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.”
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.”
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.”
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!”
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.