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In Conversation With: interior designer Lisa Haude

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: interior designer Lisa Haude

Interior designer Lisa Haude, founder of PDG Studios, is known for her creative and unique approach to design. Editor Hamish Kilburn sits down with the storyteller to understand why she is considered one of the industry’s finest…

A storyteller in her own right, designer Lisa Haude creates one-of-a-kind spaces that breathe a new level of authenticity into the projects she touches. Working predominantly with the larger brands, such Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International, Haude’s style is to celebrate the history of each hotel’s destination, which is channeled through an meaningful design narrative that is sheltered inside each project. 

One of her recent projects – among many others – is AC Hotel by Marriott Washington D.C. Downtown, a hotel in the heart of the city that’s design marries together the architectural relevance of Washington D.C. with a modern twist.

Image credit: AC Hotel by Marriott Washington DC Downtown

“The one-of-a-kind light fixture that spans from the bar through the lobby space is actually a replica of the Potomac River from an aerial viewpoint.” – Lisa Haude, founder of PDG Studios.

To learn more about the project, and the designer who brought it to life, I caught up with Haude, the founder of PDG Studios.

Hamish Kilburn: What inspired you to be a designer? 

Lisa Haude: I’ve always loved being creative. Thinking outside of the box and bringing a vision to life is such a rewarding experience and one that I treasure the most.

HK: One of your recently completed projects was the AC Marriott DC. Can you explain for us the design scheme and what the challenges were for this project? 

LH: With this project, we wanted to take the iconic, historical architectural elements of Washington DC and reinvent them with a modern interpretation. This was done by juxtaposing strong structural lines (which the building already had) and incorporating softer curves and fluid movement via furniture and unique, yet focal, point details. For example, the one-of-a-kind light fixture that spans from the bar through the lobby space is actually a replica of the Potomac River from an aerial viewpoint, which was reinterpreted in an artistic light form to provide soft, fluid lines and movement throughout the space.  

Our biggest challenge with this space was working within a very small building that had many structural constraints. Although difficult at times, these challenges are what really allow us to expand our creativity and bring something truly unique to life! 

HK: As well as high-end luxury you have also completed some recent budget hotels. How do you achieve adding personality on a budget? 

LH: With a small budget, we focus on being strategic with how the funds are allocated, paying attention to every little detail and having a very strong design story that can be implemented from start to finish. This requires some flexibility and creativity as you work through the execution of the design with the contractor to ensure that the design intent is carried through and will make the most  out of the budget you are working with. 

Image credit: Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman

HK: Can you explain to us more about the projects you have on the boards? 

LH: We are currently working on a historic/adaptive reuse property, a modern mountain get-away, and another very fun project that will be a nod to history but with a modern twist, among a few others! 

HK: In your work, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on art. What is your secret to persuade the client to allocate enough budget for artwork? 

LH: We believe that art is part of the design story and we are very intentional with the placement and selection of the pieces we use. We work closely with our owners to make sure we have some money carved out to include some unique pieces in the spaces, as they are the necessary cherry on top that helps complete the design. 

Image of an art exhibition

Image credit: Hilton Garden Inn Sunnyvale

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What is one trend that you wish will never return?

LH: Wallpaper borders! This may be dating me slightly, but when I started in the design industry, a guestroom or residential project was not complete unless you had a wallpaper border in the space.

HK: What items during lockdown could you not have lived without? 

LH: Computer, iPhone and wine (and, of course, my daughter and dog!)

HK: What makes a good design team? 

LH: A team of like-minded individuals who respect each other and truly value each other’s input and love to collaborate.

HK: Who is your interior design hero? 

      LH: I have so many people in the industry that I look up to, but today, the people I admire the most are those working around the clock to find safe alternatives and vaccines so that we may all soon be able to travel freely and be inspired by the people and places around us.

HK: Describe PDG Studios in three words…

    LH: storytellers, authentic and collaborative! 

“It’s important to plan for and design zones that allow for individual space.” – Lisa Haude, founder of PDG Studios

HK: How have the challenges of the pandemic allowed you to challenge conventional design? 

LH: We now need to be more adaptive and creative with how we approach design. In our current designs, we encourage the incorporation of more green and outdoor space (i.e. rooftop  terraces, balconies and courtyards), the use of larger windows/natural light sources and less toxic materials, such as natural materials and plants. It’s important to plan for and design zones that allow for individual space, where one can work and be conscience of the materials that are being used. Moving forward, it will be imperative to source materials that do not harbour germs and can be easily cleaned—and those people spending time in these spaces will want to know that! 

Image credit: AC Hotel by Marriott Washington DC Downtown

HK: How will smart tech evolve in the hotel guestroom post-pandemic? 

LH: Easy/quick access to tech will become even more of a necessity. From the ability to work from your room via teleconferencing to the ease of being able to fully automate your room via your smart device, tech is most likely going to continue to evolve and become more mainstream and expected.  For example, the ability to turn on/off lights, control the AC /heat, open/close the door, etc., without contact (using voice activation instead) will be very desired and important to many people. The technology is already there for many of these items, but I believe there will be a greater push to make it more affordable and mainstream to the greater public in a hospitality-type setting.

HK: Has sustainability slipped off the agenda in hospitality? 

LH: I don’t think so. I feel like it is now even more important that we use products that are sustainable, locally sourced and easy to clean and maintain. I believe that this period of time has taught us all to take a step back and appreciate the people in our life and our surroundings. We have also become more conscience about our choices and how products are used and/or disposed of. 

Main image credit: PDG Studio/Hilton Garden Inn Bozeman/AC Hotel by Marriott Washington DC Downtown

5 minutes with: the founders of Avenue Interior Design

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 minutes with: the founders of Avenue Interior Design

Following the completion of a handful of luxury hospitality projects in the States, Avenue Interior Design has become known for its refusal to be defined by any one style, as editor Hamish Kilburn learns when he interviews the firm’s founders…

Avenue Interior Design, led by founders Andrea DeRosa and Ashley Manhan, has positioned itself as a small yet mighty powerhouse in an industry full of giants.

Most recently, the firm spearheaded the design for Palms Casino & Resort’ renovation ‘From Dust to Gold’, and brought their skills to boutique properties such as The Ramble in Denver, La Serena Villas in Palm Springs as well as SLS Baha Mar.

With the world of hospitality slowly re-opening, there remain concerns and hesitations among operators and travellers on what will become of the industry. I speak to DeRosa and Manhan, two level-headed designers who understand and respect how design evolves around cultural shifts, in order to explore how the pandemic has affected hotel design decisions.

Hamish Kilburn: Let’s dive straight in, how will public areas look in the post-pandemic world?

Ashley Manhan: Business and convention travel will likely lag compared to leisure travel as we see safer at home orders lift. Convention travel has been a critical component for many hotels as occupancy and F&B revenue are strongly tied to properties located near convention venues or for properties that have large meeting facilities.

A luxury F&B interior area with plants and cute seating

Image credit: SLS Baha Mar

Andrea DeRosa: Accommodating large groups and conventions may require smaller breakout rooms with improved air circulation and potentially live streaming speakers to these smaller rooms. On the F&B front, buffets and family-style plating will likely be put aside for individual plates or packaged meals.

HK: What new/different materials might go into hotel builds now?

AD: Given that COVID-19 transmission has found to be primarily airborne, much consideration is going into upgraded air filtration systems. Increased ventilation and better filtration will be essential components of healthy building strategies. Additionally, we may see the use of mobile and handled UV disinfection systems for sterilisation and disinfecting of high use spaces. In terms of interior finishes and materials, and those selected for FF&E, designers will face the added challenge of selecting materials that can withstand more frequent cleaning and disinfecting.

AM: In terms of lobbies, our current clients are requesting short-term solutions for partitions and countertop shields at transaction points, check-ins, and other places social distancing may not be feasible.

Fitness spaces will likely decrease in size- a trend for some properties already in major urban areas with access to specialised gyms and studios. Look for more in-room fitness options and equipment like yoga mats and lightweight dumbbells.

Restaurants face some of the largest obstacles in terms of social distancing and the use of PPE by diners. Restaurants will surely seat fewer guests to accommodate for social distancing protocol. Menus may go digital or restaurants may offer apps to place orders from your own device. Larger service counters for pickups or extended “grab and go” options maybe also be more prevalent as people warm up to the idea of eating out again.

Modern interior design in a clean open bar area

Image credit: SLS Baha Mar

AD: In the short term, we are seeing many hotel brands unrolling programs to build guest confidence and implementing quick, sometimes temporary solutions now while permanent solutions are analyzed and explored. Long term, we anticipate pandemic related measures to be modifiable to give operators the option of adjusting to meet current health risk levels. Such modifications may include digital occupancy signage, movable partitions, and digital projections indicating recommended social distances in queuing areas. A large part of the equation is understanding guests’ demands, expectations, and associations with these changes. There will certainly be varying levels of concern depending on where in the country/world the guest is traveling from. Those guests from the hardest-hit areas are likely to expect greater measures than those traveling from areas less affected. Ongoing observation of guest behavior will inform decisions owners and operators make for long term modifications to their properties.

HK: How can hotels shelter these new hygiene protocols without disrupting the design or the experience?

AM: Taking into consideration that guest safety and wellbeing is, and always has been, a top priority for any property, the next priority remains firmly rooted in good design. Ownership teams require that our commitment to creating a hospitality quality experience remains the top priority just as it was pre-pandemic. Modifications to properties should be subtle, flexible and well-intentioned. This includes careful consideration to the function of the space, the circulation of guests through the space as well as more obvious elements like materials, furnishings and even wayfinding. Creating more space for guests to comfortably, and naturally, socially distance may be as simple as removing a few clusters of lounge chairs in a lobby or replacing a communal table with a series of smaller, movable tables that can be situated individually or easily paired together.

AD: Incorporating decorative, movable screens or drapery also allows for social distancing flexibility while providing a thoughtful, well-designed element to the space. Graphics, signage, and font styles can be utilised in a way that provides informative guidance on precautions or protocol in a way that is consistent with the design language of the brand or property. For new build properties, especially food and beverage venues, you will likely see more fluid floor plans with fewer permanent features to allow for flexibility in furniture layouts and the function of a space.

A blue interior scheme inside a junior king room

Image credit: The Ramble Hotel

HK: Have you already begun incorporating any changes into the hospitality projects you’re working on?

AD: Many of the modifications we’ve made for our current projects have been temporary or short term solutions that will allow our clients to adhere to guidelines as outlined by local jurisdictions. Before making more costly or broad-sweeping modifications, our clients are waiting to gauge guests’ expectations and behaviours to ascertain what long term modifications should look like. For instance, the addition of automated faucets and hand soap dispensers seem like a logical move, however, for many properties that have been without revenue for the last few months, the expense of a modification requiring any construction or electrical work may be out of the budget. Scale is a monumental consideration as well. The cost of making such a change in a hotel with 50 keys is likely more feasible than making that change in a hotel with more than 1,000 keys.

HK: Have you made any changes to guestrooms in the projects you are working on?

AM: Guestroom size, function, and programming have also been a hot topic amongst designers and Ownership teams. In recent years the emphasis was on creating public spaces so dynamic and engaging it drew people out of their rooms and into the lobby, restaurant, bar, pool, etc. Guestroom sizes were generally shrinking and the furnishings were becoming paired down and multi-purpose in their design. It will be interesting to see if guestroom sizes increase to become more of a mini-sanctuaries that offer personalised guest experiences.

Hotel Designs will be discussing topics such as adding personality in public areas and reassuring the post-corona consumer at Hotel Designs LIVE on October 13. If you are a designer, architect or hotelier, click here to participate for free.

Main image credit: Avenue Interior Design

5 Minutes With: Sarah Beall on how Forum Events went digital

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: Sarah Beall on how Forum Events went digital

Like all businesses, Forum Events & Media Group (owner of Hotel Designs, Hotel Summit and Interior Design & Architecture Summit) has been forced to adjust its operations in the face of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown’. Managing Director Sarah Beall explains how Forum has used technology to take its events business into the digital age…

Hotel Designs LIVE, the one-day virtual conference which took place last month, was the collective result of an adaptable team who put content first. The four seminars put the editorial spotlight on integral topics and debates, while also welcoming relevant suppliers to pitch their latest products. The parent company – the infrastructure, if you like –  behind Hotel Designs is Forum Events & Media. And in order to share how the company is adapting, and able to host virtual events such as Hotel Designs LIVE, we caught up with its Managing Director, Sarah Beall.

Hotel Designs: How has Forum Events & Media transitioned from live to virtual events during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Sarah Beall: Our Forums and Summits are unlike exhibitions or other large scale B2B events – they facilitate supply and demand, and serve their industries by bringing together buyers and suppliers for a series of pre-arranged face-to-face meetings.

We’ve tackled the Covid-19 crisis head-on by using our cutting-edge proprietary matching-making software to create an interface for live video meetings in a ‘virtual Forum’ environment, taking our live experience online.

HD: How was this achieved and what role has technology played during the transition?

SB: Redirecting our focus from live events to virtual means we can continue to deliver expectations to our exhibitor partners and delegates alike. Our appointment setting software is bespoke – we assigned our development team the task of integrating it with a video conferencing platform, so we can now create and deliver a live itinerary of pre-arranged meetings for participants.

“Our virtual format replicates our live events” – Sarah Beall, Managing Director, Forum Events & Media.

HD: How can people attend your virtual events and how do they work?

SB: Our virtual format replicates our live events, bringing together 65 key decision makers with 35 industry suppliers. The event registration process is exactly the same for both delegates and suppliers – the only difference is that all the meetings take place online as opposed to a physical venue.

HD: What are the main benefits of virtual events for your supplier partners?

SB: It’s all too easy to bury your head in the sand and wait for this pandemic to pass – but at Forum we know how important it is to stay in touch with our clients and create new business relationships with future prospects. Our virtual Forums are a powerful way to do business and stay connected from anywhere in the world.

HD: What are the main benefits of virtual events for your attending delegates?

SB: For anyone in procurement, events and meetings are keys to success – relationships with suppliers all start from an initial meeting and product knowledge. But right now companies will want to reduce the risk of their employees catching coronavirus, so we expect they will carry out due diligence as to whether they can attend live events. As a response, we are providing a safe solution for everyone, with buyers and suppliers meeting via video call from the comfort of their home office.

HD: Will virtual events operate alongside live events as part of the ‘new normal’?

SB: Live events are where deals are done and new products are put into the hands of a buyer – I do not see that changing. However, as we move out of lockdown hybrid events that offer both live and virtual attendees the opportunity to meet with trusted suppliers can only help expand the marketplace and increase supplier export worldwide.

HD: How does Forum intend to develop its virtual events offering going forward?

SB: Our virtual platform will allow us to hold our Forums and Summits worldwide, enter new industries and connect even more buyers and suppliers.

We cannot wait to welcome attendees back to our live events from September and have implemented a Covid safe risk assessment at all our venues.

But we are prepared and ready to kickstart our Forums from this month across four industries via our virtual platform. And we will continue to serve industries by holding hybrid live and virtual events that are Covid safe throughout the remainder of the year and beyond, if required.

Interior Design & Architecture Summit is taking place on September 2 at Hilton London Canary Wharf.

Hotel Summit is taking place on November 23 – 24 at Five Lakes Hotel, Colchester.

In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Dean Winter, Managing Director, Swire Hotels

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Dean Winter, Managing Director, Swire Hotels

Following his recent appointment as Managing Director of Swire Hotels, Dean Winter sits down (virtually) with editor Hamish Kilburn to explain the brand’s change of direction…

Swire Hotels, which shelters luxury and lifestyle brands The House Collective and EAST, has recently announced a new Managing Director.

Dean Winter, who first started working with the hotel group in 2006, has more than 25 years’ experience as a hotelier and restaurateur in destinations such as London, Hong Kong and Singapore. Taking over from Toby Smith, who will now sit as Deputy Chairman for the group, Winter’s new role is part of a wider internal restructuring of management for the group with the aim to continue to inspire teams across the brands.

Following his appointment, I caught up with winter.

Hamish Kilburn: Dean, congratulations on your new role! What are you most looking forward to as Managing Director at Swire Hotels?

Dean Winter: People are central to what we do at Swire Hotels – both our guests and our dedicated team members – and their personal satisfaction is a main priority for me. By training our team and then empowering them to make decisions, we enable them to exceed expectations and build personal relationships with guests and other team members.

This dedication to service is core to our ethos at The House Collective and EAST, Hotels and I couldn’t be more excited to continue to support the people and guide the beliefs of a company that I’ve been part of for over a decade.

woman walking down modern staircase

Image credit: The Middle House, Shanghai

HK: How much does the design of the hotel affect the guest experience of Swire Hotels?

DW: Design lies at the heart of Swire Hotels and its brands. First impressions matter to our guests. When you walk into a hotel, its interior design can affect the way you feel and can influence your mood.

Each hotel within The House Collective all have their own identity, which boast some of the best design signatures in the industry. For example, behind The Opposite House’s unique design as an art gallery-inspired hotel there is visionary architect Kengo Kuma, who made our hotel one of Beijing’s hottest spots to visit.

HK: What are the key characteristic differences between Swire Hotels’ brands, The House Collective and EAST?

DW: All our hotels provide an extremely personalised service with each guest treated as a valued individual. The House Collective is all about design-led homes away from home, each with its own identity rooted in the destination, and a spirited, cultural soul. EAST is adapted to the new business traveller experience in destinations like Hong Kong, Beijing and Miami, blurring the line between business and leisure and enabling authentic experiences through art and design. At EAST, creating spaces that effectively accommodate guests at various points of life or of their day is also and important element. Examples of this would be the Domain spaces at our EAST hotels which function as cafés, meeting spaces, co-working zones and early evening bars; Sugar the rooftop bar is a popular nightspot for guests as well as locals and BEAST with well equipped gym, pool and wellness programmes helps keep our guest fit.

HK: Can you give us an overview of Swire Hotels’ commitment to sustainability?

DW: Swire Hotels is committed to making a positive impact on the environment and in order to manifest this change, we start from our people. What we envision is creating a healthy ecosystem of people who embody our values and care about our impact on the environment. We’re always looking to create meaningful initiative across our properties focusing on reducing water wastage, energy savings and better waste management. Some of these initiatives include removal of single-use packaging, amenities made of recyclable or biodegradable materials, paperless check-in and at EAST Miami, we have a smart pump that regulates water pressure throughout the hotel in order to reduce water usage. We are determined to find new ways to improve the sustainability of our properties, for our guests and the community around us. This way, we can continue delivering wonderful experiences not just for right now, but for many years to come.

“We have been taking advantage to accelerate some planned projects for both in terms of rooms and restaurants enhancements or systems development.” – Dean Winter, Managing Director, Swire Hotels

HK: What does 2021 look like for Swire Hotels?

DW: Overall I think everyone will have a more positive attitude towards travelling given how 2020 has unfolded. This year we’re celebrating the 10th Anniversary of EAST Hong Kong with new packages available to book directly from the hotel’s website and The Opposite House exciting new relaunch with the completion of an extensive renovation of the restaurant and bar spaces will have the celebration continue into the new year.

During the recent downtime, we have been taking advantage to accelerate some planned projects for both in terms of rooms and restaurants enhancements or systems development. So there will be more new spaces to reveal in 2021. We have also embarked on an expansion plan to grow both our brands, The House Collective and EAST, through management contracts throughout Asia Pacific and hope to have some announcement in 2021.

HK: Are you able to give us an insight into any new openings?

DW: We do have some evolving plans for new restaurant spaces next year. I’m excited by these opportunities and how we can continue to demonstrate our creativity on what is a core competency for the group.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
DW:
Montenegro; I’m facinated by the history and the architecture. Followed by a drive along The Adriatic; ideally in a classic sports car!

HK: What’s one item you cannot travel without? 
DW: A great novel!

HK: Can you describe the Swire Hotels ethos in three words?
DW: Innovation, design, people.

HK: How have Swire Hotels and its two brands been preparing to welcome guests back following the health crisis?

