In Conversation With

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

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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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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.

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The designer shaping the future of water at GROHE

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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

800 535 Hamish Kilburn

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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

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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

950 633 Hamish Kilburn

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

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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.

 

Marcel Wanders

In Conversation: Marcel Wanders – Grand Portals Nous

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He has been dubbed the ‘Lady Gaga’ of design – a moniker I’m not entirely convinced Marcel Wanders fully appreciates – and has been a big name in the industry for more than two decades; his ‘big break’ coming via the ‘Knotted Chair’ in the late 1990s.

But from his Powerhouse studio in Amsterdam with the help of his team of designers, Marcel has realised hundreds of projects – including some notable ones in the hospitality sector. One of the most recently completed is the IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Portals Nous in Mallorca, and about which Hotel Designs caught up with the charismatic and accomplished artist for a short chat…

As I call Marcel, he is relaxing with a cappuccino having just spent a week in Mallorca – the home of his latest hospitality project with IBEROSTAR. After our short introductions and a brief aside about the Mondrian Doha – another of his recent mammoth undertakings – I ask him how he got involved in the Grand Portals Nous. He tells me he is ‘super-excited’ about the project and how much it is going to impact the region’s hospitality scene.

Marcel Wanders - Grand Portals NousHe is not wrong. The property sits atop a stunning beach and Marcel has used this luxurious setting to bring about a truly Mallorquin style through his use of transparencies, whites and reflective surfaces. From the lobby’s bouquet motif to the boundless luxury of the hotel’s 66 rooms, four penthouse suites and five themed suites, guests are truly in for a treat.

“We’ve been working on this project for a long time, it has taken a while to complete this project and the whole building process. We’ve worked for eight years with the developer to create this wonderful place that it has become. It really is a jewel in the crown of the Iberian Peninsula. It has been great to be part of it,” he tells me.

Mallorca is a place close to Marcel’s heart. He clearly adores the place, having completed a similarly spectacular residential project on the island in 2009. I ask him what his inspiration was for this hospitality project.

“As a guest, you want to feel that you are in Mallorca – this beautiful Spanish island. The scenery and views are amazing. So, it was really important for me to make something authentic, that felt like it belonged there in that locale. That can be a difficult thing to achieve – but we wanted to do it in a new way, we didn’t want to do something that had been done before, it needed to be contemporary, modern yet at the same time international.

“It was a challenge to create something ‘of that place’ and authentic, that also delivers that unique Mallorquin character. We spent a lot of time sourcing materials, finishes and architectural features specific to the island – not to mention we had colour palettes that are really special; there is a winter and a summer palette. So the inspiration was definitely from the surrounding area. Guests go there to relax and hang out, but they also want to be excited about the place. For me, all of this was critical when it came to designing the space,” he adds.

Marcel’s attention to detail even went as deep as the design of the hotel’s logo. “Part of that ‘local inspiration’ process was creating a logo – its design inspiration was local flowers found on Mallorca, which bloom in early spring and herald the start of the season and I’m really happy that the bouquet logo celebrates that fact.”

Marcel Wanders - Grand Portals NousMarcel’s work has been carried out around the world on various sectors, so what is it that interests him about designing for hotels? “I have to say that in all things that the team does, we like to do projects where the design is ‘major league’. By that I mean projects where the design is integral to the success of the project. Of course, that comes into every project to an extent, but often people go somewhere because they have to go there. We want to create spaces that people visit because they really want to go there,” he says.

I ask Marcel how it differs from other sectors he has worked in and he enthusiastically tells me why he finds hotels ‘amazing’ to work in. “You get the freedom to really go hard with the design – unlike in a private residence where you might have to quieten that creative streak, create something a little more subdued and which ultimately is less visible to the world. Hotels are definitely our ‘sweet spot’ so to speak, a chance to show off creativity.

“As a designer you really have to be the best you can be, and as it’s a public sphere anybody who uses that space ‘owns’ that space. Therefore a lot of people will see your work, so it’s wonderful to create something a lot of people will use and enjoy.”

Marcel then talks about his early years as a designer and how that mass appeal is part of the appeal. “Starting out in my career as a designer, if we take the example of designing a coffee cup – you work for a long while to make that cup look wonderful and special, and then thousands of people can enjoy it, that’s important to me. It’s nice if one person is really happy with something you’ve created but it’s amazing when you create something of value for a lot of people – and hotels are exactly that.”

With his huge, worldwide reputation for creating statement, high-end interiors Marcel could be forgiven for running away with his vision, but that attitude has never been part of his make-up.

“I think hotels are actually very democratic. With this project – sure, it’s a five-star hotel and if someone wants to stay there for a week, they have to take quite a bit of money. But a person can also enjoy that space by just having a coffee or a drink with friends – I think that’s really cool.

Marcel Wanders - Grand Portals Nous“I remember when I was a kid, I would see spaces and think that’s a great space – like an expensive shop for example, you walk in with only a hundred bucks for the month and everything on sale is five hundred bucks. You’re priced out. But there has never been a hotel I felt I couldn’t go in, because I thought to myself I can always order a cappuccino, I can be a customer here – it was something I appreciated and have tried to do with this project.”

Having also spoken about his Mondrian Doha project, I ask Marcel what the future holds and if there are any exciting projects on the horizon.

“Yes, in fact, Doha was another project we spent a lot of time on and to have two openings in such a short space of time, it makes it look like the team and I do a lot of hotels, but in truth we only started on hotels in 2005 or so and we’ve only completed six or seven hotels in that time. So, it’s not a huge hospitality operation that we’ve created. We try to only do very prestigious projects that take a long time to get right; that require a tremendous amount of detail and research. We definitely pick and choose, but those half-dozen hotels, in the end, have really made their mark as a result – they are special places.”

Does Marcel think there is too much uniformity in hospitality design? “It’s nothing against designers of some hotels, but there’s already so many in the same style – I don’t feel there’s a need for yet another one. We always try to do something really different that stands out and that gives guests a genuine experience. It’s not always easy to find the clients, operators or developers who share that vision of creating something that hasn’t been seen before,” he says.

‘Creating something that keeps the guests coming back for more’, I suggest…

“Yes, exactly – keep the guests coming back! It’s wonderful to get new guests – but no hotel or hospitality client can survive on unique customers alone. Clients have to go away and spread the word, show photos to their friends – and that’s why I was delighted to stay at the hotel last week, I spoke to fellow guests about it and they were suitably impressed; not just with the design but with the service levels which are genuinely excellent. The operator knows exactly what its doing, so I’m super happy and I’m sure the business will grow fast,” Marcel concludes.

With his mercurial touch on show, I can only agree with him – it’s a wonderfully striking property and will be a Mallorquin gem for years to come, I’m sure…

www.grandhotelportalsnous.com

www.marcelwanders.com

www.powerhouse-company.com

Based on an interview in September 2017

Q&A: Leigh Hall of Manorcrest Group

In Conversation: Leigh Hall – Manorcrest Group

1024 542 Daniel Fountain

Hotel Designs catches up with Leigh Hall, who heads up developer Manorcrest Group. The firm has vast experience in the hotel industry and is currently working on the current DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Hull. We talk to him about the ongoing project, the wider hospitality industry and his experience…

Hotel Designs: How many years of experience do you have as a developer?
Leigh Hall: I have been a developer for over 30 years now.

