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Meet Up London: 2 weeks to go!

800 418 Hamish Kilburn

In two weeks time, on March 28, Hotel Designs will host Meet Up London at Minotti London… 

There are just two weeks until the industry’s leaders will gather at Meet Up London. The event, which takes place on March 28 at Minotti London’s showroom will be attended by leading designers, architects, hoteliers and key-industry suppliers.

As well as providing the perfect networking stage for professionals who are working on the hotel design scene, the event will also pay special attention to young designers as it will unveil Hotel Designs’ 30 Under 30 (the shortlist can be accessed here).

The latest names to the guest list include designers, directors and 30 Under 30 shortlisted finalists from the likes of ARA Design, Denis Irvine Studio and Occa Design, as well as the general manager of The Beaumont London.

They will join designers and directors from leading studios such as Richmond InternationalHBA LondonGenslerJestico + WhilesGoddard LittlefairProject Orange and WATG who are among the names that are also confirmed to attend.

How to attend Meet Up London 

If you are an interior designer, architect, operator or hotelier and would like to attend Meet Up London, click here to book your place.

If you are a supplier to the hospitality industry looking to attend the event, contact Zoe Guerrier on 01992 374059 or on – or click here to book your place.

For more information about becoming a Hotel Designs Meet Up sponsor, contact Zoe Guerrier on 01992 374059 or email

Exclusive style partner: Minotti London

Exclusive headline partner: Hamilton Litestat

Event partner: Tarkett

Gifting Partner: Aslotel

The Brit List 2018: architect profiles

676 433 Hamish Kilburn

In last few weeks, Hotel Designs has profiled the 75 finalists who made it onto the Hotel Designs Brit List 2018. We conclude our profiling by listing our winning architects in alphabetical order…

This year’s The Brit List 2018 concluded on November 22, when leading designers, hoteliers and architects gathered at BEAT London to find out which of them made it on to this year’s The Brit List 2018. The hundreds of nominees and entries were whittled down by the event’s five judges, who were:

  • Gilly Craft, President of the British Institute of Interior Design
  • Charles Leon, founder of Leon Black Architecture and Interior Design
  • Gerri Gallagher, former associate editor, Tatler
  • Lysbeth Fox, founder and director of Fox PR
  • Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs

Top architects

Martin Pease – WATG London

Having recently completed Shanghai’s very first Bellagio hotel, WATG are at the top of the architectural food chain in international hotel design. Recently appointed to lead the architecture firm into the future is Martin Pease.

With more than 25 years’ architectural experience, which spans across the world, Pease was recently interviewed by Hotel Designs, where the publication learned of his love of drawing and seeing a project come to life. As the new Managing Director of the London studio, his leadership style stands out as exceptional and enables him to be involved in all aspects of the business.

Nathalie Rozencwajg – NAME Architecture

Commended with the Emerging Woman Architect of the Year accolade by The Architects’ Journal, Nathalie Rozencwaijg, who co-founded RARE Architecture with Michel da Costa Gonclaves, brings a wealth of experience of overseas associations and collaborative teamwork.

As the founder of NAME Architecture, Rozencwaig’s portfolio includes London’s Town Hall Hotel, where the team worked to create a sensitively contemporary design with the aim to preserve the original features while integrating modern inserts such as a new roof extension.

Georgia Stevenson – SHH Architects & Interior Design 

Georgia Stevenson has vast interdisciplinary design expertise, enabling her to lead some of the practice’s landmark hotel projects such as The Trafalgar St. James London and The Mayfair Hotel.

Stevenson is known for her flexibility and co-operative style, and her ability to build exceptional relationships with clients, consultants and project teams alike.

Phil Jaffa – Scape Design Associates

Phil Jaffa has created some of the finest landmark projects in the hospitality industry.

His company, Scape Design Associates, claims to be the only European based landscape architectural practice which specialises in the design and detailing of landscapes and external environments for the hospitality and luxury lifestyle markets.

The firm leads with passion, and Jaffa is not afraid to participate debates in design. The aim of the company is to raise the bar in world-class landscapes in order to create a new kind of luxury.

Richard Hywel Evans – Studio RHE

Having overseen more than 50 luxury international projects, Richard Hywel Evans built his global reputation on the solid design and delivery of bold innovative projects.

