9 women inspiring a new wave of hotel design & architecture

To mark International Women’s Day, and to celebrate the hotel design community being ahead of other industries when it comes to equality and diversity, we have identified nine women who are unapologetically challenging conventional approaches to design, architecture and hospitality…

women in hospitality and hotel design

International Women’s Day is a day of both celebration and of challenge. And the call to action for 2022 is indeed all about challenging – and breaking – stereotypes. Here at Hotel Designs, we’re steering the conversations towards a more inclusive path on every level, and it is interesting to note that inclusivity, diversity and difference is in many ways what is driving the hotel design industry forward as hospitality models change and shift.

Flying the flag for International Women’s Day, we are highlighting the contributions of some of the standout women in the hospitality industry who have made their mark from moodboards to boardrooms with work that continues to ensure that women are both an integral and an inspirational part of the industry.

In the words of the legendary designer Ilse Crawford, “we need to honour our heroines because unless they are visible, we will not encourage the next generation of female designers.”

So in the spirit of honouring our heroines, here is our list of movers and shakers in the industry, whose work we feel is contributing to the spirit of #BreakTheBias.

Tina Norden, Partner, Conran and Partner and current Interior Designer of the Year

Tina Norden is a rare breed when it comes to hotel and hospitality design. Throughout the pandemic, Norden was a consistent and key voice in the industry, speaking as a leading interior designer and architect at various online events on topics such as emerging interior design trends, the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality industry, inclusive design, and quality craftsmanship. Throughout this year, the interior designer and architect continued to mentor more junior members of her team and generally kept the momentum going and the positive vibes electric all while working on and completing large-scale projects remotely. It was therefore only natural for the judges of The Brit List Awards 2021 to collectively award her the prestigious title of Interior Designer of the Year.

Marie Soliman, Co-Founder, Bergman Design House

Marie Soliman and Lund House

Image credit: Bergman Designs /Vigo Jansons

Anyone who works or has worked with Marie Soliman, will agree that the interior designer with 16 years’ experience under her belt is a creative breathe of fresh air. An avid visual artist as well as a designer, Soliman’s keen eye for the timeless and the well-crafted has guided her on journeys around the world to spearhead such globally recognized projects as BXR London, We11, The other House hotel in London, NOR hotel Norway, and Eagle Lodge in Botswana, among others. One of her latest project, Laowai, a concealed hospitality concept in Vancouver’s Chinatown neighbourhood, is her first North American venture, with another scheduled for completion later this year in New York City.

The designer’s vision stems from her belief in the vital spark of adventurous souls willing to take risks, and try and test new ideas in the service of creating fabulous and engaging experiences. Her goal is always to bring fresh ideas to the fore, while revelling in — not fearing — the chaos of creation.

Rachel Hoolahan, Architect, Orms 

Rachel Hoolahan and sustainable design at Orms

Image credit: Orms

Hoolahan is an architect at the London practice Orms, where, by taking on the role as Sustainability Co-ordinator, she has become a driving force in the process of change within the architectural industry and her work and research is impacting directly on design practice as we know it. Orms have always championed concepts of sustainability in the design process made visible in projects like The Standard in London. Working within this framework Hoolahan has been able to push the boundaries when it comes to sustainable development, looking at how to integrate it into the design process rather than being seen as an add-on. Key to her research is the importance of both access and collaboration, as sustainability in our built environment is not practice specific but needs to be taken on by the industry as a whole if there is to be a meaningful impact. In 2021 she was awarded the AJ100 Sustainability Champion Award for her work in not only putting the issue the design and architectural agenda, but, together with colleagues at Orms, finding ways of integrating it into design practice.

Irene Kronenburg, Co-Founder, Barronwitz + Kronenburg

Irene Kronenburg and W Hotel Amsterdam

Image credit: BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG / W Amsterdam

Irene Kronenburg is one half of the energy that makes up the iconic Baranowitz and Kronenberg team. As a designer she has always championed individuality and storytelling though her designs. Long before the hospitality and hotel design industry were talking about the ‘local narrative’ of a location, Kronenberg was using that as cornerstone to her creativity. She has never had a formulaic approach, and each project is unique and looked at with a fresh eye, bringing something new to the design table. A clear example of this approach is illustrated with the concepts the designer delivered for W Hotels both in Amsterdam and Ibiza – one brand, two very different voices. Her eclectic approach has led her to break design rules while creating new stories, with the one constant being the underlying design ethos that, “there is no formula…everything we do is made-to-measure and hand-stitched.”