HD: How many years of experience does Manorcrest Group have working in the commercial sector/ on hotels?
LH: My business partner, Dean Wann, and I started our company in 1998 by building residential homes. We later moved into caravan parks and the commercial sector. We have been working on hotels for over 10 years now, we have a real passion for delivering quality brands that will add to the culture of the local community

HD: Can you name some of the hotel brands Manorcrest Group has worked on?
LH: We have and are working on a fantastic range of hotels in areas such as Lincoln, Hull, Grimsby and more. The brands include the DoubleTree by Hilton and Holiday Inn Express.


HD: You are currently constructing the DoubleTree by Hilton Hull hotel, can you give us any updates on its progress so far?
LH:
The DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Hull will have 165 rooms and features a 1,000 sq m ballroom for large conferences and events – the biggest in the region by far. Regarding the progress of the hotel, the bedroom pods have been successfully delivered from China and installed by our highly experienced team, and the construction is on track for completion later this year, a great addition for the City of Culture.

HD: What other hotels are you working on at the moment?
LH: We are working on a major extension to the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Lincoln, which will introduce a further 47 bedrooms, 35 parking spaces and additional conference facilities. The 4000 sq m extension is now 70% complete. We are also considering sites in Sheffield and other cities.

DoubleTree-Kingston-Guest-RoomHD: Are there any other interesting projects you are due to work on in the future within the hotel sector?
LH: We’re looking into the possibility of another hotel site in Sheffield as we can see a clear gap in the market there and we’d like to introduce a 24-hour service hotel. We have ambitious growth plans to build and open a further four hotels in the next five years across the UK.

HD: What do you like about working in this sector/ delivering hotels?
LH: Hotels are exciting places to be and it is a fast paced and ever-changing industry. I enjoy seeing the hotel developments grow from the planning stages through to completion. As developers, we believe it is important to deliver innovative schemes which integrate well into the local community. It is also very satisfying to be able to support and contribute to local economies, as hotels inevitably provide jobs and we take great joy in using local suppliers throughout the construction process. Hotels are not just for tourists and commuters, we try to create destinations that local people want to use, we encourage people to visit our hotels and enjoy the facilities, such as the bar and restaurants on a regular basis. We work with blue-chip brands who are constantly innovating and more than ever we see there is a great appetite and demand for well executed hotels across the country.


HD: You also work on residential developments, are there any challenges with leisure compared to residential?

LH: There are so many elements to consider when developing a hotel. Residential developments are a lot more straight forward, whereas for a hotel you are working on a much larger scale scheme with hundreds of bedrooms, bars, restaurants, spa facilities, parking and so on, which all must be taken into consideration. It is both rewarding and challenging to run a development and construction company, Dean and I oversee each site keeps us very busy.

HD: Has there been an increase in demand for hotels? If so why do you think this is?
LH: The hotel sector is a growth story and we have plans to develop four more hotels in the next five years. There has been a boost in tourism in many cities and we have found that smaller cities such as Lincoln for example, have a high demand and need for more beds. Several years ago, people only stayed in hotels due to necessity because of work/ their commuting needs, but there has been a boost in leisure travellers who go to high-quality hotels for a getaway and to enjoy luxury. Even with the results of Brexit I don’t see this impacting the hotel industry in the next few years.

HD: Can you provide a figure for how much you are investing into developing hotels currently if possible?
LH: We are investing £35 million into the hotel sector throughout 2017.

Miranda Martin IHS

In Conversation: Miranda Martin, IHS event director

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Ahead of the Independent Hotel Show in October, Hotel Designs caught up with the event director Miranda Martin to get her thoughts on this year’s edition…

Hotel Designs: First off, how is everything going with the show planning?
Miranda Martin: We have a simply brilliant team of people here at Independent Hotel HQ. We’re super committed to delivering great experiences for everyone who attends the show. Every detail matters and a huge amount of effort has gone into making this edition remarkable. I’m confident that this year will truly be the best yet. We’re lucky because we’re confined by a finite space in the halls so when the stands sell out we get to focus on making the rest of the show even better.

One of the key tasks for this year was to focus on turning the heat up on design. Our exhibitor list is reflective of the hard work the team have put into researching and discovering brilliant brands to bring value and inspiration to our audience of luxury and boutique hoteliers. And the designed features at the show are the ‘pièce de résistance’. I can’t wait for people to see them.

Ahead of the Independent Hotel Show in October, Hotel Designs caught up with the event director Miranda Martin to get her thoughts on this year's edition...HD: Could you tell us what familiar features of the Independent Hotel Show guests can expect this year, but also anything new with this year’s edition we can look forward to?
MM: As always, guests can expect a strong line up of speakers revealing trends and practical solutions, together with a fully relevant collection of exhibiting companies showing the latest products and services available for hoteliers today.

New for this year’s event we have introduced ‘The Perfect Hotel Bedroom’ thread in partnership with Chic Retreats. We conducted a consumer survey to help generate answers around what makes the perfect hotel bedroom. And Harriet Forde Design studio is bringing that to life at the show. We propose to bring you ‘The Perfect Hotel Bedroom’ at the Independent Hotel Show. Come tell us what you think!

The Gymnasium for The Mind is a new concept too. Taking on board mindfulness and wellbeing trends as well as the need to mix up the format of the ‘stuff to do’ at the show, we’ve introduced a workshop area where guests will be encouraged to remove shoes and coats, sit on gym balls, and get stuck in; exercising their minds in an unusual format. Workshop topics will include design, artificial intelligence, cyber-crime prevention and spas for men….

HD: What are the key things you hope guests come away with from the show?
MM: The discovery of something they’ve never seen before; connections and relationships that will change their businesses forever; inspiration and motivation to make change and having had a terrific experience.

HD: Just how important are shows like IHS to the industry?
MM: We strive to serve and support independent hoteliers from across the land to help them stay current and deliver unforgettable experiences for their guests whilst optimising profitability and efficiency.

Ahead of the Independent Hotel Show in October, Hotel Designs caught up with the event director Miranda Martin to get her thoughts on this year's edition...Consumer demand changes at a rapid pace and so must the hotel industry if it wishes to keep up. We offer an annual touch point where hoteliers can network with likeminded people, see the latest products and hear future forecasts and trends. It’s the industry’s show. It’s a great show. It’s a great opportunity. You never know what connections you could make in a face to face environment. Done right, business events of this kind are invaluable.

HD: Thinking about the wider industry, how do you see Brexit affecting the independent/boutique market?
MM: Occupancy reports from this quarter have been hugely positive with an increase in inbound tourism and staycations. I don’t think hoteliers need to fear for a lack of demand
Of course staffing issues will arise but I see this as an opportunity for hoteliers to reimagine their recruitment and training processes, perhaps creating better opportunities in hospitality careers. I think people are going to have to up their game to make their businesses attractive places to work.

Attend our talk ‘Oh! What a Lovely Brexit!’ at the show to find out how Tourism can benefit from a new 21st century ‘Brand Britain’.


HD: And what trends are you seeing coming to the fore in this market?

