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Editor’s Letter

Editor Checks In: the price tag eliminating diversity in design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: the price tag eliminating diversity in design

An independent investigation on diversity in design, carried out by Hotel Designs, has highlighted the potentially ‘unethical’ lengths that studios are willing to go to in order to win projects on the international hotel design scene. Editor Hamish Kilburn writes…

Traditionally – as well as recently – in the international hotel design and hospitality arena, the word ‘unethical’ and the phrase ‘dirty money’ was targeted largely towards the abusers of power; a handful of hotel owners, for example, have used money laundering to fund ostentatious and, quite frankly, outrageous development projects in luxury addresses.

However, it turns out that even some design firms have also been sheltering their fair share of unethical methods when it comes to business development, and I believe it is having a dramatic impact on equality within the industry – something that I was once proud of, but as I scratch beneath the surface, I am beginning to realise that we are at risk of this being nothing but a façade.

In new supporting evidence, there have been an increased number of design firms that have been exposed of deliberately undervaluing the proposed cost of a project in what has been described as “a desperate bid” to win the client’s commission. And especially in these challenging times that lie ahead, it is apparent that the scales are no longer level and the playing field is no longer fair.

“These allegations could drastically disrupt the design industry’s performance, as well as put several question marks on how ethical and diverse the industry is becoming.” – Hamish Kilburn, editor, Hotel Designs.

It is understood that for some design firms, certain prestigious projects – or more accurately all projects won during these unstable economic times – are considered more valuable within a portfolio now that we are are heading into a recession. As a result, firms are strategically pitching to clients with a significantly lower cost on the table – eliminating any possibility to make a profit – in order to drastically further the chances of winning the account.

One anonymous business development manager from a design studio, who Hotel Designs spoke to, described how he/she lost a commission for a recent project after a competitor allegedly undervalued the development by roughly 80 per cent to what he/she believed the project should achieve in design fees.

Furthermore, another anonymous leading designer reached out to Hotel Designs with a claim that he/she has witnessed projects being won by competitors at up to 75 per cent lower than what he/she believed was a reasonable professional fee to complete the hotel project.

In addition, other designers have come forward and claimed that they have witnessed situations whereby even suppliers have agreed to pay the design studio separately in order to be specified in a particular project, again this is with the understanding that being specified in the project’s design will generate positive PR around the brand as a result – effectively out-valuing the fee to the design studio.

Although not directly linked, these drastic methods of securing new business have circled back towards further inquiries regarding how design firms are actually funding their existence in the already competitive market.

If proven correct, these allegations could drastically disrupt the design industry’s performance, as well as put several question marks on how ethical and diverse the industry is becoming, especially, for example, if mystery backers are then funding the project on behalf of the design firm.

What’s more, the risk design studios are willing to take in order to secure these projects rings deafening alarm bells in my head, because it will inevitably be the talented individuals – often juniors on low-pay packages – who will be working on the project and who will ultimately suffer the most.

“Fees have seriously been trending lower after every recession when clients demand from firms.” – Anonymous designer.

There are also concerns among the industry that Covid-19 – and the pressures that are attached to the pandemic regarding a lack of new business opportunities on the horizon – will create further desperation between design studios that are responding to client briefs.

We have heard from a number of design studios regarding this, and many have decided to reduce project costs in ratio with the cuts they have made to staffing. One firm, again which would wish to remain anonymous, has confirmed that it has made a 20 per cent cut to all current project costs, and the studio has taken this decision in full knowledge that when or if the industry ever returns to what we recognised as normal, then the studio will work at full capacity but will only receive 80 per cent of the original fee. “We have seen this continuously,” said another anonymous designer. “Fees have seriously been trending lower after every recession when clients demand from firms.”

So, you tell me, will greed take its toll, and will meaningful and creative hospitality solutions be overshadowed by a tempting lower project cost? I certainly hope not, as I believe the industry is still made up of solution-driven individuals who understand and respect the need for thinking long-term, despite living and working in what feel like desperate times.

