Hotel Designs editor Hamish Kilburn sits down with Constantina Tsoutsikou to discuss emerging trends, common pitfalls and future projects…
“We would never design a hotel that felt out of place,” leaks a confident and assured spark in Constantina Tsoutsikou, creative director of HBA London.
I first met the now award-winning designer at Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol at the backend of 2015, just days ahead of its opening. The hotel, which in my opinion took airport hotel design to new and exciting heights, couldn’t have felt more in place if it had tried. I mean that literally as well as laterally. The shape of the furniture in the lobby, for example, referenced Amsterdam from an aerial point of view, while a glass ceiling captured the occasional plane flying in overhead.
Three years on from completing the striking Dutch hotel, things around us have changed – politics, trends, technology, even job descriptions. Other elements, though, such as Constantina’s naturally warm presence and beaming personality remain very much the same. I caught up with the now Creative Director in HBA London’s Headquarters on the stylish end of Westbourne Grove.
Hamish Kilburn: What is the first thing you consider when presented with a new project?
Constantina Tsoutsikou: Looking at where the hotel is in the world is always my first move. We are blessed with amazing projects that span continents and are very diverse. As such, location and culture set the framework for my narrative, from the very start.
HK: Have you got any tips for designing a modern interior in a heritage property?
CT: I believe in a ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to designing in period buildings. In this context, the designer becomes more of a curator, to make these properties, steeped in history, relevant and fresh again. I love studying the architecture and find inspiration and charm in the details, from panelling proportions down to staircase details and railings.
In a boutique hotel project in Zagreb, opening soon, we have used an art nouveau relief in the ceiling, which directly relates to the style of when the property was built. I personally love working on heritage spaces because there are so many opportunities as well as limitations. This week I was in Munich to be briefed by the heritage and preservation expert who advises on what we can and can’t do to a listed building we are turning into a luxury hotel. It was fascinating as well as educative.
HK: You have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to spotting emerging trends. What are you seeing at the moment?
CT: Trends are fun and really interesting to spot. I consider ourselves trend makers however, as we work so much in advance, designing happens somewhere around two-three years before a project opens. You can see how important it is for our work to endure the test of time. As a creative director, I spend a lot of time in the year travelling, looking at different innovative industries and art collaborations. My eyes are always open to what is happening around me and by nature am constantly curious!
I think the notion of luxury is becoming less formal and more relaxed. Spaces are becoming warmer and more intimate. And even though I don’t advocate trends, I admit that we use, and have been for some time, many warm metals for example. In a way it has been an enduring trend. The colour gold used to be seen an illustrious statement, whereas now we use gold as a satin or brushed finish in many tonal variations, down to brown hues and sometimes also mixed with the more raw hammered, darkened irons. A nice example of this mix you can see in the guest bathrooms of the Orient in Jerusalem, where been copper and dark bronze blend nicely with each other.
HK: Can you give our readers a little insight on the future projects you are working on?
I am very excited about our upcoming opening of a heritage hotel in Zagreb, in late 2018 as well as the St. Regis, the Palm, Dubai which will become one of the region’s flagship hotels. With many more new build hotels as well as refurbishment projects currently on the boards, it is a very busy and exciting time for us at HBA London’s studio. You’ll be finding more about what we are up to very soon!
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