?
Pedro Colaco: Oh my gosh, for me? How generous! A desert island somewhere. It would be very simple – I think there is a lot to be said about ‘undertourism’. My hotel that you have so kindly given me the funds for will be a hidden gem away from the noise. In all seriousness, watch this space for new travel trends celebrating going back to basics!

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
PC: Patagonia, Iceland and the Polar Circle to see the northern lights. I have to visit all these places before I die, but getting the time off to explore these wonders is mission impossible!

HK: What’s your biggest bugbear in this industry?
PC: Some hoteliers’ lack of attention detail with technology. Modern travellers are connected and demand instant gratification. I think many hoteliers fall behind by adopting gimmicks without having considered whether or not they will help the guests’ experience.

HK: You clearly travel a lot, what is the one item you cannot travel without?
PC: My razor! You asked…

HK: Has there been one person who you can identify as an inspiration to your journey in this industry?
PC: That’s difficult, there are so many people who inspire me. From a business point of view alone I have had many great mentors. Honestly, there is not one single person I can mention.

HK: Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?
PC: Oh lots! Are you kidding me? But you learn from your mistakes and I have no regrets!

“GHOTW has the technology and the commitment to help our members compete on a global scale.” – Pedro Colaco, CEO, Great Hotels of the World

With the experience and technology from Guest Centric, the resources that GHOTW has at its fingertips are impressive, to say the least. “It’s hard to be an independent hotel in today’s market as more and more hotel groups launch lifestyle brands in tier two cities,” says Colaco. “However, GHOTW has the technology and the commitment to help our members compete on a global scale.”

Modern, contemporary lobby area

Image credit/caption: The lobby of Altis Belem Hotel in Lisbon, one of GHOTW’s members

For me, in the little time I have had to get to know one of the many masters behind the brand, it’s clear that Colaco likes to work within a team in order to support the underdogs in our industry, the independents. In doing so, he and his team of experts are helping local businesses within the hotel industry to not only survive, but also to thrive. With recent news from the brand stating that it will receive more than €3,000,000 investment over the next two years in order to welcome new members from around the globe, GHOTW – a company that cares – just became greater!

In Conversation With: Tom Lindblom, Gensler

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Lifting the curtain to peak inside one of the largest architecture firms in the world, editor Hamish Kilburn heads to Gensler’s UK headquarters to catch up with hospitality leader, Principal and Brit List 2018 finalist Tom Lindblom…

“Designing a hotel is a theatre production,” Tom Lindblom, hospitality leader and Principal at Gensler explains. “If you have ever been backstage at a theatre show, and have seen all the activity that’s going on, you will understand how many strings need to be pulled to ensure that what’s happening on the stage – front-of-house in our case – is going smoothly and flows seamlessly. The magic has to happen without the guests being aware how it is made.” This carefully chosen metaphor used to describe the realities – and often challenges – that modern architecture practices face is my first opportunity to really understand the man behind the vision of many projects in the UK, Europe and in the Middle East.

If we are to continue the theatre theme then I feel as if I have a front-row seat, exclusively invited to the opening night to critique Gensler’s award-winning performance. While the narrative explains how the company came to be one of the largest architecture firms in the world, the lead role is certainly up for interpretation. Lindblom, formally a museum and lighting designer, is one of 15 principals at Gensler and his stage is very much sheltered in the company’s London base in St Katherine Docks, with major plans for expansion. “Our expression is deliberately ‘one firm firm’, which suggests that we, the more than 6,000 employees at Gensler, are one team working across 48 offices around the globe,” he explains. “As a result of this shared mindset, our London office is able to share relationships with others around the world in order to eventually work on projects that would have otherwise gone to other architecture practices – it really is a key element to our global success.”

Gensler_Four Seasons_Kuwait

Image caption: Gensler’s Four Seasons Kuwait

Although the project briefs may change as the demands from operators and owners evolve, one thing remains constant in Lindblom’s eyes; team work really does make the dream work. “As an architect, the sooner you are working with an interior designer on a hotel project, the better the end result will be,” he says confidently. “Many see our industry as a triangle, but in actual fact it is a square,” he says. “That shape is between the owner, the operator, and the two designers – architecture and interiors – everyone needs to be reading off the same script.”

“The landscape of the hotel is as important as the architecture.” – Tom Lindblom

Whether we should design hotels that are Instagrammable is a topic that we are used to debating, I am keen to understand how, in Lindblom’s eyes, social media is dictating the design of the modern hotel. According to him, the pool in a resort hotel tends to be the ‘wow’ moment. “For a luxury resort hotel we designed in Croatia, for example, the ‘wow’ moments are a pool bar and grill and the water-front adult pool,” he explains. “The landscape of the hotel is as important as the architecture, and that’s why we work closely with landscape architects as well. At Gensler, we are very fortunate to have in-house landscape designers, which is often absolutely integral to the success of the project.”

Render of a pool and bar area outside

Image caption: Brizenica Bay Four Seasons Croatia Pool Bar / Credit: Gensler

Some of Lindblom’s most memorable curtain-call openings include St Regis Langkawi, Malaysia and the unforgettable unveiling of Four Season Kuwait at Burj Alshaya. Closer to home, though, since becoming one of the finalists at The Brit List 2018, Lindblom has been working on the interiors for a Hilton hotel project in Woking, Surrey. “There will be a great rooftop bar and restaurant, which is our answer to the operator’s brief, wanting to create certain ‘Instagrammable moments’,” Lindblom explains. “Our aim here was to open up the public areas to amazing panoramic views that can become an attraction for both guests and outside visitors.”

Gensler’s recently published Hospitality Experience Index concludes that hotel public spaces are changing. “Single-use public spaces are dead,” Lindblom claims. The report concludes: “The best hotels know that designing for today’s everything/everywhere customer doesn’t mean being everything to everyone -but it does require a new approach to understanding what guests want that goes far beyond business vs. leisure or millennial vs. boomer.” In response to this, Lindblom says: “Before we start drawing the shape and design of the building, we should be asking what experience we are trying to create.”

Quick-fire round:

Hamish Kilburn: What would you say, in your opinion as an architect, is the best designed city in the world?
Tom Lindblom: I love Paris and New York, but the city that made a big impression on me recently was Ljubljana, the Capital of Slovenia.

HK: What would you be if you weren’t an architect?
TL: A Sculptor

HK: What, in your opinion, is the worst designed hotel?
TL: There are too many to list

HK: What is your biggest bugbear when travelling?
TL: Wheely bags! I hate them!

HK: What is your favourite colour?
TL: Anything with stripes!

HK: Do you have a favourite project?
TL: They are all special, but I am really proud of the Four Seasons in Kuwait – I feel as if we need end credits to list all the people who brought that vision to life, all led by an amazing client.

Exterior shot of the hotel

Image caption: St. Regis Langkawi / credit: Gensler

There is a certain ignorance that comes from reviewing hotels, one that typically completely ignores the foundation of what is, as Hilton Hotels puts it, the heart-of-house. “The back-of-house, or backstage of any hotel performance, has to be designed around functionality,” Lindblom explains. “Our job here is to design an area that will maximise service and overall productivity, which in turn leads to a seamless guest experience. Although these areas won’t have all the finishes that you see in front of the staging, they are a vital part of the production.”

In the backstage access-all-areas interview, I am eager to learn what it takes to be cast as one of the leads at Gensler. “Believe it or not, listening is the fundamental skill to be a good leader,” Lindblom says. “When we are failing, we are not listening, which interestingly is the same for both staff and clients”

For this interview’s dramatic final scene, Lindblom explains how his past experience as a lighting designer has helped him to sketch and create some of the world’s most impressive design hotels. “There is just way too much artificial light in the world,” he explains as he points to the light directly above our heads, which creates glare while we are speaking at the table. “The starting point for a lighting designer should be darkness. Then you build up from there, considering the light sources, the times of day, colours and finishes, and ultimately the intention for the spaces.” And like any hit Broadway or Westend show, the production fades on a cliff-hanger conclusion as we wait to witness the unveiling of Gensler’s next hotel project.

In Conversation With: Sebastian Herkner, designer of the year

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In Conversation With: Sebastian Herkner, designer of the year

At just 37 years old, designer Sebastian Herkner who is known for straddling the boundaries between modernity and tradition, becomes  designer of the year at Maison & Objet. In between Herkner’s press calls and panel discussions, editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with the man of the moment discuss the evolution of his pieces…

What makes Sebastian Herkner a name to remember in the congested industry of interior design is his ability to effortlessly fuse together tradition with creativity.

His approach to design first became commercialised in 2006, after completing his studies at the University of Art and Design at Offenback, when he set up his own studio. His first landmark design, the Bell Table, took no less than three years to find the right manufacturer because of Herkner’s design being ‘ahead of its time’, the double-edge sword of being a leader with creative vision. The table consists of a steel and brass platter that nestles on a hand-blown glass base that was produced in a centuries-old Bavarian glass factory.