DW: The relationship between The House Collective and EAST, Hotels and our guests have always been centred around trust – we are dedicated to providing the best for our guests, and will continue to uphold our standard of service moving forward from this pandemic. We have already been hosting guests from neighbouring cities to our destinations and are looking forward to welcoming guests from all over the world again. We have introduced various prevention and control measures since the very beginning of the health crisis, such as temperature and travel history checks for all guests upon arrival including our staff members, increased frequency of deep cleaning as well as preparing care kits for our guests with hygiene wet wipes, hand sanitiser and face masks.

Main image credit: Swire Hotels

5 Minutes With: F&B talk with Mark Bithrey, Founder & Creative Director, B3 Designers

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: F&B talk with Mark Bithrey, Founder & Creative Director, B3 Designers

There is a serious question being put to the industry on whether public areas will ever be the same again. In an exclusive interview with Hotel Designs, Mark Bithrey, the Founder and Creative Director of B3 Designers sits down virtually with editor Hamish Kilburn to discuss F&B design in a post-pandemic world…

In just a few days time, Hotel Designs will go live to the world with its debut virtual conference. The topics we will explore during Hotel Designs LIVE will include technology, sleep, wellness and whether public areas will ever be the same again. In order to understand the role of F&B areas, while also getting an access-all-areas deeper look into the inner workings of the studio, I caught up with Mark Bithrey, the Founder and Creative Director of B3 Designers. The award-winning studio has transformed many F&B hospitality projects, such as The Prince Akatoki, Marriott Hotel Budapest and Ritz-Carlton Geneva among many others.

Hamish Kilburn: Thanks for joining me, Mark. How are you feeling right now as a hospitality interior designer?

Mark Bithrey: The world has been through really tough times, but this one has definitely knocked the hospitality industry for a six. I have always believed in 2 things: that hospitality will forever have a strong place in the world in some form or other, and two, that design plays a pivotal role in shaping a changing world. So I’m feeling a mix of anxious and eager.

HK: When restaurants do eventually open up, we are still looking at reduced covers and therefore revenue. What are your thoughts there?

MB: We have been helping clients redesign their restaurants for social distancing, with beautiful screens and additional features like plants and cushions. But you are right, it can mean reduced revenue. Some of our clients have been really creative and opened up whole new streams of revenue.

Image caption: Design in F&B has spilled into the marketing and packaging of products with a rise in demand for deliver/takeaway service. | Image credit: B3 Designers

HK: There is obviously a lot of focus on takeaways at the moment. How can F&B businesses be more creative when adapting to the times?

MB: Quick service has immense potential. Think about kiosks where you are able to churn out dishes quickly. Our clients at Mei Mei are doing just that, with Michelin star winning Chef Elizabeth Haigh at its helm. Also consider Itsu/Pret style shops, with impactful branding and graphics on the floor. You can look into takeaway/delivery-only kitchens with creative food packaging. Extra brownie points for eco-friendly packing! We are working with a Vietnamese restaurant in London at the moment to use clever packaging to build out loyalty, repeat orders, and engagement.

Image caption: Mei Mei has adapted its offer during the pandemic to focus on takeaway service | Image credit: B3 Designers

HK: Speaking of food delivery, it does mean that restaurants are reliant on the large delivery services that eat into their revenue considerably. How can they move away from using the shared delivery systems?

MB: Yes, indeed! Have you heard of Mumbai’s dabbawalas? It’s an incredible concept. Think localised kitchens, subscription meals, and your own fleet of delivery folk racing food on bicycles. Typically, a kitchen will cook a few hundred meals a day. The subscription lunch will include food that can be batch cooked – so a lentil dish, a curry, rice, and perhaps some bread. This is then packed into stainless steel “tiffin” boxes, and delivered quickly, while the food is still hot. Because the kitchens are localised, nobody is travelling more than a couple of kilometers and they are often the service teams themselves. The previous day’s box is picked up and brought back – no packaging waste!

Food trucks are another way to circumvent delivery commissions. With all the right permissions, you could set up in a park/outdoor space and serve up anything you want to, really. Think also about drive-throughs or walk-past counters for food pick up. You can even offer an interesting experience (graphics/games) while they wait in line.

Image caption: Gourmet takeaway food truck | Image credit: B3 Designers

Image caption: Gourmet takeaway food truck | Image credit: B3 Designers

HK: What about fine dining, how can businesses integrate social distancing into this concept?

MB: Without a doubt, fine dining is going to change for a while. Restaurants that get very crowded are going to have to give customers more room – which can be quite cool if you think about it.

Smaller restaurants however, are quite fortunate and can use their spaces to offer truly caring experiences. We have worked with Michelin star winning Chef Tom Aikens in the past, whose restaurant Muse spans 950 sq ft. “Muse is very unique in that it is for guests not only looking for great food in a very special restaurant, but welcomes them as if they were in their own home. Guests will always get special care and now more than ever, of being looked after and pampered,” said Aikens.

If you have outdoor space, however small, milk it. Erect pods or beautiful temporary structures. Adapt for weather changes with fans and space heaters. You could also think about bringing your restaurant completely outside – are you on a street that could be pedestrianised, or do you have parking space that could be converted?

For indoor spaces, think gorgeous on-brand free standing folding screens. In hotels, use your banquet rooms as restaurants so you can offer more space between tables.

If you want to be really creative, as the rules relax more, consider catering services for small gatherings, or even a fine dining experience that you can take to people’s homes. We may follow off where you mention that Muse is small, and say that it is massive in experience.

HK: Is there a way for F&B professionals to go where customers already are?

MB: Supermarkets and the internet! This is a great time to consider creating your own line of sauces/pastas/food kits. Paired with solid branding and graphics, it could open up a whole new stream of revenue. Could you create barbecue kits for example, with recipes and ingredients?

We are spending a ridiculous amount of time on the internet now. Host cooking lessons and sell kits after. And remember to up your digital presence – it is the only way people will learn of your restaurant/hotel’s F&B offerings.

Main image credit: B3 Designers

In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Design legend Jean-Michel Gathy

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In (Lockdown) Conversation With: Design legend Jean-Michel Gathy

If the renders on the boards are anything to go by, Jean-Michel Gathy, who is widely considered as one of the industry’s finest, has embarked on one of his most ambitious hospitality projects to date, to design Amaala Island. Editor Hamish Kilburn learns more…

There is not a hotel designer or architect alive today who has not heard of the name Jean-Michel Gathy, and for good reason. The creative mastermind, who doesn’t just design but more reinvents hotel experiences, has been repainting the backdrop of luxury for what is coming up to three decades.

Not shy of his ambition – he once stated that he wanted to be the first person to design a hotel on the moon – Gathy’s approach to a project is all-encompassing, allowing him to further push (and at times break through) conventional barriers.

Arrival experience, luxury

Image credit: Capella Sanya, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

His latest project, Amaala Island will be an ultra luxury resort destination spanning three sites, a first for the region of Saudi Arabia. Designed to evolve and elevate the very best in travel, the island is an ultra-luxury destination that focuses on curating transformative personal journeys inspired by arts, wellness and the purity of the Red Sea.

To find out more about the project, and in homage to the designer’s award-winning career, I managed to speak to the architect/designer.

Hamish Kilburn: Jean-Michel, how will the ultra-luxe Amaala Island – aka the “Diamond of the Red Sea” – challenge conventional island developments?

Jean-Michel Gathy: The development of ‘The Island’ will be an immersive and interactive art-inspired jewel. Its lifestyle components, its landscaping, the museums, and art installations together with the art community will transform this island into the “Diamond of the Red Sea”. It will feature many different venues for permanent installations or temporary exhibitions and artistic performances. The graphic layout of its spine will be distinctive from the air and will be recognised internationally as an iconic landmark. The project features all elements programmed and reflects the areas, numbers and facilities. This is truly unique, nothing like it has ever been planned before.

“It’s not a matter of a specific place; it is the fact that when you travel, your mind is continually challenged by the happenings around you.” – Jean-Michel Gathy

HK: How does your approach differ when designing a destination from you’re designing a hotel?

JMG: Constant travel is a huge part of the job. It allows me to observe and to be constantly inquisitive about my surroundings. Travelling builds a subconscious library of ideas, which are expressed in my work and helps my ideas remain innovative and fresh. It’s not a matter of a specific place; it is the fact that when you travel, your mind is continually challenged by the happenings around you. It’s not about where you travel, either – what counts is that you explore. No matter where you are, every country has something new to offer in terms of inspiration.

Luxury spa area that frames unspoilt view through rustic blinds

Image credit: Image credit: The Chedi Muscat, Oman, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

HK: What have been some of your design highlights in your career?

JMG: Perhaps the one for which I am most renowned is the overwater hammocks or ‘basking nets’, which I initiated in the Maldives at the One&Only Reethi Rah in 2000. Until then, you would find balustrades around the terraces of villas. I decided to alter that – if anyone was going to fall off the terrace, they could fall on to the nets. And I put scatter cushions on them.

Image credit: One&Only Reethi Rah Maldives, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

Today, just about every hotel uses this idea. Another pioneering step was turning standalone tents for safari-style camps into a commodity. The accommodation at these hotels used to be basic but this started to change after I designed luxurious tents for the Amanwana in 1990. I am also known for my oversized, dramatic swimming pools such as the one on the roof of Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Large, oversized swimming pool

Image credit: The Setai Miami, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What has been the most demanding request you have received from a client to date?

JMG: I guess I take every client that I work with as a challenge more than a demanding request.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?

JMG: I would love to travel to Iceland to see its rugged landscapes, glaciers, rough seas, hot springs and volcanoes. I’d also like to visit the south of Chile and the peninsula of Kamchatka in Russia, which has extraordinary wildlife and endless forests.

HK: What’s your biggest indulgence when travelling?

JMG: Collecting art – I like to collect and invest in local artwork whilst on my travels.

HK: What lesson would you teach to your younger self?

JMG: The pathway to success is never easy, it takes hard work, dedication and passion.

HK: If you could design a hotel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

JMG: I’d love to design a hotel in Antarctica. There’s an ice hotel in Sweden, but that’s only open four months a year, so I want to do one that permanently remains ice.

HK: What’s been your favourite year on the international design scene?

JMG: To be honest, every year working with my team at Denniston has been and is special to me.

HK: What’s one item you cannot travel without?

JMG: I travel light, but I always ensure I have a cashmere scarf for the plane, and a sweater (I’m a big cashmere fan). I also travel with my camera, a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

“The hotels where you arrive and lay on the beach and do nothing have progressively disappeared.” – Jean-Michel Gathy.

HK: How is the perception of luxury changing – and how is this evolving the way in which you create spaces in the luxury arena?

JMG: Before, hotels were just a place where you go and relax. Today, guests are connected: they want spas, they want food and beverage, they want activities, they want things to do. The hotels where you arrive and lay on the beach and do nothing have progressively disappeared, because life is such that people have become more and more active. I think luxury property clients are now asking for more than simply great rooms. They want retail facilities, a cinema, an extraordinary spa, award-winning F&B offerings and outdoor activities all integrated into the hotel.

“In terms of reliability, price strategy, and brand positioning, Toyota is a fantastic commercial car – but I prefer a Bentley.” – Jean-Michel Gathy.

HK: What’s the value of having designers and architects in your practice?

JMG: There are many good architects, but we have a specific niche. I’m going to compare us to branding: thousands of people buy Toyotas, but few people buy Bentleys. I believe that we are more Bentley than Toyota. This doesn’t mean that a Toyota is not a good car. In terms of reliability, price strategy, and brand positioning, Toyota is a fantastic commercial car – but I prefer a Bentley. Designers are the same; many prefer commercial projects and properties, because their interest is financial. They just want to make money, which means they’re not romantic about their projects. Then you have other designers, which is where I belong, who are more interested in the success of the project, the excitement of the journey of designing a hotel, and having the pride of making something fantastic, even though you earn less money.

Restaurant overlooking ocean in the Maldives

Image credit: One&Only Maldives, designed by Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

HK: Has the way in which you source inspiration changed over the years?

JMG: I’m someone who designs from the heart so my style is one that’s charismatic. It’s not an ego trip like the architects who design for themselves. I design elements that are a composition of dramatic effect; I create large and dramatic space, in opposition to intimate areas, so the space is always dynamic. Secondly, I design for the sensation you get out of it. I want every space in the hotel to be comfortable and for my clients to come back and say, I like this space. Sometimes they don’t know why they like it, but if they walk in and feel good, I know I’ve succeeded.

And succeeded Gathy has in widening the path of innovative hotel experiences in far-flung destinations around the world. While his past hotel projects have firmly etched his name into the architecture, design and luxury hospitality history books, his latest ideas and concepts that are currently on the boards highlight Gathy and Denniston’s ambitions. Inspired by his worldly perspective of design and architecture, I believe that Gathy’s aspiration is yet to peak as he continues to think big with the future landscape of luxury international hotel design patiently waiting in his sketchbook for its cue to emerge.

Main image credit: Jean-Michel Gathy/Denniston

IN VIDEO: Preparation and design solutions for a post-pandemic world

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
IN VIDEO: Preparation and design solutions for a post-pandemic world

Hotel Designs took over the Montgomery Group Series yesterday, interviewing Design Equals’ Katie McCarthy to understand how how the hospitality industry should be preparing for a post-pandemic world…

“Who would have predicted this time last year that we would be here, giving you [the audience] live webinars and putting Preparation and Design Solutions for a Post-Pandemic World under the spotlight,” explained editor Hamish Kilburn when he introduced the next episode in the Montgomery Group Series. “But, we are here, and we are not afraid to put it under the spotlight.” Kilburn then introduced Katie McCarthy, Founder and Design Director of Design Equals to the hundreds of individuals who tuned in for the live discussion.

If you missed the live session, here’s the full interview:

The 40-minute interview covered all angles, including common pitfalls to avoid when designing on a budget, the realities of re-opening after lockdown measures become more relaxed and the long-term impact of COVID–19. In addition, Kilburn asked McCarthy about Design Equal’s innovative initiative ‘Design = in a Box’, an industry toolkit that the design studio has launched that addresses the main areas of priorities, which are safety, space and style.

The session came as Hotel Designs prepares to go live to its international audience on June 23 with Hotel Designs LIVE, a virtual conference that will include four engaging seminars with world-renowned designers, architects, hoteliers and developers on the global hospitality and design scene.

Montgomery Group Series is a cluster of weekly webinars with Q&As from leading industry figureheads, aimed to help keep the community updated, inspired and motivated during these difficult times.

Main image credit: Hotel Designs/Design Equals

5 Minutes With: Talking modern spas with designer Beverley Bayes

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
5 Minutes With: Talking modern spas with designer Beverley Bayes

With pools and spas dominating the headlines on Hotel Designs this month, editor Hamish Kilburn has five minutes with Beverley Bayes, Director of Sparcstudio, which is responsible for the design schemes inside Cottenmill Spa at Sopwell House, The Spa at South Lodge and many more luxury wellness hubs that have challenged convention… 

Earlier this month, Sparcstudio kindly shared its insight on how the current pandemic will affect wellness in hotels going forward.

Although the feature was honest, engaging and informative, it left us and our readers with wanting to know more. Considering the significance of COVID–19, and its long-term affect on the perception of wellness, I caught up the studio’s director, Beverley Bayes, ahead of Hotel Designs LIVE on June 23, where she will be on the panel as we discuss the The Future of Wellness Post-Pandemic.

Hamish Kilburn: Beverley, some would argue that spas and wellness areas are a breeding ground for viruses. Is that a fair statement?

Beverley Bayes: There is a lot of debate about this topic and it’s even more relevant today as spas consider their reopening strategies. I don’t believe it is a fair statement. There are very strict cleaning and hygiene protocols already in place and spas adhere to these stringently. But good design is absolutely key in creating a spa that is easy to maintain and it’s all about the detail. Sadly there are examples of bad detailing even within luxury spas. A common one is not designing in good ‘falls’ to flooring in wet areas, the sloping floor detail enables water to drain off rather than pooling, which around a pool deck is critical. Get it wrong and you face either having your staff constantly going around with squeegees to get rid of excess water , or resorting to the installation of anti-slip matting (as recently witnessed in an otherwise beautiful spa that shall remain nameless!)

Going forward, when spas are given the green light to reopen, I would advise businesses to refer to their equipment and wet and thermal suite suppliers for additional advice on maintaining health and hygiene in a COVID-19 world. I am already seeing suppliers issue new guidance of cleaning rituals that will help to protect guests and staff, so it’s a case of liaising with your current suppliers and following their advice.

Image credit: The Spa at South Lodge, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: How can a hotel sensitively inject its style and branding into the spa/wellness areas?

BB: ‘Sensitively’ is the key word here. I think it’s a real missed opportunity when a spa feels like a continuation of a hotel environment, with similar materials and finishes and maybe a sense of ‘formality’ that you might experience in the Hotel public spaces. For us a Hotel Spa is a chance to enter another more sensuous world where guests can kick off their shoes and ‘let their hair down’ !

For that reason, We always strive to create an informal ‘bare foot luxury‘ vibe to the spas that we design. This can be achieved by adding playful elements, for example at Sopwell Spa where we created a central relax area in the Garden relax room with a group of suspended Swinging chairs arranged around a panoramic fireplace overlooking the fabulous spa Garden. (The garden was expertly designed by Ann-Marie Powell )

Style and branding elements that Hoteliers can inject into a spa include a great service ethic and service style and also a passion for food and beverage, For example at South Lodge Spa, the Exclusive Collection team led by Danny Pecorrelli, applied their passion for F & B to create a  unique 80 seater relaxed all day dining concept for the Spa called ‘Botanica’ (Working in conjunction with the ‘Gorgeous group’ and Sparcstudio for the interiors).

The restaurant offer is designed to complement the other more formal dining options at the Hotel and is open to all hotel, spa users and external guests and is based on botanical, largely plant-based sharing plates utilising ingredients from local suppliers from the south downs.

Image credit: Aqua Sana Spa County Longford, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: From a lighting perspective, has LED lost its place to natural lighting in the spa?

BB: Sparcstudio director Tom Howell, is responsible for all of our lighting design, ‘Being well lit in a spa is key to a sense of wellbeing. We do design spaces to utilise natural light where ever possible, but LED lighting in linear strip or curving tape form concealed in a wall floor or ceiling or joinery feature, provides subtle washes of indirect light and enables us to create great effects. The key with spa lighting is to be mindful of the lighting source position and the guest position which is often in a lying down / facing up position, so the ‘old school’ style ceiling mounted halogen spotlights are definitely  to be avoided in order to prevent uncomfortable glare for guests’.

HK: What will the spa look like in 50 years? 

BB: High tech … low tech. I think the ancient traditions and rituals developed by the Romans in terms of bathing, washing and thermal experiences in a social setting will still be at the core of the spa experience, together with ‘hands on treatments’ reflecting the power of human touch, which will always have a place in spa.

Technology will no doubt have a big role to play in terms of treatments. Fully immersive Virtual reality experiences will no doubt be on the menu, but designed to appeal to all of the senses, including sound, touch and smell, giving wellbeing, as well as cosmetic benefits.

Given our precious link to the natural world, Spas that celebrate unique settings, will be an important part of worldwide Spa Tourism. For example, the world’s first ‘energy-positive’ hotel, Svart, will open in Norway’s Arctic Circle in 2022.

Image caption: The Spa at South Lodge, designed by Sparcstudio

Image caption: The Spa at South Lodge, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: How do you find out about new products on the market?

BB: Word of mouth, trade shows and social media and we are also lucky to be kept updated with the latest innovations and cutting edge products that are being developed by the suppliers themselves. We also relish the opportunity to create bespoke individual designs – be it furniture,  (for example the double lounger with integral lighting at Sopwell’s Cottonmill Club spa) light fitting or heat cabin and thermal suite, all of  which helps to add to a Spa’s feeling of authenticity and uniqueness.

Quick-fire round

HK: What’s the biggest misconception about being a designer who specialises in spas and wellness areas?

BB: That we design ‘spa pools’- those lovely big injection moulded plastic ‘people soup’ models spring to mind! A common mistake is to design a series of spa ‘spaces’ without really understanding or thinking through the journey and how they connect.

HK: Where is next on your spa bucket list?