Since founding Studio RHE in 1997, Evans’ research has been published in the RIBA Journal and has also contributed to publications such as The Times, The Guardian, Finacial Times and the BBC.

The Brit List 2018: Architect profiles

676 433 Hamish Kilburn

In the coming weeks, Hotel Designs will be profiling the 75 finalists in the Hotel Designs Brit List 2018. We continue with profiling our winning architects in alphabetical order…

This year’s The Brit List 2018 concluded on November 22, when leading designers, hoteliers and architects gathered at BEAT London to find out which of them made it on to this year’s The Brit List 2018. The hundreds of nominees and entries were whittled down by the event’s five judges, who were:

  • Gilly Craft, President of the British Institute of Interior Design
  • Charles Leon, founder of Leon Black Architecture and Interior Design
  • Gerri Gallagher, former associate editor, Tatler
  • Lysbeth Fox, founder and director of Fox PR
  • Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs

Top architects

Jonathan Manser – The Manser Practice

For Jonathan Manser, design is in the blood as both his father and sister are both architects and his mother is an architectural journalist.

With more than 30 years’ experience in the design and management of large-scale commercial and residential projects, Manser has led projects such as Heathrow Hilton Terminal 4, Artigiano and The Great Eastern Hotel.

Julian Dickens – Jestico + Whiles

Julian Dickens brings a wealth of experience from various sectors, with built projects including the £30m Aloft hotel in London docklands, £13m Timber Wharf housing in the London Borough of Hackney and two state-of-the-art data centre campuses in northern Europe.

Dickens has been a visiting tutor at London Metropolitan University and has been invited to lecture at various universities and conferences across the UK and in Australia.

Liz Pickard – Consarc Architects

The practice has been led by Liz Pickard for more than 20 years. Pickard is an accredited RIBA Client Adviser.

Since being awarded a European Laureate as one of the best emerging European architects in 2010, Pickard has completed projects including the five-star hotel, The Lowry Hotel, The Savoy and The Oriental Club, demonstrating that she is a leading architect in her field.

Luke Fox – Foster + Partners 

The Murray, Hong Kong’s newest luxury hotel has now fully opened to the public. Located the heart of Hong Kong, with panoramic views of The Peak and the gardens to the south, this major transformation of a listed government office building reinvents this unique urban quarter – stitching together the urban fabric by linking the large green spaces flanking the site to the east and west.

Luke Fox, Head of Studio, Foster + Partners London said: “Our design for The Murray creates a dialogue between the old and the new – giving the building a new lease of life and a renewed purpose, with a unique sense of character that is embedded within the fabric of the building.”

Mark Bruce – EPR Archtiects

Heading up the hotels and hospitality team, qualified RIBA architect Mark Bruce has extensive experience across the hotel sector including working on milestone projects such as The Ned, Hoxton Hotel Waterloo and Hotel Russel among others.

In Conversation With: Yasmine Mahmoudieh, the interior designer with an architect’s brilliant mind

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From architect to interior designer and back again, Yasmine Mahmoudieh is an undeniable icon in international hotel design. Editor of Hotel Designs, Hamish Kilburn, joins Mamoudieh to understand the need for versatility on the modern hotel design stage… 

Yasmine Mahmoudieh, to me, is a woman of multiple worlds – and that’s not just because she can speak no less than six languages. While she defiantly marks her territory as one of the UK’s leading hotel design architects, she is also churning up a creative swirl in the interior design industry. Thinking like an architect, to carve out beautiful narratives in surfaces, furniture and lighting, has helped Mahmoudieh to establish innovative interior spaces that somewhat echo what the future of hotel design will look like. The most recent example of this was seen in her Sleep Set in collaboration with Penguin Books that was exclusively exhibited at Sleep + Eat 2018.

After the noise of the show softened, I caught up with the one and only Mahmoudieh to understand how that unique pairing all came together, what it means for her to be recognised as a Brit List 2018 winner and where her focus for the future is.