MM: Mindfulness is everywhere, infiltrating many industries and led ultimately by a widespread consumer interest, hence our introduction of the Gymnasium for the Mind.
People are the priority. In a Brexit landscape, there are natural concerns about our workforce thus there’s a push on recruiting, training and creating an attractive career proposition for domestic staff. The show this year will focus heavily on this in our role of supporting independent hoteliers.


A focus on sustainable and seasonal menus, a continuation of a trend we’ve seen growing every year of the show, with a strong focus on grow-your-own, locally sourced, authentic propositions that are becoming increasingly supplier-led. Brand extensions – clever and strategic partnerships to engage the right type of consumer with your brand and widen your marketing message.

HD: Lastly, what does the future have in store for IHS – is expansion on the horizon?
MM: We have big plans. Not for this small but perfectly formed London edition… watch this space!

www.independenthotelshow.co.uk
17-18 October 2017, Olympia London

Denise Ellis

In Conversation: Denise Ellis discusses ever-changing hotel design

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Head of interior design and conservation at Nottingham-based Franklin Ellis Architects, Denise Ellis, who has worked with the firm for over 24 years, is a heavyweight in the hotel interior design industry.

Having worked with international brands though to independents including Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Best Western, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites, Denise discusses the ever-changing sector and the changes that influence hotel interior design.


“The hotel sector has changed hugely since I began working for Franklin Ellis Architects. Whilst the firm and I have work on projects across a range of sectors, hotels are 90% of what I do and are my passion. Guests reactions to the interior of a hotel is driven by emotion and having worked on over 25 hotel projects, I have a clear vision of the type of emotions and responses I want to gain from people as they step over the threshold of a hotel for the first time.

“Each project is very different and the hotel industry is an extremely competitive and ever-changing market which means the owners are having to up their game and constantly renew their offering. Over the last 10 years, hotel design has changed considerably and this is down to the wider trends that affect our day to day lives; like how we communicate, how we spend our free time, technology and fashion. For example, you won’t find many (good) hotels that don’t have plenty of power points, phone charge ports and fast Wi-Fi in communal areas.

“Unlike 10 years ago, most hotels, large or small, now strive to offer an intimate setting for its guests. Hotels are looking to create an experience that the customers will enjoy but also remember, so they return. Previously hotels were more of a necessity and while they did of course create spaces guests wanted to be, hotels were more focussed on formality and minimalism.

“Today, most hotels try to create a home-from-home with a level of informality and relaxation to cater to a range of customers and their demands. Brands now have a wider food and drink offer to suit more informed palettes, state of the art gyms and spas are much more common place, more communal areas and break-out spaces have been created for people to work as well as quiet spaces for those who want to read or work in a more private setting.


“Hotels are investing much more than they used to in the restaurants and bars, doing all they can to attract not just guests to eat and drink in the hotel but to also non-guests.

“People expect more from their hotel visits now too, discerning customers like to have something to aspire to for their own homes such as high-end soft furnishing, quirky decoration and cool lighting for example. Hotel interior design must take on the many demands of today’s customers and create spaces that are not only functional but awe-inspiring and memorable.


“My inspiration comes from all around me. I believe the element that makes a hotel unique and interesting is its location and sense of place. I try to make sure that the interior design in some way reflects the community around to create an instant connection. Hotels, including large multi-nationals, are adding elements to the interiors that are relevant to that local are; be it paintings of local landmarks or items that are made locally, hotels want to integrate into its surrounding area and be a part of the local community.

Lucy Mortimer Galapagos

In Conversation: Lucy Mortimer, Galapagos Designs

1019 442 Daniel Fountain

Lucy Mortimer, director at Galapagos Designs – a design partner with this year’s Independent Hotel Show – talks about how an individualistic approach and the use of heritage-inspired furniture continues to be a big trend in the world of hotel design…

Hotels are eschewing a uniform look and are taking a more individualistic approach to design to help mark them out and convey a sense of warmth, that’s certainly what we’re seeing our clients come to us for.

A good example of that is The Ned in London which is looking back to an Art Deco styling to create a very eclectic and individualistic look across the rooms. Hotels are no longer applying that ubiquitous, formal look to rooms, but are making them more warm and inviting with a heritage angle. Mixing a bit of old and new in together helps add more depth of character to a room.


We are certainly seeing design being used to reflect the personality of the business more. Even when hoteliers have a new-build property, they are seeking out a more individual edge. There’s less use of ubiquitous artwork and more of a focus on sourced products rather than something that is bought. Of course, it all depends on the hotel and the target audience. This look might be less appropriate for a business hotel but certainly there’s a cluster of hotels catering for high-end business customers who want to provide something other than just great Wi-Fi and room service.

We’ve been working on a big hotel project recently which combines the vintage mid-century stuff we produce with newly-made classic-style furniture. We are finding more and more customers are approaching us for a similar style.

Overall, hotels want to create an inviting space, so the type of material used is gaining importance. A lot of velvet is being used now by our customers – the term we use is ‘layering’ which is bringing more than one dimension to a room. You can do that with touches, maybe through old furniture, more accessories or using more classic style lighting over the beds, which can look really lovely rather than just a standard lamp.

Heading into the future, I think we’ll see more of this. Every hotel project we’re working on is using a mix of velvets with more British heritage fabrics like Bute Fabrics. Good, strong, old brands which have a sense of history.

This thoughtful approach to putting together a room is something that will continue. Now, we’ll almost always supply products to hotels that, even if they aren’t vintage, look vintage. That heritage look is quite a strong trend and that’s what we’ve got with the range of furniture we’ll be showcasing at this year’s Independent Hotel Show at our stand and in the VIP Lounge.

We’ve launched our Heritage Collection in partnership with a brand called Howard Keith, or HK. It was a huge brand in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and supplied all the furniture to the QEII Officers’ lounge and royal residences. They closed in the noughties, but we have partnered with them under licence to bring back some of their furniture under a heritage collection which is made exactly the same as the 1950s models but mixed today with fabric featuring cutting-edge designs from Japanese designers. That mixture of old and new is what you’ll find in our chairs and what you’ll find us showcasing more at the show.


Galapagos Designs is one of the design partners at this year’s Independent Hotel Show, taking place at Olympia, 17 & 18 October. Galapagos is designing the Suite for VIPs and select partners to use. Lucy says: “We’ve chosen to marry luxury fabrics and furnishings with a slightly wild, colonial feel for the Suite – the theme is Hot House Jungle, so expect a lot of tropical planting and sumptuous chairs you’ll sink into lush green velvets and singing hot colour accents from our fabric partners ROMO, Linwood and Designers Guild, and some beautiful metallic accents in the lighting and accessories from Pooky Lighting and Rockett St George. We’re making the space into a real retreat, where hoteliers can take 10 minutes away from the crowds to recuperate or send a few emails, or have a private meeting in comfort.”

www.galapagosdesigns.com

www.independenthotelshow.co.uk

Ed Ng and Terence Ngan - AB Concept

In Conversation: Ed Ng, Terence Ngan of AB Concept

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AB Concept recently unveiled its first project in London – Mei Ume, one of the two flagship restaurants at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square. Hotel Designs caught up with designers Ed Ng and Terence Ngan about the project and their thoughts on hospitality design…

—–

Q. How much freedom were you given in creating your own take on the restaurant’s design?
Mei Ume is located within Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, a heritage building built in 1922 that was previously home to London’s Port of Authority, acting as an access point for Eastern traders to trade commodities such as teas and silks. The story behind of the history of the building was our inspiration behind the design of the restaurant and also allowed us to tackle one of the most challenging factors in this project -designing an Asian restaurant within a classical Western architectural building.
The trading history between the British and the Orient allowed us the freedom to merge Eastern heritage and Oriental design themes into the traditional Western space, seamlessly bridging the gap between the two distinct cultures.