BB: Aman Kyoto, Anada in the Indian Hymalas and Aro Hā  (Overlooking the ‘otherworldly’ expanse of Lake Wakatipu) in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

HK: What is your go-to treatment?

BB: A Hammam. A recent Couples Hammam in Bodrum was amazing – the facial loofa part was a bit scary at the time but was amazingly effective!

HK: What has been the most significant innovation on the wellness scene in the last five years?

BB: I would say one of the largest innovations, which is much more low-tech, is the rise of the Spa Garden, particularly here in the UK.

HK: What does luxury mean to you?

BB: Uninterrupted time away from technology and work/ home life distractions relaxing in a tranquil, stimulating/ sensuous environment that is ‘authentic and unique’ and beautifully / thoughtfully designed of course!

Image caption: Cottonmill Club at Sopwell House

Image caption: Cottonmill Club at Sopwell House, designed by Sparcstudio

HK: How is social media driving a change in the way in which wellness spaces are being designed?

BB: Social media is a powerful influence in the world of spa. Hotels and wellness spaces are very visual and this links perfectly to a social media platform like Instagram as it is all about the perfect picture. What we are seeing, in some instances, is that spas are creating experiences that are very obviously designed to create an ‘Instagram worthy shot’. An over the top (but often used) example is the placement of pink flamingoes in a spa or pool area, or a snug area that is branded and decorated with flower walls. You see this a lot in resorts in the Indian Ocean. The difficulty is that these experiences don’t place wellness or the guest experience at the heart of it. Following short term trends can be a problem as they are short lived and aren’t durable. They will quickly look outdated as Instagrammers hunt the next big thing, leaving your wellness space looking tired and past its sell-by date.

HK: There is a difference between wellness and wellbeing, how can modern spas evoke both in their design? 

BB: Wellbeing is the experience of health, happiness, and prosperity. It includes having good mental health, high life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and ability to manage stress Good Spa Design should create a sense of wellbeing by providing experiences that appeal to the senses and are ideally related to natural elements, and provide an escape from the stresses of work and everyday life.

Wellness, the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort. Fitness/ wellness facilities are an increasingly important element of a spa offer, in the form of yoga studio or outside Yoga deck, a well-designed gym (sensitively designed to fit with the Spas over-all ambience).

We also anticipate that there will continue to be overlaps or a blurring of the lines between fitness, wellness, spa and medical facilities. High end gyms such as ‘Third Space’ integrate spaces for relaxation and wellbeing with the inclusion of thermal suites and relaxation spaces. The sensuous Hot yoga studio that we designed at the Tower Bridge site has shaker style panelling and end grain Juniper log panelling that emit a soothing aroma when heated.

Sparcstudio, which will be involved in Hotel Designs LIVE on June 23, 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: SparcStudio

In Conversation With: Interior Designer of the Year 2019, Jo Littlefair

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: Interior Designer of the Year 2019, Jo Littlefair

Securing her place in the history books, Jo Littlefair came out on top last year at The Brit List Awards 2019, spectacularly winning the coveted title, Interior Designer of the Year. A few months later, she welcomes editor Hamish Kilburn into the Goddard Littlefair HQ to give him a glimpse into studio life…

“Jo, can I borrow you for just a second,” says senior associate and architect David Lee Hood as Jo Littlefair and I walk through the studio. “This archway,” he says pointing to a life-like rendering on his monitor, “what are your thoughts on adding in a line of colour here?” As he shows the before and after, it is a game of ‘spot the difference’ to the untrained eye. But for the multi-layered studio Goddard Littlefair, where the devil is so often in the detail, it could be the difference between winning a pitch or losing it, as any design practice operating on today’s international scene will confirm.

“We have made a few changes to encourage people to come and talk to us more.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

The short but important moment is proof, if ever I needed it, that Littlefair likes to naturally lead from within her team. And as we walk through the open-planned office that is flooded with natural light towards her workstation, I notice also that there is no door, and no boundary, between herself and everyone else in the building.

Image caption: The Lowry Presidential Suite, designed sensitively by Goddard Littlefair

Image caption: The Lowry Presidential Suite, designed sensitively by Goddard Littlefair

“We got to the point last year when, as we reached 60 employees, we decided Goddard Littlefair was too big as a studio,” she confesses. “We have made a few changes to encourage people to come and talk to us more, because I would rather know about something – and be able to comment at a point where it is possible to comment – rather than get further down the line and it be too late. At the end of the day, leading this design studio with Martin Goddard has always been a collaboration, not just between himself and I but also our team.” As the designer is explaining, I notice that there’s a cordial and relaxed atmosphere in the Clerkenwell studio, and the strong relationship between the co-founders and their team is apparent.

Image caption: The bar inside Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik, designed by Goddard Littlefair

“We look at the finer details, as you have just seen, that perhaps make a space look and feel more residential,” the designer explains. “Things like tabs on the curtain pole having a little leather strap and a metal rivet, and it’s those elements that give it quality and detail. It’s important that someone has thought about it in that much detail, and there is a reason why it’s leather and why it’s embossed, or whatever.”

“What’s most important is that it has to be right for our client, the property and the location every time.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

Recently completed projects within the studio’s portfolio include The Biltmore Mayfair  London, Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik , Sheraton  Grand Warsaw , the new F&B areas inside Hilton Munich City, The Lowry in Manchester and the Kimpton Charlotte Square. Having followed many, if not all, of these projects from concept through to completion, it’s fair to say that the studio believes that variety is the spice of life. “We don’t like being pigeon-holed,” explains Littlefair. “We have a great variety of style, which is fantastic. Also, we are not divas when it comes to our personal taste. What’s most important is that it has to be right for our client, the property and the location every time.”

Modern award-winning bar

Image caption: The award-winning Juliet Rose at Hilton Munich, designed by Goddard Littlefair, has become the city’s new destination bar.

Despite the studio clocking up the air miles with unavoidable trips abroad for site visits and account management, in order for the team to understand the culture and fabrics of new destinations, the studio’s HQ is positioned slap-bang in the epicentre of the design community in London, just a few streets behind some of the city’s major design showrooms in Clerkenwell. “There is always a corner of London that you can find a narrative to that is really individual,” says Littlefair. “Whether  When? you are living, working and breathing in London, like many of our designers, the city becomes a fantastic place. I think that’s because it is made up of villages that have, over time, morphed together. As a designer working on a project here, the identity of what those villages were can really shine through.”

“I literally had to work my way around the world, and it made me a different person.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

Despite London having its place in the designer’s heart, Littlefair mostly finds inspiration in design from nature, and decompresses daily from city life, after a hefty commute, in Buckinghamshire where she lives. “It’s a very open community, close enough to London for work, but full of fresh air,” she explains. “My kids love it there, and so do I!”

But where was Littlefair’s inquisitive nature born, I wonder? “When I left university and went travelling, technology as we know it now didn’t exist; email had just come out for crying out loud,” she admits. “I used to pay to sit in a café to type an email home to say I’m alive. For me, that was about really cutting off from the world. My mum didn’t think I was going to come back,” she laughs, “I did some crazy things; I worked out on boats and I threw myself into experiential travel, albeit on a shoestring. I literally had to work my way around the world, and it made me a different person. Experiencing places and learning about people and cultures.”

Image caption: The Principal York's luxe, residential look and feel was designed by Goddard Littlefair

Image caption: The Principal York’s luxe, residential look and feel was designed by Goddard Littlefair

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: What trend do you hope will never return?
Jo Littlefair: Rag-rolled walls and transitional furniture.

HK: What’s next on your travel bucket list?
JL: Chile , Argentina and Egypt.

HK: What would you say is the number-one tool for success?
JL: Hard work, and you can’t teach taste. I learn something new every day, nobody can know everything!

HK: Who was your inspiration growing up?
JL: The reason I made it into interiors is because I used to work on super yacht designed by Terence Tisdale. I couldn’t believe that somebody got paid to put this together and design with  all those beautiful timber veneers and mirrors everywhere, which I had to clean! I spent four months in the Med working on this 64m Feadship  . It had everything and gave me an insight into luxury and interior design.

HK: What is the one item you cannot travel without?
JL: This is ridiculous but my cashmere jumper, which is so not me. You will always find a lightweight cashmere jumper in my flight bag!

HK: What is the last item that will show up on your bank statement?
JL: Whole beans for my coffee machine. Always buy a small bag because you want the freshest roasted beans for your coffee.

HK: What has the last year taught you?
JL: To keep everyone in the studio on one floor, so that we are working together. Also that quality far outweighs quantity.

“Think of it as the destination’s answer to The Ned.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

Back to today, and the studio is currently hard at work with a number of projects on the drawing boards. The studio is currently working on designing four restaurants and bars inside the soon-to-open 360-key Villa Copenhagen. “Think of it as the destination’s answer to The Ned,” Littlefair teases. “But it’s so not about men and women in suits. Instead, the whole project has been about understanding the Danish vernacular, the locals’ way of life.”

Other projects that the studio is working on include five star resorts on the Mediterranean coast line, the repurposing of a beautiful Viennese building to a 150 plus bedroom five star hotel and what may be the future best spa in London.

Image credit: The atmospheric restaurant Cucina Mia inside Shertaton Warsaw, designed by Goddard Littlefair

Image credit: The atmospheric restaurant InAzia restaurant in Sheraton Warsaw, designed by Goddard Littlefair

As two people who are, parallel to others in the industry, so thoughtfully leading interior design forward in terms of meaningful innovation, Goddard and Littlefair both feel pressure to adapt sensitively with the times while also maintaining a fundamental quality. And their approach to evolution is enlightening.  “Someone once told me that everything in life is a phase,” explains Littlefair. “I have learned to embrace change and see it as a positive. It is intrinsically scary to human nature, but when you learn that it is necessary to be a little bit cathartic about things, life runs smoother.” I would argue that it is this breath-of-fresh-air attitude that led the designer to win The Brit List Awards’ Interior Designer of the Year 2020.

“You have no idea how much the award means to me.” – Jo Littlefair, co-founder, Goddard Littlefair

“I just can’t believe it,” she said fresh off stage at the event in November when her new-found title was revealed in front of a sea of leading designers, architects, hoteliers and developers. Months later, and the reality of ‘that win’ hasn’t quite sunk in. “You have no idea how much the award means to me,” she says now. “The line-up of people you had there was fantastic, they are my peer group and I am very respectful of what everyone else is doing. So, that people within this industry consider what we are doing here to such high regard means everything!”

Image caption: Interior Designer of the Year, Goddard Litterfair's Jo Littlefair with editor Hamish Kilburn at The Brit List Awards 2020

Image caption: Interior Designer of the Year, Goddard Litterfair’s Jo Littlefair with editor Hamish Kilburn at The Brit List Awards 2020

In a recent roundtable discussion that Littlefair attended, it was mentioned that all designers are having to work harder than ever before in order to differentiate from other styles and common motifs. As I sit around the table in the hub of her studio, I wonder how Littlefair and her team approach this topic when it comes to designing future hotels. “We are getting to the point where people have not seen a beautifully letter-pressed card before,” she says. “The ‘tech revolution’ has changed everything that we do and the way our work is perceived, but we can’t lose touch of humanity in the process.”

“We crowned a really worthy winner,” I can’t help by think to myself after I’ve said my goodbyes to the  Goddard Littlefair team. For me, it’s not necessary  necessarily? Littlefair’s work that is the most inspiring thing about but  the designer, but more her incredible journey, which was fuelled by hard-work, passion and determination, that I believe every single designer can learn from – or at least be energised by.

Main image credit: Goddard Littlefair

In Conversation With: The founders of design studio BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
In Conversation With: The founders of design studio BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

With W Ibiza about to open, Hotel Designs gets a backstage pass to exclusively interview the design and architecture heroes behind the project. The founders of BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG, Irene Kronenberg and Alon Baranowitz, have led the completion of some of Europe’s most iconic hotels. Editor Hamish Kilburn joins the pair to understand how to effortlessly confront convention in the ever-evolving hotel design arena…

A few miles away from where the spotlight is being cast on the designers and architects who are attending Sleep & Eat 2019, The Standard London’s playful interior design scheme provides an apt and backdrop for my next interview to take place. I don’t know it yet, but I am about to experience a pivotal moment in my career as I prepare to meet face-to-face with the designers behind one of my very first ever hotel reviews, which took place almost half a decade ago.

Irene Kronenberg and Alon Baranowitz are the founders of BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG, and have – for some time now –  led an exciting movement on the hotel design scene in Europe and in the Middle East. Their two studios in Amsterdam and Tel Aviv consist of a group of talented designers and architects, all of whom have graduated from institutions around the globe.

Among a sea of residential projects within the studio’s portfolio, there are also a number of hotels that have marvellously opened to disrupt the tide of the pre-existing hospitality spaces. These include the likes of Sir Albert Hotel, Mendeli Street Hotel, Wyndham Grand Frankfurt, as well as a handful of W Hotels for good measure in pockets of Europe that have become major travel hotspots.

“I like to think it’s the building talking back when we face challenges.” – Alon Baranowitz, Co-founder, BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG.

It’s a daunting prospect to reconfigure a respected building that has formed part of history and a community for centuries, and sensitivity from concept through to completion is called for for such briefs. “We have a beautiful dialogue with buildings that allows us to converse and work with them,” explains Baranowitz. “I like to think it’s the building talking back when we face challenges. It really is a journey. When you start from scratch, anything is possible. And then you start confronting elements that affect the original ideas and plans. The trick then is to work around constraints and not against them. Often, these end up being the most exciting and rewarding projects.”

“In that moment, we moved from being functional designers and became narrative creatives.” – Irene Kronenburg, Co-founder, BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG.

1998 was a defining year for the studio. The two designers were approached by a client to create a new restaurant and dining experience. “We remember the birth of Zo Zo Bra’s design concept like it was yesterday, and it was a turning point for us,” says Kronenburg. “I even remember what the lady was drinking on the table adjacent to us during our meeting. We sat there for hours trying to understand the concept of ying and yang. We went in completely open-minded, and only after we had succeeded in defining the energy of the concept and space did we start designing. “In that moment,” reflects Kronenburg, “we moved from being functional designers and became narrative creatives.”

projector above tables and open front windows, the studio's design take on ying and yang

Image caption: The ying and yang concept executed in Zo Zo Bra in Tel Aviv

A few decades later, having perfected their innovative design method with a string of hotels and residential projects, the studio was awarded the opportunity to design W Amsterdam, which I first reviewed in 2014 during its soft opening. It was another one of those projects – a ‘labour of love’ hotel, which I’m assuming received more labour than love during key moments. “It was an incredible project to work on,” beams Kronenberg. “It felt like our role was to stitch all the elements together. Before we made any decisions, we had to understand the buildings as well as the city of Amsterdam. The biggest challenge was to breathe new life into the building while remaining sensitive throughout.”

The hotel, which takes shelter in the pre-existing 1920s telephone exchange building as well as the former KAS Bank down the road, challenges design and behavioural conventions in many ways. For starters, the check-in area is positioned on the top floor of the exchange building, which flows seamlessly into the rooftop bar and restaurant and heated outdoor pool, allowing visitors to feel part of the W’s energy immediately upon checking in. “It’s a party place, but Amsterdam does not the same night life you have here in London,” explains Kronenberg, and I can only assume the designer is referencing the city’s open-minded attitudes as well as an underground party, design and fashion scene. “It was important for us to create a venue that the locals would accept as a new destination that breaks boundaries. Without the locals using the hotel’s facilities as we intended, the design would not have worked as a concept.”

Hotel designers are moving – or have already shifted – into a new era, where their design projects on the boards being influenced as much by quality materials as they are aesthetics. Having led the industry as innovators for so long, I am intrigued to understand how this greater awareness has impacted the studio. “It’s a really exciting time to be operating in the industry at the moment,” explains Baranowitz. “Perspectives on sustainability are definitely changing. Before knocking down a building, for example, we should be investigating what we can restore in order to create a continuation of urban fabric that would otherwise be forgotten. Thinking in this way has become more of a reflex.”

“It really is as simple as adjusting the way we live in order to design more thoughtful spaces.” – Irene Kronenburg, Co-founder, BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG.

For the studio, while consumers checking in and out of hotels become more savvy to consciously designed properties, it is less about designing purposely, and more about living sensibly and within ones means so that an eco-approach becomes second nature. “There shouldn’t need to be someone telling us to design responsibly, just like there shouldn’t be someone telling us to recycle,” adds Kronenberg. “It really is as simple as adjusting the way we live in order to design more thoughtful spaces.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn (HK): Where’s next on your travel bucket list? 
Elon Baranowitz (EB): Japan
Irene Knonenberg (IK): The Azores

HK: What is the secret to good design? 
IK: Good design is about what you don’t see.

HK: Why should people visit your hometown of Tel Aviv? 
EB: We live each day like there is no tomorrow. No, really, the energy on the streets is electric!

HK: What would you say has been the most significant change on the international hotel design scene recently?
IK: Respect for specialists and sourcing inspiration outside of design territory.

Not understanding the 360-degree relationship between the designer, architect and operator is a pitfall I try to avoid when reviewing hotels. When researching into the studio’s latest project it is about to complete, W Ibiza, I find it uncommon and interesting that BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG was commissioned to work on the architecture as well as the interior design scheme.

W Hotels has a habit of doing things differently – and considering the studio’s wealth of architecture experience as well as interior design – the renders of W Ibiza say rather a lot about the buildings need for a strong relationship between both elements. The colourful renders depict a vision that is the result of a seamless and understood relationship between the shell of the building, its practical properties catering to the modern traveller and and evolution of the W-style within the vibrant interiors sheltered inside. “When we first entered the building, which is positioned on the beach front, we couldn’t even see the sea. There had been no thought as to how guests would and should use these public spaces,” explains Kronenberg. “As a result of us opening up the structure of the building sensitively, guests now capture the sea from the outside of the property.”

Render of a colourful green and blue architecture of W Ibiza

Image credit: W Ibiza/Baranowitz + Kronenberg

W Ibiza is slated to open in April, ahead of the 2020 Summer season. Located off the beaten track, the 167-key hotel will strike a pose on the palm-fringed beachfront of Santa Eulalia. As the only global brand on the island, the design brief was to marry the parallel realities of Ibiza with a magnetic pull that turns up the sass.

By opening up the public spaces to become a flexible social hub, the hotel becomes a place that nurtures human connections, and through the use of subtle levels creates touchable distance between each functional area. “The idea is that the energy descends into the unconventional pool area,” adds Baranowitz. “As you move up levels, the lobby/lounge area becomes more reclined, but the open architecture scheme allows for a clever connection between all spaces.”

 

60 minutes in the company of Kronenberg and Baranowitz has allowed me to find a fresh perspective on the industry, as well as the possibilities that can emerge from taking the time to listen before acting. As the pair rush to catch their flight back to Tel Aviv, their boundless energy has awakened my senses. Nearly five years after checking in to W Amsterdam, it is as if fate has finally brought this moment together. My barely touched coffee has gone cold, which I now believe is the sign of a great conversation that will continue soon.

Main image credit: BARANOWITZ + KRONENBERG

In Conversation With: Britain’s design legend Martin Brudnizki

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In Conversation With: Britain’s design legend Martin Brudnizki

Last year’s crowned Interior Designer of The Year at The Brit List Awards, Martin Brudnizki, invites editor Hamish Kilburn to his Chelsea London studio to explain some of the major milestones in his career as well as how he logistically manages his time in a truly international market…

Design gems are not hard to come by on the British hotel design scene. You have only to open the pages of last year’s edition of The Brit List – and this year’s shortlist for that matter – to find the top 75 influential designers, architects and hoteliers.

However, design legends are less common. It’s not a question of talent or ability, but more a reflection of style, class, personality and being about to really set oneself aside from others in the heavily congested international hotel design market.

There is only – and will only ever be – one Martin Brudnizki, for example. Last year, Hotel Designs’ The Brit List crowned the acclaimed visionary as its Interior Designer of the Year – and for good reason. “Brudnizki is an international leader, standing as an icon as well as inspiration to so many young aspiring designers,” commented last year’s expert judging panel. “His recent work in University Arms Cambridge is a credit to his studio’s ability to give a building a new lease of life in the most sensitive and creative way.”