Mahmoudieh's Sleep + Eat Set

Image caption: Mahmoudieh’s Sleep + Eat Set

“When you think about it, a hotel is like a mini city; there’s a mix of public and private areas that have to function and work together,” she says as we begin discussing why there is so much accurate emphasis on conceiving the hotel of the future. “And just like a city, a hotel only has so much space, so you have to plan accordingly by using clever techniques along the way.” I agree with Mahmoudieh that a city – like a hotel – is only as interesting as what it is that it shelters. “I’m a creative,” she claims proudly. “I like to design these mini cities to become something new, something that the world has never seen before that goes far deeper than beautiful wallpaper that surrounds and comfy bed.”

With this year’s Sleep + Eat theme very much focusing around collaboration outside of hotel design, Mahmoudieh was tasked to create a suite that reflected, in some way, the much-adored Penguin Books. With just six months to imagine, draw and build, the challenge was on. “I decided to opt away from the obvious, which would be to incorporate the Penguins branding throughout the suite,” she explains. “Instead, I decided to take inspiration from three books for three areas of the suite. A zen space of tranquility awaits in the bathroom area with influences from Elizabeth von Arnim’s “Elizabeth and her German Garden”. The bedroom area will remind visitors of Plato’s ‘The Symposio’ of origin and pure love. Meanwhile, the lounge and workspace area will dwell deeper into philosophy and wisdom through the works of Rumi.”

Image caption: The bedroom in Mahmoudieh’s Sleep Set 2018

One can’t help but think that, for Mahmoudieh, designing new spaces is almost like a puzzle where more often than not, the missing piece is technology struggling to keep up with her ideas. “The patterned sound that I used within my Sleep Set really took the whole ambiance further, and for that reason I believe that we will see more of this in hotel design,” she explains. “The sound came from inside, travelled along the walls and was programmable. The fact that you can personalise the sound makes it totally relevant to the modern traveller of today, or tomorrow.” For Mahmoudieh, technology that works has to be invisible and more importantly, easy to use.

“Lighting should never be from the top.” – Yasmine Mahmoudieh

As well as constantly pushing open technology’s trap door, Mahmoudieh also looks at ecological materials within her projects. “The paper and copper yarn form Woodnotes that I used in the curtain of my Sleep Set that hung around the bed not only used naturally sourced material but it also created subtle boundaries between private and public areas of the suite.”

Image credit: Paper and copper yarn form Woodnotes

Opting for using the simple, effective products from Astro Lighting, Mahmoudieh believes that many designers are getting it wrong when it comes to lighting the bathroom. “Lighting should never be from the top,” she says as I raise an eyebrow. “Instead it should come from the front, otherwise the guest will not be able to escape from the shadows on their face.” In Mahmoudieh’ s eyes, a hotel bathroom’s lighting should reflect an actors’ dressing room.

Lighting in the bathroom of Mahmoudieh's Sleep + Eat Set

Image caption: Lighting in the bathroom of Mahmoudieh’s Sleep + Eat Set

Quick-fire round:

Hamish Kilburn: What’s your favourite colour?
Yasmine Mahmoudieh: For some time, it has been a natural mud colour

HK: What’s your number-one travel item you cannot board a plane without?
YM: My phone, for sure

HK: What’s a trend that has inspired you this year?
YM: Calling on other industries to use eco materials and sustainability

HK: Where is next on your travel bucket list?
YM: Tulum in Mexico

I have heard on the grapevine that Mahmoudieh has her eye on yet another world (apparently for this visionary, interior design and architecture isn’t enough) that she is considering entering the hospitality world to become a hotel owner. Starting from scratch, I would expect nothing less, Mahmoudieh’s idea is to create a new kind of country house hotel retreat in England. “It’s true, I have been drawing this up as a concept that is going to be an architecturally driven, warming English country farmhouse,” she says clearly keeping some pieces of the puzzle close to her chest.


I’m inspired massively by Mahmoudieh’s for not only her enthusiasm for innovative design, but also her fearless approach to diving into new sectors in order to constantly push international hotel design forward. We end our delightful time together with a quote that she she uses as her mantra, which she first heard from her university mentor: “Don’t do something different if it’s not better.” And all of a sudden,  everything that Mahmoudieh has spoken about  makes that much more sense, and I totally share her drive and spirit that makes her the architect, designer – and soon-to-be hotelier – that she is today.