This is the first article within the series of this investigation. If you would like to speak to Hotel Designs – on or off the record – about diversity in design, please email the editorial desk

Editor, Hotel Designs

Editor checks in: calling for intelligent hospitality

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor checks in: calling for intelligent hospitality

The measure of intelligent hospitality is the ability to adapt. In his latest column, editor Hamish Kilburn explores this statement while explaining the motives behind Hotel Designs’ upcoming events…

Earlier this month, the long-awaited good news arrived that hospitality businesses were serving once more.

While that was a monumental leap forward amidst the coronavirus crisis, the fact that businesses would be required to shelter new social distancing measures (not something our industry is naturally good at) meant that brands, as well as consumers, had to adapt quickly in order to prevent hospitality from feeling hostile.

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to adapt,” is a memorable quote from Albert Einstein. Putting this into the perspective of the industry we serve– though I am hesitant to edit a legend like Einstein – I would like to alter this quote to read: “The measure of intelligent hospitality is the ability to adapt.”

The reopening of hospitality followed our debut Hotel Designs LIVE, which was our answer to adapting during lockdown. The one-day virtual conference included a carefully curated panel of international speakers who came together from all corners of the world to put their perspectives on technology, public areas, sleep and wellness on the record. One of the many key takeaways was that, post-pandemic, (at least in the short-term) public areas will not feel the same. Adapting as designers, architects, hoteliers and suppliers to meet modern consumer demands in order to create flexible and clean spaces, while embedding discreet technology to enhance the guest experience, was key for hospitality to reassure the post-coronavirus consumer to check-in once more.

Following the success of this virtual event, we are launching Hotel Designs LIVE part two, which will take place on October 13. To aptly continue where we left off, we are welcoming eco-warrior Bill Benlsey to become our headline speaker of the event in order to put sustainability through the editorial lens, a topic that has sadly suffered from neglect over the last few months.

The adapted fun doesn’t stop there. On November 12, after much internal deliberation with the team, we have decided that The Brit List Awards 2020 will be delivered in a virtual format. Though the event will be received differently this year, it will still mark the conclusion of our nationwide search to find the top designers, architects, hoteliers and suppliers who are operating in Britain. That quest started just a few days ago, when we opened this year’s applications and nominations, which are (as always) completely free. However, as we appreciate that the networking element of the event is much valued, we have decided to host a Brit List Winners’ Party, which will appropriately gate-crash MEET UP London on January 28, 2021.

Click here to submit your entry for The Brit List Awards 2020

On reflection, having worked through the last couple of turbulent months, adapting isn’t so bad. Like many, if not all, I miss my team and I am starting to forget what having a normal daily schedule feels like. But most of all, what I miss most about pre-Covid life, are the live events that both Hotel Designs and Forum Events are able to deliver in order to help bridge the gap between designers, architects, hoteliers, developers and suppliers.

So, it is therefore my pledge to you – our loyal readers – that our events will be back, bigger and better than ever in order to aptly serve in this new era we are now well and truly living, working and evolving in.

During August, Hotel Designs will be putting ‘Hotel Concepts’ and ‘Beds’ under the spotlight. If you would like to contribute to these topics, please do not hesitate to email me.

Editor, Hotel Designs

A montage created by editor H. Kilburn showing John R. Williams and his work

Editor Checks In: Celebrating ‘Hollywood’s Architect’

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: Celebrating ‘Hollywood’s Architect’

Having followed a month of tempestuous headlines, editor Hamish Kilburn has come to the stark realisation that more education is needed in order to project equality in the global architecture and design arena…

A montage created by editor H. Kilburn showing John R. Williams and his work

I sat alone peering over London’s Leicester Square from a unique vantage point at a swanky rooftop bar. Glancing down, I was able to capture the colourful scene that was taking place below. Inspired, and feeling immensely proud, I began writing my latest Editor’s Letter, which gave a nod to diversity in design. It was Pride London 2019, and the square was packed – social distancing hadn’t yet been conceived – and I remember thinking how beautifully raw, eclectic and accepting the capital felt as the confetti cannons sounded while equality echoed from all surfaces.

