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  • INDUSTRY INSIGHT: How feature walls have evolved with meaning

    730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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    INDUSTRY INSIGHT: How feature walls have evolved with meaning

    Feature walls have come a long way from being a decorative element that breaks up space in a conventional living room. Brands like River Bespoke, which specialises in the design and manufacture of beautiful, handcrafted and bespoke shelves, are taking the feature wall into a new era. The company’s Managing Director, Katie Haynes, explains how…

    History has a habit of repeating itself and the feature wall doesn’t escape this trend, albeit with some significant differences in accessibility brought about through technological innovation. 18th century aristocracy commissioned elaborate wall coverings at great expense to be proudly presented and admired by peers. Sadly, in recent decades, a feature or accent wall meant nothing more than a few rolls of bold wallpaper stuck on a wall to reinvigorate an interior, these times are long gone, and the feature wall is back with a vengeance.

    Image credit: River Bespoke/the Langham Hotel London

    The hospitality industry has seen seismic changes over the past decade with the whole experience of visiting a hotel or restaurant being just that: all about the “experience”. Consumers are more than ever willing to shell out life enhancing experiences and the industry once guilty of stacking them high and selling them cheap have refocussed on customer experience. Without fail, the whole industry is setting its stall to deliver unique atmosphere and character speaking to customer senses, from visual appearance, feelings, smells and personal interaction. Management ethos and vision have changed to address these challenges whilst interior designers made accountable for translating that dream into reality and one that is understood by clientele.

    First impressions of a hotel are in the lobby area, once a fairly stark space guiding incoming residents to a highlighted reception desk, sound bouncing off the marble floor and walls: clean and functional but not welcoming and certainly not delivering a unique and relaxing experience. So, the journey of the feature wall in hotel design begins here, allowing the lobby to convey management vision and playing with senses. Whilst the reception desk is still a focal point, careful use of ambient lighting, highlights this central point of functionality without screaming “I’m here”. The open space of the lobby carefully and creatively segmented into intimate and social zones each with their own innovative yet linked characters, each space lending itself to different functions or moods. Acoustics are far superior with sounds muted through wall coverings and furniture, delicate fragrances from vaporisers enhance the sensual experience. Visually each space has its own character with guests being drawn to their favourite spaces and migrating to these to meet or work rather than retiring to the quieter confines of a room.

    Image credit: River Bespoke

    The journey continues with guest rooms another domain of the feature wall. Whilst the larger hotel chains may have little option but to pseudo-standardise the “feature” wall, they still deliver an experience far superior than that of a decade ago. Of course, boutique and high-end hotels take a completely different approach with each room having its own theme or personality. Returning customers become attached to individual rooms building brand loyalty whilst one-off visitors target specific rooms appealing to their own tastes.

    Fortunately, the world is at a very different position than the 18th century when lavish wall coverings were hand printed or embroidered. Choices for hotel owners and designers are endless, what was unthinkable due to cost, is at the behest of designers at the click of a mouse.

    Interior designers have a veritable smorgasbord of options to select from. Glass partitions adorned with an array of shelves can be used to delineate one zone from another without losing the feeling of space and openness. Exquisite Venetian plaster walls make a real statement, highly polished plaster or even cement are on trend and create a stunning display when subtly lighted. “Feature walls are not limited to the main walls in a lobby lounge but it’s a smart tool of how to divide the spaces and create a wonderful circulation that takes the guest through the design journey, a story unfold,” explains Bergman Interiors’ Marie Soliman. “We love working with artisan and artists who developed revolutionary products that allow us to dream and create using huge range of surfaces and materials including metals, Timber, glass, marquetry, plaster, plasterboard, glass, fibreglass, concrete and much more, sky is the limit.

    “Art is not a canvas anymore, its everything in a hotel space; it should be a state of the art especially feature walls. It should bring interest to the space that has a powerful allure, impression, textures and infinite details and to tell a story.”

    Image credit: River Bespoke/The Langham Hotel London

    Another designer who is utilising the feature wall is Lauren Elliott of Lauren Elliott Designs. She explains: “In a time where we understand and acknowledge that our feelings and well-being are of upmost importance, the demand on our surroundings and interiors has heightened, especially in hotel design.
    When we visit a hotel we want to experience so much, we want a home from home, but perhaps with an edge, we want to be inspired by an interior that we may not have in our day to day lives at home but have always secretly dreamed of!”

    “There are so many tools to achieve this feeling from lighting, to a clever use of texture but one for sure is with the Feature Wall and believe me when I say the possibilities are absolutely endless. It could be a full panelled wall of aged mirrors, a fully shelved wall displaying curiosities, a simple design with a singular piece of abstract art, the list literally goes on. It speaks volumes without needing words, it can be the thing that people tell all their friends about or provide a moment for someone to be still and ponder over their thoughts.  And so my point being is that the Feature Wall should never be over-looked and instead seen as an opportunity.”

    Murals have become the new wallpaper; no longer does a mural need to be an artwork taking days, weeks or months, delivery is next day with advent of computer-generated images and one-off large-scale printing.

    Our list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning wall panels: from reclaimed timber, perfectly aligned and symmetrical oak cladding to molten metal spayed textured panels. Interior designers have all the tools necessary to make each experience personal and truly unique. 

    River Bespoke is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here. And, if you are interested in also benefitting from this three-month editorial package, please email Katy Phillips by clicking here.

    Main image credit: River Bespoke

    Hamish Kilburn / 20.05.2020

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