Kimpton Fitzroy reception lounge media

    Part 85: reusable materials in hotel lighting

    1024 640 Hamish Kilburn

    As part of Hotel Designs’ deep dive into all things sustainability we talked to Michael Mulhall from Dernier & Hamlyn who shared his experience of how its clients are working with them to develop innovative hotel lighting by reusing bespoke light fittings…

    It wasn’t long ago that the vast majority of interior designers operating in the luxury hospitality or residential space would have shunned the idea of reusing high-end bespoke chandeliers and pendants. But this is no longer the case and is driven by a range of imperatives and requirements.

    Undoubtedly, the importance of embracing sustainability and environmental stewardship in the business world is gaining increasing traction. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in the fields of design and hospitality. As a result, designers are becoming more conscious of the sources of the products they acquire for their projects and are prioritising transparency and accountability when communicating with their clients. Furthermore, they are proactively seeking ways to diminish the carbon footprint generated by their projects from inception to completion. These positive actions collectively signify a significant stride in the right direction.

    However as Mark Tremlett of Naturalmat said in a recent article on Hotel Designs, the industry must be wary of greenwashing and instead must look at ways that can contribute to achieving the circular economy we aspire to, where wastage is kept to an absolute minimum.

    With bespoke lighting this can be a relatively easy endeavour. Whether it’s custom designed chandeliers, pendants, wall lights or table lamps they are invariably made from long lasting materials and manufactured in styles designed to stand the test of time. Usually, it is more than just about practical illumination and is at least decorative and quite often a piece of art. And very often it makes reference to a site’s history, geography, or environs. So, when it comes to updating its design story the lighting will frequently remain relevant.

    However, this doesn’t imply that designers won’t seek to imprint their own influence upon the unique lighting that already exists. They might introduce novel elements, install it in unconventional manners, simplify its design, or enhance it based on the overarching narrative.

    Reusing or repurposing bespoke lighting can also contribute significantly to carbon neutrality by removing the need to source new materials and cutting the miles that products need to travel to get them to site because they are already there.

    kimpton fitzroy lift lobby - close up of chandelier

    Image credit: IHG

    A great example of this approach is our work for Tara Bernerd & Partners at the Kimpton Fitzroy hotel in Bloomsbury. We were asked to update light fittings and give them a contemporary feel. We revisited chandeliers that our team had made almost forty years before and gave them a new identity. 12 large drape and bag crystal chandeliers that we had installed throughout the hotel’s public areas in the 1980s were updated both aesthetically and technically. To undertake this specialist work, the chandeliers were removed from the hotel and taken to our factory where the crystal was meticulously cleaned, the chandeliers’ metalwork restored and the wiring updated to meet regulatory requirements. The chandeliers were then rehung in clusters to give a more current and playful twist.

    In the case of the Standard Hotel London, Shawn Hausman Design (SHD) wanted to express individuality and sourced vintage fittings from around the world across a range of design eras using a variety of materials to accentuate the distinctiveness of the hotel’s public areas and bedrooms. Our team rewired and restored hundreds of floor and table lamps and pendant fittings, mostly from the 1970s, to ensure they met legal regulations and requirements.

    Although we have consistently provided a restoration service, the perception of designers towards it is beginning to shift. Historically, it was typically conservation architects or designers engaged in heritage projects who approached us for lighting restoration endeavours. However, there is a noticeable shift, as more individuals now recognise the value of engaging with us to repurpose a wide array of fixtures. This shift reflects a growing awareness that incorporating such discussions can significantly contribute to the advancement of a circular and ecologically sound economy.

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

    Main image credit: IHG

    swimming pool at Regent Phu Quoc with architectural poles and shade cloth installation by BLINK

    Part 84: conversion to placemaking – a designer’s road to Damascus

    1024 640 Pauline Brettell

    Clint Nagata is the Founder and Creative Partner behind BLINK Design Group, a studio which has made its mark on the luxury hospitality realm by focussing on creating a sense of place – a layered process which results in a depth of design that makes it stand out from the crowd. In this series of a Guide to Hotel Design, Nagata talks us through his process of placemaking when confronted with conversion…

    The tabula rasa is a beautiful thing. For the designer, nothing excites more than the terrifying thrill of the blank page, the clean slate that awaits your dreams and inspiration, creating something where nothing existed before, willing what you’ve seen in your mind’s eye to life. However, where the rubber often meets the road for today’s designer is a far more practical challenge: the conversion or reimagining of an existing property, bar or restaurant while managing owners’ expectations and working within the constraints of time, space, budgets and what already stands.