Image caption/credit: The Library designed by MBDS/University Arms Cambridge

Almost one year later, while the editorial team at Hotel Designs are gearing up for yet another spectacular awards ceremony, I aptly caught up with the Brudnizki in his Chelsea studio in London to find out more about our ‘poster boy’s’ journey to become one of the world’s most celebrated interior designers of the moment.

“I grew up in Stockholm; my mother was a stylist and my father an engineer and I think this blend of approaches to living and design, in particular, rubbed off on me,” Brudnizki explains. “My mother is incredibly stylish and filled our home with beautiful colours, patterns and objet. My father on the other hand, worked in a very precise and thought-through way. Both aspects of their personality has certainly informed the way I work today.”

Brudnizki’s early career in design saw him working at the likes of David Gill Gallery and David Collins Studio before branching off and putting his own practice in 2000, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio (MBDS) in 2000. “I learned a lot during my time in other places,” he adds, “which has served me well when establishing my own studio.”

“We have a number of up-coming projects that I also hope shape our studio’s story. It’s an exciting time.” – Martin Brudnizki

Since then, MBDS has become one of the leading international design studios, with bases in London and New York and projects including The Beekman, University Arms and Four Seasons Athens. But, like all designers, Brudnizki remembers the milestone moments; the hotels and buildings that captured his and his team’s incredible imagination, usually sheltered in iconic shells. “All the projects we work on are exciting and help shape the future of the studio however, there are a few that really stick out as being pivotal,” the designer explains. “Scott’s in Mayfair presented us with the opportunity to design our first fine dining restaurant, it also cemented our relationship with Caprice Holdings, who have since become important clients of ours. Working with Nick Jones on Soho Beach House Miami was exciting as this saw us introduce the successful Soho House brand to a new region. The Beekman in New York opened in 2016 and helped stamp our mark on New York. It’s located in a beautiful building and we were lucky to garner a lot of attention from it. Finally, Annabel’s in London has proved incredibly popular for us. It’s such an iconic club so we felt very honoured to be asked to redesign its incarnation. We have a number of up-coming projects that I also hope shape our studio’s story. It’s an exciting time.”

Dividing his time between both London and New York has given Brudnizki the unique freedom to position himself in two of the world’s most respected design hubs. “Both cities have very unique identities,” Brudnizki explains. “They are both are melting pots of culture and excitement and whilst very different, they both present wonderful opportunities to mark your mark.”

“Luxury travel to me is being able to combine a sense of curated experience with spontaneity; finding new places but also the having the flexibility to be adventurous and go off piste.” – Martin Brudnizki

From the outside looking in, the luxury market in hotel design may look like a desirable place to start when setting out to build a reputation as being a leading designer, but it also comes with risk to cater to the ever-changing demand of the modern luxury traveller. For Brudniki, the true art of luxury travel is a reflection of his own experience and personality. “Luxury travel to me is being able to combine a sense of curated experience with spontaneity; finding new places but also the having the flexibility to be adventurous and go off piste,” he defines.

Since winning at The Brit List 2018, Brudnizki’s vision on a new hotel brand has come to life in the shape of Mr C Hotels, which opened in Miami earlier this year – and has, as a result, put him in the running for the second consecutive year for this year’s awards. “Mr C is situated in a modern new build in the green surroundings of Coconut Grove,” he explains. “New builds have many benefits, including up-to-date technology and no listed statuses to content with however, new builds often lack the characterful details of older properties. With this in mind, we often have to dig deeper to find a strong narrative to wrap the hotel’s design in. For Mr. C we looked to the landscape of the region and the glamorous boating heritage and incorporated elements of this into our scheme.”

As well as technology, another area that has peaked recently in popularity among developers as well as designers and architects is the value of sustainability and designing consciously. “I think it depends on the project and the client, Brudnizki admits. “We are working with Six Senses on their new hotel and resort in Kitzbuehel Alps and the whole design is focused on sustainability and using organic and local materials. This is to mirror the brand’s values so we’ve had an interesting time researching new materiality and local artisans who can help reduce the hotel’s carbon footprint and up their sustainability accreditation.”

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: Where is next on your travel bucket list?
Martin Brudnizki: Portugal.

HK: What is the number one item you simply cannot travel without?
MB: A silk eye mask.

HK: What is the last item that will show up on your bank statement?
MB: Probably food from Bayley & Sage.

HK: What is your favourite place to unwind in London?
MB: My home in Parsons Green. As a travel so much, it’s nice to just come home and relax in the peace and quiet.

HK: What trend do you hope will never return?
MB: International Beige.

HK: Where are you travelling to next?
MB: My New York Studio next week.

Before I leave the designer in peace to create with his team the hotel interiors of the future, which include hotels in London, Austria, LA and Cape Town (among others), I am interested to explore, on the surface at least, new materials that have emerged on the designer’s radar. “I am really interested in straw marquetry at the moment; it’s such a beautiful natural fibre that can be used in the most unusual of places, such as walls and furniture,” Brudnizki says.

MBDS itself is incubating a strong network of talented designers that will further position Britain as a globally regarded leading design hotspot. With his name on the door of two dynamic studios – and also in the minds of I would argue all aspiring interior designers – Brudnizki is leading the ever-evolving industry into new territory.

The shortlisted finalists this year’s The Brit List have been invited to The Brit List Awards 2019, which takes on November 21 at Patch East London (Aldgate). To purchase limited tickets, click here

Main image credit: Luca Marziale

EXCLUSIVE: Pre-show interview with designer of The Conscious Bedroom

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EXCLUSIVE: Pre-show interview with designer of The Conscious Bedroom

The Founder and Creative Director of Harris & Harris London, Alex Harris, gives Hotel Designs‘ editor, Hamish Kilburn, a sneak peek of The Conscious Bedroom that he and his team are designing for The Independent Hotel Show London 2019… 

It was at the beginning of 2019 when Harris & Harris, the London based multidisciplinary design studio, were first approached by the organisers of Independent Hotel Show to work on this year’s concept room set.

The brief was simple (and came in after the show had viewed the studio’s interior design portfolio online): to design The Conscious Hotel Room for the Independent Hotel Show 2019. The design studio leaped at the opportunity to design the concept room. “It was a seamless fit for the studio and their ethos of looking at the most environmentally and socially conscious way of producing luxury interiors and products,” Alex Harris, the studio’s Founder and Creative Director, explains. Arguably most importantly, though, the space at the show would give Harris & Harris the opportunity to showcase this mentality through the design and curation of brand partners who have similar ethics.

When designing the skeleton of the room, Harris was keen to explore creating a heritage feel. “We wanted it to feel as if the room was located within a historic building instead of a new build,” he explains. “This was to prove that sustainable design practices can also be applied to older buildings, which are more prominent in the UK. This was achieved through introducing Georgian style wall panelling throughout the bedroom and including some historic design references in the interior design but with a modern twist.” 

Parallel to curating sustainable focussed products and brands in the concept room – including factoring in elements like using local suppliers to reduce milage – the studio was also focussed on ensuring the overall design felt fresh, inviting and luxurious, all of which could be achieved whilst minimising the impact on the environment.

Ahead of the official unveiling of the finished room on October 15, we caught up with Harris to understand more about the concept and his drive to design with purpose.

Hamish Kilburn: What sparked your passion for sustainability, both at university and beyond?
Alex Harris: I had the opportunity to gain work experience in 2005, prior to graduating from Bournemouth University, with the award winning furniture designer Russell Pinch (we grew up in the same tiny village in Gloucestershire). One day we traveled down to Benchmark Furniture in Berkshire as Russell was working on a new collection with them and I had the chance to see Benchmark’s incredible workshops, showroom and design office.

They are very focused on sustainability throughout their manufacturing process and the products themselves. Together with their passion for craftsmanship, this definitely resonated with me as a student and I knew that my final year project must represent this ethos that I witnessed with Pinch and Benchmark’s work.

I designed a (fully functioning) wooden wind-up LED lamp for my final year project, which I won an award for sustainability from my university. At the same time I approached the eco-design collective [RE] Design and had the opportunity to exhibit my lamp with them at the London Design Festival in 2006. Then in 2009 (after a stint living and working in Melbourne, Australia) I joined the Benchmark design team, four years after I had previously visited with Russell Pinch, so I had come full circle!

I then went to work for several interior designers in London who were focussed on luxury and not really concerned about sustainability, which was always difficult for me. I vowed that whenever I start my own design studio that we must bring together both ‘luxury’ and ‘sustainability’  to prove that they can work harmoniously.

HK: How will your concept The Conscious Hotel Room showcase environmental and social factors?
AH: We have thought about the design in terms of impact on the environment from floor to ceiling. It was very important to us that every element was considered, so we researched and approached companies that we knew could help us with this vision.

So we have organic and natural wool and linen fabrics, FSC certified timber flooring from Domus, bespoke 100 per cent recycled cardboard and plastic joinery pieces, many products that are made in the UK (to reduce ‘mileage’) such as our Harris & Harris furniture & lighting and the beautifully natural bed from Naturalmat, 100 per cent wool carpets from Axminster with their recycled car-tyres underlay (both also made in the UK). Handmade natural terracotta tiles, also from Domus, feature in the bathroom with Crosswater WC, basin mixers and showers with low water use. Edward Bulmer paint features on the bedroom walls that only uses natural ingredients. We have a boiling and chilled water tap from Quooker together with reusable water bottles at the mini bar, omitting the need for a kettle (as you only use the exact boiling water you need for a cup of tea) and of course no need for single-use plastic water bottles. Even the artwork we have curated with the art consultants ARTIQ has been chosen to minimise impact on the environment, with artists that use recycled materials and natural materials & processes.

“Natural materials are used wherever possible but in particular with the Naturalmat bed and linens from The Fine Cotton Company.” – Alex Harris, Founder and Creative Director, Harris & Harris

The social factors that we have considered include making the space as wheelchair friendly as we can, with clear space around the bed, sofa, desk and bathroom vanity and a wide doorless opening into the bathroom with no change in floor level into the shower. Plants throughout provide better air quality and general well being. Natural materials are used wherever possible but in particular with the Naturalmat bed and linens from The Fine Cotton Company, to provide the best night’s sleep possible. Snacks and beverages will be sourced as locally as possible and that contain healthy ingredients.

HK: What are the challenges of creating a heritage feel from scratch?
AH: Our first approach was to introduce wall panelling and decorative mouldings throughout, this gave the feeling of a Georgian style property which also helped it feel warm, welcoming and luxurious. Materials, colours and patterns were also chosen to be simple and classic throughout and the furniture and joinery designs are pared back to give a timeless feel.

Image caption: Independent Hotel Show Conscious Hotel Room sketch

HK: What are the historic design references that are mentioned in the brief?
AH: As discussed above, the wall panelling and decorative mouldings, gave the feeling of a Georgian style interior. Our Harris & Harris furniture we have specified for the project; ‘Totterdown’ sofa, ‘Orchard’ Bench and ‘Clarke’ dining chair all have subtle references in their designs to 1920s/1930s Art Deco era and our Harris & Harris ‘Wharf’ lights (both table and pendants will be showcased) feature classic reeded glass. Cole & Son’s wallpaper ‘Flamingos’ that feature in the bathroom are a take on their archived designs from the 1960s as do the ‘Palm Jungle’ fabric on the scatter cushions. The herringbone pattern in the Axminster carpet is another classic design feature and the recycled cardboard tubing, used in the joinery and bed backdrop, gives a feeling of fluted columns that were used in Greek and Roman architecture.

“There are so many ways in which hotels can embrace the three ‘R’s (reduce, recycle and reuse).” – Alex Harris, Founder and Creative Director, Harris & Harris

HK: Can a hotel be 100 per cent fully sustainable?
AH: Unfortunately I don’t believe we as human beings can ever be 100 per cent fully sustainable unless we go back to living in a cave! We can all do our bit to help minimise our impact, but we all consume and we all produce waste. There are so many ways in which hotels can embrace the three ‘R’s (reduce, recycle and reuse) and we are excited to showcase just a selection of examples of how this can be employed in the design of The Conscious Hotel Bedroom which we hope will inspire hoteliers for their current and future projects.

HK: Let’s talk about water consumption. So many hotel groups are pledging to reduce their water consumption by ‘X’ amount.. Which suppliers would you say are allowing this to be a reality?
AH: We are working closely with the British bathroom brand Crosswater who are supplying The Conscious Hotel Bedroom with their M Pro range which have WRAS and TMV2 certification. The WC has two flush types to encourage water management and the mixer tap features a Neoperl aerator that has a flow rate of only five litres per minute.

When I lived in Australia we received an egg timer from the local water company to encourage showers of under four minutes. This was such simple idea and gave a fun challenge to try and ‘beat the clock’ whilst saving water. We will be featuring an egg timer in the bathroom of The Conscious Hotel Bedroom.

“There will be many UK produced products that will feature in The Conscious Hotel Bedroom and will be noted in our literature at the show.” – Alex Harris, Founder and Creative Director, Harris & Harris

HK: What is the value of products that have been manufactured in the UK?
AH: We have many great craftsmanship skills and traditions that are hard to find abroad. Harris & Harris are passionate about producing the UK whenever possible and keeping these skills alive. There will be many UK produced products that will feature in The Conscious Hotel Bedroom and will be noted in our literature at the show.

HK: What can designers do to ensure an eco-hotel is still a trendy and fresh hotel?
AH: I think there is no reason why an eco-hotel cannot not still be trendy and fresh. Curating the products and materials specifically for The Conscious Hotel Bedroom galvanised this idea for us. Many brands now offer products which have less impact on the environment but still look fab. It is up to the designer to track these down and encourage their client to use in place of products that could be damaging to the environment.

HK: Can you explain the benefits of Smile Plastics?
AH: Smile plastics have kindly donated their ‘Dapple’ plastic sheets to us for the joinery pieces at The Conscious Hotel Bedroom. Dapple is made from recycled chopping boards and plastic packaging and with all of their ranges, Smile Plastics are produced from waste which would otherwise end up in land fill. With Dapple we felt it had the look of a natural material such as marble, to give a touch of luxury, particularly important in the bathroom where it features on the vanity joinery. Dapple is hard, dense and rigid, 100 per cent waterproof, rot-proof and strong weather resistance. It is solid and consistent, allowing for a decorative edge. It is also UV resistance and is food-grade and can be used for preparation of wet foods.

Harris & Harris will showcase The Conscious Hotel Room at the Independent Hotel Show 2019. In addition to this, Harris will also join editor Hamish Kilburn on stage to discuss this year’s major topic in a live talk entitled The Conscious Bedroom Report, which takes place at 11:30am on October 15, 2019.

Brand Partners (as of August 2019)
ARTIQ– art consultants and rental agency, Axminster- carpets, Cole & Son– wallpaper and fabrics, Crosswater- bathroom items including shower, basin, toilet and tapsCurran Packaging– recycled cardboard tubing, Domus – bathroom floor and wall tiles, timber flooring, Edward Bulmer – paint, The Fine Cotton Company – towels, gowns, slippers and bed linens, Harris & Harris London– furniture and decorative lighting, Naturalmat – bed, mattress and bed linens, Plant Plan – plants and moss/living wall, Quooker – boiling, filtered & chilled water mixer tap, Samsung– television and soundbarSmile Plastics– recycled plastic sheet material, Wandsworth Group – power, lighting sockets and faceplates

In Conversation With: Michele Salvi, Associate at Zaha Hadid Architects

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In Conversation With: Michele Salvi, Associate at Zaha Hadid Architects

Following the opening of the 770-key Morpheus Hotel in Macau, Zaha Hadid Architects’ Michele Salvi sits down with editor Hamish Kilburn to discuss pushing boundaries, ever-changing public areas and how the pioneering practice is continuing the legacy of a design legend…

When Morpheus first opened to the public in June of last year as the “world’s first free-form high-rise exoskeleton” hotel, to the surprise of nobody, it quickly became one of the most talked-about new-builds of the decade.

Six years in planning, the ambitious brief that the team at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) received by Melco Resorts Entertainment was to design and build the fifth and final tower to complete City of Dreams Resort in Macau.

“Morpheus is a step into the unknown.” – Michele Salvi, Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

To understand more about the challenges that were attached to such an enormous project – and to get a glimpse into the inner workings of one of the leaders behind many of the decisions – I join project architect and Associate Michele Salvi for one of his typical lunch hours in London’s bustling Clerkenwell district. “I love it here,” he says tucking into a fresh salad. “London’s vibrant culture scene makes Britain such a significant design hub.”

Establishing shot of site against other buildings

Image credit: Ivan Dupont

The architect, who operates from the ZHA’s London HQ and has recently been confirmed among other visionaries to be a jury member for the Outstanding Property Award London, is currently working on projects such as Mandarin Oriental Melbourne as well as several high-end competitions in Europe, Asia and Australia. And while these buildings that are on the boards are full-on commitments, there was nothing that could have prepared Salvi and the ZHA team for the opening of Morpheus. “Throughout the year there were many launch events with the hotel’s grand opening being the most important and expectations were high,” he admits. “The large atrium had been unwrapped from its scaffolding only a few days before and we had been working full speed with the interior contractors to deliver a project of premium quality right up until the last day. To be honest, it was a huge team effort.”

Instead of referencing architectural styles from around the globe, like the majority of other buildings in and around Macau, Morpheus ascended from its own unique environment juxtaposing its neighbouring buildings. “As our client says, Morpheus is a step into the unknown,” adds Salvi, “an unprecedented mix of challenges. More so than previous projects as parametric design tools methodologies have been used extensively in all design stages until construction.”

“It takes more than a comfortable room and premium facilities to make a hotel experience truly special.” – Michele Salvi, Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

Rewind six years, and it was the late Zaha Hadid herself who had originally signed off the plans for the project. “We started with the envelope and exoskeleton,” explains Salvi. “The massing was given by the brief, the limited footprint leftovers from the existing City of Dreams development and 160m height restrictions because of being in close proximity to the airport.”

To create a fitting first impression that allowed all guests to experience the full scale of the project, the design team decided to keep the public areas as open and exposed as possible. “It takes more than a comfortable room and premium facilities to make a hotel experience truly special,” Salvi explains. “We wanted people to physically experience the building, be amazed and discover something unexpected.” Examples of this can be found no further than the 12 panoramic lifts, which through the full-height atrium provides what can only be described as a breathtaking 45-second experience of defying gravity.

What gives the 40-storey Morpheus its iconic free-form exterior shape are a number of delicately created pockets within the architectural structure. “We carved out three voids from this solid block to increase the amount of unique corner rooms,” explains Salvi. “By bending and curving the façade towards the centre, we enhanced visual connectivity and created unexpected crossing views between different areas of the building, such as two panoramic bridges that host restaurants.”

Exterior shot of the hotel, with irregular details

Image credit: Ivan Dupont

The guestrooms and suites within the hotel are somewhat hidden in the non-uniformed design in collaboration with interior design studio Remedios Studio. “Most rooms are within the flat façade and corners, with unique suites in the transition between flat façade and the voids,” Salvi continues. “All of them are behind the exoskeleton, and the variation of its pattern provides shelter from direct sunlight and generates dynamic filter towards the city.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: How do you escape from the daily grind?
Michele Salvi: Sailing, when I can, and I love travelling

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
MS: Hong Kong and Jordan are on my list. I would love to visit Patagonia and La Tierra del Fuego

HK: Renders or sketches?
MS: Both of them in every stage of design

HK: If I were to give you unlimited budget to design a hotel, where would it be in the world?
MS: I would love to design a floating hotel, always in motion rather than anchored to a specific context

HK: In your career, so far, what has been the largest change that has affected the way in which you design hotels?
MS: For me, this was when I started to use parametric tools, which could manage more information and has a much higher level of complexity

HK: Who inspired you when you were training to be an architect?
MS: Primarily Zaha Hadid. But also Frank Gehry and later on, from other creative fields, Ernst Haeckel and D’Arcy W. Thompson.