Sleep Set Suppliers: 

Artisan Collective
Designers Guild
Sun Studio London
Midland Stone Centre
Karndean Design Flooring
JD Interior Solutions
Astro Lighting
Northern Lights

Main image credit: Yasmine Mahmoudieh

The Brit List 2018: Five places remain

Hamish Kilburn

Just five places remain for The Brit List 2018, taking place tomorrow at BEAT London…

There are just five places left to be claimed for The Brit List 2018.

With just one day remaining until The Brit List 2018 is unveiled – and the winners of the six newly launched events are announced – time for designers, hoteliers, architects and key-industry suppliers to purchase their tickets to meet up with Britain’s leading influencers in international hotel design is running out.

Hamilton Litestat is confirmed to switch on The Brit List 2018 to unveil the top 75 interior designers, hoteliers and architects operating in Britain today. Following this, the winners of The Brit List’s newly launched awards will also be crowned. The categories are:

  • Inspiration in Design – Interior Designer of the Year (Award Sponsor: Tarkett Flooring)
  • Inspiration in Design – Hotelier of the Year
  • Inspiration in Design – Architect of the Year
  • Inspiration in Design – Innovative use of Technology (Award Sponsor: DLAppTapp)
  • The Eco Award
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Hotel Industry

Studio directors, managing directors and general managers from companies such as HBA LondonGA DesignRPW DesignWATGGoddard LittlefairEPR ArchitectsBespoke HotelsGleneaglesRosewood Hotels and Hotel Gotham are all among those who have confirmed their attendance at The Brit List 2018.

The Past President of the British Institute Interior Design (BIID) and co-founder of Leon Black Architecture and Interior Design, Charles Leon, will speak on Britain’s position in international hotel design and hospitality post-Brexit. Leon, who was one of the five judges for The Brit List 2018 and the awards, said ahead of the awards: “I am delighted to have been asked to speak at The Brit List 2018. Two of the UK’s major contributions to why Britain holds its place as a major international hub has always been its quirky education system and its ability to send out into the world innovative thinkers, not just in design and the arts, but in science, technology and research too. If we don’t teach people how to think, rather than what to think, our future is doomed – and I am excited to speak about this and the future of British hotel design and architecture on the night.”

In addition to Leon’s speakership, guests will also enjoy a talk by lighting expert to the stars, Moritz Waldemeyer. The experimental lighting expert, who exhibited a tactile personalised lighting display at London Design Festival this year, will speak to the audience on how hotel lighting has changed in recent years how lighting technology is allowing for more creative interiors.

Event timings: 6.30 p.m. – 10.30 p.m.

6.30 p.m. Welcome drinks are served
7.00 p.m. Welcome speech from Hotel Designs Editor, Hamish Kilburn, and The Brit List 2018 winners unveiled
7.15 p.m. Canapés are served
7.15 p.m. Headline speaker, Charles Leon, Leon Black Interior Architecture addresses the Brit List 2018 – Britain’s position in international hotel design and hospitality post-Brexit
7.30 p.m. Awards presentation commences
8.00 p.m. Headline speaker, Moritz Waldemeyer, Studio Moritz Waldemeyer addresses The Brit List 2018 – Hotel lighting; how it has changed in recent times and how is lighting technology allowing for more creative interiors
8.15 p.m. Celebrations and networking

Directions to BEAT London:

Address: 48 Margaret St, Marylebone, London W1W 8SE
Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus

BRIT LIST 2018 Industry Partner: British Institute of Interior Design

BRIT LIST 2018 Event Sponsor: Hamilton Litestat

BRIT LIST 2018 Supporting Partner: Studio Moritz Waldemeyer

BRIT LIST 2018 Award Sponsor: Inspiration in Design – Interior Designer of the Year: Tarkett

Tarkett Logo

The Brit List 2018 Innovation In Technology Award Sponsor: DLAppTap

New supporting partner announced for The Brit List 2018

Hamish Kilburn

Hotel Designs welcomes Studio Moritz Waldemeyer as a supporting partner to The Brit List 2018 which takes place on November 22 at BEAT London…

As the industry prepares to celebrate the leading British influencers in hotel design, Hotel Designs is proud to welcome the creative lighting experts Studio Moritz Waldemeyer as a supporting partner of The Brit List 2018.