Fast forward one year and here I am today, this time feeling somewhat melancholy while writing my monthly column for what feels like a parallel publication to one I was editing 12 months ago. I’m knocking on the doors, but hospitality is closed (for now) and no one appears to be home. ‘Covid-19’, a phrase we didn’t know existed in 2019, has infected my inbox, and every story in it. There’s hope, though. July 4 is re-opening day for many, but as I begin to feel optimistic (and I really am optimistic about hospitality post-pandemic), the next article I read in my morning catch-up of the headlines prevents me from showing any sign of euphoria.

A 46-year-old black male, named George Floyd, has died in the hands of two white policemen. It began with a report of a fake $20 (£16.20) bill, and ended with the death of Floyd after one of the policemen knelt on his neck, while blatantly ignoring the man’s pleas for help, for an agonising eight minutes and 46 seconds.

The footage of the incident spilled into the boundless realms of social media with the hashtag BlackLivesMatter. And like the virus itself that put a halt on our industry and forced us to adapt to meet new consumer demand, the protests for equality went global.

While on the one hand I felt concerned that social distancing and heart-felt protests are a fractious pairing, I also felt compelled to read and learn after seeing a friend’s status, which read: “I understand I will never understand. However, I stand.” It was at that point when I decided to delve into the history of our industry, and when I first read about John R. Williams and everything he was able to achieve while working in and for a society that today we would be ashamed of.

“He designed more than 2,000 homes (all of which differed in styles) and his clients included many celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz among others.”

Williams was an architectural pioneer who was largely responsible for Hollywood’s eclectic, colonial and California ranch-style architecture landscape. He designed more than 2,000 homes (all of which differed in styles). His clients included many celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz among others. In addition, the trailblazer designed other buildings, such as the Mutal Life Insurance Building and the LA County Courthouse. He also worked on the design of the iconic googie-styled Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport,  and in the 1940s, he was part of the team who redesigned of The Beverly Hills Hotel.

Having grown up as the only black child in his elementary school, Williams recognised that his clients of that era would feel uncomfortable sitting directly next to a black man, so he learned to draft and sketch upside down. And to avoid his clients having to shake his hand, he would often walk and talk with his hands either behind his back or in his pockets.

The real irony, in my opinion, was that so often Williams was not allowed to visit the public places he so painstakingly designed. Williams operated, where possible, under the radar in order to survive as a black architect in the western world.

“In 1957, he was the first Black architect elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).”

In his career that spanned five decades, according to the Paul R Williams Project, William’s not only imagined thousands of buildings, but he also served on a number of municipal, state and federal commissions. He was carefully active in political and social organisations, which earned the admiration and respect of his peers. Williams frequently donated his time and skills to projects he believed furthered the health and welfare of young people, African Americans in Southern California and the greater society. In 1957, he was the first black architect elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Williams retired from practice in 1973 and died in 1980 at the age of 85.

In 2017, his name joined legends such as Sir Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Renxo Piano. Williams was posthumously awarded AIA’s 2017 Gold Medal, which is the highest annual honour that recognises individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. In consequence to his many achievements, he is known today (and is documented in the history books) as Hollywood’s Architect.

Hotel Designs is not a political platform. It is, however, an educational podium where trending topics are discussed, debated and amplified. Racism and inequality in general is recurrently guised, and it is so rarely in plain sight. I hope that by looking back and identifying injustices, like how Williams felt forced to work under the radar (and arguably work harder than any other architect of his era), we can together ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself and instead celebrate and promote people for their talent and their talent alone, regardless of race, sexual orientation, disability and social standings.

I understand I will never understand. However, I stand.

Editor, Hotel Designs

Main image credit: Dorchester Collection/AIA

Editor Checks In: Emerging from pandemic paralysis

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: Emerging from pandemic paralysis

As the lockdown measures continue to the halt the industry’s reawakening from its slumber, editor Hamish Kilburn confronts the pandemic from a new vantage point…

The front cover of this month’s US Condé Nast Traveler has managed to harmonise the opinions of the uncertain, and no-doubt anxious, hospitality, design and travel industries worldwide.