Mei Ume - AB ConceptQ. You’ve worked on several projects in China and the far-east – how does working in London compare/differ?
As a Hong Kong based design studio, we can see similarities between both China and London in terms of how a project is managed, however the biggest difference is that the majority of projects in China are state owned and so with that comes varying limitations that differ from privately owned projects that are common in London. Whilst working on Mei Ume, it is apparent that there was a solid system to ensure that every detail was refined and perfected to suit the space.

Mei Ume - AB Concept
Q. This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Four Seasons (Shang-Xi – Shanghai Pudong), what is it you like best about working with the brand?

We always emphasise that a project designer plays an important role in the success of a project, but at the same time we can only take partial credit. We enjoy working with luxury brands at the level of Four Seasons because we know we are working alongside other passionate creative individuals to create a top quality destination. In doing so, we can assure that food quality, service, table setting, music and the marketing of the project will be nothing short of perfection.

Q. What do you like most about working on hospitality projects?
Hospitality projects are really the only windows for us to showcase our work to the public because 9 out of 10 residential projects we work on remain private. Hospitality projects tend to give us more creative freedom; we are always trying to balance our creativity with the commercial viability of a space, and that’s what makes design intriguing.

Q. Do you have a particular ‘design philosophy’ at AB Concept?
We believe we play the roles of “storytellers of space”. We try to ensure that with each project, we are telling a different story from the previous. This is a much more challenging way of working as an interior designer because we do not want to cast ourselves into a mould of a particular look, feel or design aesthetic which means we are constantly developing new design vocabularies for each new project.

Q. If possible to sum up in a few sentences – what do you personally think makes ‘good design’?
A good design has to be able to function beautifully with a unique identity and have the ability to withstand the test of time.

Q. What design trends do you predict in the coming years?
We see a growing appreciation of classical designs. We feel it is a natural tendency that when we are living through the fast-paced, impersonal technological breakthroughs on a daily basis, our consciousness simultaneously reminds us to cherish the past and its artisanal beauty. Mei Ume is a perfect example of letting the original structure of the former Port of Authority building take centre stage whilst enhancing it with modern elements. With the task of transforming the purely British architectural structure and seamlessly infusing it with Asian elements to suit the restaurant’s cuisine, we wanted to captivate guests by taking them back in time, on a journey to when the Port of Authority was a thriving trading hub between the East and West.

Q. Any exciting projects in the pipeline for yourselves and the team coming up?
We are currently working on our first resort project for Rosewood, named Rosewood Sanya Resort at Haitang Bay of Hainan Island, where we are designing the entire outfit of the resort. Meanwhile, we are also working on the first W Resort in Europe at the waterfront location in the Algrave, Portugal. Like the Rosewood, this is another consolidated resort project.

We have also been given the great honour to redesign the signature Lord Jim’s Restaurant at the grand dame Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, one of the oldest hotels in the world, which is still in operation having just celebrated its 140th birthday.

www.abconcept.net

www.fourseasons.com/mei-ume

Susan Bland - Redefine|BDL

In Conversation: Redefine|BDL’s Susan Bland on Brexit Plans

600 400 Daniel Fountain

As Brexit negotiations kick off and uncertainty lingers following the general election, there are growing concerns over the UK’s pipeline of skilled employees, particularly within the hospitality industry. Redefine|BDL Hotels’ (RBH) Chief Human Resources Officer, Susan Bland, explains why the hotel industry should keep calm and carry on attracting and developing the best talent.

The UK’s leading independent hotel management group has an expert team of over 110 hotel specialists based in offices in London, Glasgow and Frankfurt. Its portfolio of more than 45 properties unites over 8,000 rooms and 2,500 employees throughout its managed and leased properties.

In an industry that will undoubtedly be impacted by any final deal extended to the UK by the EU due to its employee demographic, RBH is already starting to make plans to strengthen its employee pipeline.

Susan, who chairs the Hotel Employers Group (HEG) – which represents the majority of the UK hotel industry’s biggest businesses – says that while Brexit negotiations will take time, attracting more home-grown talent is a much-needed step towards injecting new blood into the hotel industry, and should be the priority.

She said: “HEG is working closely with the British Hospitality Association (BHA) as it develops its Brexit strategy. It’s an impressive piece of work, which focuses on a 10-year plan including ‘rebranding’ the industry to make it more attractive to the UK workforce looking for long-term careers, by tackling the long-standing stigma of unsociable hours, low pay and the belief that hotel work is ‘just a holiday job’.

“It’s a strategy that is required regardless of the current political and economic climate – it just becomes more time-bound if we see the European employee pipeline dry up as a result of uncertainty or fear caused by ongoing Brexit negotiations.”

And while HEG is pulling together a comprehensive plan of action, RBH is working on attracting more home-grown talent and upskilling its existing employees.

Susan continued: “The HEG strategy is targeted at numerous groups across the UK, from ex-service personnel and their families, to the next generation of potential employees and their parents as influencers on career choice.

“At RBH we’re already working to herald the ‘return of the Saturday job’, as we call it. We want to work with young people to attract them to the hotel industry and instil in them a strong work ethic. We’re also developing our apprenticeship programme in line with the new standards and focusing on building on our great base of existing talent, such as developing our kitchen porters into chefs.”

While the focus is on developing and nurturing the UK employee pipeline, Susan does recognise potential issues that Brexit could cause for RBH and other businesses within the industry.

Of RBH’s total UK workforce, 27% are EU Nationals, but the figure rises to around 40 per cent in London – which is consistent with the UK average within the hotel industry.

She said: “So far, a number of our European team members have been sitting tight and waiting to see what happens as negotiations take place, but staff retention has been impacted to a certain extent following the EU referendum.

“The devaluation of the pound – which means some European employees haven’t been able to provide for their families as much as they had hoped – coupled with uncertainty has pushed a number of these employees to return home over the last year.

“However, we haven’t come across any issues in terms of recruitment. Our pool of applicants is exceptionally diverse, and there hasn’t been a substantial shift in our applicant profile, which is great to see.”

Although the most recent developments have seen the publication of plans for EU citizens to achieve ‘settled status’ – with the same residency, employment, health, welfare and pension rights – after five years in the country, uncertainty remains until these plans are confirmed.

And while there is an element of uncertainty, Susan is pleased to see the Government prioritising the rights of EU Nationals and the potential impact on free movement and the labour market as part of its negotiations in Brussels.

She said: “As a business, we had accepted that there would likely be some form of restriction around free movement, and removing uncertainty for European employees has always been key. I’m glad the Prime Minister is prioritising this.

“While the current plans would see those resident in the UK for five years granted ‘settled status’, there are still uncertainties around other EU Nationals who have lived in the UK for shorter time periods. On that front, if any restrictions were to be imposed, we would like to see these introduced via a phased approach.

“I’d be frustrated to see any EU Nationals tied into the existing sponsorship programme for non-EU workers, which is very onerous. Simplicity will be key.”