The company, which is owned by internationally renowned lighting artist Moritz Waldemeyer who recently exhibited an immersive installation at this year’s London Design Festival, occupies a diverse range of creative spaces, from art and product design through to fashion and entertainment. Supporting Hotel Designs’ nationwide search to unveil the best of British interior designers, hoteliers and architects, Waldemeyer himself will speak at the event on hotel lighting and how it has changed in recent times, making room for more creative interiors.

“We are thrilled to be involved in The Brit List 2018 and believe the concept of the event – finding the best designers, hoteliers and architects in Britain today – aligns itself very nicely with our creativity,” he said on becoming a supporting partner. “We set out to define a completely new category of LED lighting that is playful, emotional, atmospheric and elegant, always innovative and always low power and low impact on the environment. We create the perfect balance of beautifully crafted objects with a sprinkling of tech and use inspiration from the past to re-invent the future.”

The news of Studio Moritz Waldemeyer becoming a supporting partner follows the news that the British Institute of Interior Design is this year’s industry partner for the event.

How to attend this year’s Brit List

If you are a supplier to the hospitality industry looking to meet the top hoteliers, interior designers and hoteliers at The Brit List, click here to book your place.

If you are a delegate to the hospitality industry (architect, designer or hotelier) and would like to attend The Brit List 2018, click here to book your place.

To discuss the various sponsorship packages available, please contact Katy Phillips on +44(0)1992 374050


Meet Up North: Limited spaces available

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Manchester’s King Street Townhouse will be the stage of the inaugural Meet Up North…

Taking place in Manchester’s King Street Townhouse on July 19, the inaugural Meet Up North has very limited spaces available for suppliers, architects, hoteliers and designers. Launched with the aim to bridge the gap between all markets in our industry, the exclusive networking concept of Meet Up has traditionally been held in London, and will this summer be brought up North for the first time.

Sponsored by Mara Corona, which produces some of Italy’s finest ceramics, the event is an opportunity for the industry to gather and discuss key topics. “We have designed Meet Up North around the busy working lives of all professionals working in our industry,” explains Hamish Kilburn, editor of Hotel Designs, ahead of the event. “Networking is a long-term investment in both your personal and professional life. Meet Up North a chance for all sectors of our industry to come together, network and discuss key challenges and topics in the hope of finding creative solutions.”

Meet Up North will commence with an official welcome from Kilburn, who will briefly talk about the history of Meet Up, it’s purpose and why this year it’s being brought up to Manchester.

Following this will be the award-winning Principal of Richmond International Fiona Thompson, who will speak the audience about past projects, future predictions and the significance of worthy collaborations.

Completing the line-up of speakers will be the headline sponsor of the event, Marca Corona, which will provide the audience with an in-depth industry insight and will be available to answer questions after.

The evening will then naturally continue with all the ingredients for a successful networking recipe. Canapés and complimentary drinks will be served on the balcony of one of Manchester’s most talked about hotels.

How to confirm your place

If you are a hotelier, architect, designer or supplier and would like to also benefit from the event, there are very limited spaces available.

If you are a supplier, click here to book your place.

If you are hotelier, interior designer or architect, click here to secure your place.

Main image credit: Eclectic Hotels


Large open-plan lobby

Grand Central Hotel Belfast prepares to open

800 600 Hamish Kilburn

Northern Ireland’s largest hotel in Belfast will shelter 300 rooms as well as the highest bar in Ireland…

Hastings Hotels has announced that it will open its seventh property on June 18, 2018. The Grand Central Hotel, Northern Ireland’s largest hotel, will open following a £53M investment into Belfast’s Grand Central.

Belfast-based RPP architects, which is also working to redesign and modernise Belfast Harbour, was responsible for transforming Winsdor House into the new Grand Central Hotel. Briefed by Hastings Hotels to create a larger hotel that can cope comfortably with the growing demand of business travellers in the area, the award-winning architects have seamlessly added an additional 104 guestrooms bringing the total more than 300.

The 300 luxurious guestrooms, including 10 suites, have been designed for absolute comfort and relaxation. With room to breathe and boasting spectacular views over the glittering city, each room has been lovingly created as an oasis of calm – blended with touchable, tactile fabrics and state-of-the-art finishes.

The Observatory on the 23rd floor is what the hotel regards to as its jewel. The highest bar in Ireland offers unparalleled high-definition views of Belfast and beyond, while the decadent décor creates an intimate setting.