“Zaha’s loss was devastating.” – Michele Salvi, Associate, Zaha Hadid Architects

Despite Morpheus being no-doubt an impressive piece of architecture, it is perhaps the fact that it was one of the last projects that the late Zaha Hadid herself worked on that makes it an important building – and a poignant moment – in the firm’s journey. “Zaha’s loss was devastating,” says Salvi. “However, there is a strong sense of community within the company and we all share the responsibility to continue her legacy.” Salvi joined the studio just more than 15 years ago, first starting in the firm’s Italian studio before moving to London to work within – and later lead – a larger team. “I do feel as if I have contributed to making the company successful,” he says. After more than three years, we are doing incredibly well and continue to deliver unique projects.”

Just like the project itself did over many sketches and renders, Salvi has also evolved since early stages through to the completion. “Due to the extraordinary scale of the project, I feel I’ve learnt a lot,” he says. “From façade technology and interior design to form structure and workflow management, which is now a precious resource on every new project.”

With the architect’s lunch hour over running, and a design competition deadline looming, it’s time for Salvi to head back to the London studio to contribute further in changing the skylines of our cities for the better, all while continuing the work of the woman who changed architecture – and equality within the sector – forever. And with that, the extraordinary work taking shape behind the firm’s studio doors continues into a new chapter, which will no-doubt be complete with new, unique and elegant dimensions.

Main image credit: Jacopo Spilimbergo

In Conversation With: Simon Naudi, CEO of Corinthia Hotels

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In Conversation With: Simon Naudi, CEO of Corinthia Hotels

With a Dubai debut around the corner, Corinthia Hotels is strategically expanding its luxury arm one region – and one hotel opening – at a time. Editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with the CEO of Corinthia Hotels, Simon Naudi, to understand the trials and triumphs of evolving one of the world’s most luxurious hotel brands…

Given its esteemed reputation among the design community, luxury enthusiast and of course its loyal returning guests, the news that Corinthia Hotels will open a property in the Middle East comes with little surprise.

The 55-storey hotel, which will add to the ever-expanding city skyline of Dubai, is slated to open in 2020. Considering that the destination’s hotel room supply is set to reach 132,000 by the end of 2019, according to a study by the emirate’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) – and occupancy levels are forecast to remain at 76-78 per cent despite growth in capacity – the question is not why, but rather more ‘why now’. “Real Estate is expensive,” says Simon Naudi, CEO of Corinthia Hotels. “We are looking to expand sensitively. Our plan is to grow the portfolio sensibly and steadily, prioritising on looking for the right building or site in the right location.”

According to STR, the UAE as a whole gained approximately 8,000 new branded hotel rooms last year. As of June 2018, the Middle East had 358 projects/113,830 rooms under construction, up 13 per cent by projects YOY. “We’ve had several opportunities in the past, but we are happy to have waited for this project to come along,” explains Naudi. “We have the right partners, Meydan Group, and the right location, prime seafront on JBR, and a top-notch project being built to make the very best in the city. From the design of the building itself to the interior elements, the aesthetics of Corinthia Meyden Beach with be synonymous with the Corinthia brand: confident, exquisite and elegant.”

Image caption: Interior render of a suite bedroom inside Corinthia Meydan Beach Dubai

While all eyes and ears focus on the brand’s Middle Eastern arrival, further west there’s also much happening between now and then. “Our main focus remains on Europe and the Mediterranean,” Naudi says. “We are currently working on projects in Bucharest, Brussels, Moscow and several other projects are under consideration. We’re also focused on the USA, Manhattan in particular.”

Having recently featured in a two-part documentary with Corinthia London’s Managing Director Thomas Kochs, who also appeared on Hotel Designs’ Brit List last year, Corinthia London is arguably the brand’s most iconic building, and for good reason. With its headline-grabbing extravagant suites, innovative public areas and an out-of-this-world four-floor spa, the hotel has been a timeless gem for almost a decade since it was redesigned. But while the 283-key majestic hotel has stood the test of time, its interior design has had to evolve along with the brand in order to cater to the shifting demands of modern travellers. “Larger bathrooms, the less decreased demand for fixed TVs, connectivity and interactivity are all trends that have required guestroom designs to be functionally different today than they were previously,” explains Naudi. “In our case, we also continue to explore multiple uses of the foyer and lobby space, to double up as a space for meetings, social interactions and evening dining to a degree.”

With esteemed regular guests including a long list of celebrities as well as world leaders, Corinthia Hotels seems to have mastered the formula for offering seamless luxury. “It is tantamount to making an effort,” explains Naudi. “It is an effort in terms of investment on all levels, in the product, in the generosity of space, the quality of materials, the beauty of finishes and in the architecture. It is investment in technology, upkeep, maintenance. It is also effort in terms of choice of colleagues, investment in their training and wellbeing, and above all giving time to the pursuit of happiness. Uplifting lives is our company philosophy, and that is what we aim to do, both with our guests and our colleagues. If all of the above is in place, luxury follows.”

“Our single most effective weapon is indeed our size,” – Simon Naudi, CEO, Corinthia Hotels

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

Hamish Kilburn: What is the number one item you cannot travel without?
Simon Naudi: My passport!

HK: What has been the highlight of your career to date?
SN: Developing and launching Corinthia London

HK: What is the next destination on your travel bucket list?
SN: The regions of Spain

HK: What would you say is the number-one tool for success?
SN: Hard work, and more hard work

HK: What book are you reading at the moment?
SN: The Wise Men by Walter Isaacson

With so many lifestyle brands emerging in the market under the umbrella of large hotel groups, it’s refreshing to see an independent hotel group, like Corinthia Hotels, expanding and evolving without taking away its own core values as a brand known and loved by so many around the world. “Our single most effective weapon is indeed our size,” Naudi explains. “Being independent, and relatively small, means we can be, and are more open to be, true to who we are, and crucially nimble. We can also stay closer to our colleagues in all our hotels, the people who matter most to our guests and ensure we are all part of the spirit driving the company towards our aim of uplifting lives.”

“In most of our hotels, the spa is a key, central component, with large physical spaces allocated to this activity wherever we could.” – Simon Naudi, CEO, Corinthia Hotels

One of the major trends that seems to be dictating international hotel design, with the aim no doubt to ‘uplift lives’, is wellness and wellbeing, which is one topic that the brand identified early, if its London hotel is anything to go by. “We have always taken wellness seriously,” says Naudi. “In most of our hotels, the spa is a key, central component, with large physical spaces allocated to this activity wherever we could. Our guest profile has evolved over the years, and we are now more geared towards leisure guests, than corporate visitors, although all segments engage with our spas.”

Corinthia London ESPA spa

Image caption: Corinthia London ESPA spa

Hotels, especially ones operating in the luxury sector, seem to be adding value to their properties with the openings and renovations of in-house spas. And with Corinthia Hotels arguably leading the way for other hotels to follow suit, the challenge for brand is more around how to build on its already successful products. “We have had several highly successful partnerships with spa brands and products, but we are evaluating all options for our future in 2019,” says Naudi. “We have beautiful spas being built to add to our portfolio and wish to use this as a basis for a spa strategy that is relevant to our guests.”

Now that the hotel brand has pin-pointed its next destinations and is signing on dotted lines to secure them, calling the shots may be stressful and high-pressure at times, but it also carries with it unparalleled rewards. “I would count two main sources of satisfaction,” adds Naudi. “The first is to see old, abandoned properties, many of which may be heritage sites, rebuilt and launched as luxury hotels, with a legacy to span decades. Corinthia London was a case in point, but also our current projects in Moscow, Brussels and Bucharest too. Secondly, is seeing younger colleagues grow into more senior roles and take on leadership and entrepreneurial positions.” And with that, Corinthia Hotels continues to inspire generations by designing a healthy and strong family of hotels worldwide with a luxury metaphorical thread of impeccable service and innovative design connecting them all together.

In Conversation With: Harriet Forde, the up-coming President of the BIID

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In Conversation With: Harriet Forde, the up-coming President of the BIID

Editor Hamish Kilburn heads backstage to join Harriet Forde, the interior designer waiting in the wings to become the President of the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID)…

As far as interviewing a leading designer goes, I have never, until now at least, agreed to meet in a converted traditional men’s public toilet in London. Surprisingly, though, The Attendant in Fitzrovia turns out to be the perfect quirky backdrop for such an occasion.

The underground coffee shop instantly tells me two things about the designer before I have even managed to ask my first question. The first being that the soon-to-be president of the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID), Harriet Forde, does things differently. The second is that she has a thing about meeting in outlandish – almost kooky – locations because, and I quote: “Meetings like these should be fun, completely memorable and a bit out there.”

Once I had got over the initial shock of us both sitting, propped up on statement green stools, in front of pristine-white restored urinals while listening to country-folk music, I was keen to understand how Forde plans to wear the shoes of her soon-to-be predecessor, The Brit List 2018 judge, Gilly Craft. “There’s only so much you can do and change in a year,” Forde says. “That’s why all three of us, the president elect (currently myself), the president (Gilly Craft) and past president (Charles Leon) all have an active role – and it really is a three-year commitment. Therefore Gilly, for example, will step down as president in a few months, but she will still be very much involved in decisions and responsibilities – which she never shies away from.”

“British designers especially are not afraid to be experimental and they are arguably more willing to embrace the oddities.” – Harriet Forde.

It has been said time and time again – and here it is once more for good measure – that Britain is an unparalleled design hub. Wearing her BIID hat, Forde is the first judge announced for The Brit List 2019, Hotel Designs’ nationwide search for the top interior designers, hoteliers and architects. Forde has her own opinions on why she believes the UK captures some of the world’s best design talent. “Although manufacturing is lacking in Britain, and it is very niche now, there is still a history of craft,” Forde explains. “Still to this day, while manufacturing abroad is cheaper, there are a handful of creative companies who are still making products from British factories, which is something we should encourage and celebrate more. British design has a cache, of sorts, which can be quirky. British designers especially are not afraid to be experimental and they are arguably more willing to embrace the oddities.”

As well as preparing for her Presidency to commence, Forde is also the founder of Harriet Forde Design, a leading design firm that provides comprehensive interior design services and solutions for bars, restaurants, hotels, commercial properties and residential projects. “I very much try to take it one day at a time, using my diary planner to the best of my ability,” says Forde. “It’s a constant re-evaluation to identify the priority and it’s far too easy to over commit.”

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What’s your favourite type of hotel?
HF: I love hotels that have a home-from-home feel, like Kit Kemp’s Firmdale Hotels.

HK: What’s your number-one travel item?
HF: A Cafetière and decaf grounded coffee, don’t ask.

HK: What is your biggest bugbear within the industry
HF: Lack of communication between consultants.

HK: Who was your inspiration:
HF: Olga Polizzi.

HK: What trend is really inspiring you this year?
HF: I am really into marble and to that end I am embarking on learning more about what creates different marble around the world. Italy is running dry with certain types of marble, so other stones are becoming more popular. That and thin porcelain tiles.

HK: What do you hope to bring to your presidency?
HF: What value a BIID membership can bring professionally, personally and creatively.

HK: Sketches or renders?
HF: A render with sketching, but that’s like choosing between humous and guacamole.

HK: What would you do?
HF: I would quite like to be a lighting designer.

It seems as if Forde and I are on the same page when it comes to the limitless possibilities of lighting. “When I started as an interior design, we did our own lighting design as well as specifying the fittings,” she says. “Now, though, with the explosion of LED, it’s such a big world out there full of technical know-how. Therefore, more and more, we are working with lighting designers, on projects because they know what is technically possible and equally impossible.”

Forde’s open approach to not just talking about but really discussing design is refreshing; she is a fountain of knowledge who will make for a strong yet personable president – just like her predecessor. As her choice in venue suggests, our next President of the BIID can spot a design gem from a mile away, which I am sure will stand her in good stead for the phase of her journey.

Main image credit: Harriet Forde Designs

In Conversation With: Felipe Ávila da Costa, CEO of Infraspeak

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In Conversation With: Felipe Ávila da Costa, CEO of Infraspeak

Arriving in the UK, Infraspeak is a powerful platform that offers fully customisable, sustainable technology for the hospitality market. Hotel Designs sits down with the company’s CEO and co-founder, Felipe Ávila da Costa, to find out more…

For years, the industry has been crying out for a platform that has been developed to make buildings smarter. Cue the UK arrival of Infraspeak, a solution for chaotic hotels that would benefit from improved operational efficiency and reduced costs of maintenance.

From humble beginnings in Porto, Portugal, the company was very much born out of the concept to bridge the communication gap between C-level executives and managers on the ground. Infraspeak’s journey, like so many other innovative tech-driven products, started at university with the initial idea to reduce paperwork for service men by introducing a digital platform. “It was Luís Martins who had the lightbulb moment for his final project,” explained co-founder and CEO Felipe Ávila da Costa. “His lecturer encouraged him to progress the idea, and it was at this point when he developed the foundations of Infraspeak.”

“Infraspeak emerged from the wings to take centre stage – and fast become one of Portugal’s largest start-up companies.”

After graduating, Martins kept Infraspeak as a side project – a hobby if you like – while working on other things. In his downtime, the he grew the brand’s roots in its colourful hometown of Porto. Soon, the demand for the game-changing software grew to the point that justified investment, which involved bringing Ávila da Costa on board. Infraspeak emerged from the wings to take centre stage – and fast become one of Portugal’s largest start-up companies.

Fast forward four fascinating years, the company now has offices in London, Porto, Barcelona and Florianapolis and 180 customers in seven countries benefiting from Infraspeak’s regularly updated software packages. “Every three weeks we automatically update the software, taking on board customer requests and the shifting demands from consumers,” explained Ávila da Costa. “Our software ensures that everything behind the scenes runs smoothly so that the staff can offer seamless service.”

One of the most recent case studies is InterContinental Palacio das Cardosas, which opened in 2011. By using Infraspeak, the hotel’s maintenance manager has reported a substantial reduction in maintenance calls. “Instead of 40 maintenance calls per day, now I only get 10,” he told the company. “For me, one of Infraspeak’s main advantages is that it allows me to stop worrying about everything that’s happening. It displays everything I need to know in a single platform.”

As well as improving communication between maintenance staff and the hotel, Infraspeak is a communication tool that is now used in other areas of hotel, such as house keeping, F&B and even energy management. “Every three weeks we launch a new software on the product so that the product starts to become a platform for all operational elements,” says Ávila da Costa.

How Infraspeak works:

One of the many unique selling points of the software is its sustainable aims. In a press release from the brand, the company explains that a staggering “80 per cent of hotel administration is largely paper-based and excel is most commonly used to run all hospitality maintenance. Infraspeak completely removes the need for paper as all facility management can be logged and traced to completion through the software. In addition, the product’s intelligent software uses data to start to predict problems in advance, rather than simply reacting to issues when they arise. This predictive approach to maintenance means Infraspeak saves time, money and resources with a sustainable and efficient approach.”

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: What is your number one bugbear when checking in to a hotel? 
Felipe Ávila da Costa: Waiting too long

HK: Iphone or Android? 
FAC: Android 

HK: What did you want to be when you were growing up? 
FAC: I wanted to be a film director, and then a bridge engineer and then a software engineer – it’s been a journey! 

HK: What’s the best thing about Porto? 
FAC: By far the personality of the city 

HK: What has been your largest regret in business? 
FAC: I’ve made lots of mistakes, but none have been regrets 

Although from the outside, the journey for the pair looks a seamless one, the reality is quite the opposite. “There have been many, many challenges. The first challenge was for hotels to come on board with our thinking,” explains Ávila da Costa. “We were lucky enough to get one of the largest hotel brands in Portugal to work with us. With 35 hotels in their portfolio, we really needed to understand their needs.”

From airports to shopping malls and of course hotels, the widespread demand for reducing paper waste and incorporating a seamless communication technology has allowed the company to straddle many markets. “Infraspeak is designed to be flexible, but the demand for hotels is massive,” explains Ávila da Costa. “We currently have more than 250 hotels using the product.”

Recent headlines in the mainstream news have demonstrated the need for individuals and companies alike to think further outside the box in order to become more sustainable. Platforms like Infraspeak are looking towards the future, providing practical solutions that are reducing carbon footprints around the world.

In Conversation With: Sebastian Herkner, designer of the year

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HD

In Conversation With: Sebastian Herkner, designer of the year

At just 37 years old, designer Sebastian Herkner who is known for straddling the boundaries between modernity and tradition, becomes  designer of the year at Maison & Objet. In between Herkner’s press calls and panel discussions, editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with the man of the moment discuss the evolution of his pieces…

What makes Sebastian Herkner a name to remember in the congested industry of interior design is his ability to effortlessly fuse together tradition with creativity.

His approach to design first became commercialised in 2006, after completing his studies at the University of Art and Design at Offenback, when he set up his own studio. His first landmark design, the Bell Table, took no less than three years to find the right manufacturer because of Herkner’s design being ‘ahead of its time’, the double-edge sword of being a leader with creative vision. The table consists of a steel and brass platter that nestles on a hand-blown glass base that was produced in a centuries-old Bavarian glass factory.

The bell table by Sebastian Herkner

Image caption: The Bell Table

His appetite for a challenge and his desire to explore unchartered territories has not only led him to design glasses, bicycles and perfume bottles or make forays into the world of interior design, but also to embark on an internship with fashion designer Stella McCartney during the course of his studies. “I was interested in the manufacturing processes used in fashion, and understanding how colours are put together” he explains. The flair for combining colours he honed whilst there now underpins his signature style. “Colour is often the very last thing designers think about. For me, it’s always the starting point for the whole design process”. He does admit, nonetheless, that “it can take years to find that perfect colour combination”.

“I want my products to become companions, which I believe is very important these days in order to create timeless pieces.”

Fast-forward 15 years from when he opened his first studio, and more than 120 product launches later, Herkner is today centre stage at one of the world’s most reputable design fairs, Maison & Objet, being dubbed the ‘designer of the year’, a title that feels not only thoroughly deserved but also one that feels totally appropriate for the man who never looks back. “My designs are not driven by target groups, they are more driven by quality and functionality, while mixing new technologies and materials with craftsmanship and colours,” Herkner explains. “I want my products to become companions, which I believe is very important these days in order to create timeless pieces.” These ‘companions’ sit in harmony at the show, exhibiting the designer’s journey.

Clip Chair for De Vorm

Image caption: Sebastian Herkner’s Clip Chair for De Vorm

Be it in his studio, surrounded by a six -strong team that herald from all four corners of the world, or during his frequent trips to China, Colombia, Thailand, Senegal and Canada visiting local manufacturers , design houses and craftsmen, Herkner has a longstanding habit of quenching his thirst for ideas elsewhere. “Different cultures, skills and lifestyles all fuel my inspiration” he explains . He also finds his inspiration in traditional materials, such as ceramics, leather, marble and also in art. Another of his iconic pieces, the “Oda” floor lamp (Pulpo , 2014), bears testament to that . Resembling a reservoir of light, the design was directly inspired by photographic images of water towers captured by Bernd and Hilla Becher. Every single source of inspiration is perfectly in tune with his quest for authenticity, his desire to use sustainable materials , and his sense of respect for the time it takes to create a truly stunning piece.

Bulbous glass light on floor

Image credit: “Oda” floor lamp (Pulpo , 2014)

Quick-fire round

Hamish Kilburn: What colour are you finding interesting at the moment? 
Sebastian Herkner: Salmon pink (in Matt)

HK: What is the one item you cannot travel without:
SH: My phone. I am addicted! 

HK: Where is next on your travel bucket list? 
SH: I would love to go to Peru. Big cities, unfortunately, look all the same. 

HK: Is there a trend that you hate? 
SH: When people choose to infuse ‘soft Skandi’ in their interiors. I love the Scandinavian look and feel, but I feel as if people should use it with more courage and strength. 

HK: Would you change anything in the last ten years?
SH: No, nothing. 

For a designer who is known for being ahead of his time when it comes to his ability to combine functionality with technology, I am somewhat taken aback when Herkner suggests that the industry has to some extent gone too far. “Smart homes is one thing, but i believe that furniture will remain still because they are designed for human beings,” he explains. “We need somewhere to sit, and I do not believe there is any need for charging sockets in the sofa – in the table, perhaps, but not the sofa.