Susan – and the wider RBH team – will be focusing on factors within their control when it comes to Brexit, and urges employees and prospective industry employees to do the same.

She said: “The government is just weeks into negotiations. In the meantime, I’d urge anyone from Europe living in the UK and keen on working in the industry to take any and all available opportunities, and to get the required paperwork started if applying for citizenship is a consideration. The negotiations will take time, and it’s business as usual for us.”

www.redefinebdl.com

In Conversation: Simon Olley, Stylo MD

940 472 Daniel Fountain

Think of 3D printing, and you might well think of high-profile news stories a decade back involving airport security and ‘printed firearms’. Rest assured, the technology has moved on considerably since those burgeoning days. And one of the pioneering companies has been Stylo, the Hertfordshire-based print firm, which is now at the forefront of some incredibly exciting possibilities in three-dimensional printing.

Hotel Designs caught up with Stylo MD Simon Olley to find out a bit more about the company and the potential in this technology…

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Stylo has been in business for nigh on twenty years, starting out from humble beginnings – “…all from a spare room in my flat”, Simon tells me – to now being one of the leading UK names in the print industry and employing dozens of people.

“The original key markets for us were exhibitions and events. Also, we manufacture in-house – mainly so that we can control the quality and delivery of anything we do. The benefit of that has been developing the technology in line with the demands of the clients, mostly retail, that we’ve built up over 20 years of being in business, and have been with us since we started – like Café Nero who have been with us since the beginning.”

A lot of that work involved two-dimensional work for retail shopfitting and display, and Simon admits that two-dimensional is still a big part of Stylo’s remit. But over the last two decades, the firm has moved into various other areas.

“Since then, we’ve realised that a lot of the work now required from clients has been moving into three-dimensional. We found there is a strong niche in taking everything we do in 2D and giving some dimension to it,” Simon says. So, how did they go about achieving that?

Stylo 3D

Some examples of the breadth of work possible using the technology…

“About two years ago, we created a 3D design team and the logic behind that was we could take our 2D print work and add to it around fabrication and construction. We told our 3D team to monitor where the technology was going – and we didn’t think small-scale really had a place in our markets, so it’s all about large-scale. So, our team is self-taught, really, in taking a 2D image and turning it into a three-dimensional shape – which involves a lot of computer-generated-imagery – creating an image and then printing it in 3D,” he adds.

Realising the potential of the technology led Stylo to join forces in 2015 with Israeli company Massivit, who themselves had been carrying out research and development on large-scale printing solutions, which fit the bill for Stylo perfectly. “The key things for us in printing large are speed and being lightweight – especially if we were installing something like a sculpture in a hotel for example. If the item weighs half-a-tonne the logistics are just too difficult to manage. Being lightweight, it needs to be hollow, which is vital and something Massivit’s technology allows,” Simon states.

Massivit 3D technology

A Massivit 1800 3D printer unit…

Indeed, traditional 3D printing involves building layers upon layers, to create a solid unit, which would take far too long. Simon explains: “We needed something that allowed us to print 10 times faster but also using a tenth of the material, which is what this technology allows us to do – integrate our 3D design into a hollow structure. It also cuts down on costs when quoting for clients – for something that is eight-foot high; if we used traditional methods that would cost something like £25,000 which you and I both know is never going to get approved!”

With only a handful of machines being installed globally, being the first UK adopters of the new technology has allowed Stylo to carve a niche and gain a market edge. Something Simon takes pride in: “About 15 years ago, print industry took a turn towards direct printing. Before then, anything that was printed had to go onto a bit of paper, or vinyl or some sort of surface, which in itself would then be mounted to a rigid surface. So this method of direct printing changed the game – getting there ahead of everyone else means we’re challenging ourselves internally with how we can push technology, we’re never quite satisfied with just doing it the same way as everybody else. Even Buckingham Palace think we’re innovative as they awarded us the Queen’s Award for Innovation!”

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How the technology works…

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So can this be applied to hospitality? Work in the hospitality sector has started to come in; Stylo recently worked on a 2,000-room project in the far-east providing 45,000-sq-metres of printed wallpaper – but there is so much potential in this sector according to Simon.

“I have to say that we are still really early in terms of applying this technology to hospitality. All the people who have bought these machines have either bought them for a specific purpose to complete a specific task or they’ve bought them in an entrepreneurial spirit – like ourselves. We bought this technology thinking ‘it’s really cool, it’s really exciting’. We’re saying now that if we could get into the early design stages of hotels, especially in boutique and independent hotels, where creating a personalised identity for every room is key – even if it’s only a 30 or 40 room hotel – it could be really cool to have an individual statue for each room for example.

“Or in the entrance to a hotel, having a really quirky feature that strikes visitors as soon as they enter. And even in the gardens – we could use our Buddha head, that we’ve been showing off at shows recently, around water features. It’s about creating that initial ‘wow factor’,” Simon says.

Stylo 3D

For this Buddha head, Stylo worked with Anarchy, one of the UK’s leading model making company’s based in Watford, who took Stylo 3D print and used it to create a fibre glass mould from which this Model was cast. This makes it externally durable and can be quickly and cost effectively re-produced re-using the mould time and time again…

Getting in with designers is now the priority for Stylo. Simon believes that once the technology is ‘out there’, it will be about convincing design professionals of the creative potential of its applications. “Having a discussion purely from the design perspective about doing things on an enormous scale, completely random things and off-the-wall things is what we want. So it’s about working with designers to come up with these ideas and then us showing them the capabilities of creating some really unique pieces,” he adds.

The production benefits are definitely there to be seen also. The ‘additive’ method of production – namely starting with nothing and building into something, rather than starting with something and taking away – means hardly any waste and its lightweight nature means transportation savings, which both tick environmental and sustainable boxes. Furthermore, Simon is proud of the fact that artisanal skills will still be maintained. Once a piece has been printed, the finished article still retains the look of the UV gel. Yet, each piece can be finished in countless styles to request – and having seen the giant Buddha head (above) at the recent 100% Design show, Hotel Designs can vouch for the quality of the finish. It also means each piece, even if identical in print, will have a slightly unique look.

Stylo 3D
Is Simon tempted to bring design in-house at Stylo and come up with and create the ideas themselves?

“It’s a fine line, because if we play the role of designers as well as producers, we run the risk of stepping on the toes of our clients. I personally love design myself, but one of the downsides of being a production-driven company, is that if we are designing as well – we are going to be designing in a ‘production-friendly’ way. So what we want is designers to not have to worry about how the items will be made – they should have free rein to do whatever they want. It’s our challenge to take their concept and then our 3D designers can turn that into something ‘producible’.”

The enthusiasm for the technology and the endless possibilities within the hospitality sector from Simon and his team is both audible and visible. And looking at some of the fantastic pieces they’ve created already, we have no doubts that it won’t be long before it becomes commonplace to see 3D-printed items in independents, boutiques and major chains – with Stylo continuing to be pioneers at the forefront of the field…

stylographics.co.uk


Athenaeum Hotel

In Conversation With…Athenaeum Hotel owner Mailo Power

840 460 Daniel Fountain

The Hotel Designs Summit was held at Radisson Blu London Stansted on 12-13 September, with a host of hoteliers, designers and manufacturers all joining together for meetings, networking sessions and seminars. Hotel Designs had the pleasure of catching up with Mailo Power, owner of the Athenaeum Hotel…

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Hotel Designs: Good afternoon Mailo! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Mailo Power: I’m the owner of Athenaeum House Hotel in Waterford in the south east of Ireland and a member of Manor House Hotels, which is a collection of 34 family-run properties – a mixture of luxury and boutique hotels as well as castles throughout Ireland.