Light, contemporary bar with accents of gold in the finishes

Hastings Hotels, which now has seven hotels in its portfolios in Northern Ireland, describes the new Grand Central Hotel as being “more than a hotel. It’s an ode to a city. Standing tall in Bedford Street, [the hotel] fuses glamour and grandeur with a unique Belfast spirit.”

As the city is seen more and more as a ‘must-see business destination in 2018’, the hotel has announced that its first guests to be welcomed in will be a group of international delegates. The business men and women will attend the prestigious Hosts Global Forum, an influential global Meetings and Incentive Travel trade event. Adding to the significance of the occasion, this is the first time the Forum has ever been hosted in Europe, highlighting the allure of Northern Ireland as well as the hotel to business travellers.

Managing director of Hastings Hotels, Julie Hastings said: “We are incredibly excited by the Grand Central Hotel’s opening in June and we are confident it will be incredibly enticing for business travellers and leisure travellers alike. The hotel is now the largest in Northern Ireland and is the ideal base for travellers wanting to experience and explore the beautiful city of Belfast. We are delighted to be hosting some of the world’s major meetings and incentive travel buyers as our firsts guests, who will be attending the prestigious Hosts Global Forum.  We are absolutely thrilled to have secured this opportunity in partnership with Tourism Northern Ireland and Moloney & Kelly and have invested heavily to win it for Belfast & Northern Ireland. Not only will this event showcase Belfast and Northern Ireland on a worldwide level, but it will introduce The Grand Central Hotel as the perfect venue to host prestigious events and international business travellers.”

The new branding for the hotel will incorporate the Seahorse which is part of Belfast’s Coat of Arms and celebrates the City’s Maritime history. Old photographs from the glory days of the Grand Central show the Seahorse motif feature on menus and plates. This new interpretation of the classic Belfast emblem is a permanent reminder of the new Grand Central’s connection with its elegant past.

Large suite with soft interiors

Top 5 stories of the week

800 533 Hamish Kilburn

Here are our top five stories of the week…

1. Seven minutes with lighting experts William and Robert Chelsom
William and Robert Chelsom
Following the recently launched Edition 26, Hotel Designs editor Hamish Kilburn caught up the father-and-son duo Robert and William Chelsom to understand how the firm is planning to light up the world, one hotel at a time…

2. Editor’s round-up of Clerkenwell Design Week 

Crowd outside Brintons exhibition stand on St John's Square

Image credit: Sophie Mutevelian

It’s that time again, designers and architects descend on London’s quirky neighbourhood… Hamish Kilburn was there and has to story…

3. The Edition will open next month with ‘new-generation style’

Exterior shot of hotel on pristine beach
With Edition going through a serious brand extension its no wonder why Ian Schrager’s unique creative edge is a hot topic at the moment… This will be the brand’s second of eight openings in 2018…

4. The Murray Hotel, Hong Kong, opens contemporary interiors in 1970s building

Fosters + Partners have not held back with this project. Located in between Hong Kong Park and the Botanical Gardens, The Murray Hotel opens and its interiors “breathe new life into the classic Hong Kong building,” says Luke Fox, senior executive partner and head of studio…

5. Hotel Café Royal opens new lobby designed by Piero Lissoni
Large chandelier takes centre stage in the hotel's lobby
Just metres from London’s Piccadilly Circus, Hotel Café Royal unveils its new lobby…

Bill Bensley, designer of sustainable resorts: “Luxury is dead”

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The first thing visitors see on Bill Bensley’s website is the word disruption in block caps. The word is scrawled over a photograph of two people in a taxidermy shop. One is surreptitiously singing into a vintage microphone, while the other looks on, anguished, and a dog looks away. Welcome to the mad design world of Bill Bensley, designer of luxury resorts, hotels, spas and, as his website exclaims, “sometimes even palaces”.

Bensley’s daring, innovative projects span the farthest corners of South East Asia, from Cambodia to Phuket, via a converted university in Vietnam, and a Malaysian Sultan’s royal palace. The designer resides in Bangkok and is infectiously wacky. Full of passion about conservation and the death of luxury, he is a dazzling conversationalist.

Bensley uses his wiry mind to reach new horizons in sustainable luxury. He believes “luxury is dead”, but he’s being provocative, because his environmentally and socially conscious escapes, while supporting and celebrating local communities, are also stunning, brimming with high design.