The bell table by Sebastian Herkner

Image caption: The Bell Table

His appetite for a challenge and his desire to explore unchartered territories has not only led him to design glasses, bicycles and perfume bottles or make forays into the world of interior design, but also to embark on an internship with fashion designer Stella McCartney during the course of his studies. “I was interested in the manufacturing processes used in fashion, and understanding how colours are put together” he explains. The flair for combining colours he honed whilst there now underpins his signature style. “Colour is often the very last thing designers think about. For me, it’s always the starting point for the whole design process”. He does admit, nonetheless, that “it can take years to find that perfect colour combination”.

“I want my products to become companions, which I believe is very important these days in order to create timeless pieces.”

Fast-forward 15 years from when he opened his first studio, and more than 120 product launches later, Herkner is today centre stage at one of the world’s most reputable design fairs, Maison & Objet, being dubbed the ‘designer of the year’, a title that feels not only thoroughly deserved but also one that feels totally appropriate for the man who never looks back. “My designs are not driven by target groups, they are more driven by quality and functionality, while mixing new technologies and materials with craftsmanship and colours,” Herkner explains. “I want my products to become companions, which I believe is very important these days in order to create timeless pieces.” These ‘companions’ sit in harmony at the show, exhibiting the designer’s journey.

Clip Chair for De Vorm

Image caption: Sebastian Herkner’s Clip Chair for De Vorm

Be it in his studio, surrounded by a six -strong team that herald from all four corners of the world, or during his frequent trips to China, Colombia, Thailand, Senegal and Canada visiting local manufacturers , design houses and craftsmen, Herkner has a longstanding habit of quenching his thirst for ideas elsewhere. “Different cultures, skills and lifestyles all fuel my inspiration” he explains . He also finds his inspiration in traditional materials, such as ceramics, leather, marble and also in art. Another of his iconic pieces, the “Oda” floor lamp (Pulpo , 2014), bears testament to that . Resembling a reservoir of light, the design was directly inspired by photographic images of water towers captured by Bernd and Hilla Becher. Every single source of inspiration is perfectly in tune with his quest for authenticity, his desire to use sustainable materials , and his sense of respect for the time it takes to create a truly stunning piece.

Bulbous glass light on floor

Image credit: “Oda” floor lamp (Pulpo , 2014)

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: What colour are you finding interesting at the moment? 
Sebastian Herkner: Salmon pink (in Matt)

HK: What is the one item you cannot travel without:
SH: My phone. I am addicted! 

HK: Where is next on your travel bucket list? 
SH: I would love to go to Peru. Big cities, unfortunately, look all the same. 

HK: Is there a trend that you hate? 
SH: When people choose to infuse ‘soft Skandi’ in their interiors. I love the Scandinavian look and feel, but I feel as if people should use it with more courage and strength. 

HK: Would you change anything in the last ten years?
SH: No, nothing. 

For a designer who is known for being ahead of his time when it comes to his ability to combine functionality with technology, I am somewhat taken aback when Herkner suggests that the industry has to some extent gone too far. “Smart homes is one thing, but i believe that furniture will remain still because they are designed for human beings,” he explains. “We need somewhere to sit, and I do not believe there is any need for charging sockets in the sofa – in the table, perhaps, but not the sofa.

Herkner’s recent accolade gives him a platform to unveil some of his latest creations whilst simultaneously showcasing the manufacturing processes that have always been so close to his heart.

Main image credit: Sebastian Herkner/Gany Gerster 

In Conversation With: Moritz Waldemeyer, lighting designer to the stars

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Lighting designer Moritz Waldemeyer speaks to editor Hamish Kilburn about 2019 trends, the power of lighting therapy and how one moment in time can dramatically change the direction of a creative’s career…  

Anyone who has had the pleasure to spend more than five minutes in the company of the multi-talented Moritz Waldemeyer will agree with me when I say that he is a breath of creative, fresh air. Despite having designed LED pieces for major players in popular culture such as music icons Ellie Goulding, WillIAm, Take That and fashion design hero Philip Treacy OBE, Waldemeyer’s head has always remained cool when working on many creative platforms.

Following a career-defining moment of lighting a costume collection for the closing ceremonies of both the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games, Waldemeyer’s recent gaze in the hospitality industry saw him at the centre of many interesting conversations at London Design Festival last year. His personalised lighting installation entitled Journey of Colour at Focus18 raised eyebrows among designers from around the world on the potential of lighting within hotel design. “Timing is everything,” Waldemeyer says. “My knowledge of technology, which is an area that has always interested me, placed me in the design sphere with a unique skillset at the right time.”

WAVE chandelier in Intercontinental Davos, which is 1,400 hand-blown glass spheres swirl in a playful shape of a gust of snow,

Image caption: WAVE chandelier in Intercontinental Davos, which is 1,400 hand-blown glass spheres swirl in a playful shape of a gust of snow,

Waldemeyer’s journey in the world of fashion, design and lighting started with an early interest for technology. Following his studies on mechatronics at Kings College London, Waldemeyer began experimenting with his passion for lighting – and after graduating, he gained experience working for Phillips in the product development team. It was at this moment in time, while other employees were working the nine-to-five, when Waldemeyer started to experiment with lighting and its boundaries. His forward-thinking attitude soon sparked the attention of the fashion world, which led to what was arguably his first major career break.

Virtual Reality – Moritz Waldemeyer for Philip Treacy

Image caption: Virtual Reality – Moritz Waldemeyer for Philip Treacy

Paris Fashion Week 2007 witnessed Hussein Chayalan showcase dresses impregnated with servo-driven lasers that were engineered and programmed by Waldemeyer. With the aim to create a sensational atmosphere that captured the attention of the world’s media, Chayalan turned to Waldemeyer to emit laser beams from the dresses on the models who strutted spectacularly down the catwalk. “It’s a great, indescribable feeling to be part of fashion history,” Waldemeyer shares. “And it was after this show I realised just how revolutionary this was when figures in the music industry got in touch asking me how I could work with them to create visual experiences.”

“I am looking at animated lighting, which is super retro and exciting.”

Waldemeyer’s dip into the world of high-fashion, I believe, gives him a unique leverage when it comes to helping to transform lighting within hotel interior design spaces. But when it comes to looking ahead, it seems as if Waldemeyer is left wondering like the rest of us what defines a ‘trend’. “It’s really difficult to look at trends on a year-by-year basis, because I believe that the development isn’t that fast in lighting,” he comments. “However, from my point of view, we have yet to establish the limits of LED potential. I am looking at animated lighting, which is super retro and exciting.”

Flos presented this stunning collaborative project during the Milan Salone 2009 which involved no less than 5 well known contributors: design by Philippe Starck, text by Jenny Holzer, execution by Flos, crystal by Baccarat and custom electronic design by Moritz Waldemeyer.

Image caption: Flos presented this stunning collaborative project during the Milan Salone 2009 which involved no less than five well known contributors: design by Philippe Starck, text by Jenny Holzer, execution by Flos, crystal by Baccarat and custom electronic design by Moritz Waldemeyer.

Following on from our insight into how the public areas of hotels are changing, there has been many debates about how the lobby and the guestroom can continue to evolve into new eras. Technology within lighting has unlocked the door to welcome in the opportunity of more atmospheric areas within the hotel, which is arguably the key to create the personalised hotel of the future. “Considering that the lobby is the first area that guests walk in to, I believe there is room for designers to be more playful,” he explains. “When it comes to the guestroom, though, I believe we as lighting experts need to ensure that we are creating intuitive lighting that works with the user. It’s a challenge to ensure we are creating seamless lighting experiences that don’t hinder the overall guest experience. It’s sometimes easy to forget when working on large pieces to view the experience from a guests’ point of view, but this is so important when it comes to the design of the lighting.”

“We deliberately use a lot of colour, which is arguably therapeutic with the aim to bring people back to themselves.”

One area within the interior design of hotels that continues to divide opinions is understanding the fundamental purpose of lighting in the guestroom. While designers aim to firmly establish lighting’s functional properties as well as its decorative qualities within the guestroom, there are questions rippling through the industry on how wellbeing can be incorporated within hotel design, and Waldemeyer may have the answer. He explains: “We deliberately use a lot of colour, which is arguably therapeutic with the aim to bring people back to themselves. Art pieces that use light to encourage calmness ­– similar to watching a roaring open fire – somewhat sedates the tone of the room and the guests’ minds. Using colour in this way has the complete opposite reaction to what happens when we as consumers stare mindlessly at our phones or devices.”

Moritz Waldemeyer's personalised lighting installation, Journey of Colour, was exhibited at Focus 18.

Image caption: Moritz Waldemeyer’s personalised lighting installation, Journey of Colour, was exhibited at Focus 18.

Waldemeyer strikes me as someone who is constantly looking ahead to establish new ways to be creative with lighting. “I’m excited about craftsmanship, which is really big on our agenda at the moment,” says Waldemeyer. “Travelling the world has allowed me to establish new avenues and my task at the moment is to understand how we can present traditional craftsmanship in lighting to a modern audience, which is challenging but also so rewarding at the same time.”

Waldemeyer’s own ‘journey of colour’ is, I believe, still in the very early stages when establishing what is possible within the future of commercial lighting. I leave the creative with focused lenses, now being able to zoom in to understand further the emotional links between our minds and how our hotels are lit. One of the largest conclusions, though, is seeing how outside influences, from areas such as fashion and popular music, can absolutely shed some light on the direction our industry should be heading when it comes to forward-thinking an innovation.