HD: And the Athenaeum in particular, can you describe its story for me…
MP: The property came about, I suppose, through shared vision. Interestingly enough, being here at the Hotel Designs Summit, it came about through a marriage of both design and the hospitality industry. My husband Stan grew up in the hotel industry, his parents owned the Ocean Hotel in Dunmore East, which they sold when he was a teenager. So, he went into the hotel business very young and after running several hotels in the UK and managing Mount Juliet hotel which won Hotel of the Year in Ireland when he was at the helm.

My background was actually in interior design, I worked on a lot of leisure projects and hotel projects, my clients included Great Southern Hotels in Ireland, I was their group designer. I also worked in France and the Isle of Man. Together we decided to build our own property, it made sense with my background specialising in the design of hotels and my husband’s background in hotel management.

Athenaeum Hotel

So, in 1999 we bought a Georgian house on an estate in Waterford, it’s setting is unique in that it overlooks the city but is actually set in 5 acres; it has the best of both worlds with a country feel but close to the City centre across the River Suir. We built and opened the present hotel in 2003, after four years of battling planning permission – because the border of Waterford and Kilkenny runs through us – our boutique hotel has 29 bedrooms, a 130-cover restaurant Zaks, as well as boardrooms and meeting rooms. Our daughter Kelly joined us in 2010 following a number of years working in the hospitality industry in Australia.

HD: What about the personality of the hotel?
MP: As it’s a listed building we maintained the Georgian features, such as the fan light, high ceilings, fireplaces, original mouldings and architraves. We offer exclusive use for weddings, celebrations or corporate events. Our award-winning restaurant helps, especially as our Chef James Crawford is passionate about using local produce – we’re proud of our ‘field-to-fork’ approach and supporting local suppliers.

And, although we are a family business, we definitely have an international mind-set. We joined the Manor House collection, which is a collection of properties throughout Ireland and this allows us to have a central reservations office in Dublin and a ‘face’ at international events, which we wouldn’t have if we were just an independent standing alone.

Athenaeum Hotel

HD: And what about the future – any expansion plans?
MP: We are heavily involved with the tourism industry in Ireland – both presently and looking to its future. And what we’re finding is that people are looking for an experience and a story behind the properties they stay in, we are working on developing the story of our unique heritage as part of Ireland Ancient East proposition. Our expansion plans also include developing an ‘innovation hub’ for start-up businesses. It will be a place where people can go to get mentoring from various specialists, or just have an innovative space to hold think tanks.

HD: Being from Ireland, how do you think Brexit will affect the industry in your homeland?
MP: I was actually one of the few people in my close circle that thought it would happen – and I’ll tell you why! There was a sort of ‘perfect storm’ prior to the referendum – there were definite elements generating fear, it came very quickly after the tragedies in Paris and in Brussels and we’re now facing an unprecedented migration issue beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. When people feel fearful and threatened, history shows us that they will lift the drawbridge – and I feel people acted out of genuine fear, but without properly understanding the ramifications. There was a total lack of understanding of what Brexit actually meant.

With regards to ‘what now’ – we’re in uncharted territory. We’re ten years away from truly knowing what the ramifications are. Obviously, there is a massive connection between Ireland and the UK, more so than any other country, and there has been for generations – I personally have a very strong family connection with England and the UK!

Athenaeum Hotel

The big issue will be the border, I’m hoping open borders continue, but I’m not sure how that will work in the European context at all. The other thing that concerns me, listening to Theresa May in her speeches, is that she wants to build links with other countries and is looking towards a ‘global economy’ separate to Europe, I am not sure that will be straight forward as we have Barack Obama saying that the US will have to deal with Europe first and then the UK.

But despite that, I still think there will be close ties between Ireland and the UK – and as a tourism product, the UK people will still visit Ireland and vice versa. I’m sure that given our shared heritage strong links between the two countries will continue.

HD: Let’s hope so! And as an independent hotel rather than a chain, what operational challenges do you face?
MP: There are two strands to that question, the first being the fact that we’re a family-run hotel with a long history in the industry, we have the mentality of ‘individual tailor made service’ rather than ‘standardisation’. Secondly, we bring a wider industry best practice, innovative approach to building standards of performance and team development – because if our team is happy and well trained it enhances service delivered to our guests.

As hoteliers, the guest is the centre of our universe, and at Athenaeum House Hotel we pride ourselves on being able to offer a personalised experience, when our guests are happy our business flourishes!

athenaeumhousehotel.com
All images by Waterford photographer www.infokus.ie

inD Creations - Deema Sahyoun

In Conversation With… Deema Sahyoun, inD Creations

980 341 Daniel Fountain

The Hotel Designs Summit was held at Radisson Blu London Stansted on 12-13 September, with a host of hoteliers, designers and manufacturers all joining together for meetings, networking sessions and seminars. Hotel Designs had the pleasure of catching up with Deema Sahyoun, founder and director at inD Creations…

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Hotel Designs: Hello Deema, tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the industry…
Deema Sahyoun
: I actually started off a product designer, and then I got quite lucky and fell into a job in hotel design by coincidence. I absolutely fell in love with the hospitality industry – especially the creativity  it allows, the challenges you face and the joy you can bring people through a space.

So, I freelanced for about four or five years but always wanted to start my own company and I have slowly built up my company over the last four years. In the last year I’ve just found my niche within the boutique and independently-owned hotels where, although it’s a smaller budget, it’s rewarding to achieve beauty with a tighter budget and that’s what I specialise in now.

HD: And what’s your inspiration, what inspires you when working on a project?
DS: It’s a number of different things – first and foremost, it’s the building and the impression you get when you first walk in. And then meeting the people that work there. Many of these hotels are older and have been owned by the same family for a long time, and the managers have worked there for years – so for me, it’s about getting a sense of the culture of the hotel.

Next it’s case of the general area and location of the property. And then the challenges of the space usually lead the creative process. For example, with tiny rooms, it’s how you work to make them appear bigger.

inD Creations - Deema Sahyoun

Some of the work carried out by inD Creations

HD: What’s your favourite design that you’ve seen?
DS:
That’s always a difficult question to answer! I like a whole range of different design elements… [HD: I suppose they reflect the personalities of the designers?]…Exactly, and their distinctive styles! But I mean, I like Firmdale Hotels a lot and how Kit Kemp is led by the environment around the properties in her design.

I think it’s important a that hotel design moves with the way we live, that includes the environment and how we eat, how we move, how we relax and so on. I think Kit Kemp does that well within the boutique industry allowing it to flood into the way the hotels look feel

HD: And what about your own – a project you really enjoyed working on?
DS:
Oh gosh, I have many that I’ve enjoyed for different reasons! But I did a project in Egypt and, being from the Middle East, I quite enjoyed bringing a sense of modernity to the Arab culture and making it trendy.