Bill’s latest project, Shinta Mani Wild, is opening later in 2018 (keep an eye on the website for dates). It will be a private nature sanctuary within one of Cambodia’s oldest wild parks. It is one of the last Cambodian habitats for bears, elephants, gibbons and tigers. Bill’s radical “luxury camp experience” occupies a previously unprotected spot of natural importance, and guests who go there will help fund the environment, whilst living in luxury tents. Waterfalls line the unchartered waters, and guests go out on exploratory trips in boats designed by Bill.

But despite the accolades that have pouring in over the years, Bill still admits his biggest fear is that “no one will come” as he prepares for the opening of his immersive wildlife resort experience.

Bill Bensley gave Hotel Designs his pearls of wisdom.

If I had to describe my personality in three words, I’d say Serious, Inquisitive and Wacky. People think interior designers are all self-important prima donnas! People also think interior design is easy to do…

Honestly i believe that luxury is dead. Our guests look to travel for a unique experience, and we know that environmental and societal sustainability is a growing part of that experience.

My biggest sustainability challenge is keeping forests intact. People understand what sustainability means now, and ‘green washers’ are looked down upon, and sustainability is taking new forms that last longer.

Talking to locals is imperative. We have a team that works in the communities we build in, who know the village heads and a good many of the families in the villages where we work. Usually we start with the government’s assessment of poor families that is split into category 1 and 2, with people in category one being the most at risk. Once we get this list, we go and speak with families about their needs and challenges and determine how best to support them.

Our new Cambodian project Shinta Mani is hard-wired into the local community. Where to start?  We have had a free hotel school for underprivileged young adults for the past 15 years AND dental services for kids, and wells, better foods, water filters… We have a hospitality training school, and we also support public schools in a variety of ways, and support poor students with scholarships to support their studies.

We work with Global Dental Relief to bring dental care to poor rural school children. Last year we helped over 2,800 students receive dental care and education. We usually run 3 clinics a year each for about 1 month.

We’ve also built 199 private homes. Along with 1,450 water wells, and we help families when emergency food aid, as well as providing no interest loans for people wanting to start their own business, or to students wanting to complete their university studies. So far, we have helped to start 60 family run businesses.

An ideal day spent at Shinta Mani…. Would be to go into the villages and see just how Cambodians really live, and perhaps do something to help. We are opening up a huge part of Cambodia that even the most well traveled has never seen. And it is SPECTACULAR.

The three essential ingredients for a hotel opening are…  An untold story, an original design and superb associates.

I’m most proud of… The mural of King Jayavarman, a Khmer King who reigned from 1181 to 1218, at the Shinta Mani Angkor Bensley Collection. We scaled his robe up by 100 times. The statement feature spans the courtyard walls from inside to outside. That crazy idea really worked out well.

The biggest mistake I have made in my career so far was… Building a yellow submarine in a swimming pool at a golf club in Singapore in 1985… Atrocious!

Every morning I wake up with…  One of my Jack Russels licking my face, wanting to go for a run.

I unwind every by… Running through fields and streams with my four dogs.

Shinta Mani Wild opens later this year. Bill Bensley is also currently working on the Rosewood Luang Prabang, Capella Ubud, and Yet Tu In in Veitnam

Jean-Michel Gathy shares his thoughts on hotel design

Project Spotlight: Jean-Michel Gathy on leading hotel architecture trends

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Master architect Jean-Michel Gathy is the visionary behind some of the world’s most iconic luxury hotels, resorts and landmarks from the Marina Bay Sands swimming pool in Singapore, Cheval Blanc Randheli by LVMH in the Maldives, The Chedi Muscat in Oman, The Setai Miami to many of the most recognised Aman Resorts around the world.

Specialising in luxury hospitality design, interiors and landscape for over 40 years, Jean-Michel Gathy is always one step ahead of the design curve, forging new design trends and inspiring the world with his passion in creating innovative designs which surpass expectations and the imagination.

Jean-Michel Gathy’s “must have” architecture predictions for 2016 and beyond are centred on the themes of romantic resorts, an abundance of pools and water features, sustainability, and always incorporating local cultural elements and traditions.