    Clint Nagata - Blink Design Group

    Image credit: BLINK Design Group

    For the perfectionist, the purist and the prima donna who brooks no compromise and demands to stamp their will on the landscape, it’s not ideal. But for the pragmatist of good heart and clear vision, who can take what has gone before and embrace what could be, the conversion is a field of design that can be every bit as rewarding as the utopia of the green field.

    “Understanding what is said in luxury hotel design is akin to listening to a beautifully composed piece of music, where the pauses between notes are as essential as the melody itself. It is as a silent dialogue that envelopes guests in a world of comfort, elegance and refinement, leaving an indelible impression that words alone could never convey” – Clint Nagata, Founder and Creative Partner, BLINK Design Group.

    The move towards conversion, refurbishment and re-envisioning has been growing over the past decade. City-dwellers often prefer seeing their neighbourhoods reimagined and reinvigorated rather than demolished and totally transformed. However, there can be cost implications and practical challenges in retrofitting 21st-century demands into 19th and 20th-century structures.

    central table and seating area in beamed wooden building at Roku Kyoto

    Image credit: Blink / Ben Richards

    Everything has its place – the more I travel the world, the more convinced I am that a sense of place is everything. A deep dive into the culture, people, customs and architectural and design vernacular of a place is pivotal to what we do at BLINK. We have a name for it: Placemaking.

    Just as with the conversion, you are working within the strictures of what already exists, so with placemaking we work within the ambit of what has gone before. The challenges with conversions are myriad but they always boil down, above all, to time and money. Clients want a Rolls-Royce, on a Hyundai budget.

    central wooden bar with asian design references in Regent Phu Quoc

    Image credit: BLINK Design Group

    There are also inherent pitfalls in Placemaking; there’s a fine line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. What may appear as the harmless dressing of a space could very easily offend locals, staff and guests; something well-intentioned but uninformed could be seen as trivialising and objectifying home-grown culture or, worse, come across as some kind of crass, condescending neo-colonialism.

    Research, knowledge and local connections are everything; it can’t be rushed or bought off a shelf. At BLINK, we invest in time and people, in Indigenous artisans and craftspeople, to make sure we get the details right; it pays dividends, fosters goodwill and feeds the local economy.

    seating and tea in Roku Kyoto designed by BLINK

    Image credit: BLINK Design Studio / Ben Richards

    Understanding the Unspoken Insight – when taking on a brief, it’s often what’s written between the lines that informs us of a client’s real requirements. Our job is to forensically interpret the unspoken wants and needs, the physical cues and the passing comments that can open a whole new field of discussion. We must never forget the power of the question mark; to always pursue lateral thinking, new ways of being and doing, presenting at all times as as a curious, prescient and empathic practice.

    colonnaded swimming pool at Regent Phu Quoc by Blink Design

    Image credit: BLINK Design Goup

    And we must not ignore the inexorable march of demographics; those born between 1981 and 2012, otherwise known as Millennials and Gen Z, will command 80 per cent of the global personal luxury goods market by 2030 (Bain & Company, 2023). The good news is that they value meaningful luxury experiences over the possession of luxury goods.

    double volume dining space with statement architectural lighting and trees for indoor planting

    Image credit: BLINK Design Group

    It starts with thinking of hotels and resorts not as places to sleep, but as environments that create memories; the wellsprings of experience. My journey as a designer began with the belief that the best buildings are designed from the inside out, which is a powerful concept when approaching a conversion. If your visions are powerful enough, the entire hotel or resort can live anew.