I have been working closely with Capricorn Hotels over the last few years and it has been a joy working with them; we have a long term plan towards bringing their hotels to life and it has been a great experience being part of such a great team.

I also did the bar at the K West Hotel in Shepherd’s Bush – and I really enjoyed that project because there was a lot of juicy creativity that I could bring into that because of its story.

HD: And what future trends can you see coming in the next three years?
DS:
Well, I think the way people are looking at hotels is completely changing – people are shying away from branded hotels, and the idea that if I go to this hotel anywhere around the world it will look exactly the same. It’s all about being individual, being independent and about giving people a sense of place. It’s about the language between its location and getting the people who are staying there to go out and get a feel of the locale.

And then we’re definitely seeing an influence from the way we live – so, not filling the room with desks for example, as nobody likes sitting facing the wall; people would rather you had a nice communal area with coffees and somewhere to work. So the standard things you need in a hotel are completely changing – having smaller wardrobes, but bigger lounge space for example.

HD: Are there trends your clients are specifically asking for?
DS:
I tend to play it by ear – I don’t know if it’s just me, but the clients I work with really rely on me to keep on top of trends! But a couple of their main stipulations are always that it lasts a long while and space is used well.

indcreations.com

In conversation…….. Guy Dittrich and Ilker Hussein

Daniel Fountain

During Sleep, Europe’s leading event focussed on global hospitality design, conference moderator, Guy Dittrich and Laufen Commercial Director, Ilker Hussein took some time to share their views on how they see the hospitality design industry. Guy: How do you see the value of Sleep with respect to your activities within the hospitality design industry?

Ilker: Sleep is the perfect platform to meet, inspire and engage with the client, design and hospitality professionals through communicating our core brand values. The globalism of the event also reflects our values and aspirations; it is the perfect environment to demonstrate how we are able to add value through developing and nurturing our global network.

We do not see ourselves as simple exhibitors but more of an active and committed part of the hospitality design community. A good example of this acceptance by the hospitality design industry may be illustrated by the invitation of Sleeper magazine to become part of their extremely successful Sleepover initiative this year.

We also view the Sleep Event as a platform to develop and evolve the knowledge and understanding of our team; the conference is an amazing source of first hand information from the people who are creating and driving trends within the hospitality sector. I look to the initiatives our team have successfully been working on and can see the impact of the previous Sleep Events.

Guy: What are your thoughts on customised products for hotel rooms compared with standard products?

Ilker: In high level design environments, interior designers look towards differentiating their creativity, they also require the security of a globally respected brand to deliver solutions in a unique form that complements their concept whether by the creation of a completely new shape or by the customisation of existing Laufen products such as our expertise in cutting ceramic and customisation by colour and texture. Recent examples include Marcel Wanders Interior Design working with Laufen on the Mondrian Doha Hotel (Falcon Towers) in Qatar, which included a specially designed custom bathtub, Moxy Hotels using a customised washbasin solution for their new bathrooms and Purpose Design collaborating closely with us last year for one of the Sleep Set hotel competition rooms with a completely customised bathroom concept.

Our understanding of materials enables bespoke solutions which require higher levels of engagement and understanding of what is needed. Sometimes we are asked to work outside the box and our comfort zone in order to provide a solution. This is a great motivation to our team, as we love to be challenged, and to demonstrate our ability to work closely in creating unique solutions with our partners.

The development and acceptance of the boutique hotel has also challenged all hotel channels, for example, the demographics associated with the new millennials has seen growth in brands like CitizenM, Motel One and Moxy Hotels stamping a high level design signature on budget hotels; highlighting the principal that pioneering design need not come at a high price. All of these hotels have been designed with customised product solutions. Laufen have worked with the Moxy Hotels team from a very early stage to develop a customised washbasin solution creating a total bathroom concept.

Ilker: What have you seen in the last 6 months of new hotel openings which has made you stop and stare?

Guy: That’s a tough one as it’s been a busy few months.

One of the real showstoppers has been the Lanserhof Tegernsee in Bavaria. I know this part of the world well and it is traditional and closed. So the concept and realisation of this medical spa with a great architectural pedigree is all the more remarkable. It has a reduced colour palette and only a few materials have been used to create a luxurious and calming environment that is perfect for the contemplative activities of guests that are there for the ‘cure’.

Jouin Manku have been making waves recently. Their work on the Alain Ducasse restaurant and the Bar at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris is jaw dropping but even better they manage to ‘release’ previously underperforming areas making them into premium space. The blue cloud floating in the bar takes the plaudits but the smart re-use of space around the new bar counter makes the money. On the other hand, Jouin Manku’s much more austere interiors at the former priory at Fontevraud in the Loire Valley have a reduced feel that is so compelling I am adapting a few of their ideas in the renovation of my own home.
Guy: What type of project do you most enjoy working on?

Ilker: I love working with people, especially on projects where we have an opportunity for increased involvement with creative designers and clients, to be a part of a team that inspires and pushes the boundaries of interior design. The world I live in makes me fortunate enough to regularly meet, travel and engage with people from different cultures, professions and attitudes bringing increased success both professionally and personally.

To connect stakeholders from different parts of the world to our local markets and teams is a great privilege, and can often demonstrate the value we are able to offer, both as colleagues and supply partners.

Ilker: How do you think hotel companies see suppliers?

Guy: Mmmm…..you put me on the spot there. Of course it depends what they supply but in the FF&E field I think that hoteliers are firstly looking for performance and support in the event of difficulties. As a GM once said to me, “short term is before lunch and long term is after lunch”. The show must go on. Suppliers need to be super reliable as tonight’s hotel room is only for sale…….tonight. Hotel rooms are the ultimate disposable commodity. After reliability you are talking about the suppliers who really bother to understand the hotel market in terms of operational efficiencies. How quickly can that particular piece of kit be cleanED? How long will it last before it needs to be replaced? Only after that do the design and style really come into their decision making process. And let’s not forget that it is often the owner and not the operator who appoints the suppliers. But that’s another can of worms…..

Guy: How do you manage complex projects which are crossing so many borders, cultures and local requirements?

Ilker: Our philosophy to ”Think Global, Act Local” is something we live and breathe, and can be seen in the way a wider global perspective is demonstrated whilst respecting local cultural conditions, requirements and expectations. Building a strong internal network supported by a global perspective certainly facilitates this.

Laufen encourages and promotes best practice principles to be integrated into the learning and development plans of our people. This helps us evolve as people in an ever changing environment, and motivates us to be successful. We also have processes that empower a structured approach to projects but also encourages inspired solutions enabling a far more effective and creative engagement.

The most recent example of this was for Moxy Hotels where the project touched contacts starting with the client in Lithuania, to the Laufen team in Switzerland and logistics in Czech Republic, order processing in Netherlands, designers in Sweden and finally through to the supply point in Northern Italy.

Taking consideration of all the key stakeholder’s aspirations is also a fundamental principal that needs careful attention through the life cycle of a project. By doing this, our team not only ensures a positive and professional approach to the project, but looks towards developing longer term trust and relationship for future collaborations. Finally not forgetting that the end user is also a stakeholder, and their expectations and experiences are important.

Though the Laufen Global Project Team are still relatively young, our passion for hospitality is very visible, and can be recognised through the relationships with most of the International Hotel Groups, where we enjoy recognised, approved or preferred manufacturer status.