“See the world in a new light” was the entirely relevant theme that the always forward-thinking Editor-in-Chief, Melinda Stevens, chose to run. I like to imagine the decision was made while working from home, after a new-found mindset enabled the self-isolating editorial desk to take a deep exhale before thinking about future issues, both in print as well as the complexities that lie ahead for the now-suffering travel industry.

“My role, I feel, is to identify how we, the international hotel design and hospitality industry, can emerge from the hibernation with a positive mental attitude when looking towards the future with (dare I say it) optimism.”

I say this because, as well as cheerleading Stevens’ sharp and at-times eccentric writing style from afar, I too am trying to broaden my horizons to look past the pandemic paralysis. My role, I feel, is to identify how we, the international hotel design and hospitality industry, can emerge from the hibernation with a positive mental attitude when looking towards the future with (dare I say it) optimism. As I write this, I am reminded by a friend that Issac Newton discovered the law of gravity while in self-isolation from the Great Plague of London. The point being that a change of focus – a welcome break from studio life, commuting hell and general disruption from our typical weekly routine – may just allow us to bury our heads into new drawings to metaphorically sketch the route towards a fresh, creative destination that is waiting on the other side.

Going back to drawing board is not only relevant for designers and architects, but also hoteliers in order to maximise service with design. In this month’s exclusive roundtable, it was mentioned that many hotels are using this time to enter a ‘re-opening’ mindset. For some leading luxury establishments, which opened nearly a decade ago, their doors being forced shut is an opportunity to confront challenges and to tweak and enhance the hotel’s design and service so that when it reopens, it is more relevant to tomorrow’s travellers and their hefty demands.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about how the pandemic will impact the industry in the long-term. But one thing, among others, is  crystal clear: post-pandemic, the definition of hospitality as we know it will change, perhaps permanently, to become more of an inclusive lifestyle where formalities are dissolved. Many designers, of course, such Geraldine Dohogne, the former Head of Design at Zannier Hotels, have caught on to this already, and are using this time to plot the ambiance of hospitality and lifestyle brands that will arrive in the future to challenge the conventional shells of yesterday’s luxury hotels.

Exhibitions, as we know them, are being forced to confront the inevitable change of scenery that lies ahead in the next chapter. HIX, for example, has themed its debut event ‘All together now’. The all-new interiors event that takes place in November at the Business Design Centre is encouraging designers to go as far as “unlearning what they know about industry” in order to explore new behavioural patterns and shifting perceptions that are dictating tomorrow’s hotel design landscape. The aim, with a dynamic exhibition line-up and inspirational speakers, is to inspire new and meaningful concepts to allow our industry the freedom to continue churning out boundless possibilities for tomorrow’s hotel guests. Sleep & Eat has also announced its return to London Olympia in November with its focus being on collaborations. “As we emerge from the crisis, there will be a vital need for new collaborations, new engagements and different ways of doing things,” explained the show’s director, Mark Gordon.

During the turbulent times that we are currently self-isolating in, Hotel Designs is committed to ensure that the industry is supported. Therefore, in direct response to the COVID–19 pandemic, we have launched an ‘Industry Support Package’ to help brands to engage with the hospitality sector spanning designers, architects, hoteliers, developers and those that supply to the industry. The exclusive package includes, among other benefits, three pieces of editorial content. If you would like to learn more on how you can take advantage of this one-time offer, please email Katy Phillips.

As the pandemic forces us to get used to a ‘new normal’ and to, as Stevens puts it: “see the world in a new light”, Hotel Designs has launched its official podcast. Six months in planning, DESIGN POD is the contemporary podcast for all on-the-go interior designers and architects globally– and will launch episode 1 shortly after the lockdown measures are relaxed.

In the meantime, the editorial team will keep you updated on all the latest developments in the COVID–19 crisis, while also supplying you with some inspirational content to speed up that much-needed change of perception. And, just for laughs, here are some images that capture freer times…

We will be released back into the wild again shortly… In the meantime, feel free to keep in touch with our team on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, because we are all in this fight together.