    Examples? Huvafen Fushi Maldives springs to mind. We’re breathing new life into an ageing resort in an incredible location with a minimalistic modern aesthetic that draws inspiration from the pristine natural surroundings. I’m very bullish on upcycling; recycling with a creative twist. Small details can make a big difference: when we converted Jumeirah Meradhoo into Raffles we made a critical decision to paint the mismatched stained millwork to a pale warm gray colour which helped to transform the resort into a colonial tropical resort aligned with the Raffles design DNA.

    louvred terrace with blue shutters under a wicker ceiling with fans at Raffles Maldives Meradhoo

    Image credit: BLINK Design Group / Raffles Hotels & Resorts

    We don’t shy away from being creative with making budgets stretch further and doing more with less, as budgets seem to shrink as each year goes by. And sustainability is so important, yet has become such an overused and abused buzzword that it pains me. We’ve seen small changes such as furniture suppliers who have invested in recycled materials in their furniture. This needs to become the norm and not the exception.

    I see a shift towards what I’d call purposeful travel. It’s the journey as much as the destination. People want to experience things rather than just stay at a particular resort or hotel. This has only fueled the need for hotels in and of themselves to become unique destinations deeply rooted in the environment that they exist in.

    view from above of thatched roof and bathing platfrom over the water at Raffles Maldives Meradhoo

    Image credit: BLINK Design Group / Raffles Hotels & Resorts

    But can the centre hold as things become more fragmented? A recent article by Travel Daily resonated in defining some of the diverse groups of people we must cater to in tomorrow’s hotels and resorts. They include the Walter Mitty-ish (Alter) Ego Enthusiasts, who feel compelled to elaborate on their lives and present an inflated and polished version of themself while travelling; Cool-cationers who seek relief from scorched urban heat islands; So-called Surrender Seekers, who want to be surprised and go with the flow, letting someone else’s fingers do the planning; Culinary Excavators, the modern day food archeologists who want to eat authentically and with a sense of history and place; Reboot Retreaters seeking relief and a restart from their frazzled and frenetic life; Mindful Aesthetes, for whom wellness is not just an occasional treat but a way of life, and A La Carte Affluencers, who will employ life hacks to save costs at home but are willing to splurge on their dream holidays.

    exterior view of evening lights lighting up the interior of Roku Kyoto

    Image credit: BLINK Design Group / Ben Richards

    When I graduated from college, the western architectural community frowned upon firms that did not design new and ‘modern’ buildings and instead created buildings that embodied their environments. Similarly, all the large international hotel chains practised uniformity across the globe and wanted their hotels in Asia to look like it was in America. I’m glad all of this has changed.

    Uniformity is dead and individuality is king. More than ever, designers must not be afraid to take risks and to fail, as it’s only in testing limits that you change and grow. Dive deep, immerse yourself, ask questions, push boundaries. Live by design.

    Main image credit: BLINK Design Group

    An accessible guestroom inside Hotel Brooklyn, with extendable hoist above bed

    Part 75: why stylish accessible accommodation in hotels pays

    1024 640 Hamish Kilburn

    Editor Hamish Kilburn identifies two innovative and human-centric hospitality initiatives when exploring the economical, social and design benefits from hotels investing in stylish accessible solutions for their guests…

    During my teens, in between ‘studying’ at university, I was given unprecedented access into the lives of the British Paralympic Sailing Team. Mainly during, but not always limited to, holidays from school and then university, I travelled down to the South Coast of England, to Portland, which became a second home.

    My role as tuning crew during training and shore crew during major regattas – a minor cog in a much larger machine of physios, coaches, nutritionists and psychologists – meant that I was living with, and more importantly travelling with, the performance team. And it was during this time when I first experienced accessible rooms through the eyes of a guest checking in. If you were lucky, these rooms would boast panoramic views that stretched across… the car park, or face a brick wall.

    Years later, in 2020, a few years into my editorship at Hotel Designs, little had changed. I would check in to some of the world’s most spectacular hotels and ask to see the accessible rooms. Each time, I would be met with expressions of confusion – followed by eyes glancing to see if all of my limbs were attached. Very rarely would these areas of the hotel share any cohesive design notes to the rest of the property.

    After few too many of these bleak experiences, I was asked to review Hotel Brooklyn, a hotel that prided itself on sheltering 18 fully accessible suites – my mind was blown not just for me, but also for potential readers who thought that the industry had given up on them.