Moritz Waldemeyer Studio 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, click here.

Main image credit: Moritz Waldemeyer Studio

In Conversation With: Yasmine Mahmoudieh, the interior designer with an architect’s brilliant mind

1024 576 Hamish Kilburn

From architect to interior designer and back again, Yasmine Mahmoudieh is an undeniable icon in international hotel design. Editor of Hotel Designs, Hamish Kilburn, joins Mamoudieh to understand the need for versatility on the modern hotel design stage… 

Yasmine Mahmoudieh, to me, is a woman of multiple worlds – and that’s not just because she can speak no less than six languages. While she defiantly marks her territory as one of the UK’s leading hotel design architects, she is also churning up a creative swirl in the interior design industry. Thinking like an architect, to carve out beautiful narratives in surfaces, furniture and lighting, has helped Mahmoudieh to establish innovative interior spaces that somewhat echo what the future of hotel design will look like. The most recent example of this was seen in her Sleep Set in collaboration with Penguin Books that was exclusively exhibited at Sleep + Eat 2018.

After the noise of the show softened, I caught up with the one and only Mahmoudieh to understand how that unique pairing all came together, what it means for her to be recognised as a Brit List 2018 winner and where her focus for the future is.

Mahmoudieh's Sleep + Eat Set

Image caption: Mahmoudieh’s Sleep + Eat Set

“When you think about it, a hotel is like a mini city; there’s a mix of public and private areas that have to function and work together,” she says as we begin discussing why there is so much accurate emphasis on conceiving the hotel of the future. “And just like a city, a hotel only has so much space, so you have to plan accordingly by using clever techniques along the way.” I agree with Mahmoudieh that a city – like a hotel – is only as interesting as what it is that it shelters. “I’m a creative,” she claims proudly. “I like to design these mini cities to become something new, something that the world has never seen before that goes far deeper than beautiful wallpaper that surrounds and comfy bed.”

With this year’s Sleep + Eat theme very much focusing around collaboration outside of hotel design, Mahmoudieh was tasked to create a suite that reflected, in some way, the much-adored Penguin Books. With just six months to imagine, draw and build, the challenge was on. “I decided to opt away from the obvious, which would be to incorporate the Penguins branding throughout the suite,” she explains. “Instead, I decided to take inspiration from three books for three areas of the suite. A zen space of tranquility awaits in the bathroom area with influences from Elizabeth von Arnim’s “Elizabeth and her German Garden”. The bedroom area will remind visitors of Plato’s ‘The Symposio’ of origin and pure love. Meanwhile, the lounge and workspace area will dwell deeper into philosophy and wisdom through the works of Rumi.”

Image caption: The bedroom in Mahmoudieh’s Sleep Set 2018

One can’t help but think that, for Mahmoudieh, designing new spaces is almost like a puzzle where more often than not, the missing piece is technology struggling to keep up with her ideas. “The patterned sound that I used within my Sleep Set really took the whole ambiance further, and for that reason I believe that we will see more of this in hotel design,” she explains. “The sound came from inside, travelled along the walls and was programmable. The fact that you can personalise the sound makes it totally relevant to the modern traveller of today, or tomorrow.” For Mahmoudieh, technology that works has to be invisible and more importantly, easy to use.

“Lighting should never be from the top.” – Yasmine Mahmoudieh

As well as constantly pushing open technology’s trap door, Mahmoudieh also looks at ecological materials within her projects. “The paper and copper yarn form Woodnotes that I used in the curtain of my Sleep Set that hung around the bed not only used naturally sourced material but it also created subtle boundaries between private and public areas of the suite.”

Image credit: Paper and copper yarn form Woodnotes

Opting for using the simple, effective products from Astro Lighting, Mahmoudieh believes that many designers are getting it wrong when it comes to lighting the bathroom. “Lighting should never be from the top,” she says as I raise an eyebrow. “Instead it should come from the front, otherwise the guest will not be able to escape from the shadows on their face.” In Mahmoudieh’ s eyes, a hotel bathroom’s lighting should reflect an actors’ dressing room.

Lighting in the bathroom of Mahmoudieh's Sleep + Eat Set

Image caption: Lighting in the bathroom of Mahmoudieh’s Sleep + Eat Set

Quick-fire round:

Hamish Kilburn: What’s your favourite colour?
Yasmine Mahmoudieh: For some time, it has been a natural mud colour

HK: What’s your number-one travel item you cannot board a plane without?
YM: My phone, for sure

HK: What’s a trend that has inspired you this year?
YM: Calling on other industries to use eco materials and sustainability

HK: Where is next on your travel bucket list?
YM: Tulum in Mexico

I have heard on the grapevine that Mahmoudieh has her eye on yet another world (apparently for this visionary, interior design and architecture isn’t enough) that she is considering entering the hospitality world to become a hotel owner. Starting from scratch, I would expect nothing less, Mahmoudieh’s idea is to create a new kind of country house hotel retreat in England. “It’s true, I have been drawing this up as a concept that is going to be an architecturally driven, warming English country farmhouse,” she says clearly keeping some pieces of the puzzle close to her chest.

 

I’m inspired massively by Mahmoudieh’s for not only her enthusiasm for innovative design, but also her fearless approach to diving into new sectors in order to constantly push international hotel design forward. We end our delightful time together with a quote that she she uses as her mantra, which she first heard from her university mentor: “Don’t do something different if it’s not better.” And all of a sudden,  everything that Mahmoudieh has spoken about  makes that much more sense, and I totally share her drive and spirit that makes her the architect, designer – and soon-to-be hotelier – that she is today.

Sleep Set Suppliers: 

Artisan Collective
Dornbracht
Hommbru
Designers Guild
Königstone
ALPI
HI-MACS
LG
Sun Studio London
Midland Stone Centre
Karndean Design Flooring
Sekers
JD Interior Solutions
Muzëo
Astro Lighting
Sonux
GDSL
Hypnos
Northern Lights
Woodnotes
Laminam
Dedar

Main image credit: Yasmine Mahmoudieh

In Conversation With: COO and Partner of luxury hotel group LHM

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Hotel Designs editor Hamish Kilburn catches up with Hans Joerg Meier the COO and Partner of LHM to discuss regional differences, design ethos’ and the challenges that come with setting up a new luxury hotel group…

With a new hotel about to open just over the horizon, which will add to the LHM (Legian Hotel Management) portfolio, the luxe hotel group is starting to find its bare-foot luxury feet in the international hotel design sands. Currently based in Indonesia with plans to expand across the globe, its ambition to “raise expectations of what a holiday can be” has been set in stone by the COO and co-founder Hans Joerg Meier. As its next hotel, The Legian Sire, Lombok, prepares for a Q1 2019 Launch, we caught up with Joerg Meier to find out  what the future for the hotel group looks like.

Hamish Kilburn: What has LHM identified as differences in markets between Indonesia and Europe?
Hans Joerg Meier: Travellers from Europe are seeking an authentic Indonesian/Balinese cultural experience – the warm and sincere service/hospitality. Furthermore, European guests want to travel around the island, visiting temples, renowned rice paddies, tasting local cuisine and attending cooking classes. Many are also keen to attend/participate in a local ceremony. Our regular guests from the local Indonesian market are very familiar with Bali/Seminyak where The Legian is located, and most seek a getaway to relax in the hotel from the pressures of their working lifestyle. They come to wine and dine and visit friends. This pattern is also similar with our regional markets from Hong Kong and Singapore. Both European and Indonesian markets are very interested in our wellness programs and following this we have recently launched a new wellness concept ‘Wellness by the Legian’ which will be available in all LHM hotels.

HK: There seems to be a lot of emphasis on experiences when it comes to luxury travel. Is the experience more important than the product these days? 
HJM: I am of the opinion that both are equally important. A good product is imperative and superior guest experiences personifies the product and vice versa. They synergize each other and are essential for the luxury traveller.

Image caption: Legian Seminyak, Bali

HK: Can you explain the design ethos of LHM properties?
HJM: Each LHM property is/will be exquisitely crafted by renowned architects and interior designers as well as legendary local artisans. This will reflect the sophisticated taste of our refined clientele who will feel right at home within LHM’s exceptional natural timeless surroundings, each one tastefully and utterly unique in their style.

HK: What are the main challenges for a new hotel group in today’s hotel landscape?
HJM: The main challenges include coming up with unique selling/marketing ideas which clearly differentiate the brand from the many competitors. It is also important to have a clear strategy in place and stick to it, not to follow every single trend, but rather create a bespoke experience. New hotel groups need to have a solid structure in place which allows the brand to expand on firm grounds without becoming too corporate. The key element is to form a strong team and nurture talents to take on more responsibility and to fully embrace the culture of the company. It is important that the team truly understands and is passionate about the brand so the company can successfully expand in the right direction. People are key in our industry as every guest interaction is vital.