Herkner’s recent accolade gives him a platform to unveil some of his latest creations whilst simultaneously showcasing the manufacturing processes that have always been so close to his heart.

Main image credit: Sebastian Herkner/Gany Gerster 

In Conversation With: COO and Partner of luxury hotel group LHM

800 548 Hamish Kilburn

Hotel Designs editor Hamish Kilburn catches up with Hans Joerg Meier the COO and Partner of LHM to discuss regional differences, design ethos’ and the challenges that come with setting up a new luxury hotel group…

With a new hotel about to open just over the horizon, which will add to the LHM (Legian Hotel Management) portfolio, the luxe hotel group is starting to find its bare-foot luxury feet in the international hotel design sands. Currently based in Indonesia with plans to expand across the globe, its ambition to “raise expectations of what a holiday can be” has been set in stone by the COO and co-founder Hans Joerg Meier. As its next hotel, The Legian Sire, Lombok, prepares for a Q1 2019 Launch, we caught up with Joerg Meier to find out  what the future for the hotel group looks like.

Hamish Kilburn: What has LHM identified as differences in markets between Indonesia and Europe?
Hans Joerg Meier: Travellers from Europe are seeking an authentic Indonesian/Balinese cultural experience – the warm and sincere service/hospitality. Furthermore, European guests want to travel around the island, visiting temples, renowned rice paddies, tasting local cuisine and attending cooking classes. Many are also keen to attend/participate in a local ceremony. Our regular guests from the local Indonesian market are very familiar with Bali/Seminyak where The Legian is located, and most seek a getaway to relax in the hotel from the pressures of their working lifestyle. They come to wine and dine and visit friends. This pattern is also similar with our regional markets from Hong Kong and Singapore. Both European and Indonesian markets are very interested in our wellness programs and following this we have recently launched a new wellness concept ‘Wellness by the Legian’ which will be available in all LHM hotels.

HK: There seems to be a lot of emphasis on experiences when it comes to luxury travel. Is the experience more important than the product these days? 
HJM: I am of the opinion that both are equally important. A good product is imperative and superior guest experiences personifies the product and vice versa. They synergize each other and are essential for the luxury traveller.

Image caption: Legian Seminyak, Bali

HK: Can you explain the design ethos of LHM properties?
HJM: Each LHM property is/will be exquisitely crafted by renowned architects and interior designers as well as legendary local artisans. This will reflect the sophisticated taste of our refined clientele who will feel right at home within LHM’s exceptional natural timeless surroundings, each one tastefully and utterly unique in their style.

HK: What are the main challenges for a new hotel group in today’s hotel landscape?
HJM: The main challenges include coming up with unique selling/marketing ideas which clearly differentiate the brand from the many competitors. It is also important to have a clear strategy in place and stick to it, not to follow every single trend, but rather create a bespoke experience. New hotel groups need to have a solid structure in place which allows the brand to expand on firm grounds without becoming too corporate. The key element is to form a strong team and nurture talents to take on more responsibility and to fully embrace the culture of the company. It is important that the team truly understands and is passionate about the brand so the company can successfully expand in the right direction. People are key in our industry as every guest interaction is vital.

Image caption: The site at Legian Sire, Lombok

HK: How did the management team come together?
HJM: Our first property, The Legian, Seminyak Bali has been owned by the Djohan’s family since the opening in 1996. Irma Djohan, The youngest daughter of Robby and Nanan Djohan, has a career in banking and at the same time was mentored by her father to eventually become a partner at LHM. Ralf Ohletz von Plattenberg was working for Adrain Zecha at Aman and GHM for over 30 years and was part of the team who setup The Legian. As for myself, I was working with GHM, who managed The Legian, for 15 years. Therefore, Irma, Ralf and myself knew each other. When the late Robby Djohan decided to start his own management company, he brought the 3 of us together help him form LHM, based on our diversified backgrounds.

Image credit: Legian Sire, Lombok

HK: The team clearly has a lot of experience in luxury. What key elements have you taken from Como, Peninsula and Aman to make LHM truly luxurious?
HJM: The LHM team have utilised their experience to create LHM’s own bespoke luxury key elements. LHM balances authentic unsurpassed service within captivating environments of exquisite craftsmanship reflecting the sophisticated lifestyle and intellectual curiosity of our guests. Every LHM property reflects its location, culture and people and does not wish to be a ‘cookie cutter’ brand. The one main key element I have taken from all my experience is that the people are key to creating a truly memorable and luxurious experience.

HK: How important is location when expanding a luxury hotel portfolio?
HJM: Location is important not just for each individual property but expansion should be based on a strategic plan. Some destinations may complement each other which can be of great advantage to boost occupancy. LHM’s 5 year business plan focussed on Indonesia and South East Asia which allows us to streamline efforts and keep operations efficient.

MOB HOTEL speaks to Hotel Designs about expansion plans in Europe and the US

Hamish Kilburn

The hotel group, which launched last year with two properties, has announced large plans to expand its lifestyle portfolio in Europe and the US with a Washington hotel in the pipeline. Editor of Hotel Designs, Hamish Kilburn, sat down with the CEO, Cyril Aouizerate, to find out more.. 

I predict a riot, at least in the hotel scene anyway. Since launching in November of last year, MOB HOTEL has started a revolution, proving that the centre of a city’s action does not have to neccessarily be geographically pinned in the centre of the city. The lifestyle brand has turned up the volume – and thrown in a bit of colour – in the mid-market sector with two quirky hotels; one located in a Paris Flea Market, the other situated riverside in Lyon.

The brainchild of the MOB HOTEL – and its growth – is Cyril Aouizerate, alchemist, founder and CEO. He believes that a great hotel is designed around great people. “My desire to was create movement,” he says. “My objective is to use the hotels in our portfolio to create a new vision in the world that a hotel is more than just a bed for the night. That is why, for me, understanding the culture of each of our hotel’s location is so important.”

 “I can see that this movement flows in the design as much as it does around the people.”

With the support of designers and hotel experts such as the former partner of Standard Hotels, Steve Case, and close friend Philippe Stark, it is no wonder why the brand’s quirky look and feel is turning heads in Europe and beyond. In a press release from the brand, it describes the creative team as a family that is united by a movement for progress. Speaking with Aouizerate, I can see that this movement flows in the design as much as it does around the people. “We don’t have a uniformed design concept for MOB HOTEL properties,” explains Aouizerate. “Each hotel is different, because as far as the design is concerned, we ensure that the property is completely relevant to its surrounding neighborhood. Creating a strong sense-of-place is everything!”

Although each property’s design starts as a blank canvas, the guestrooms and suites are imagined in such a way to be minimal, unpretentious and effortlessly stylish. The clutter that would be evident in a more traditional hotel offering has been removed – and the focus of the MOB HOTEL experience seems to be in the public areas, which are enjoyed by both the guests as well as the locals; a vital ingredient to the brand’s success. “We have taken risks with the location of the properties in order to be able to open larger spaces,” admits Aouizerate. “And, having created areas that can be enjoyed by the locals as well as the guests, we are able to harmoniously bridge the gap between the explorational traveller and the people at the heart of the location, which is always so wonderful to watch.”

The friendly, charming and relaxed attitude attached to the brand could very well be a welcome answer to opening up the mid-market sector within hotel development even more. Speaking to Aouizerate, I am reminded of the many conversations I have had recently that service in hotels should be considering as the extension of the design. Aouizerate explains: “You will never see a security man with crossed arms standing outside any of our hotels. Instead, you will find a warm and friendly character welcoming people – guests and locals – inside.

But where next for the brand that is slowly making its mark on the European hotel scene? Crossing oceans and several time zones, Aouizerate believes that his concept has no boundaries, with plans to open properties in Boston, LA, Washington, New York and of course expand in Europe with another HOTEL PARIS Gare de l’EST due to open next year.

The mid-market sector in hotel development is booming, and with the growing demand for affordable luxury, hotels are having to think further and further outside the box in order to stand out, nailing their marketing colours and USPs to the mast. As with all great ideas and launches, however, uncertainty and criticism from outsiders soon follows, and this was no different for the start of MOB HOTEL’s early years. “We had to destroy, slowly, the prejudice. When you are on the fringes of the city centre of  Paris, it feels as if you are on the other side of a huge wall,” explains Aouizerate. “This was a difficult at the beginning, but once we won over the locals, the rest follows.”

As the hotel group grows into new territories, becoming infected by many local cultures along the way, I end my meeting with Aouizerate with the strong feeling that this brand is one to keep an eye on. With each opening, it will help travellers explore new places and things while comfortably encouraging bonds between fellow guests and other people in the neighbourhood – all under a quirky shell that can change its colours in a blink of an eye. For this reason, I look forward to this modern family evolving in time.

 

IN CONVERSATION WITH: Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO, Meliá Hotels International

800 533 Hamish Kilburn

To identify what it takes to be at the helm of one of the most established luxury hotel brands, editor of Hotel Designs Hamish Kilburn sat down with Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO, Meliá Hotels International Gabriel Escarrer Jaume to discuss core values, sustainable goals and all things design…

Since first meeting Gabriel Escarrer Jaume three years ago at what was the newly opened ME London, things have changed – but the same visionary remains to steer Meliá Hotels International into new waters, while keeping the brand fresh and always ahead of the curve. But in addition to the more obvious evolution that a hotel chain experiences – with new openings hapenning all over the world – Escarrer Jaume is also leading strong initiatives throughout the brand. The brand is reducing water usage per stay by eight per cent, achieving 70 per cent overall green energy use, all while achieving sustainability certification for 52 per cent of hotels. In addition, he aims to generalise sustainability clauses and codes in agreements and relationships with suppliers, ensure 90 per cent of suppliers are local and reduce CO2 emissions by 18.4 per cent per stay. It seems as if our meeting at WTM 2018 has come an appropriate time, and in between international phone calls to suppliers and contractors while keeping track of the 325 open hotels within the portfolio, he joins me for a coffee.

Hamish Kilburn: Having read a lot about the hotel group’s plans, how are you achieving to reduce water usage throughout the entire hotel portfolio?
Gabriel Escarrer Jaume: Sustainability has to always played a major role for the family owned company – we have strong values. Water savings is key. We have been working to  help reduce water wastage mainly in the public areas. We also have plans to help save water usage in the rooms without it affecting the overall guest experience. The goal is to continue to reduce water wastage per stay by eight per cent year-on-year, and we have done so for the past three years.

 “I believe that our hotels have helped the modern traveller explore new areas around the world.”

HK: I believe that the group has 59 hotels currently in the pipeline, when will they be completed by?
GEJ: The goal is to have these open within the next two and half years.

HK: How has consumer behaviour changed in the last few years, and how have you adapted your hotels to cater to the modern traveller?
GEJ: It affects it a lot. In my opinion, sustainability has always played a major role in hotel design, but even more so now, it seems. I believe that our hotels have helped the modern traveller explore new areas around the world. Part of our business model has been to develop hotels in new destinations. As you would expect, we are now in places such as Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica etc. But we are also making an impact in places like Zanzibar, Tanzania and Cape Verde. We approach each new hotel with tremendous respect to the local culture and the environment.

HK: Africa seems to be a major focus at the moment, why is that?
GEJ: Yes, but you won’t find us in the capital cities as we, like lour guests, prefer to explore new areas that are not necessarily on the tourist map. Meliá Hotels were the pioneers in Cape Verde, for example. We feel as if we can do the same in Africa. Serengeti is a focus for us, as well as Arusha which will be announced soon. There is a huge potential to develop hotels in Africa – and in fact the third-world.

HK: With The Brit List 2018 on the horizon, why is the UK such a major design hot spot?
GEJ: London has so much to offer for creative minds. Like all of our hotels around the world, London is iconic in its design. When guests check into the ME London, we want them to recognise and to feel the design of British architect Norman Foster. All of our hotels around the world have been deliberately designed with local architects and designers. We are working very closely with Zaha Hadid Architects at the moment with a hotel in Malta. Paris’ Melia ME was designed by Dominique Le Roux. All of these hotels have been created, from the very beginning, by real local legends in design.

HK: Will Meliá Hotels International be making a splash in Malta?
GEJ: Yes, in fact we are working with Zaha Hadid Architects on that project at the moment, which is scheduled to open next year.

QUICK-FIRE ROUND

HK: What’s your favourite colour?
GEJ: Blue
HK: What’s the number-one tool for success in hotel development?
GEJ: Location, service and product (sorry, that’s three)
HK: What can you not travel without?
GEJ: My iPhone, my iPad and coffee
HK: Who is your inspiration?
GEJ: My father who founded Meliá Hotels International
HK: How do you shut off from work?
GEJ: I love sailing – it’s so peaceful.

Meliá Hotels International is the leading hotel Group in Spain and the third leading Globally, and has over 50 new hotels in its current pipeline. The Group is continuing to invest in loyal markets such as Spain, continuing the regeneration of Magaluf with pivotal new opening The Plaza, whilst expanding into emerging markets such as APAC, where the Group is opening 20 new hotels before the end of 2020. In fact, it seems as if the hotel group is expanding all over the globe and delving into areas where no group before has dared to venture.

 

In conversation with: Dimitris Manikis, President and Managing Director (EMEA) for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

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Hotel Designs Editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with Dimitris Manikis, the new Managing Director (EMEA) of  Wyndham Hotels & Resorts to find out more about how he plans to expand the brand as it enters a new chapter…

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the hospitality giant with more than 9,000 hotels worldwide, recently announced the appointment of Dimitris Manikis as the company’s new President and Managing Director for Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (EMEA).

I met Manikis in a quaint, tucked-away boutique hotel in Soho, London. Wearing what I believe to be the most fabulous glasses in the industry, Manikis’ beaming ear-to-ear smile led me to believe that I would click with him instantly. My first impressions of Manikis was that of surprise. Surprised that someone can remain so calm while carrying the weight of 460 hotels in more than 40 markets in the EMEA (and counting) on his shoulders. We both laughed as we compared glasses and sat down to discuss how he plans to maximise the performance of the group.

Left: Dimitris Manikis Right: Hamish Kilburn

Left: Dimitris Manikis, President and Managing Director (EMEA) for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Right: Hamish Kilburn, Editor Hotel Designs

Hamish Kilburn: What are the Wyndham Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ unique selling points?

Dimitris Manikis: Our brand cannot be replicated. For us, we want to keep the authenticity. We want that to reflect in a way that can marry various cultures and locations. Wyndham Grand in Athens, for example, has a beautiful rooftop bar that overlooks the acropolis. You cannot have an acropolis anywhere in the world. Design is absolutely crucial for our brand. We actually have an Architecture, Innovation and Design team who work in-house, which allows us to continue to create twists in our hotel narratives.

I think, through our USPs, we have helped to make travel more affordable in a very consistent manner.

Wyndham Grand Athens

Image credit: Wyndham Grand Athens

We introduced a soft brand – in terms of allowing properties to have their own attitude and personality. The design-centric Trademark is a brand that is very close to our hearts here in Europe. It’s a brand where you do not box the property into a standard category. We allow each hotel to have its own personality and authenticity, but we allow the team at the hotel the opportunity to piggyback on the group’s distribution and reputation.

HK: What are the basic requirements that guests want when checking in to a hotel?

DM: For them to smile and for them to be happy to be there. We feel, as a franchise model, that we give the owners the flexibility to use the destination as the backdrop and the inspiration.

We want our guests to feel as if they are checking in to a home-from-home, and also that the Wyndham brand is giving them all of their needs to meet the basic requirements of the company DNA (safety, service, etc). Only then can we focus on the add-ons to make our guests feel special. It’s not easy, but our individuality is our key!

DM: I’m not supposed to ask questions, but I will ask anyway. So in your job, what makes you say, ‘that hotel works’?

HK: Do you know what’s really interesting? So many hotels open every day, all over the world. My job is to try to find gems; the hotels that are really worth writing about. Soon after finding a gem, I want to know all about the design story. For example, I reviewed a hotel once that was reopening in Sierra Nirvana in Spain. It wasn’t the location that captured my attention so much than the story behind the renovation. The hotel had in fact burnt down. The same design company that was involved in the original build was commissioned back, and that was the angle for me. It was like watching the hotel rise from the ashes! It was also fascinating to find out which elements the design company changed in the redesign, almost as if they were given a second chance to improve it to create the perfect hotel. The result was amazing!

Wyndham Grand Phuket, Kalim Bay

Image caption: Wyndham Grand Phuket, Kalim Bay

HK: Who is your biggest inspiration?

DM: My dad. He’s the only person I know who does not have a passport. In fact, he has never left Greece.

HK: Where, from a location point of view, is of most interest at the moment?

DM: Honestly, I think everywhere that planes fly to. Our brand is very diverse and that includes opening hotels in tier 2 cities, which we believe is a huge opportunity.

HK: With all the stories in the wider press about Turkey, does the region create any concern for the hotel brand when it comes to opening new properties?

DM: I can tell you that our hotels in Turkey are doing extremely well. We are growing at a fast rate, with 65 properties in Turkey alone, and growing, we are one of the major hotel brands in the region. People will not stop travelling. Where ever travelers go, we plan to be there with a Wyndham hotel to welcome them.

Guestroom at Wyndham Istanbul Kalamis Marina

Image caption: Wyndham Istanbul Kalamis Marina

HK: What advice do you have for people starting out in this industry? 

DM: My personal motto is to have ‘Ethos, pathos and logos’, which translates to ethos, passion and logic. If you have passion, add logic and have a strong, positive ethos then you cannot go wrong, in my opinion.

HK: How did you get into hospitality? 

DM: I originally wanted to study history and psychology in Greece, but someone persuaded me to go into business. I did four years at university studying business before I met the general manager at the Intercontinental in Athens. I applied to be a trainee. I was there for one year and six months. I cleaned more glasses and peeled more potatoes than most people would clean and peel in a lifetime. However, I learnt so much. I remember the GM, he was amazing! He used to carry his notebook around like a John major and had such a grand aura around him. For me, a 22-year-old aspiring to one day be a GM, he was gold. After that, I decided to ditch business to work in hospitality. I came to the UK to study tourism. The rest, as they say, is history – although I’m still not a GM!

As we wrap up our meeting, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to work with Dimitris. The man in retro-orange glasses also had an aura around him – one that was fun, fair and full of energy for the brand.

 

50 years young, The Park Hotels and the woman behind the brand

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Priya Paul, the businesswoman with much to celebrate, joins editor Hamish Kilburn to discuss 50 years of THE Park Hotels and how the Indian hotel landscape has changed…

There are few, if any, hotel owners in the world that can claim to totally grasp the real and raw concept of a design hotel. The ‘design hotel’, not to be confused with a hotel that shelters good design, captures everything – from culture to location, to guestrooms through to pools – in all aspects of its foundations. Priya Paul, Chairperson of Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, to me, understands that concept down to a T. Priya has a unique vision, one that I have not necessarily seen before. But it’s infectious. Her charm is obvious, and yet it comes to my surprise when I realise that being a businesswoman is not necessarily a cue to be cold, hard-nosed or cruel to those around. In fact, I experience the exact opposite.

I joined Priya at The Arts Club on a hot and sticky summer’s day in London. I learned more from my first impression of meeting her than I did in the whole of my entire day. Her warm smile met mine as I went over to the table, while her soft but assured hand shake reminded me that this was still a ‘business meeting’, of sorts.

But the multi-hotel owner is not a conventional businesswoman. “You will eat something, won’t you? I hope you don’t mind, but I have not yet had lunch,” she said with a light glow about her. I had already had mine, which was obviously written all over my face before I could conjure up an excuse to refuse the offer. “Here’s a desert menu, you can’t say no to desert.” She was right. “Good choice,” she said kindly as I ordered the Cheesecake, “That’s been on the menu for years, it’s delicious.” The Arts Club is clearly a favourite London venue.

“This year we are celebrating being 50 years old,” Priya beamed with pride. “THE Park Kolkata was the first to open, although its interior has changed since then. The way I approached the hotels that we had at that stage – which was three in total – and the way I worked to create a new language for those hotels –  is really what has set the company apart. What you now see in our hotels is a much more contemporary look and feel. For example, we worked with Conran + Partners to create a more dynamic, contemporary atmosphere in the THE Park Kolkata.”