Editor, Hotel Designs

Main image credit: Zannier Hotels/tibodhermy

Editor Checks In: The hospitality industry fights back

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: The hospitality industry fights back

In his monthly column, editor Hamish Kilburn, like others, is self-isolating. He is reflecting on where it all went wrong – and, crucially, how we can make it right again for the hospitality industry. In the eye of the COVID–19 storm, which will pass, he finds himself praising the hospitality industry for showing compassion and versatility in uncertain times…

It’s amazing – and equally devastating – to witness just how quickly things can change on the international hospitality scene. Just a few weeks ago, I was on stage at HRC in London presenting to a crowded audience how, because of new technology and the evolutions of social media, competition is no longer just on a hotel’s doorstep. And here I am, writing my monthly Editor’s Letter, as the United Kingdom, like other countries around the world, is in lockdown following the Pandemic outbreak of COVID-19. The doors into nations are firmly closed, social distancing guidelines have been set and new measures are being put into action in order to slow down the spread of the virus.

“Mother nature has simply had enough – she has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we have done.”

Meanwhile, face-to-face interactions, which have been a key element for our socially driven industry since the dawn of time, are restricted, and we are all well and truly on our knees. Major events such as Independent Hotel Show Amsterdam, Clerkenwell Design Week, Salone del Mobile in Milan and Hotel Summit were all compelled to postpone when the outbreak became a pandemic. Even the Olympics, the largest sporting event on the planet, is stuck in the traffic jam of uncertainty and will not make it time for 2020.

Mother nature has simply had enough – she has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we have done ­– and it’s time to reflect on how we can respond to the global catastrophe.

Lessons for the wellbeing of earth can surely be learned from this. In just days of the countries closing their borders and going into lockdown, both China and Italy recorded major declines in nitrogen dioxide – a serious air pollutant and powerful warming chemical – as a direct result of reducing industrial activity and car journeys.

Elsewhere, locals in Venice noticed a significant improvement in the water quality of the iconic canals that flow through through the city as the area was cleared of tourists.

With millions of people now in isolation around the world, social media and technology is playing a leading role in order to help people interact, entertain and be kept informed of news as well as vital government instructions.

“In times of crisis, we become stronger than we thought we were.”

Neighbours have united once more, with residents seen singing and applauding health workers from balconies. As I type, my best friend, who owns her own tattoo studio, is currently delivering vital medicine to the sick and elderly in and around her community in the wake of having to temporarily close down her local business. In times of crisis, we become stronger than we thought we were.

The selfless acts of kindness don’t end there. The hospitality industry, despite being one of the most affected in this crisis, is fighting hard to prevent the spread of COVID–19, and I am totally overwhelmed with pride to see how adaptable our market is. One by one, hotel chains, brands and boutique independents are unveiling how they innovatively plan to help fight the invisible enemy of COVID-19.

The last few weeks have raised a lot of questions about the future design of hotels: should we encourage guests to gather in public spaces, should we introduce working-from-home measures and is touchless technology the way forward? As things are changing day-by-day as we are all told to #stayhome, this will no-doubt make us think deeper about how we can meaningfully design and open better social spaces for all.

To be honest, I am at a loss for words, which, for anyone who knows me, is really saying something. I cannot predict what happens next, but from all of us at Hotel Designs HQ, we wish for you all to remain safe during this unpredictable period. And remember, storms don’t last forever. If it’s any consolation, the whole world is going to need a holiday when all this is over.

Feel free to keep in touch with our team on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, and let us all distribute the weight of this disruption evenly, because we are all in this fight together.

Editor, Hotel Designs

Editor Checks In: Embracing meaningful trends

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: Embracing meaningful trends

Following a colourful year in the hot seat at Hotel Designs, editor Hamish Kilburn looks ahead to a more meaningful future of interior design moments and trends as he gives his thoughts on Pantone’s Colour of the Year, Classic Blue…

If I have learned anything in 2019 from listening to the leading designers, architects, hoteliers and developers who are no doubt shaping the future of the international hotel design scene, it is that every hotel design brief is unique and different.

By giving a new project a fresh perspective on the drawing board and when specifying products, the industry has been able to drive forwards; to unveil creative and exciting spaces unlike anywhere else in the world. The most common element used to emphasise an interior design scheme to create these statement spaces is indeed colour.