Image caption: The site at Legian Sire, Lombok

HK: How did the management team come together?
HJM: Our first property, The Legian, Seminyak Bali has been owned by the Djohan’s family since the opening in 1996. Irma Djohan, The youngest daughter of Robby and Nanan Djohan, has a career in banking and at the same time was mentored by her father to eventually become a partner at LHM. Ralf Ohletz von Plattenberg was working for Adrain Zecha at Aman and GHM for over 30 years and was part of the team who setup The Legian. As for myself, I was working with GHM, who managed The Legian, for 15 years. Therefore, Irma, Ralf and myself knew each other. When the late Robby Djohan decided to start his own management company, he brought the 3 of us together help him form LHM, based on our diversified backgrounds.

Image credit: Legian Sire, Lombok

HK: The team clearly has a lot of experience in luxury. What key elements have you taken from Como, Peninsula and Aman to make LHM truly luxurious?
HJM: The LHM team have utilised their experience to create LHM’s own bespoke luxury key elements. LHM balances authentic unsurpassed service within captivating environments of exquisite craftsmanship reflecting the sophisticated lifestyle and intellectual curiosity of our guests. Every LHM property reflects its location, culture and people and does not wish to be a ‘cookie cutter’ brand. The one main key element I have taken from all my experience is that the people are key to creating a truly memorable and luxurious experience.

HK: How important is location when expanding a luxury hotel portfolio?
HJM: Location is important not just for each individual property but expansion should be based on a strategic plan. Some destinations may complement each other which can be of great advantage to boost occupancy. LHM’s 5 year business plan focussed on Indonesia and South East Asia which allows us to streamline efforts and keep operations efficient.

In Conversation with: Michael Seum, how Grohe recreated a classic

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Grohe’s Vice President of Design, Michael Seum, talks about revisiting a classic, challenging the engineers and creating an icon in the new Atrio (as published in Grohe Magazine No. 2 2018)… 

Redesigning a classic is a task not to be taken lightly. It’s a design opportunity that involves walking a tightrope between respecting the past and opening oneself up to contemporary ideas. Grohe’s Vice President of Design Michael Seum, however, was delighted to step up to the challenge with the classic Grohe Atrio faucet. It was, he says, an exciting opportunity to build on the strengths of this Grohe icon while giving it a feeling of timelessness.

Grohe: What was the idea behind the new Atrio? 
Michael Seum: For me, the very definition of an icon is something you can draw from memory. We are calling this the icon of elegance and precision. The elegance is drawn from a single circle , or a cylinder right, which is one of the most feminine geometrical features you can find: pure and perfect. It;s a firmly contemporary design, but with the right interior decor strategy, it could fit in a classic or cosmopolitan environment. Because we’ve used such a simple, singular geometry, the precision has an analogue, tactile feel to it. So much of this world is digital and uber-connected that we felt like for our spa collection, we needed to have this tactility. And it’s done in such a way that even when you look at the design, all of the intersections are precise. Nothing is off-centre.

Image credit: Grohe

G: How is is driven by the technology that’s inside, like the cartridges? 
MS: The quality of the design comes through the craftsmanship and also the precision of our high-quality cartridges. There are three principles that we draw from: the cylindrical element that drives the entire line, an absolutely pure intersection of all these geometries, and lastly, the obsessive attention to proportion. We wanted a design that celebrates the quality of the Grohe cartridge – its the perfect expression of our design DNA.

G: How long, from first sketch to now, have you and your team been working on this? 
MS: We had a discussion about the possibility of having the spa geometry perfectly intersect, I think, about 18 months ago. While we came pretty quickly to the idea, the execution was actually the hardest part of the job; getting the engineering team to find a way to do that.

“It really is iconic, it’s beautiful, it’s flexible and it’s simple.”

G: What challenges did you have to overcome with the engineering? 
MS: The engineers saw the potential of the design. But they also saw that it was their responsibility to help us realise it. So I’m really pleased at how they’ve embraced the design vision and made all of the technical elements work, going through such meticulous, geometrical work with the Atrio. This is where the precision of the tactile feedback, the craftsmanship, the quality, the handmade aspects – it’s all due to their efforts.

Image credit: Grohe

G: How has the feedback on this product been so far? 
MS: We’ve had some sneak previews with a few long-standing customers and architects that we have very positive relationships with. We do a lot of work on projects that are two to five years – and the response when we put this on the table is just jaw-dropping. It really is iconic, it’s beautiful, it’s flexible and it’s simple. We designed something that allows architects or consumers to design spaces in so many different ways. The fact that the product is so simple means that it can work with different interior strategies. They see that immediately.

G: What plans do you have for the Atrio in the future? 
MS: We will launch it in Spa Colours over time. Because this design is so neutral, we believe that this is the vehicle for expressing new colour and finish possibilities in the bathroom. It’s a design that works in so many different environments, from classic to contemporary to cosmopolitan. It has transformatative affect in those spaces.

Grohe 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, click here.

Main image credit: Grohe 
Image caption: Grohe’s Vice President of Design, Michael Seum

 

 

 

In Conversation With: BISQUE’s Ellie Sawdy on 2019 colour trends

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Ever since Bisque first came on our radar, we have been impressed with how the company has taken a very practical – and historically mundane – item and used it to lift a whole interior space. The brand’s marketing manager, Ellie Sawdy, talks us through major colour trends, radiator pitfalls and 2019 surprises… 

Ever since its humble beginnings in 1979, after Geoffrey Ward stumbled across a towel radiator (a product that was revolutionary at the turn of the decade) on his travels and was struck with idea of pioneering attractive radiators in the UK, BISQUE has made a major impact on the interior design scene.

This year has been one of significance for the brand as it settles into a new home and is now able to welcome designers to experience the products at its showroom in the heart of London’s design hub, Islington Business Centre. But what’s next for the company that is always seen to be ahead of the curve – and can a radiator really have the power to change an interior design space? I caught up with the marketing manager whose natural trend radar is helping to steer the company into the future.

Various ranges of colour

Hamish Kilburn: How are radiators more than just heating appliances?
Ellie Sawdy: No longer do you have go with a simple towel rail or a pressed steel panel radiator. With so many options you can now make a bold statement with your radiators. For example the Bisque Arteplano etched copper or brass finishes are like a work of art! Each one is individually acid etched making it completely unique. Its products like these that appeal to those boutique hotels or décor that is going for the wow factor.

“Other trends include brass taps in kitchens and bathrooms.”

HK: What major trends are you seeing for 2019?
ES: We are seeing an increase in earthy tones for 2019, colours such as Spiced Honey which is Dulux’s colour of the year is a versatile colour perfect for a space that you want to be timeless. Bisque’s colour matching service means that we can match to colour like this to have a radiator that blends into your interior. Other trends include brass taps in kitchens and bathrooms. This finish helps you add warmth and shine to your interior. Depending on the finish of the brass you can have an industrial look or and polished clean finish.

“So many colour trends have popped up throughout 2018.”

HK: What can we expect to see in the products launching next year?
ES: Next year Bisque are really focusing on their special finishes. Designers are mixing metals and adding shades of colour steering away from Chrome. With taps, showers and even light switches coming in materials such as polished brass or antique bronze we want to complement these shades to help designers create one seamless look. Our new bathroom products for 2019 work perfectly with traditional bathrooms with matching valves sets to complete the look, all of which are available in a variety of finishes.

Coloured radiator

HK: What are some major pitfalls designers fall down when it comes to selecting the radiators?
ES: With so many beautiful designs you no longer have to try and hide the room radiator or towel rail, why not make it a feature? We allow designers to have something practical and stylish which are often timeless designs.

HK: Can you explain a little bit more about Bisque and its entrance onto hotel design scene?
ES: Bisque has always had a clear mission – to offer beautiful but practical radiators in the most exciting styles, colours and finishes. We have worked with both established designers to create innovative designs and no matter what they style, good design and quality are always paramount. This allows us to work with hotels to create a bespoke offering and provide world-class standards beyond minimal compliance with UK building regulations.

HK: What was the biggest trend surprise of 2018 in interior design?
ES: Colour is here to stay! So many colour trends have popped up throughout 2018 and all have been well received. Colour is creeping into people’s home and making an impact, people have lost the fear of committing to bold patterns and colour.

In almost 40 years, through generation changes and shifting trends, BISQUE has continued to remain at the top of its interior design game by leading the luxury radiator industry into a colourful future. As one major anniversary approaches, we are watching this space carefully to see what’s next.

BISQUE 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, click here.

Featured image caption: Skye Brackpool

 

IN CONVERSATION WITH: Patrick McCrae, Co-founder and CEO of art consultancy ARTIQ

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As our ‘Spotlight On’ feature on Art and Photography becomes even more colourful, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn caught up with the charming, and equally talented, visionary who is ARTIQ‘s co-founder and CEO Patrick McCrae. Together the pair discuss talent searching and how the art consultancy firm is leading art in hotels into uncharted waters…

Earlier this month, ARTIQ inspired me – as a young design enthusiast – to think outside the box when critiquing art in hotels around the world. The term ‘talent searching’ has never been so clear as it was at the final of the Graduate Art Prize. The room was full of ideas, some yet to be sketched. ARTIQ, which launched the awards in 2012, is led by the dynamic and charismatic Patrick McCrae. Considering his team’s work that hangs on the stunning walls of prestigious hotels such as Gleneagles and Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, I had the pleasure of catching up with McCrae to find out more.