    A street-like hotel lobby inside Hotel Brooklyn

    Image credit: Henry Woide

    Designed by Motionspot to help delicately balance style with functionality, the suites featured hidden ceiling track hoists, electric curtains and inviting, non-clinical-looking bathrooms complete with lever shower controls discreet matt black grab rails and bars. “In collaboration with Bespoke, we have been able to turn traditional hotel industry thinking on its head,” explained Ed Warner, CEO and Co-Founder of Motionspot. “Too often, accessible rooms feature second- rate design and are less desirable but, at Hotel Brooklyn we have proven that the beautifully designed accessible rooms can be the most popular in the hotel. Making accommodation more accessible is not just the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense.”

    A grey accessible bathroom - large shower unit with black shower and grab rails and bars

    Image credit: Henry Woide

    The group, led by pioneer Robin Sheppard, President of Bespoke Hotels, really understood the demands to ensure that the hotel would be for everyone. “Hotel Brooklyn has demonstrated how accessibility can be incorporated into a luxury hotel,” he said. “We acknowledge that we are on a journey to provide accessible experiences for all guests, and the feedback we receive from visitors is helping us to raise the bar even further at future Hotel Brooklyn sites. We hope the success of Hotel Brooklyn inspires others in the industry to look at how they can improve their accessible facilities to help make UK hospitality more accessible for all.”

    Three years since opening, the decision to stand out from the crowd can be measured in the perception guests have of the hotel as well as in revenue. In 2022, the hotel’s first full-trading year after the pandemic and Covid-19 restrictions lifted, its accessible suites brought the hotel an additional £132,000 over 12 months. This equates to £7,333 additional revenue per accessible room and just more than 100 extra bed nights every four weeks.

    A close-up of a white accessible bathroom showing accents of gold and black

    Image credit: Henry Woide

    The vision of embedded accessibility at Hotel Brooklyn extends throughout the whole hotel. The knock-on impact has made the hotel a sought-after event venue for groups that include guests with access needs. From charity events and award ceremonies to accessible weddings, Hotel Brooklyn attracts everything from large annual events to smaller, regular get-togethers, with many guests also booking overnight stays. Combined, such events contributed £85,000 additional income in 2022, bringing the total contribution from accessible facilities to £217,000 across the year.

    Central to the access vision at Hotel Brooklyn were the focus groups Motionspot conducted with people of different lived experiences of disability. While inclusive design innovation and thinking has moved on significantly since the studio first designed Hotel Brooklyn Manchester, feedback and insights continue to be gathered to improve the hotel’s accessibility. These include the addition of profiling beds; use of the WelcoMe app that allows guests to communicate their access needs to the customer service team ahead of check-in; and detailed online Access Galleries which show everything from the height of the key-card entry point from the street to the fact that two members of staff use British Sign Language (BSL). On a wider scale the intention is to continue to improve the access across Bespoke Hotels’ other properties and inspire the UK hospitality industry at large.

    Aside from Hotel Brooklyn, which effortlessly filled a gap in the market for stylish accessible rooms and generally just ensure that every guest’s experience is one that starts and ends with open communication – proving to other hoteliers that the right decision is often the smart choice, manufacturers are also at the forefront of change. Bathroom brand KEUCO recently came forward with a new range of design-led grab rails, accessories and bars. The design of KEUCO AXESS, designed by Porsche Design Studio F. A focuses on the essentials, combining aesthetics and barrier-free functionality in a stylish and innovative way, without making the special functions visually obvious. It is this aspect that will pleasantly surprise design lovers who want to see accessibility integrated into the bathroom and products with a minimalist appearance with design that inspires.

    black and chrome contemporary shower fittings with grab rail and stool by KEUCO and Studio Porsche

    Image credit: KEUCO

    “Our aim was to develop accessible bathroom products from a completely new perspective. Timeless, very clear, aesthetic forms, permanently perceived as beautiful, even after many years. Independent of the spirit of time and trends and at the same time, beyond anything known so far. Out ambition was to create something special, right down to the smallest detail, and making it technically possible. A combination of German engineering and top-quality implementation in every respect.”

    If a bathroom brand can pair up with a leading automotive design studio to create a better environment for guests in need of extra facilities, and hotels such as Hotel Brooklyn can centre its entire hospitality model around its smart, accessible facilities, then there is no excuse for other hoteliers, brands and manufacturers to follow suit. After all hospitality, a human-centric industry, is for everyone, right?

    Main image credit: Henry Woide