Priya mentors me through the various hotels on her tablet, flicking through each property to show me how different each one is to the other. Personality, location, quirkiness and an individual identity really shines through with popping colours and very, very warm welcomes created all through clever interior design.

East certainly meets west in all of these hotels, especially in the outside pool areas. The best example of this can be found in each hotel’s Aqua Lounge bars. The daytime lounging area by the poolside becomes a perfect chill out zone in the evening, with music by the resident DJ. “The idea [of Aqua Lounge] was to give designers the brief of what happens when Miami meets India,” Priya explains. The result is a cool, beachy vibe that opens the hotel up to become more relaxed and carefree.

Aqua, The Park Hotels

Image Caption: THE Park Hotels

“The nightclub is a very important part of our experience,” Priya says as she goes on to show me images of some of the public areas of The Park Hotels. Priya’s vision leads her to work with different designers to achieve different looks. “Here we worked with Project Orange to design these open areas,” she explains.

Quick-fire round:

Hamish Kilburn: What’s your favourite colour?
Priya Paul: Red
HK: What’s your biggest bugbear?
PP: Bathroom scales in hotel rooms
HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list?
PP: Myanmar
HK: What’s your number one tool for success?
PP: Hard work
HK: What’s your favourite hobby?
PP: Cooking
HK: What’s your number one travel essential?
PP: An eyemask
HK: Who is your favourite fashion designer?
PP: In India it’s Manish Arora. Internationally, it’s Prada
HK: What’s your number one travel tip?
PP: Relax and enjoy it

I get the very strong sense that Priya doesn’t just know what she wants when designing a new hotel. I think it’s more accurate to say that she knows what the building needs in order for it to become a hotel for its location. THE Park Hyderabad, for example, is covered in jewels. “The rulers of that state used to have legendary fabulous collection of jewels,” says Priya. “So the whole design concept was to have jewels as a theme throughout all those spaces, including the exterior of the building.”

The Park Hyderabad

Image caption: The exterior of THE Park Hyderabad

Zone by Park Hotels 

What seems to be a popular move internationally, to focus on enlarging the brand identity in tier two and tier three cities, is also the tactic for THE Park Hotels brand in India. “We wanted to create something that had the quality and essence of THE Park Hotels. It had to be fun and zippy, very much for the modern traveller in smaller cities in India, which have become in their own right design hubs,” says Priya. “That really was our cue to launch Zone by THE Park.” Each hotel under the Zone by THE Park Hotels brand has a quirky palette to reflect the art and craft of the area and location. “We currently have eight of these hotels open with a further four to come this year, and 16 others in the pipeline,” says Priya.

Interior of The Park Zone

Image caption: Zone by THE Park Bengaluru.

“If you had the luxury to go back in time, what would you do differently?” I ask. “Honestly, not much,” Priya says. “I would do it all the same, but I would do it quicker. The hardest challenge I have faced has been the difficulty in getting quality products – I’m talking about fabrics, furniture and finishes – available in India. that has definitely changed over the years.”

Hamish Kilburn and Priya Paul

Image Caption: Editor Hamish Kilburn and Priya Paul

As we sit drinking green tea in The Arts Club, with it being such a British establishment, I can’t help but wonder whether or not launching the brand in the UK was on Priya’s radar. “There is definitely possibility to further expand the brand and open a hotel in the UK.” As exciting as this is, I also hint that Priya’s attention will be, for the time being at least, focused on expanding THE Park Hotels’ brand in India. As our time together draws to a close, I realise that with people like Priya Paul leading our industry forward, the future of hotel design is looking exciting, dynamic and very bright.

 

Profile image of Fiona Thompson

Seven minutes with Fiona Thompson, Principal of Richmond International

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Hotel Designs editor Hamish Kilburn caught up with Richmond International’s award-winning designer, and this year’s headline speaker at Meet Up North, Fiona Thompson, to find out how technology is influencing modern hotel design…

As we sit down to discuss what’s happened in the last three years, I am reminded of how much travelling is actually required to being the Principal of Richmond International. Fiona and her team are certainly clocking up the air miles, splitting their time mainly between London, LA, Boston and now Melbourne.

I last spoke to Fiona Thompson in 2014, when she and her team had just completed the quintessentially British Sterling Suite and Club Lounge at The Langham London. Having just agreed to be our headline speaker at Meet Up North on July 18, I wanted to know how the industry is shaping up from a leader’s point of view.

Hamish Kilburn: So, Fiona, what’s new?

Fiona Thompson: All sorts really, some of which we are allowed to tell you and some that we can’t just yet. We are scattered all over the world at the moment. For starters, we are working on new projects with Langham Hotel Group in both Boston and Melbourne, which has all come off the back of the work we completed in London and Chicago for the brand. We are also working right now with Rosewood Hotels in California on the Santa Barbra coast, which follows the work we have recently completed at the London West Hollywood. And of course, we are also working at Four Seasons Ten Trinity square, within the beautiful building to create high-end residential apartments.

HK: As Principal, how involved actually are you in the projects?

FT: We very purposefully stay the size that we are as a business because we do want to keep that involvement with the clients. We like to keep below 50 people. Once you go above that, you have to drive a lot of projects through the studio, which quite frankly we don’t want to do. That’s why we haven’t opened offices all over the world, because then the business is only as good as the person running that office. Also, if you take on too much then you can’t possibly stay in touch with all the projects. We run everything out of the studio here in London. The aim is about spending time and being involved in projects. I don’t want to be a business-only person. Could you imagine how dull that would be?!

Light, airy living area with white wooden panels

Image caption: London West Hollywood

HK: Can you quite believe that we last spoke when you completed the Sterling Suite and the Club Lounge in The Langham London, nearly three years ago?

FT: Gosh, I know. It was a really interesting project for us to work on. The idea of personalisation is where everything is going at the moment. People rent it [The Sterling Suite] out in such chunks of time that we never actually been back in properly since we completed the project when we last spoke.

In all seriousness, though, the biggest change since we last spoke, I believe, is personalisation. Guests want their hotel room to be personal and special to them. I think the interest has been a huge driver in changing the way in which we design modern hotels.

Even when I travel and I am looking for a hotel, the first thing I do is look up the area. If I’m there for just a few nights, I am more likely to stay in something that is half recognisable. But I think, after that point, when you have been there for a while, you can find such interesting hotels and there is a lot of information out there online. Put simply, people have more choice in where they stay. This has absolutely made the hotel groups rethink their offering right up to the design of the property.

I think it’s really opened up the industry completely. The big brands are trying to make themselves more bespoke and relevant – and this is right down to the food. For example, no longer is there only a steak and Italian restaurant. From our perspective, everything is a lot more thoughtful.

The Sterling Suite, Langham London

Image credit: The Sterling Suite, Langham London

HK: Our spotlight this month is technology, which can be a way of differentiating a hotel from the competition. However, high-tech hotels can also be considered as alienating. Where do you believe the balance lies?

FT: Technology is great as long as it is not challenging the way in which consumers behave. Hotels took a lot from high-end residential, which was a lot of more forward than the hotel industry in regards to the level of technology you can put into a home compared to the capacity of hotels. 10 years ago, for example, you could control your house with a laptop. I think at this point there was a desire in our industry where because you could, hotels felt as if they should.

The point is, though, hotel guests don’t want to learn how to open and close their curtains from a tablet device when they are only checked in for a night or two. Now it is much more important to include technology that is easy to use and also relevant. I think the biggest technology shift currently is seen in lighting. You can do so much more with lighting and it can change a space so significantly. That is a huge change that I believe will continue to evolve as it such an important element of the overall design.

HK: Did you ever find it a challenge educating hotel brands on technology?

FT: It is, and some hotel brands are better than others. I think once groups understand the consumer journey they start to understand why certain pieces of technology would not be relevant.

HK: You recently spoke this year’s Clerkenwell Design Week. What are your thoughts on trends in hotel designs?

FT: It’s so difficult. I don’t think hotels spend that much time on trends. Of course, we are influenced by them, but we don’t respond to them the same way as the fashion world does – or even the retail world does. This is because hotels take so long to realise, so you can’t really respond to trends other than shifts in culture. In hotels, you have to respond much more to the location and how society is shifting. The real trick is trying to think about how that’s going to look in the future.

Light, airy and simple guestroom

Image credit: Fairmont Barbados

HK: One thing I noticed a few years ago was that feeling of ‘home-from-home’ within hotel design. How has that evolved?

FT: I don’t want a home-from-home. I think people actually want something different. There was that time when we were told that guests want a home from home, and I don’t think people want that at all. I think consumers now want to walk into a hotel room and think ‘wow, that’s really thoughtful’. I believe it’s got to be something that is beyond the Instagramable moment and it has to look and feel more real. However, above all else, the hotel room must be easy to use; it has to be intuitive.

HK: I remember attending a panel discussion of yours on hotel interiors. Out of interest, have your opinions changed on cushions in the guestroom?

FT: Nope, throw them away. What’s that all about? [laughs] I don’t want them on the bed! Cushions in the lobby are fine, but not on the bed. No. Get rid of them! If that’s the only way you can add flair to a room then you have failed.

Image of interiors of F&B areas

Image credit: Ritz Carlton Astana

HK: A little birdy tells me that you are working on designing the Interiors of a cruise ship. If location is your first reference when designing a hotel, where do you start in designing interiors of a ship that’s location is constantly changing?

FT: This is so fascinating for me. The new P&O is a big ship and it is all guest-focused – and the interiors very much have to be added around how guests use the space. There is a huge change within cruise ship interior design. The star in the new ship that we are working on is the sea, which as far as I am aware has not been the case with any other ship.

Now, in order to cater to younger demographics, cruise ships are trying to make the sea is a big part of the experience. This means making windows much larger and the relationship between inside and outside becoming more important. Cruise ships are trying to break away from that naff Vegas style, and are turning these ships into places that are more upscale and thought through. It is very different to hotels though. In hotels people leave for starters. Cruise ships really have to capture the attention of every guest as they can be at sea for as long as three months.

The biggest challenge working in cruise ship interior design is the ceiling heights because you are working in large spaces that typically have very low ceilings. Therefore, you have to play all sorts of games as to how to make those spaces feel comfortable and airy. A great way to do that is through lighting.

HK: Has working in cruise ships helped you when designing hotels?

FT: I think it has, and it allows me to think about space in a different way. Although design has not perhaps been as seamless in the cruise ships as it is in hotels, I think it is ahead in other areas. There is a lot of integrated technology in cruise ships and also entertainment is a massive factor. It’s really interesting now seeing hotels thinking about that more.

HK: Where’s next on your travel bucket list for pleasure?

FT: Well I’m going to Norfolk next [laughs]… No in all seriousness, I really want to go to back to Australia, but I need to take a big chunk out which I haven’t managed to do recently. I grew up in Sydney, so I have a lot of fond memories.

William and Robert Chelsom

Seven minutes with lighting experts Robert and William Chelsom

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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…

Two years after the lighting company’s last major launch, Chelsom has just debuted Edition 26 in the appropriately majestic One Marylebone in London. With such a unveiling of so many new and dynamic products, we wanted to put the spotlight on the creative leaders behind the brand’s success.

Hamish Kilburn: What’s been the most challenging part of creating Edition 26?

William and Robert Chelsom: In all the years we have been working within the lighting industry, never has there been a more exciting time to be designing lighting. Triggered by fashion cycles, interior trends are moving increasingly faster and in doing so constantly stimulate new design directions when it comes to finishes and materials, which is something we have given careful consideration to and is what makes designing a new collection equally exciting and challenging. An increasing thirst for individuality is something which is equally important for us when it comes to refining our new collections. We are constantly looking to evolve new concept directions and as such, we do start with a clean white sheet of paper, albeit the paper may be framed by the restrictions of budget, function and dimension. That is the design challenge and that is the fun! Edition 26 has been a fantastic collection to produce – we think it’s our most ground-breaking to date.

Left: Icicle by Chelsom Right: Radar by Chelsom

Left: Icicle by Chelsom Right: Radar by Chelsom

“Good design is not limited to aesthetics and should incorporate function, durability, the latest technology and value engineering.”

HK: Can you explain the hands-on approach you both take when it comes to designing the collection. What key elements do you think about?

W/RC: For Chelsom, design has always been the driving force. We recognise that well-designed and unique lighting products can enhance and transform an interior design scheme. An intimate knowledge of various client market sectors helps us to shape initial design concepts which then become sketches, technical drawings, 3D renderings and prototypes – all produced in-house. Good design is not limited to aesthetics and should incorporate function, durability, the latest technology and value engineering.

Today’s traveller notices and appreciates good detail and understands that it sets one hospitality brand apart from another. Chelsom constantly design into their ranges those small but significant details which make a product unique and stand out. Engineering details improve quality and function too, ensuring designs incorporate the latest technology and last for the long term.

At Chelsom we are pretty unique in that we design the entire collection in house from initial product sketches to. Despite our collection having only just launched, we are already thinking about Edition 27 – design never sleeps! We make a concerted effort to keep up to date with emerging industry trends and developments and make sure they are fundamental in our product designs whilst also working closely with clients to understand their pressures and requirements from multiple perspectives including design, quality, function and budget among others.

Given that we specialise in one area which is the Hospitality sector (Cruise included), we design products that designers and operators can use specifically in these applications which helps us stay focused and ensures our designs are relevant and on the button.

The launch event of Edition 26

The launch event of Edition 26

HK: What would you say are the main emerging lighting trends at the moment?

W/RC: Lighting is, as with all areas of design, constantly evolving and never stands still. This makes it an exciting industry to be part of. Having said that, though, it’s unlikely there will be much in the foreseeable future to rival the LED boom which has really transformed and shaped the future of lighting in recent years. We are working hard to develop even smarter ways of integrating LED light sources without losing ambiance, such as increasing the options with diffused and reflected light. In terms of the aesthetic side of things, trends come and go but clients will always want a little something extra when it comes to product design- it’s about adding small design intricacies to make a fairly simple product special.

There has been a distinct shift in the style of hotel lighting schemes over the last 18 months. People definitely want to see more individuality when it comes to design. We are starting to see a much more eclectic mix in terms of both styles and fittings especially in the guestrooms. Colours are bold and designs are becoming more out there and individual leaving behind the ‘co-ordinated’ style that has been so popular previously.

The lighting in public spaces is all about taking this idea of individuality using it to create a unique lighting experience by commissioning bespoke pieces and spectacular show-stopping designs integrated in to ceiling structures.

Another key trend is the rise of the residential look. Guests want hotels to feel like a luxurious home away from home and they want their guestroom lighting in particular to reflect this, to be stylish yet functional. One of the big challenges for us is creating this residential look yet maintaining the contract function and quality.

After threatening to do so for a number of years, brass is definitely making its comeback. Previously, polished brass has been the fashion, but this time it’s much more in the way of alternative brass finishes that are becoming the most popular choices including satin, antique and brushed.

HK: What’s next for Chelsom Lighting?

W/RC: That would be telling….. In all seriousness our plan is to stick to what we know and strive to keep doing it better and better. We don’t want to diversify and want to continue to be seen as one of the best decorative lighting suppliers to the global contract market. We are lucky enough to work on respected projects around the world and long may that continue.

Large suite with soft interiors

Constellation by Chelsom

HK: How can designers use lighting to lift a period building’s interior while remaining sensitive to its heritage?

W/RC: Often the heritage of a building and inspirations from the surrounding area in which it’s located are intrinsically woven in to the interior design scheme and lighting is no exception. It’s important to get the blend right between embracing developments in design and new technology whilst at the same time remaining sympathetic to traditional features, allowing the lighting to enhance the interior and authenticity of the building as opposed to dominating the whole aesthetic design process.

A recent example of where we were briefed to execute such a lighting scheme was for Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London where we took inspiration from the textures, forms and colours found in London’s iconic Hyde Park and worked closely with the interior design team to create an eclectic range of fittings in a variety of different materials all of which required a complex range of manufacturing techniques. In keeping with the nearby Royal Horseguards Parade, corridor and bathroom light fittings were manufactured using synthetic horse hair. Bathroom wall sconces show the hair wrapped tightly around metal backplates to act as reflectors to the backlit light sources while magnanimous square pendants adorned with ribbed glass rods and ponytails of hair line the corridors to give a truly unique experience. In the public areas we remained sensitive to the period architecture of the interior creating modernised balustrade mounted light fixtures in the main entrance lobby which continued the overarching theme of crackled glass tones with rich brass metalwork.

Creative Director of HBA London The Gallary

Seven minutes with HBA London’s creative director

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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.

Plush public area featuring

Heritage hotel in Zagreb that HBA London are working on will feature an art nouveau relief in the ceiling

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.

Large corridor with subtle accents of gold in the wallcoverings and carpet mixed with deep blue doors

Renderings of the interior of a heritage hotel in Zagreb that HBA London are working on to open in late 2018

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.

Large bathroom featuring dark bath and sinks and intricate floor tiles

Guest bathroom in the Orient in Jerusalem

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!

You can follow HBA London on Instagram: @HBA_London

Andre Fu - Andaz Singapore

Q&A: Andaz Singapore designer Andre Fu

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Andre Fu gives a glimpse into the design process for the Andaz Singapore…

Q. What would you point out specifically as some of your personal design highlights of the hotel?
A. My favourite aspect of the hotel is perhaps in our vision to create a Singapore-style alleyway experience. The intricate play of intimate proportions within the alleys evoke a sense of discovery and each shophouse is given its own personality and character. I personally believe this is an experience that is unique to Andaz Singapore.

In terms of particular spaces, I am very fond of Sunroom – conceived as modernist expression of the Peranakan house, it is an airy timber-lined lounge decked with lush hanging ferns. I am also drawn to the whimsical nature of 665 for its intimacy and the way it evokes the spirit of a bespoke tailors shop. The use of tropical plants within the hotel experience and how the way the curation of plants expresses a strong feeling of outdoor throughout is also a favourite aspect for me.

Andaz SingaporeQ. How would you say, in terms of design, Andaz Singapore is a combination of what Andaz and Singapore are both known for?
A. Andaz hotels draw direct inspiration from a location’s history, culture and architecture, and by distilling the best of its locale, allow guests to truly engage with a destination and experience it authentically, rather than merely visit.The expression of culture goes beyond the superficial adaptation of local elements or decorative motifs, but to engage in an experience that captures the spirit of the city.

Andaz Singapore
Q. How has it been working with such an iconic building by Ole Scheeren? What are the most challenging bits and how did you and your team work around those challenges?

A. The distinct architecture of the DUO building has posed many challenges to the designs of the project, in particular the relationship between the imposing internal structures against the curved façade of the building. Working with the unconventional shape of the building and the constraints of a thin footprint surrounding the building’s core have prompted us to bring down the scale of the experience, enhance the notion of intimacy and making each shop-house or venue unique in its design language. The resulting effect is a hotel that fully expresses the sense of journey, a journey that is accented with colours, textures, and expressive artworks. I believe the vision to bring the scale and create more personable spaces is a good example of hospitality going forward.

Q. What was your main design inspiration for Andaz Singapore?
A. I drew inspiration from the hotel’s dynamic location and the neighbourhood’s eclectic passageways and shop-house experiences. Our goal has been to re-interpret these qualities to create a Singapore-style alleyway experience. The intention is not to replicate the experience, but finding a means to capture the spirit of it with an emphasis on modernity. The intricate play of intimate proportions within the alleys evoke a sense of discovery and each shop-house is given its own personality and character. I personally believe this is an experience that is unique to Singapore.

Andaz SingaporeIn keeping with the alley concept, the experience of the guestroom embraces the neighborhood spirit. Conceived as a contemporary bungalow, I’ve introduced whimsical moments throughout the room – from the entrance doorbell that is housed in a bespoke post-box, the slender shop-house doors in bold mango yellow to the floor-to-ceiling ivory paneling. The room experience is also punctuated with ethnic touches in aubergine to celebrate the unique palette of the shophouse experience.