Hamish Kilburn: What do you look for when searching for new art talent?

Patrick McCrae: Innovation, creativity and sustainability. ARTIQ is interested in representing a diverse group of artists, but with the same level of ambition as our own and an exceptionally high level of quality. We work across many different media, from painting and sculpture to photography, prints and illustration, and we’re always on the lookout for artists making waves in their communities in the territories in which we’re active. We like efficient people and good communicators too! As we’re so hands-on with our artists, it’s really important to foster a close working relationship. Our clients see us as their conduit to the artworld, so it’s important too that we can reflect the calibre and standards of our clients in the artwork we put forward.

ARTIQ were commissioned to curate an art collection for The Marriott Heathrow Conference, Banqueting & Event Space, redesigned by EPR Architects alongside works for the bedrooms, designed by Anita Rosato Interior Design.

Image caption: ARTIQ were commissioned to curate an art collection for The Marriott Heathrow Conference, Banqueting & Event Space, redesigned by EPR Architects alongside works for the bedrooms, designed by Anita Rosato Interior Design.

HK: Which hotel has recently stopped you in your tracks because of its art – and can you describe it?

PM: In February, I stayed in a tiny boutique hotel on Waheike Island, New Zealand.  I was there for the Auckland Arts Festival before touring around a bit and this was the last night in the country before coming home, so I really wanted to escape.  The hotel was run by a husband-and-wife team and set atop a huge vineyard in an olive grove (it was all a bit extra).  The plan was really to submerge in natural beauty before heading back to London.  The place was incredible: a spacious suite with floor to ceiling windows opening completely on two sides to a terrace with sun chairs and a table and the most absurdly picturesque view ever.  However, what really stuck me was the art collection, almost a lesson in modern art!  Miro, Picasso, Kandinsky nestled amongst local artists inspired by the views.  Every piece had a story and had been purchased over years by the owners.  It was the aesthetic so many of our clients are inspired by – the idea of a collector’s collection, each piece relevant, each modern work by an artist known to the family, collected and transported by hand back to the hotel.

HK: British artists seem to be so attractive to hotel clients from around the world. But what is it that Britain has that other countries may lack?

PM: There are indeed many fantastic British artists and I think this stems from the strength of the UK’s art market, which allows a certain freedom and flexibility when it comes to creating and collaborating. At ARTIQ we adopt a fair pay policy and in turn have found that our artists are more open to working on commissions in a much less restrictive way. However, we do think it is extremely important that when working on an international project to support local artists and not just to promote a British-is-best mentality. For example, with Mode ApartHotel Arc de Triomphe, our team of art researchers sourced work by Parisian artists Christian Gastaldi and Matheiu Bernard to reflect the culture and innovation of the city and offer a powerful place-making tool for the hotelier, as well as a unique opportunity for guests to experience local arts and culture as soon as they reach their accommodation.

The London Marriott Regents Park ARTIQ worked closely with Anita Rosato Interior Design on the curation of a fun and location-specific art collection for London Marriott Hotel Regents Park

Image caption: The London Marriott Regents Park
ARTIQ worked closely with Anita Rosato Interior Design on the curation of a fun and location-specific art collection for London Marriott Hotel Regents Park

HK: What advice would you give to young artists aspire to branch out into the commercial market?

PM: Here are my seven top tips:

  • Find your voice: in terms of subject and style, don’t be swayed by trends as these change and you’ll be left behind.
  • Know your business: from your prices to your intellectual property –  spend a bit of time working out your pricing, do a bit of research on industry practice, a-n, The Artists Information Company has a lot of great resources.
  • Think about how can you help clients ‘get’ your work? Maybe it’s the story, maybe’s it’s how many hours you spend on a piece or maybe it’s the materials? Think about what makes your process a ‘practice’.
  • Draw the line (early): Do you want to only sell originals? Do you want to do editions? Decide what you want now – it can always shift but makes you less likely to make uncomfortable compromises later in your career. The commercial art world can get hectic in terms of pace, and you want to lay a solid foundation early on.
  • Support others and they’ll return the favour: Whether it’s a gallerist, curator, or fellow artist – opportunities can come from the unlikeliest places. Find peers and mentors who truly want the best for you and can be trusted to advise on prices/opportunities/where your work is going.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want: if the client is really interested in the work, they’ll bite – it’s a negotiation, so play your part!
  • Grow your network! Go to shows, go to openings, network, be nice, ask for business cards and follow-up.

Image caption: The guestrooms at The London Marriott Regents Park were designed by Anita Rosato Interior Design, the art is all by Claire Brewster (ARTIQ)

HK: For designers working within tight budgets, how can they use art to help completely transform a hotel?

PM: When working within a tight budget, there are several ways to maximise the potential of your art. Firstly, consider renting a collection rather than buying. A rental collection can not only offer an affordable alternative to purchase, but in fact can attract more guests with a 3-6 monthly change that the marketing team can regularly talk about! In the same way, be open and clear about budget constraints from the get-go and your consultant can therefore tailor ideas that are specific to your project, rather than selling you something you cannot afford.

Think about the volume of the art you’re specifcying.  Think about areas of high traffic or strong perspective.  The ends of corridors, lift lobbies or walk-ways wherever everyone will travel to their rooms.  With a focus on key traffic areas and a reduction in volume, art can be carefully curated to impress continually.

A salon hang is another very cost-effective idea, whereby relatively inexpensive art, when grouped together, can create a bespoke and high-visual impact, as the viewer’s eye tends to focus on the whole rather than the individual.

Finally, you should be working with a consultant for whom budget restraints can also lead to creative, even transformative, outcomes. For example, approaching the end of The Principal Edinburgh, our team had a tight budget for the public areas. Thinking outside of the box, ARTIQ used vintage frames for the new, commissioned pieces, which not only looked fantastic but brought a whole other dimension to the project.

IN CONVERSATION WITH: Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO, Meliá Hotels International

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To identify what it takes to be at the helm of one of the most established luxury hotel brands, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn sat down with Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO, Meliá Hotels International Gabriel Escarrer Jaume to discuss core values, sustainable goals and all things design…

Since first meeting Gabriel Escarrer Jaume three years ago at what was the newly opened ME London, things have changed – but the same visionary remains to steer Meliá Hotels International into new waters, while keeping the brand fresh and always ahead of the curve. But in addition to the more obvious evolution that a hotel chain experiences – with new openings hapenning all over the world – Escarrer Jaume is also leading strong initiatives throughout the brand. The brand is reducing water usage per stay by eight per cent, achieving 70 per cent overall green energy use, all while achieving sustainability certification for 52 per cent of hotels. In addition, he aims to generalise sustainability clauses and codes in agreements and relationships with suppliers, ensure 90 per cent of suppliers are local and reduce CO2 emissions by 18.4 per cent per stay. It seems as if our meeting at WTM 2018 has come an appropriate time, and in between international phone calls to suppliers and contractors while keeping track of the 325 open hotels within the portfolio, he joins me for a coffee.

Hamish Kilburn: Having read a lot about the hotel group’s plans, how are you achieving to reduce water usage throughout the entire hotel portfolio?
Gabriel Escarrer Jaume: Sustainability has to always played a major role for the family owned company – we have strong values. Water savings is key. We have been working to  help reduce water wastage mainly in the public areas. We also have plans to help save water usage in the rooms without it affecting the overall guest experience. The goal is to continue to reduce water wastage per stay by eight per cent year-on-year, and we have done so for the past three years.

 “I believe that our hotels have helped the modern traveller explore new areas around the world.”

HK: I believe that the group has 59 hotels currently in the pipeline, when will they be completed by?
GEJ: The goal is to have these open within the next two and half years.

HK: How has consumer behaviour changed in the last few years, and how have you adapted your hotels to cater to the modern traveller?
GEJ: It affects it a lot. In my opinion, sustainability has always played a major role in hotel design, but even more so now, it seems. I believe that our hotels have helped the modern traveller explore new areas around the world. Part of our business model has been to develop hotels in new destinations. As you would expect, we are now in places such as Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica etc. But we are also making an impact in places like Zanzibar, Tanzania and Cape Verde. We approach each new hotel with tremendous respect to the local culture and the environment.

HK: Africa seems to be a major focus at the moment, why is that?
GEJ: Yes, but you won’t find us in the capital cities as we, like lour guests, prefer to explore new areas that are not necessarily on the tourist map. Meliá Hotels were the pioneers in Cape Verde, for example. We feel as if we can do the same in Africa. Serengeti is a focus for us, as well as Arusha which will be announced soon. There is a huge potential to develop hotels in Africa – and in fact the third-world.

HK: With The Brit List 2018 on the horizon, why is the UK such a major design hot spot?
GEJ: London has so much to offer for creative minds. Like all of our hotels around the world, London is iconic in its design. When guests check into the ME London, we want them to recognise and to feel the design of British architect Norman Foster. All of our hotels around the world have been deliberately designed with local architects and designers. We are working very closely with Zaha Hadid Architects at the moment with a hotel in Malta. Paris’ Melia ME was designed by Dominique Le Roux. All of these hotels have been created, from the very beginning, by real local legends in design.