His signature designs have inspired many leading architectural works which are showcased in a list of some of the most recognised hotels and resorts including the One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives, St. Regis Lhasa, Tibet, Viceroy Snowmass, Aspen Colorado, Park Hyatt Sanya Sunny Bay, Sanya, The Chedi Andermatt, Switzerland, Aman Canal Grande, Venice, Amanwana, Moyo Island Indonesia and Aman Summer Palace in Beijing.

Romantic Resort Design
Jean-Michel Gathy pioneers the design of romantic wraparound outdoor decks with netted hammocks suspended over water at the One&Only Reethi Rah and oversized bathrooms at The Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives, featuring free standing bathtubs and outdoor showers, also referred to as “Naughty Bathrooms”. He is an expert for inventing romantic designs for couples to be intimate yet comfortable. Gathy shared, “I believe that the perfect hotel in the Maldives is a hotel where you are extremely comfortable with your spouse or partner. A Maldivian hotel needs to encourage an environment of love and life, a place for emotion and togetherness.”

One&Only Reethi Rah

One&Only Reethi Rah

Cheval Blanc Randheli

Cheval Blanc Randheli

Pools and Water Features
Inspired by water, Jean-Michel Gathy redefines hotel swimming pools creating water features as incredible centerpieces. From the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands overlooking Singapore’s skyscrapers to the Golden Energy pool at The St. Regis Lhasa in Tibet intricately lined with thousands of tiles plated in 24 carat gold comfortably heated between 28 to 32 degrees Celsius.

Jean-Michel Gathy further shared, “I’m obsessed with water. The reason I like water in hotel designs is that it’s so peaceful and relaxing. Think about how you feel when you’re by a lake or a river – you feel calmer” explained Gathy. “Well that’s why I try to incorporate water into all my designs. It soothes the mind. For me, a hotel without water is boring.”

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands

Incorporating the natural environment and indigenous Aspen culture, Jean-Michel Gathy integrates fire, earth, wood and stone elements to the design of the Viceroy Snowmass. All materials used are LEED classified ensuring that local materials were maximised in the construction phase to minimise ongoing energy usage to support sustainability.

The design inspiration behind The Chedi Andermatt by GHM is balanced between Swiss heritage and a backdrop of awe-inspiring nature. The resort is sustainably designed and executed, using locally sourced materials. “Sustainability is one of the major considerations. Each country has different regulations and codes on environmental impact and it is my job to make sure that the project meets the sustainable requirements.” Gathy shared.

Viceroy Snowmass

Viceroy Snowmass

Local Cultural Elements
Having a passion for travel and geography as a child, Jean-Michel Gathy harmonises the local and cultural elements of the destination to his designs. At the recently opened Park Hyatt Sunny Bay, Jean-Michel Gathy designed the Resort to balance the energies of feng shui between the sea “yin” and the surrounding mountains “yang”. Reflecting the Summer Palace’s imperial style, the Aman Summer Palace pays tribute to the Ming Dynasty, traditional touches are evident in both design and décor including period-style furniture, lanterns, traditional fabrics and bamboo blinds.

Park Hyatt Sunny Bay

Park Hyatt Sunny Bay

Whereas the artfully restored, Aman Canal Grande is set in the regal world of the 16th century Palazzo Papadopoli, the textures of the original historical features – ornate cornicing, carved marble, intricate murals and wood panelling blend alongside the modern conveniences, cutting-edge design and contemporary décor.

“I’m always inspired by the location of my projects; I like to honour both the landscape and local tradition. As palaces and hotels, Venice and China couldn’t be more different, yet I set out to achieve a similar aesthetic – to inject a contemporary haven within a culturally rich environment, one that offers guests an authentic yet dramatic experience,” comments Jean-Michel Gathy.

Aman Canal Grande

Aman Canal Grande

Although many designs pioneered by Jean-Michel Gathy are being adopted and mimicked by other hotels, Gathy shared that he is not concerned, he comments that “Making a beautiful hotel is about orchestrating a dance between the landscape, the architecture and the interiors. There’s this wonderful chemistry when it finally works.”

Jean-Michel Gathy and his team at Denniston Architects are currently working on over forty projects around the world, including the upcoming Mandarin Oriental and Jumeirah in Bali and The Andaz Sanya.

Visit for more information on Denniston Architects or Principal Designer Jean-Michel Gathy