A few weeks ago, Hotel Designs was among the first to unveil Pantone’s Colour of the Year. In doing so, I witnessed two things. Firstly, that Pantone is bolding making a defiant move away from the warm, buoyant and energised Living Coral in order to focus on a deeper, calmer and more connected hue as its colour of 2020. My second realisation was more of an affirmation, which was that many within the interior design community continue to turn their heads away from yet another trend – and I have sympathy for those individuals.

“The aim of a commercial designer is to create style and not to repurpose fashion.”

As someone who receives many trend and colour forecasts, all of which are full of contradictions and confusing conclusions, I totally get why there’s a resistance among the leading designers and architects to accept trends. After all, the aim of a commercial designer is to create style and not to repurpose fashion. But every so often, a trend becomes more of a movement; a reflection of modern times, if you like, in order to add meaning into what can often feel like a senseless flow of Instagram and Pinterest posts and mindless moodboards.

It may shock you, therefore, that I recently succumbed to the demand and pressure and put my name to a trends forecast. Hoping to inspire and to create the ingredients for new conversations, as opposed to limit designers in where they should be sourcing their inspiration from, my feature was written sensitively for those who, like me, usually avoid the forecasts.

“If you only have the capacity to humour just one trend this winter, then by all means choose Classic Blue.”

In two separate editorial roundtables that Hotel Designs hosted recently, there was one motif that was louder than others. While each discussion was attended by different leading designers and architects, all seemed to agree that their clients have become much more informed around the connections between design, architecture and people. As a result, now more than ever before, commercial designers and architects are able to make decisions with greater purpose; to create extra layers, instil a stronger sense of place and to make a space more functional so that it can withstand the evolving demands of modern travellers.

While the industry, as a whole, becomes more aware of the environment, sustainable practice and the need for designing consciously, Pantone’s Classic Blue is in my opinion a nod to just how thoughtful design in the hospitality arena currently is. And therefore, if you only have the capacity to humour just one trend this winter, then by all means choose Classic Blue.

On the surface, it’s fair to say that Pantone’s Colour of the Year can be seen as safe, uninspiring and for the lack of a better phrase, just a bit dull. However, when considering the context – and relating it back to the world we are currently trying to make better a place – then Classic Blue becomes a symbol of hope and prosperity.

Having lived through the shelf lives of Greenery in 2017, Ultra Violet in 2018 and more recently Living Coral in 2019, Classic Blue on the contrary has longevity and feels like a harmonious step back to embracing the basics. The colour slots in nicely to create harmony in an era that is obsessed with technology and is increasingly lacking in time.

Classic Blue is flexible as well as firm. It’s dependable, thought-provoking and, paired with the right colour, it can create a number of different ambiances that are more meaningful, allowing the designer to take control. Classic Blue is non-aggressive, simple and has boundless uses in order to create endless interior scenarios.

Moving away from the aesthetical properties, blue is also considered to be beneficial to the mind, body and spirit, with experts going as far to say that it produces a calming effect. The shimmering blue infinity pool in the sanctuary I checked in to at Jade Mountain in Saint Lucia earlier this year certainly had that impact. If nothing else, Classic Blue is peaceful and a strong foundation for creativity to flourish on top.

“It’s been an extraordinary year to be at the helm of the editorial desk.”

Allowing Pantone’s Colour of the Year 2020 to work its magic early; to slow down my human metabolism on the editorial desk as I reflect on some of Hotel Designs’greatest moments of 2019, here are this year’s most-read stories:

As you can see, it’s been an extraordinary year to be at the helm of the editorial desk, which was complete with an extensive rebrand in Q1, publishing exclusive interviews, hotel reviews in far-flung destinations around the world, sharing up-to-date daily news coverage and hosting a plethora of engaging events.

Thank you for being a significant part of our journey, and helping us complete our ultimate goal, which is to define the point on international hotel design. All that is left to say is happy holidays and I look forward to reconnecting with new projects to put under the editorial lens in the New Year.

Editor, Hotel Designs

Editor Checks In: Everyone’s gone eco!

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: Everyone’s gone eco!