Ilker: What has been the most significant development you have seen in hotel design in the last 5 years?

Guy: A few years back I would have said CitizenM and I still think what Rattan Chadha, Michael Levy & their guys have done is extraordinary and plain good fun. It is a real step change in the way hospitality is viewed by punters. More recently I see the rise of the Hot Hostels, particularly Generator Hostels, as a real sit-up-and-take-notice moment for the full and even limited service hotels. Personally I am not a fan of bunk beds in dormitories, or at least not whilst I am working, but certainly the hybrid hostel-hotel model has legs. However I am also interested in the guys at the margin. The tree house hotel and the monastery are right at the edge but can be a bit gimmicky. So it is the innovative hoteliers such as Christoph Hoffmann at 25Hours Hotels, Paul Rinkens at Qbic Hotels, Brad Wilson at Ace Hotels and Carlos Couturier of Grupo Habita that are laying down the road map for others to follow.

Guy: How do you see other design disciplines influencing new product development at Laufen?

Ilker: Product development and innovation has been a part of the Laufen DNA from the very beginning. The invention of the wall hung toilet, developing pressure casting as a production process and the recent creation of a new ceramic material enables us to support the push of new design boundaries.

I believe the new ceramic material, SaphirKeramik, will influence design for years to come, it is very exciting to be at the beginning of such a development. We are highlighting some of the newest designs that can be made from this material at the Sleep Event this year.

As a team we are also exposed to wider design and cultural experiences through our participation at events like Art Basel, La Biennale di Venezia, Design Miami and Design Festivals which have educated our team to appreciate design and art which consequently impacts product development.

A good example of this Laufen philosophy of empowerment and creativity was demonstrated at Sleep last year. Not only did we have a stand with innovative designs but were challenged to create a concept bathroom with Purpose Design using customised solid surface material.

Additionally Nous Design inspired our team to create a unique showcase champagne bar made out 46 washbasins. The Sleep bar not only became a centrepiece of Sleep 2013, but also won the Award for Best Pop Up Bar at the Bar & Restaurant Awards 2014.

Guy Dittrich is a freelance writer and independent commentator on hotels, travel and design. He frequently programmes, moderates and presents for both corporates and at conferences including Sleep. Writing regularly for Wallpaper* and Condé Nast Traveller Guy is also Editor-at-Large for Sleeper, the specialist hotel design magazine.

Ilker Hussein is working for Laufen Bathrooms as Commercial Director. He has worked with clients, architects and designers on bathroom projects for the past 20 years and has global responsibility for the delivery of customer satisfaction in both retail and commercial environments.

Guy: What type of project do you most enjoy working on?

Ilker: I love working with people, especially on projects where we have an opportunity for increased involvement with creative designers and clients, to be a part of a team that inspires and pushes the boundaries of interior design. The world I live in makes me fortunate enough to regularly meet, travel and engage with people from different cultures, professions and attitudes bringing increased success both professionally and personally.

To connect stakeholders from different parts of the world to our local markets and teams is a great privilege, and can often demonstrate the value we are able to offer, both as colleagues and supply partners.

Ilker: How do you think hotel companies see suppliers?

Guy: Mmmm…..you put me on the spot there. Of course it depends what they supply but in the FF&E field I think that hoteliers are firstly looking for performance and support in the event of difficulties. As a GM once said to me, “short term is before lunch and long term is after lunch”. The show must go on. Suppliers need to be super reliable as tonight’s hotel room is only for sale…….tonight. Hotel rooms are the ultimate disposable commodity. After reliability you are talking about the suppliers who really bother to understand the hotel market in terms of operational efficiencies. How quickly can that particular piece of kit be cleanED? How long will it last before it needs to be replaced? Only after that do the design and style really come into their decision making process. And let’s not forget that it is often the owner and not the operator who appoints the suppliers. But that’s another can of worms…..

Guy: How do you manage complex projects which are crossing so many borders, cultures and local requirements?

Ilker: Our philosophy to ”Think Global, Act Local” is something we live and breathe, and can be seen in the way a wider global perspective is demonstrated whilst respecting local cultural conditions, requirements and expectations. Building a strong internal network supported by a global perspective certainly facilitates this.

Laufen encourages and promotes best practice principles to be integrated into the learning and development plans of our people. This helps us evolve as people in an ever changing environment, and motivates us to be successful. We also have processes that empower a structured approach to projects but also encourages inspired solutions enabling a far more effective and creative engagement.

The most recent example of this was for Moxy Hotels where the project touched contacts starting with the client in Lithuania, to the Laufen team in Switzerland and logistics in Czech Republic, order processing in Netherlands, designers in Sweden and finally through to the supply point in Northern Italy.

Taking consideration of all the key stakeholder’s aspirations is also a fundamental principal that needs careful attention through the life cycle of a project. By doing this, our team not only ensures a positive and professional approach to the project, but looks towards developing longer term trust and relationship for future collaborations. Finally not forgetting that the end user is also a stakeholder, and their expectations and experiences are important.

Though the Laufen Global Project Team are still relatively young, our passion for hospitality is very visible, and can be recognised through the relationships with most of the International Hotel Groups, where we enjoy recognised, approved or preferred manufacturer status.

Ilker: What has been the most significant development you have seen in hotel design in the last 5 years?

Guy: A few years back I would have said CitizenM and I still think what Rattan Chadha, Michael Levy & their guys have done is extraordinary and plain good fun. It is a real step change in the way hospitality is viewed by punters. More recently I see the rise of the Hot Hostels, particularly Generator Hostels, as a real sit-up-and-take-notice moment for the full and even limited service hotels. Personally I am not a fan of bunk beds in dormitories, or at least not whilst I am working, but certainly the hybrid hostel-hotel model has legs. However I am also interested in the guys at the margin. The tree house hotel and the monastery are right at the edge but can be a bit gimmicky. So it is the innovative hoteliers such as Christoph Hoffmann at 25Hours Hotels, Paul Rinkens at Qbic Hotels, Brad Wilson at Ace Hotels and Carlos Couturier of Grupo Habita that are laying down the road map for others to follow.

Guy: How do you see other design disciplines influencing new product development at Laufen?

Ilker: Product development and innovation has been a part of the Laufen DNA from the very beginning. The invention of the wall hung toilet, developing pressure casting as a production process and the recent creation of a new ceramic material enables us to support the push of new design boundaries.

I believe the new ceramic material, SaphirKeramik, will influence design for years to come, it is very exciting to be at the beginning of such a development. We are highlighting some of the newest designs that can be made from this material at the Sleep Event this year.

As a team we are also exposed to wider design and cultural experiences through our participation at events like Art Basel, La Biennale di Venezia, Design Miami and Design Festivals which have educated our team to appreciate design and art which consequently impacts product development.

A good example of this Laufen philosophy of empowerment and creativity was demonstrated at Sleep last year. Not only did we have a stand with innovative designs but were challenged to create a concept bathroom with Purpose Design using customised solid surface material. Additionally Nous Design inspired our team to create a unique showcase champagne bar made out 46 washbasins. The Sleep bar not only became a centrepiece of Sleep 2013, but also won the Award for Best Pop Up Bar at the Bar & Restaurant Awards 2014.