Geraldine Dohogne, Founder, Beyond Design 

Geraldine Dohagne founder of Beyond Design

Image credit: Beyond Design

Having been highly commended in the Interior Designer of the Year category for a second consecutive year, Dohogne’s design approach is clearly resonating. Having started her career in operations at Zannier Hotels, and despite not having any formal design training, it wasn’t long before her innate talent came to the fore and expressed itself in a range of projects. Her work shows a depth of design, an understanding of the importance of locale, and above all, a sensitivity to the environment in which a project is placed. She has more recently set up her own studio, Beyond Design, where she continues to be true to her design vision that is all about authenticity as she champions a thoughtful and carefully crafted approach to hospitality design.

Kalia Konstantinidou 

Kalia Konstantinidou of Kanava Hotels

Kanava Hotels & Resorts

With a background in PR, Konstantinidou has forged a strong brand identity for Kanava Hotels & Resorts, a luxury hotel and hospitality brand with its roots embedded in the Greek island of Santorini. With a strong sense of location and place Kanava continue to make inroads into the Greek luxury market, but importantly, in a way that takes a very considered approach to location and with an understanding and sensitivity to the local fabric. A champion of slow and mindful travel, she has encapsulated the cycladic way of life into the designs while taking on board the need to connect, to engage with communities, and to travel for a purpose. In her own words: “we create projects with the essence of being sustainable, sincere, and purposeful places for us and global travellers to live in, and we insist on creating awareness for a better kind of travel.”

Naomi Heaton, Founder, The Other House 

Naomi Heaton CEO of The Other House

Image credit: The Other House

As CEO of The Other House, Heaton has a background in private rentals which has clearly informed the concept that is being driven by the brand as it sets out to be both disruptive and innovative in the hospitality sector. The ethos behind The Other House started a groundbreaking shift in the model of hospitality that is slowly becoming more mainstream. Heaton looked critically at the whole concept of flexibility of space and duration of stay, and what followed was the blurring of boundaries between home, hotel, and membership club. The brand has also taken on the challenge of the technology/personal touch balance with a clear vision of how to integrate both into a very modern lifestyle experience. With the first hotel getting ready to open its London doors, we look forward to seeing Heaton continue to challenge hospitality conventions.

Interior Designer, Mary Katrantzou

designer mary katrantzou with vileroy & Boch tile collaboration

Image credit: Villeroy & Boch

Greek fashion and textile designer Katrantzou has recently collaborated with Villeroy & Boch on the exciting VICTORIAN tile design project – showcasing the shifting sands in the design world where boundaries are there to be broken. Having been given the title ‘Queen of Print’ in the fashion industry, it was only a matter of time before she put paint to paper and took her design narrative onto an entirely different surface. On her website she describes her world as feminine, innovative, bold and artistic, all of which can be seen in the tile collection which combines strong graphic qualities with elements of nostalgia. As an image led designer her work highlights the potential of increasingly symbiotic relationships across the disciplines.

Sonia Cheng, CEO, Rosewood Hotels 

Sonia Chen CEO of Rosewood Hotels

Image credit: Rosewood Hotels and Resorts

Sonia Cheng is noteworthy for several reasons, not only is she CEO of Rosewood Hotel Group, which in itself has earned a reputation for its ‘A Sense of Place’ based narrative approach to hotel offering and design, but she did so just over ten years ago at the age of 30. Her vision has been central to the growth of the family brand, based on a clear understanding of what a millennial traveller is looking for in the realm of luxury experience, while making sure that the local history and culture of the location is central to every Rosewood property narrative. With an impressive catalogue of both reimagining legendary hotels and creating new ones, the company under her leadership has an ambitious pipeline taking it forward over the next decade which reads like a list of future travel hotspots.

While it is clear that the glass ceiling, albeit a well-designed one, is still in place in the hospitality industry, it is important to recognise the significant steps forward made by these women, along with so many others, towards a truly democratic and equal hospitality scene that is without bias.

Happy International Women’s Day!


Main image credit: Hotel Designs