HK: Will Meliá Hotels International be making a splash in Malta?
GEJ: Yes, in fact we are working with Zaha Hadid Architects on that project at the moment, which is scheduled to open next year.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What’s your favourite colour?
GEJ: Blue
HK: What’s the number-one tool for success in hotel development?
GEJ: Location, service and product (sorry, that’s three)
HK: What can you not travel without?
GEJ: My iPhone, my iPad and coffee
HK: Who is your inspiration?
GEJ: My father who founded Meliá Hotels International
HK: How do you shut off from work?
GEJ: I love sailing – it’s so peaceful.

Meliá Hotels International is the leading hotel Group in Spain and the third leading Globally, and has over 50 new hotels in its current pipeline. The Group is continuing to invest in loyal markets such as Spain, continuing the regeneration of Magaluf with pivotal new opening The Plaza, whilst expanding into emerging markets such as APAC, where the Group is opening 20 new hotels before the end of 2020. In fact, it seems as if the hotel group is expanding all over the globe and delving into areas where no group before has dared to venture.

 

In Conversation With: Katja Behre from Elli Popp

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Katja Behre, creative director of interior design company Elli Popp, talks about what’s hot in hotel design, where she finds inspiration, and shares tips for hoteliers looking to freshen up their interiors ahead of the Independent Hotel Show 2018

Ahead of this year’s Independent Hotel Show 2018, Hotel Designs went behind the scenes to catch up with Katja Behre of Elli Popp, the design partner to the Innovation Stage at IHS 2018.

Image credit: Twitter Katja Behre @ElliPoppDesigns

Hamish Kilburn: What are your clients currently looking for in hotel design?

Katja Behre: Storytelling is big. We’ve worked on a lot of customised designs over the past year and our clients love how we can incorporate and merge personal photos and drawings into our existing designs to create unique pieces.

We also add a lot of ‘hide and seek’ images to the murals and can change the layouts of patterns so they complement the client’s architectural features and shapes. We have also created exclusive murals from scratch based on a client’s brief.

HK: What are the key trends you’re noticing in hotel design?

KB: That’s a difficult question to answer as I don’t follow trends, nor do I look out for them.

I do what feels right and as trends come and go, I always try and create timeless designs, which from time-to-time happen to be in trend. Most of our best-selling designs are between one and six-years-old and still don’t seem to fade out.

HK: If a hotelier is looking to improve the design of their property, what top tips would you give them to ensure they do it right?

KB: I come from a colour design background and think it’s important to work with someone who can advise on colour schemes as every colour can have a different meaning. The same colour can even have a different impact depending on the surface and product it’s on as well as carrying different messages and meanings, both psychological and emotionally.

My advice is to look into the importance of colour and check that those you like will work within the hotel environment. What might work well in fashion, might not work in interiors. Colours and patterns can also have different meanings depending on where you are in the world.

I also think that people always feel comfortable with designs that connect them to nature – whether that’s plants, flowers, insects or animals. Any design with a connection to nature will be popular.

HK: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

KB: Everywhere. I approach the world and life with open eyes and curiosity to find beauty in everything.  We are so conditioned in so many ways that we forget that everything carries beauty and inspiration.

Our surroundings are full of inspiring and special moments, appearances and shapes. Everything can be turned into something special with the right approach.

HK: Tell us about who you are collaborating with at the Independent Hotel Show:

KB: We will have a total of seven creative companies present on stage. Our own Elli Popp wallpapers will be supported by Tektura who we have worked with in the past.

We have furniture in collaboration with Jonathan Charles Fine Furniture and will have two vintage chairs on stage re-upholstered with one of our latest mural patterns which has been created by local upholsterer Polly Chetwynd Stapylton.

You’ll also see decorative lights by Emerald Faerie, small decorative pieces by Jimmie Martin and flower and plant arrangements by Aude de Liedekerke.

HK: What key tip would you give to a designer just starting out?

KB: Be true to yourself and your own style.

Be open and friendly to anyone and everyone, help others as others will help you.

Don’t end up copying fellow designers or larger companies – and if you do, than change it as much as you can making it your own individual version.

Take inspiration from the past in art, design, fashion and culture, but create something new. I love Art Nouveau and Art Deco, but make designs my own by adding my own modern twist.

Ellie Popp is the Design Partner for the Innovation Stage at the Independent Hotel Show, which will host an exciting programme of seminars on 16th and 17th October.  To register visit www.independenthotelshow.co.uk

Profile image of Ronald Homsy

In Conversation With: Ronald Homsy, CEO and co-founder, Utopian Hotel Collection

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Concluding our month of focusing the lens on Hotel Concepts, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn puts Ronald Homsy under the spotlight to learn more about how he plans to make the world see luxury hotels for the experiences they shelter…

In a quiet café just off London’s Sloane Square, which is a pleasant experience itself, something amazing is happening: I am about to meet one of the men behind a new hotel collection that inspires through one-off experiences. The sharp-looking businessman approaches my table and takes off his tailored blazer and rolls up his sleeves to shake my hand, which breaks down all formal barriers. The CEO and co-founder of Utopian Hotel Collection, Ronald Homsy, sits down comfortably and starts to share what I can tell has been a driving passion of his for years.

We start talking about locations as we constantly refer to them as playgrounds that need exploring. It becomes clear that finding the hotels for Ronald’s newly launched collection is half the fun – or battle depending on how to you look at it. “We find our hotels on the basis of five principles. They are story of everything, unexpected adventure, people-to-people service, technology and the playful character,” he explains. “In addition to that, though, we want to find hotels that have unique characteristics, which of course can come from the design.”

“It doesn’t take a genius to realise that Ronald’s looking for unexpected gems.”

Ronald assures me that a hotel cannot be a member of Utopian Hotel Collection if there isn’t something exquisite about the design. Having previously read how he has worked in the restaurant and club scene before, it strikes me that Ronald is not unfamiliar of good design that works, or luxury for that matter. “Sometimes design works best when there is no design,” he says drawing me in as I am a sucker for minimalism. “A lot of our hotels within our brand are actually old buildings and they have something authentic about the interiors. To disrupt that would be wrong, so instead we aim to elevate it.” It doesn’t take a genius to realise that Ronald is looking for unexpected gems. Portugal’s São Lourenço Do Barrocal is a great example of this as it combines understated luxury with the simplicity of farm life and is one of the 25 hotels that the brand has securely under its umbrella.

Clean, fresh interiors

Image caption: Sleek interiors at São Lourenço Do Barrocal

Ronald and his business partner Paul Cordier became friends 25 years ago at school where they both studied hotel management together. When working as hoteliers, they saw an opportunity in the bustling international hotel market. In 2014, the entrepreneurial spirit in them led them to spot the interesting gap for the need for a brand to be built around hotel experiences in 2014. “Travellers have changed,” Ronald says. “We realised that, all of a sudden, there was a huge desire to spend more money on experiences rather than physical products. On the hotel side, independent hotels needed solutions and advice.”

Helping hotels do better on all levels, the collection to me feels like an older, wiser and perhaps more knowledgeable brother who will help guide its siblings through life spotting and taking advantage of opportunities.

Green hotel courtyard

Image caption: Marbella Club

Ronald strikes me as a man who listens in business, which is fresh, as he asks me my thoughts on whether I have come across any areas or hotels that slot in line with Utopian Collection. “Have you heard of Nevis,” I spill, almost interrupting his question. I explain how on the untouched Caribbean island, with no building is taller than a palm tree, is somewhere that has to be experienced to believe. The island has not one fast-food restaurant, which naturally fits in with the huge wellness wave that everyone is riding at the moment – and most importantly, the hotels are naturally stunning with the location itself doing most of the talking. I imagine that Ronald gets this a lot, but his general interest makes me feel as if he’s one for researching new places that have a unique core.

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: What’s your favourite colour?
RH: Black.
HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
RH: Nevis now that you’ve mentioned it!
HK: What’s your number one travel essential?
RH: My iPhone.
HK: Biggest inspiration in business?
RH: Steve Jobs.
HK: Biggest inspiration in life?
RH: My stepdad.

At first, luxury simply equalled opulence. Today, it is just as much about attitude. 72 per cent of people would rather spend money on experiences than things; with travellers now seeking more than just exceptional service, fittings and furnishings. There’s an appetite for the intangible and a desire for truly authentic adventures which enrich and surprise. This same zest flows through every Utopian hotel which bears a luxury no longer defined by the old school; but by exceptional service, a richness of experience, one-off authenticity and the verve of youth.

Despite the hotel collection focusing its sights on the amazing unique properties in Europe, it seems to me that Ronald’s interest in my one suggestion of a tiny island with a huge personality is an almost firm indication that his sights are firmly on the world and all the opportunities that it holds. Given the gap in the market, I’m sure this is just the start of what is going to be an amazing experience for the hotel collection.