This September, editor Hamish Kilburn has seen a rise in biophilic and eco design at London Design Festival as he prepares to go on stage at next month’s Independent Hotel Show (October 15) to put the topic firmly under the magnifying glass…

I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not a naturally born eco warrior – and I don’t believe anyone who was born pre-Millennium is either. That’s not to be confused by someone who doesn’t care about the environment. It just means that I, like others, have had to learn – and learn quickly – about the many strands attached to this very real issue before being comfortable speaking about it publicly.

“Reading the latest statistics on global warming sends physical shivers down my spine, like a glacier is melting down by back vertebrae by vertebrae.”

Last year I was privileged to be among the first to interview Martin Pease as the Managing Director of architecture and design firm WATG London. While the interview was memorable, it was his response to one particular question that stayed with me. When asked what the number-one tool for success is, he said: “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Since then, I have made it an editor’s prerogative to listen to many, not just one or a few, before finally being prepared to make sense of chaotic and stigmatised issues. And here I am preparing to dissect what is the most chaotic and complex matters our industry has perhaps ever faced: climate change and finding sustainable, ecological and realistic solutions to create harmony between design and nature.

Reading the latest statistics on global warming sends physical shivers down my spine, like a glacier melting down my back vertebrae by vertebrae. According to NASA, most of the warming has occurred in the last 35 years, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010. Meanwhile, The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass, having lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016.

Designers, architects and suppliers have traditionally been good listeners when it comes to reacting to meeting the needs – and in this case requirements – of consumers. This month has been no exception. London Design Festival 2019 once again attracted the attention of the design world. Firstly, it awarded Dame Vivienne Westwood with the Lifetime Achievement Medal.

Despite my initial concerns, it was not Brexit that was dominating the theme of every conversation in and between the many social events. Instead, it was the boundless possibilities of biophilic design; discussing, at length, who was using nature innovatively for good to create warm and thoughtful interiors. I have my favourites, as do we all, but it feels like it’s creating a free-flowing movement of ideas.

I would argue that we are not quite yet surfing on the crest of the sustainability wave. Although we have the resources to hand when we catch it, we are reliant on each other – developers, owners, operators and investors – in order for it to finally, one day, become common practice to receive a brief to design a fully eco hotel.

Cue next month’s Independent Hotel Show, where I will have the heavy responsibility to lead the discussion on how our global industry can work together to build more conscious and considered hotels. While I can’t promise miracles, I can guarantee that my expert panel and I have turned over every stone to ensure that we offer realistic visions of a sustainable future on the international hotel design scene.

It’s already started, with hotels such as The Pig pledging publically that almost all food that can’t be supplied by the gardens is then impressively sourced within a 25-mile radius. And Monkey Island Estate in Bray-on-Thames, which features its own smoke house among many other intriguing elements in the garden, with still plenty of space for further expansion.

My conclusion (for the purpose of this Editor’s Letter if nothing else) is that it is not rocket science. It’s simply about the industry collectively using creative thinking to offer new and functional solutions. Call it, if you like, the true art of modern hospitality.

Main image credit: Act Studios

Editor Checks In: Home comforts in hotel design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: Home comforts in hotel design

In August 2019, editor Hamish Kilburn concludes that trends are overrated when a project close to his heart reaches its highly anticipated conclusion…

I can’t quite believe it has been almost one year since we first started following the award-winning designer Nicky Dobree on her journey to complete her debut hotel design project. Before now, her undisputed talent was recognised for designing the interiors of 007-esqe luxury mountain retreats (Kevin McCloud’s words, not mine unfortunately).

But this year, she has injected her effortless style to restore a 19thcentury building in Vejer, Spain, which is known as Plaza 18 – and Hotel Designs has been there every step of the way.

Now that the season has ramped up to reach its peak, there’s no better time to put down the measuring tape, take a step back and reward Dobree’s “labour of love” as we cut the ribbon. More than 1,300 miles from Andalucia, the team in the London office are gathered around my computer screen as they impatiently wait for the folder to download, of which contains the final images of the new boutique hotel. Until now, you see, we have had to settle for shakey behind-the-scenes, unquestionably raw, photographs taken on location, as well as renders and sketches, which merely tease the luxury home-from-home concept in the making.