In Conversation With: lighting expert Ian Cameron from Cameron Design House

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With lighting design having the ability to make or break a hotel concept, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn sat down with the founder and creative director of lighting studio Cameron Design House to find out how the company is pioneering its way to becoming a leading lighting manufacturer, one bespoke light fitting at a time…

Recently, design company Cameron Design House has been making some serious ripples in international hotel design. Through its cutting-edge design, the company uniquely prides itself on everything that comes out of its factory being handmade. With this level of detail behind every product, I was curious to find out how the company is coping with the increasing demand, since the spotlight this year is well and firmly on lighting technology in international hotel design – pun intended.

Hamish Kilburn: Ian, what challenges do you face with everything being handmade?

Ian Cameron: As all of our pieces are handcrafted with a focus on perfecting the most intricate of details, each design involves a very specialist and creative manufacturing process. There are a number of different fabrication methods used for various designs, including the rolling, shaping or cutting of the metals. Although machinery is used for essential parts of the design process, every piece is assembled by hand, with the crystal profile diffusers all hand laid and every individual piece polished by hand. Meticulous attention to detail is applied to each design to ensure the electrical wiring is always hidden and the lighting element is concealed, enhancing the sculptural nature of each piece. As an example of our commitment to detail, each of the lantern diffusers on the Haara chandelier consists of 33 individually positioned, hand-drawn glass rods and for some of the designs like the Haara, two years were spent perfecting the design to ensure the highest quality product and finish.

HK: This year we are bringing back The Brit List, as we continue to celebrate the most influential British interior designers, hoteliers and architects. In your opinion, what does London have that others in the world lack in regards to design?

IC: London is a world leader in design, and always has been. In a world that is becoming more and more automated, British design and manufacturing couldn’t be more important.

HK: How big is the team?

We have expanded from a team of four to over 25 employees in just four years! It has been important for us to maintain a sustainable level of growth over these past four years and one of my personal highlights in expanding the team was being able to give my cousin a job in our workshop.

HK: Can you explain a little bit more about the Bespoke Design Service you offer and how that’s unique?

IC: We always take a design-led approach and allow the project to shape our process. At Cameron Design House, it is really important for us to work hand-in-hand with our clients to create a design that is not only visually beautiful but works with the requirements of the space. Custom sizing, configuration and finishes are available across our collection, however providing a bespoke product is not enough and we always provide a bespoke design service to ensure the piece perfectly complements the individual nature of the project. For the example when the Hilton in Minneapolis approached us, they were looking for a specific collection of lighting pieces to perfectly complement the vast space within the hallway. With that in mind, we worked closely with their design team to configure a group of Lohja lighting pieces that have become the centrepiece of the space.

HK: Where do you find your inspiration for the products you design and create?

IC: All designers probably say the same thing, inspiration is everywhere and in everything but it is true. I am constantly fascinated by my surroundings and draw inspiration from literally everywhere, from sci-fi films, to nature and brutalism. We joke around the studio about the ongoing study of the great mathematician and designer Buckminster Fuller but we really do study his work and others like him. The ongoing study always leads to new ideas and innovations – it’s evolution.

I have a strong Finnish heritage and I draw a lot of my inspiration from Finland as well as my travels abroad. London is a huge inspiration to me as well. In the past two years I have visited over 10 countries, and I think this has really helped me develop my vision and approach to new designs.

HK: How can a designer use lighting when designing a modern hotel in a heritage building?

IC: Take the building as inspiration and work backwards. Don’t let the piece overwhelm the space. It’s important to use the space as inspiration when designing the lighting and work closely with the interior design team to find the perfect design solution.

HK: It’s said that tech development in recent years has opened up the door wide on lighting design. How have your products developed with this technology?

IC: Technology has given us more flexibility with our designs and allows us to work closely with our clients to create a piece that will perfectly complement their project.

There are also environmental issues which need to be considered when designing in today’s design climate, it’s critical that this is deliberated through all stages of the creative process. Aside from the obvious responsible use of materials etc. our approach is to design products that are lasting not only in terms of function but also lasting in terms of design.

HK: Do you ever feel the pressure in having to push creativity’s limits?

It’s important to believe in yourself and not to listen to the critics. It’s the dreamers in the world who design and build it and so instead of feeling the pressure of pushing your creative limits it’s important to be confident in your own unique vision and let your surroundings inspire the direction of design. Taking time out to explore new places is essential to my creative process and a great example of this is our Helmi chandelier, it’s the latest design within our collection and was inspired by a fishing trip near my hometown of Turku.

In Conversation with: Fabrics experts at Mitre Linen

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Concluding our month of putting Fabrics in the spotlight, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn sat down with the general manager of Mitre Linen, Kate Gough, to explore more around trends and how the company is moving with modern times…

Personally, I’m a soft pillow kind of man – take from that what you will. My colleague to the left of me on the other hand disagrees entirely and insists that without a hard pillow in a hotel he will not sleep a wink. A hotel that claims to be luxury that does not offer a good night’s sleep is not somewhere guests will rush back to check in to after they’ve checked out. Therefore, keeping the pillow options open to all and investing in good linen will go far to ensuring your guests have a comfortable stay.

As technology continues to evolve, and while interior trends flow into the duvet, I sat down with linen experts Mitre Linen to put the topic into perspective.

Hamish Kilburn: How has the company evolved with technology moving forwards?

Kate Gough: Over the years, we have built a reputation for quality and reliability that has earned us the honour of HM The Queen’s Royal Warrant, which we have proudly held since 1955. Over the past 70 years, we have seen many changes within the industry, including major technological advances which have had a significant impact on many areas of our business, however, our key focus remains the same – offering exceptional customer service.

We work as hard as ever to ensure that anyone who contacts the Mitre team is left feeling delighted. Our friendly team, based in Merthyr Tydfil, in the heart of the Welsh valleys, has always been at the end of the phone to take orders, or offer advice and support to our customers. For those who prefer to, online orders can be placed quickly and easily via our new website, with a convenient Fast Order option available for those in a hurry, while those seeking advice or with product queries can take advantage of our new online LiveChat feature, which is available Monday-Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm.

We have created a selection of handy online Mitre Guides which is easily accessed via our website, helping our customers to make the right product choices for their needs. We also give online insight into the latest industry trends with our regularly updated Mitre Articles, which offer valuable advice from our experts, on topics such as the effective use of colour in hotel rooms, and tips on how to create a hygienic sleep environment.

The average person produces one to two pints of sweat every night

HK: What are your thoughts on the pillow menu?

KG: The right pillow is essential to a comfortable night’s sleep – pillow menus are easy to create and can be as simple as offering the option of either a hard and soft pillow, depending on a guest’s personal preference. Mitre Linen offers a wide variety of pillow styles and constructions available to suit the desires of any sleeper, and we are happy to guide you in your choices, making it easy for your business to provide the perfect pillow menu.

Our best-selling Comfort Palace Pillow features Quallofil extra life fibre which keeps it thick and plump, whilst ensuring a longer lifespan. The flame-retardant pillow is highly resistant to flattening, maintaining its shape after every use whilst retaining its soft profile, ensuring it’s quick and easy to achieve a welcoming bed. The Comfort Palace Pillow makes a great soft option for a pillow menu.

The Comfort Ultraloft Pillow would be ideal as a firm option for a pillow menu. With a Hollowfibre fill, its thick, plump design has a weight of 850g. Covered in durable polycotton, it’s designed to last through regular heavy-duty use, and is flame retardant.

We would also recommend that a pillow menu include at least one microfibre option, in order to offer the comfortable feel of feather and down without the risk of allergy. Mitre Linen’s Luxury Microfibre pillows are available in soft and firm variants, have 100% cotton covers with a 233 thread count, and conform perfectly to the head and neck to offer soft and comfortable support.

For further information, see our detailed pillow guide.


HK: How often should hotels replace bed linen?

KG: Bed linen such as duvet covers and sheets should be replaced at the first sign of wear and tear. Within two years, one third of a pillow’s weight is made up of dead skin, dust mites, oil and dirt and considering that the average person produces one to two pints of sweat every night, then pillows and duvets should be regularly replaced.  Protectors are invaluable to prolong the life of mattresses, duvets and pillows. Not only do they provide a more hygienic sleeping environment for your guests as they can be regularly washed, but they also extend the life of bedding which is a significant investment for a business.

HK: What are your thoughts on colourful bed sheets in the hotel guestroom?

KG: Our white satin polycotton range is our biggest seller, and whilst recent Mitre Connects* hotelier feedback confirmed that white bedlinen is perennially popular, we did note quite a few comments requesting a larger range of good quality colourful bed linen. In response to this valuable feedback we have added colour options into our Egyptian Cotton Range – our gorgeous 100% cotton percale bedlinen is now also available in ruby red, raisin, blush pink, lead grey and saffron yellow, as well as our ever popular white.

HK: What advice would you give to hotels when it comes to caring for bed linen?

KG: Freshly laundered, pristine, smooth and crease free bedlinen always rates highly for guests when they stay at a hotel so for those who launder on site, here are some care tips:

Always wash cotton bedlinen before use, at 50°C or 60°C. Expect 4-8 per cent shrinkage (Mitre Linen sizing allows for this). Hot iron when slightly damp to give a crisp finish. Don’t bleach, as this will reduce the life of the product. Soak stained bedding in water if immediate laundering is not possible.