You’d be wrong to assume it’s an easy task working on a project of this scale. What the hotel lacks in the number of guestrooms (six to be precise) it makes up for in personality. And if anyone could sensitively re-establish the heritage property in order to give it a new lease of life, it would be Dobree.

“All that is missing is a luxury design-led hotel,” I think to myself as I run past the colourful beach huts (place your bids).

‘Home comforts’ feels like an appropriate theme for this month’s column. Four years after capturing my first solo metropolis memory, which then drove me to chase my career in a number of cities in the UK, I’ve hit a crossroads and have decided to take the right-hand turn, which has result in me hurtling back towards my hometown of Whitstable in Kent. Nestled on the north-east tip of the Garden of England, where home comforts – think sea views that stretch over the horizon and unparalleled sunsets – are never in short supply, this feels like ‘home’ to me. “All that is missing is a luxury design-led hotel,” I think to myself as I run past the colourful beach huts (place your bids).

It seems I am not alone in chasing home comfort. Last year, a study published by Forbes showed that in the 10 cities with the largest Airbnb market share in the US, the entry of Airbnb resulted in 1.3 per cent fewer hotel nights booked and a 1.5 per cent loss in hotel revenue. But as damning as this statistic may seem, hotels are fighting back to offer more home-from-home comforts married together with one-off experiences to capture travellers’ attention.

Examples of this can be found all over the Hotel Designs website this month, from our Miniview of room2’s ‘hometel’ concept in Southampton to a new ‘private members’ bar’-styled hotel that will open in London next year – and not forgetting the exceptional Plaza 18. Perhaps subconsciously, my year-long project with Dobree has led me to positively seek comfort in timeless style as opposed to chasing the short-term thrills of seasonal trends.

Main image credit: ACT Studios

Editor Checks In: March ’19

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
Editor Checks In: March ’19

Reviewing March: here’s to the future…

One of the many treasures of being a young design editor comes the morning after the night before. Waking up fresh-faced, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t feel as if what we achieved last night at Meet Up London was nothing short of being exceptional!

Ever since I arrived at Hotel Designs in May of last year, I have taken tremendous pride in the fact that I have the tools and the ability to help open up the integral relationship between our readers and our brand.

While the industry gathered at Minotti London for Meet Up London last night, I realised that our relationship opened up even wider when we welcomed a large handful of our industry’s rising stars. With the aim to bridge the age gap in international hotel design, we announced our 30 Under 30, which is made up of incredible talent. From those quickly climbing the ranks within leading design and architecture firms to others who are bravely going it alone to set up their own studios, all finalists in our 30 Under 30 have proven themselves to be creative geniuses.

Although by the contents of our newly unveiled 30 Under 30 the future is looking bright, it was put upon James Soane from the London School of Architecture to address the elephant in the room when looking into the future of hotel design as he took the stage as our headline speaker at the event. “The hotel industry has a great opportunity to demonstrate alternative sustainable ways of designing, living and adapting,” he said during the engaging presentation. Soane’s passion balanced with knowledge took what could have been seen as a dry lecture and turned it around to be an alluring and healthy debate with great relevance.

“Welcome to the new Hotel Designs.”

While we are on the topic of talking about great opportunities, welcome to the new Hotel Designs. On a fresh website, all of our conversations, opinions, news and features are open for all to enjoy. This new platform is the result of the largest rebrand the title has ever seen. Our new slogan, “defining the point on international hotel design,” shows that we are prepared more now than ever before to cut through the noise in order to give our readers quality, relevant and engaging content.

To mark the new era of Hotel Designs, we’ve dedicated the first sentence of our new chapter to a true design icon. Isle Crawford, the founding Editor-In-Chief of Elle Decoration turned award-winning interior designer, said in a recent Netflix documentary Abstract: The Art of Design: “Design thrives on restrictions.” Crawford has metaphorically cut the silk ribbon by being the subject of the first article to be published on the new website.

And now it’s time to put all of our visions and ideas into practice. Subscribe and join us on our journey, complete with regular check ins, as we take international hotel design up a notch or two.

Editor, Hotel Designs