Wash polycotton bedlinen at 50°C. Use a detergent intended for colours (to avoid colour fade due to OBA build up). A light iron is suggested.

For further advice on laundry care, please refer to our Linen Care Guide at www.mitrelinen.co.uk/care-guide.

*MITRE CONNECTS SURVEY 2018 – The Mitre Connects Survey presents survey data from nearly 300 hospitality industry professionals. The answers provided offer a vital insight into the industry’s concerns on topics that affect day-to-day business and future planning for the hospitality industry.

Mitre Linen are 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, click here.

In conversation with: Dimitris Manikis, President and Managing Director (EMEA) for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

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Hotel Designs Editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with Dimitris Manikis, the new Managing Director (EMEA) of  Wyndham Hotels & Resorts to find out more about how he plans to expand the brand as it enters a new chapter…

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the hospitality giant with more than 9,000 hotels worldwide, recently announced the appointment of Dimitris Manikis as the company’s new President and Managing Director for Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (EMEA).

I met Manikis in a quaint, tucked-away boutique hotel in Soho, London. Wearing what I believe to be the most fabulous glasses in the industry, Manikis’ beaming ear-to-ear smile led me to believe that I would click with him instantly. My first impressions of Manikis was that of surprise. Surprised that someone can remain so calm while carrying the weight of 460 hotels in more than 40 markets in the EMEA (and counting) on his shoulders. We both laughed as we compared glasses and sat down to discuss how he plans to maximise the performance of the group.

Left: Dimitris Manikis Right: Hamish Kilburn

Left: Dimitris Manikis, President and Managing Director (EMEA) for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Right: Hamish Kilburn, Editor Hotel Designs

Hamish Kilburn: What are the Wyndham Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ unique selling points?

Dimitris Manikis: Our brand cannot be replicated. For us, we want to keep the authenticity. We want that to reflect in a way that can marry various cultures and locations. Wyndham Grand in Athens, for example, has a beautiful rooftop bar that overlooks the acropolis. You cannot have an acropolis anywhere in the world. Design is absolutely crucial for our brand. We actually have an Architecture, Innovation and Design team who work in-house, which allows us to continue to create twists in our hotel narratives.

I think, through our USPs, we have helped to make travel more affordable in a very consistent manner.

Wyndham Grand Athens

Image credit: Wyndham Grand Athens

We introduced a soft brand – in terms of allowing properties to have their own attitude and personality. The design-centric Trademark is a brand that is very close to our hearts here in Europe. It’s a brand where you do not box the property into a standard category. We allow each hotel to have its own personality and authenticity, but we allow the team at the hotel the opportunity to piggyback on the group’s distribution and reputation.

HK: What are the basic requirements that guests want when checking in to a hotel?

DM: For them to smile and for them to be happy to be there. We feel, as a franchise model, that we give the owners the flexibility to use the destination as the backdrop and the inspiration.

We want our guests to feel as if they are checking in to a home-from-home, and also that the Wyndham brand is giving them all of their needs to meet the basic requirements of the company DNA (safety, service, etc). Only then can we focus on the add-ons to make our guests feel special. It’s not easy, but our individuality is our key!

DM: I’m not supposed to ask questions, but I will ask anyway. So in your job, what makes you say, ‘that hotel works’?

HK: Do you know what’s really interesting? So many hotels open every day, all over the world. My job is to try to find gems; the hotels that are really worth writing about. Soon after finding a gem, I want to know all about the design story. For example, I reviewed a hotel once that was reopening in Sierra Nirvana in Spain. It wasn’t the location that captured my attention so much than the story behind the renovation. The hotel had in fact burnt down. The same design company that was involved in the original build was commissioned back, and that was the angle for me. It was like watching the hotel rise from the ashes! It was also fascinating to find out which elements the design company changed in the redesign, almost as if they were given a second chance to improve it to create the perfect hotel. The result was amazing!

Wyndham Grand Phuket, Kalim Bay

Image caption: Wyndham Grand Phuket, Kalim Bay

HK: Who is your biggest inspiration?

DM: My dad. He’s the only person I know who does not have a passport. In fact, he has never left Greece.

HK: Where, from a location point of view, is of most interest at the moment?

DM: Honestly, I think everywhere that planes fly to. Our brand is very diverse and that includes opening hotels in tier 2 cities, which we believe is a huge opportunity.

HK: With all the stories in the wider press about Turkey, does the region create any concern for the hotel brand when it comes to opening new properties?

DM: I can tell you that our hotels in Turkey are doing extremely well. We are growing at a fast rate, with 65 properties in Turkey alone, and growing, we are one of the major hotel brands in the region. People will not stop travelling. Where ever travelers go, we plan to be there with a Wyndham hotel to welcome them.

Guestroom at Wyndham Istanbul Kalamis Marina

Image caption: Wyndham Istanbul Kalamis Marina

HK: What advice do you have for people starting out in this industry? 

DM: My personal motto is to have ‘Ethos, pathos and logos’, which translates to ethos, passion and logic. If you have passion, add logic and have a strong, positive ethos then you cannot go wrong, in my opinion.

HK: How did you get into hospitality? 

DM: I originally wanted to study history and psychology in Greece, but someone persuaded me to go into business. I did four years at university studying business before I met the general manager at the Intercontinental in Athens. I applied to be a trainee. I was there for one year and six months. I cleaned more glasses and peeled more potatoes than most people would clean and peel in a lifetime. However, I learnt so much. I remember the GM, he was amazing! He used to carry his notebook around like a John major and had such a grand aura around him. For me, a 22-year-old aspiring to one day be a GM, he was gold. After that, I decided to ditch business to work in hospitality. I came to the UK to study tourism. The rest, as they say, is history – although I’m still not a GM!

As we wrap up our meeting, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to work with Dimitris. The man in retro-orange glasses also had an aura around him – one that was fun, fair and full of energy for the brand.

 

In conversation with Martin Pease, Managing Director WATG London

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Hotel Designs’ editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with new Managing Director of WATG London Martin Pease to discuss what’s next for the integrated design firm’ …

As industry leaders go, Martin Pease is somewhat unconventional in many of his methods, which is possibly what attracted WATG to him in the first place. Just days into his new role as the Managing Director of WATG London, Pease looked comfortably in control as he welcomed me into the firm’s London hub in Fitzroy Square.

Pease joins WATG from Atkins North America where he was Head of Architecture and Building Engineering from 2014-2018. During that time, he grew the firm’s business by 40 per cent across six offices. Prior to that, he was Head of Architecture for Dubai-based Damac, the largest privately-owned property developer in the Middle East.

What does 25 years of experience look like?, I asked with interest as we kick-started the interview. “Under these rolled up shirt sleeves are a lot of bruises and scars,” said Pease as we sat down in one of the meeting rooms. “Clients are very demanding, and rightly so! When you’re spending a lot of money, you want to feel as if  you’ve got a trusted partner that gets what you’re about. In 25 years, I have been able to understand our clients’ businesses– maybe not as well as they do, but enough to grasp the touchpoints and the sensitivities in their market. 25 years of listening before talking and responding to clients in a way where that they know that you are putting them first has brought me to this moment.”

There’s something infectious about speaking to Pease. His hands-on leadership style is clear to see and also refreshing while his ability to always look ahead is inspirational. “I want to be involved in every aspect of the business because if you understand something then you can help and fine-tune what is a really strong business but can always be stronger,” he admitted. “The minute you think that you have achieved something and you’ve got it perfect, that’s the moment you should ask yourself ‘well what are we doing here? Is there something else we can do?’ because otherwise you stand still.”

Quick-fire round:

HK: Favourite colour:
MP:Somewhere between black and white.
HK: What’s your favourite hotel of all time:
MP:Chateau De Mercues
HK: Biggest bugbear in hotel design:
MP: Key cards that don’t work
HK: Favourite hobby:
MP: I paint and draw constantly
HK: Travel essential:
MP: My Ipod classic with all my audiobooks.
HK: Who inspires you daily:
MP: At the moment, Gareth Southgate.
HK: Favourite meal:
MP:A genuine Paella.
HK: Number one tool for success:
MP:You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Architects don’t listen enough.

Pease arrives to the firm weeks after the WATG’s Great Architectural Bake-Off, which he promises me was not planned as he admits he is not the best baker in the world. Following the firm bringing together the best architects in London for the competition, I wanted to know how Pease saw collaboration in our industry. “The strongest organisations have a very solid collaborative spirit,” he explained. “You need to learn from mistakes that you make, as well as the mistakes that other people have made. Plus, clients are exactly the same. You need to be collaborative and cooperative. I compare what we do similar to that of an arranged marriage. It’s not a casual relationship that you strike up for a few weeks. Our relationships last years, and beyond if you are lucky enough to get repeat work. We are a bit like swans in the sense that we want to ‘mate for life’.

Pease’s unique style is a perfect match for one of the leading architectural firms in the world. With more than 19 major openings planned this year, Pease joins the firm at an exciting time and I look forward to following his and the company’s journey with interest.