Q. What does luxury mean to you?
A. Luxury to me, is having a moment of stillness and not have so much on my mind. It’s a nice feeling having time to be really focused on a particular subject with the absence of distraction.

afso.net

Marcel Wanders

In Conversation: Marcel Wanders – Grand Portals Nous

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He has been dubbed the ‘Lady Gaga’ of design – a moniker I’m not entirely convinced Marcel Wanders fully appreciates – and has been a big name in the industry for more than two decades; his ‘big break’ coming via the ‘Knotted Chair’ in the late 1990s.

But from his Powerhouse studio in Amsterdam with the help of his team of designers, Marcel has realised hundreds of projects – including some notable ones in the hospitality sector. One of the most recently completed is the IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Portals Nous in Mallorca, and about which Hotel Designs caught up with the charismatic and accomplished artist for a short chat…

As I call Marcel, he is relaxing with a cappuccino having just spent a week in Mallorca – the home of his latest hospitality project with IBEROSTAR. After our short introductions and a brief aside about the Mondrian Doha – another of his recent mammoth undertakings – I ask him how he got involved in the Grand Portals Nous. He tells me he is ‘super-excited’ about the project and how much it is going to impact the region’s hospitality scene.

Marcel Wanders - Grand Portals NousHe is not wrong. The property sits atop a stunning beach and Marcel has used this luxurious setting to bring about a truly Mallorquin style through his use of transparencies, whites and reflective surfaces. From the lobby’s bouquet motif to the boundless luxury of the hotel’s 66 rooms, four penthouse suites and five themed suites, guests are truly in for a treat.

“We’ve been working on this project for a long time, it has taken a while to complete this project and the whole building process. We’ve worked for eight years with the developer to create this wonderful place that it has become. It really is a jewel in the crown of the Iberian Peninsula. It has been great to be part of it,” he tells me.

Mallorca is a place close to Marcel’s heart. He clearly adores the place, having completed a similarly spectacular residential project on the island in 2009. I ask him what his inspiration was for this hospitality project.

“As a guest, you want to feel that you are in Mallorca – this beautiful Spanish island. The scenery and views are amazing. So, it was really important for me to make something authentic, that felt like it belonged there in that locale. That can be a difficult thing to achieve – but we wanted to do it in a new way, we didn’t want to do something that had been done before, it needed to be contemporary, modern yet at the same time international.

“It was a challenge to create something ‘of that place’ and authentic, that also delivers that unique Mallorquin character. We spent a lot of time sourcing materials, finishes and architectural features specific to the island – not to mention we had colour palettes that are really special; there is a winter and a summer palette. So the inspiration was definitely from the surrounding area. Guests go there to relax and hang out, but they also want to be excited about the place. For me, all of this was critical when it came to designing the space,” he adds.

Marcel’s attention to detail even went as deep as the design of the hotel’s logo. “Part of that ‘local inspiration’ process was creating a logo – its design inspiration was local flowers found on Mallorca, which bloom in early spring and herald the start of the season and I’m really happy that the bouquet logo celebrates that fact.”

Marcel Wanders - Grand Portals NousMarcel’s work has been carried out around the world on various sectors, so what is it that interests him about designing for hotels? “I have to say that in all things that the team does, we like to do projects where the design is ‘major league’. By that I mean projects where the design is integral to the success of the project. Of course, that comes into every project to an extent, but often people go somewhere because they have to go there. We want to create spaces that people visit because they really want to go there,” he says.

I ask Marcel how it differs from other sectors he has worked in and he enthusiastically tells me why he finds hotels ‘amazing’ to work in. “You get the freedom to really go hard with the design – unlike in a private residence where you might have to quieten that creative streak, create something a little more subdued and which ultimately is less visible to the world. Hotels are definitely our ‘sweet spot’ so to speak, a chance to show off creativity.

“As a designer you really have to be the best you can be, and as it’s a public sphere anybody who uses that space ‘owns’ that space. Therefore a lot of people will see your work, so it’s wonderful to create something a lot of people will use and enjoy.”

Marcel then talks about his early years as a designer and how that mass appeal is part of the appeal. “Starting out in my career as a designer, if we take the example of designing a coffee cup – you work for a long while to make that cup look wonderful and special, and then thousands of people can enjoy it, that’s important to me. It’s nice if one person is really happy with something you’ve created but it’s amazing when you create something of value for a lot of people – and hotels are exactly that.”

With his huge, worldwide reputation for creating statement, high-end interiors Marcel could be forgiven for running away with his vision, but that attitude has never been part of his make-up.

“I think hotels are actually very democratic. With this project – sure, it’s a five-star hotel and if someone wants to stay there for a week, they have to take quite a bit of money. But a person can also enjoy that space by just having a coffee or a drink with friends – I think that’s really cool.

Marcel Wanders - Grand Portals Nous“I remember when I was a kid, I would see spaces and think that’s a great space – like an expensive shop for example, you walk in with only a hundred bucks for the month and everything on sale is five hundred bucks. You’re priced out. But there has never been a hotel I felt I couldn’t go in, because I thought to myself I can always order a cappuccino, I can be a customer here – it was something I appreciated and have tried to do with this project.”

Having also spoken about his Mondrian Doha project, I ask Marcel what the future holds and if there are any exciting projects on the horizon.

“Yes, in fact, Doha was another project we spent a lot of time on and to have two openings in such a short space of time, it makes it look like the team and I do a lot of hotels, but in truth we only started on hotels in 2005 or so and we’ve only completed six or seven hotels in that time. So, it’s not a huge hospitality operation that we’ve created. We try to only do very prestigious projects that take a long time to get right; that require a tremendous amount of detail and research. We definitely pick and choose, but those half-dozen hotels, in the end, have really made their mark as a result – they are special places.”

Does Marcel think there is too much uniformity in hospitality design? “It’s nothing against designers of some hotels, but there’s already so many in the same style – I don’t feel there’s a need for yet another one. We always try to do something really different that stands out and that gives guests a genuine experience. It’s not always easy to find the clients, operators or developers who share that vision of creating something that hasn’t been seen before,” he says.

‘Creating something that keeps the guests coming back for more’, I suggest…

“Yes, exactly – keep the guests coming back! It’s wonderful to get new guests – but no hotel or hospitality client can survive on unique customers alone. Clients have to go away and spread the word, show photos to their friends – and that’s why I was delighted to stay at the hotel last week, I spoke to fellow guests about it and they were suitably impressed; not just with the design but with the service levels which are genuinely excellent. The operator knows exactly what its doing, so I’m super happy and I’m sure the business will grow fast,” Marcel concludes.

With his mercurial touch on show, I can only agree with him – it’s a wonderfully striking property and will be a Mallorquin gem for years to come, I’m sure…

www.grandhotelportalsnous.com

www.marcelwanders.com

www.powerhouse-company.com

Based on an interview in September 2017

Q&A: Leigh Hall of Manorcrest Group

In Conversation: Leigh Hall – Manorcrest Group

1024 542 Daniel Fountain

Hotel Designs catches up with Leigh Hall, who heads up developer Manorcrest Group. The firm has vast experience in the hotel industry and is currently working on the current DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Hull. We talk to him about the ongoing project, the wider hospitality industry and his experience…

Hotel Designs: How many years of experience do you have as a developer?
Leigh Hall: I have been a developer for over 30 years now.

HD: How many years of experience does Manorcrest Group have working in the commercial sector/ on hotels?
LH: My business partner, Dean Wann, and I started our company in 1998 by building residential homes. We later moved into caravan parks and the commercial sector. We have been working on hotels for over 10 years now, we have a real passion for delivering quality brands that will add to the culture of the local community

HD: Can you name some of the hotel brands Manorcrest Group has worked on?
LH: We have and are working on a fantastic range of hotels in areas such as Lincoln, Hull, Grimsby and more. The brands include the DoubleTree by Hilton and Holiday Inn Express.


HD: You are currently constructing the DoubleTree by Hilton Hull hotel, can you give us any updates on its progress so far?
LH:
The DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Hull will have 165 rooms and features a 1,000 sq m ballroom for large conferences and events – the biggest in the region by far. Regarding the progress of the hotel, the bedroom pods have been successfully delivered from China and installed by our highly experienced team, and the construction is on track for completion later this year, a great addition for the City of Culture.

HD: What other hotels are you working on at the moment?
LH: We are working on a major extension to the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Lincoln, which will introduce a further 47 bedrooms, 35 parking spaces and additional conference facilities. The 4000 sq m extension is now 70% complete. We are also considering sites in Sheffield and other cities.

DoubleTree-Kingston-Guest-RoomHD: Are there any other interesting projects you are due to work on in the future within the hotel sector?
LH: We’re looking into the possibility of another hotel site in Sheffield as we can see a clear gap in the market there and we’d like to introduce a 24-hour service hotel. We have ambitious growth plans to build and open a further four hotels in the next five years across the UK.

HD: What do you like about working in this sector/ delivering hotels?
LH: Hotels are exciting places to be and it is a fast paced and ever-changing industry. I enjoy seeing the hotel developments grow from the planning stages through to completion. As developers, we believe it is important to deliver innovative schemes which integrate well into the local community. It is also very satisfying to be able to support and contribute to local economies, as hotels inevitably provide jobs and we take great joy in using local suppliers throughout the construction process. Hotels are not just for tourists and commuters, we try to create destinations that local people want to use, we encourage people to visit our hotels and enjoy the facilities, such as the bar and restaurants on a regular basis. We work with blue-chip brands who are constantly innovating and more than ever we see there is a great appetite and demand for well executed hotels across the country.


HD: You also work on residential developments, are there any challenges with leisure compared to residential?

LH: There are so many elements to consider when developing a hotel. Residential developments are a lot more straight forward, whereas for a hotel you are working on a much larger scale scheme with hundreds of bedrooms, bars, restaurants, spa facilities, parking and so on, which all must be taken into consideration. It is both rewarding and challenging to run a development and construction company, Dean and I oversee each site keeps us very busy.

HD: Has there been an increase in demand for hotels? If so why do you think this is?
LH: The hotel sector is a growth story and we have plans to develop four more hotels in the next five years. There has been a boost in tourism in many cities and we have found that smaller cities such as Lincoln for example, have a high demand and need for more beds. Several years ago, people only stayed in hotels due to necessity because of work/ their commuting needs, but there has been a boost in leisure travellers who go to high-quality hotels for a getaway and to enjoy luxury. Even with the results of Brexit I don’t see this impacting the hotel industry in the next few years.

HD: Can you provide a figure for how much you are investing into developing hotels currently if possible?
LH: We are investing £35 million into the hotel sector throughout 2017.

Jeremy Quantrill - Dernier & Hamlyn

COMPANY PROFILE: Dernier & Hamlyn

999 582 Daniel Fountain

In this day and age of mass production and mass consumption, it is always a satisfying to find good craftsmanship, skilled work and years of experience combining – something Hotel Designs had the pleasure of witnessing during a recent tour of Dernier & Hamlyn’s factory in Croydon.

To look from the outside, you would be hard-pressed to remember that the company has been producing lighting of the highest quality for nearly 130 years and its pieces have featured in some of the most prestigious hospitality projects in that time. But once inside, that becomes very quickly evident.

The small but close-knot and highly-experienced team, led by joint managing director Brian Spiking, are a hive of activity when I arrive – and I’m soon shown around getting a glimpse of some of the pieces they are working on and a privileged insight into the projects in which they will feature. Whilst walking around, Brian emphasises the blend of traditional methods of production and modern technologies – some of which are unique to the company; something designers like most about working with Dernier & Hamlyn – finely-tuned expertise and a rich heritage.

Dernier & Hamlyn

It’s the same with the design proposals front-of-house, too. I’m shown through the archives, with beautifully hand-drawn and hand-painted folios of designs of old; an extremely time-consuming and painstaking process if needed to be changed later on during a project. Today, some technical drawings are still produced by hand, but it’s combined with computer-aided-design, which creates a more complete vision for clients. Casting of prototypes with 3D printing – rather than the traditional method of wood and brass casting – has also streamlined Dernier & Hamlyn’s offering.

This is a small but supremely efficient and successful operation, something evidenced by the numerous high-end hotels utilising Dernier & Hamlyn pieces around the world. Hotel Designs caught up with joint-managing director Jeremy Quantrill for a deeper insight into this unique company…

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Hotel Designs: Could you give us a bit of history about Dernier & Hamlyn as a company and then your own background and your involvement with them?
Jeremy Quantrill: Dernier & Hamlyn has been a major player in the decorative lighting industry since the company was founded by Louis Dernier in 1888. We’ve always been London-based starting out by importing silks from France and China to make high quality hand decorated lampshades. By 1913 our customers included Liberty and our catalogue included more than 700 different lampshades and fittings, a truly vast product range for the time. During the First World War Lloyd-George’s Government placed orders with small companies across the UK to use their skills in new ways, which for us this meant manufacturing aircraft parts. After the war and throughout the 1920s the company continued to grow and in 1931 following various incarnations changed its name to Dernier & Hamlyn to reflect its new ownership.

In 2000, the same year as a management buyout, Dernier & Hamlyn was awarded the Royal Warrant to supply HM The Queen, which it still holds with pride. In 2001 the factory was moved to Croydon where it remains as one of the few UK companies actually designing and producing chandeliers, wall lights, lanterns, table lamps and other unique lighting products in its own premises. I run the company with Brian [Spiking]. I look after business development while he takes care of manufacturing and technical operations. Together we have worked for D&H for almost 70 years. However, we’re by no means unique, several of our people have been here for more than 30 which must say something about how much they enjoy their work!

HD: How important is the ‘bespoke’ element to what Dernier & Hamlyn do?
JQ: It runs through everything we do. We simply don’t produce off the shelf lighting. Each project has unique elements in the way it is designed, manufactured and installed. That’s what makes it such an interesting company to work for.

HD: Given D&H’s proud ‘made in Britain’ ethos, right now do you think there are enough companies doing this? Or indeed enough designers utilising companies that do?
JQ: I’m sorry to say no on both counts. While it can be cheaper to produce lighting overseas the quality is nowhere near as high as from British companies like D&H. Unfortunately, there is widespread misconceptions about the costs involved with bespoke lighting. Because our people have worked in the industry for so long it’s rare that they cannot find a solution to designers’ requirements that gives the look they want within their budget. They just need to talk to us and it’s amazing how innovative our guys can be with finishing techniques, lamping options and so on.

There is also a problem with companies which purport to “make in Britain” when actually all they do is import parts and fix them together here. That is not only misleading it is also unfair on companies which actually do what they say they do.

HD: How do the team find balancing technical practicality and the aesthetics of a designer’s vision?
JQ: Because many of them have been around for a long time they invariably come up with lighting that ticks all the boxes. We have lots of examples of how they have tackled this type of thing. For Rosewood London, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio wanted 2 metre-high globe chandeliers. The aim was to produce a Verdigris effect to emulate weathering by the British climate. While brass and steel were considered, they would have resulted in chandeliers that were much too heavy for the ceiling. Producing them in aluminium and using specialist finishing techniques means they are not only lighter and less expensive but also look exactly as the designers had envisaged. (Video below)

HD: Dernier & Hamlyn work with boutiques right up to five-star mega projects – which is easier to manufacture for? What are the different challenges?
JQ: It’s less about the location and more about the designers and clients involved. Working with people who have a clear vision for the space and how the lighting fits into the design narrative are a pleasure whatever the engineering and manufacturing challenges.

HD: And finally, is there a specific D&H project that you are particularly proud of?
JQ: There are many. It’s the pride in what our team produces that keeps me here. I think my favourite hotel projects have been at The Connaught where we have worked for designer Guy Oliver on many occasions. Then there is Claridge’s which interprets my favourite design period, art deco, in beautiful ways. Although there are few luxury hotels in London and in many other places around the world where you won’t find statement lighting that has been made by us.

dernier-hamlyn.com
020 8760 0900
info@dernier-hamlyn.com

Eric Kirwan, Modulex

Signage Q&A: Eric Kirwan, CEO-President of Modulex

1000 616 Daniel Fountain

Hotel Designs had the pleasure of catching up with Modulex CEO Eric Kirwan at the recent Sleep 2016 event and chatted to him about what makes good wayfinding in hospitality…

Hotel Designs: Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your career in the industry to date and your involvement in Modulex?
Eric Kirwan: I am Eric Kirwan, CEO and President of Modulex A/S, founded in Denmark in 1963 by the LEGO Group and have been providing wayfinding and signage to many of the world’s most iconic projects. Prior to that I was part of GROHE’s International Projects Team working with many of the leading hotel groups and their design teams.

In 2014 I rejoined Modulex as CEO and President of the Group at the headquarters in Billund, Denmark, responsible for global operations, leading the implementation of projects across market sectors including healthcare, education, corporate and hospitality. Recent hotel projects for Modulex include First Hotels, Park Regis, Melia projects in the USA and Caribbean and the Gainsborough Bath Spa (shortlisted European Hotel Design Award 2016).

Q&A: Eric Kirwan, Modulex

ME Miami Interior and exterior signage from Modulex

HD: Modulex specialises in ‘wayfinding’ – how would you summarise what that means and just how important is it?
EK: Wayfinding is simply spatial problem solving. In the same way that a designer considers the best use of a space with careful consideration of its potential users, the role of the wayfinding consultant is to take into account the area and the users, identifying circulation patterns, decision making or dither points and carefully directing users in the necessary direction or perhaps even disrupting them, when and where appropriate.

Q&A: Eric Kirwan, Modulex

Sleep 2016 Working with the organisers of Sleep on their wayfinding strategy for visitors

HD: What makes good signage/wayfinding – especially in the hospitality industry?
EK: Good wayfinding is intuitive, seamless, integrated with the architecture and interiors. To deliver it means understanding the users of the space – first time or frequent visitors; demographics; their needs and wants, their state of mind and their level of concentration or distraction. Next comes the physical understanding of the built environment. Primary and secondary routes need to be established, decision making or ‘dither’ points noted as this is where you may need to ‘wake people up’ so as not to miss an important turn or event. Are there any landmarks which can aid wayfinding? Has lighting been considered and reading distance and sightlines calculated? Only then can you begin to design. Selecting materials, colours, graphics and typefaces which ‘blend’ and where necessary contrast with the environment.

Q&A: Eric Kirwan, Modulex

Gainsborough Bath Spa Shortlisted at European Hotel Design Awards 2016

HD: We recently read about ‘playfinding’ – wayfinding mixed with enjoyable experiences for people to interact with on their ‘journey’. Just how innovative is this sector?
EK: This is a hugely exciting trend and an opportunity for hotel brands to further endorse the brand experience, particularly if they are targeting a particular demographic. At the recent Sleep event, where Modulex worked with the organisers on wayfinding, the Sleep Set rooms were designed for a specific “Tribe”. The winning room from Gensler designed for the Digital Avant-Garde Tribe would definitely be a group who would grab the opportunity for some “playfinding”.

Q&A: Eric Kirwan, Modulex

Gainsborough Bath Spa Shortlisted at European Hotel Design Awards 2016

HD: What sort of technological trends are we seeing coming through in signage?
EK: Digital signage is not a new innovation but we are seeing a significant increase in requests from operational managers in large hotels looking to simplify their conference and events systems. These same large hotels could also benefit from indoor navigation technology which enable visitors to navigate to their meeting room, for example, using their mobile phone. With the increase in self check-in within some hotel groups there will be more demand for digital solutions to wayfinding which can be quickly updated in real-time.

Q&A: Eric Kirwan, Modulex

Park Regis Birmingham Interior digital signage from Modulex

HD: If you could tell architects and interior designers one thing about wayfinding, what would it be?
EK: Keep it simple. The best wayfinding solutions use the least amount of signage to guide people from a to b; take advantage of the architecture and landmarks as part of the solution. Make sure to ask yourself four simple questions about the signage: Can they see it? Can they read it? Can they understand it? Can they trust the information? If you have positive answers to all the questions then you’re working with a good scheme. If not, contact us!

Q&A: Eric Kirwan, Modulex

Park Regis Birmingham Interior digital signage from Modulex

www.modulex.com
+44 (0) 1604 684020
info@modulex.com

In Conversation: Simon Olley, Stylo MD

940 472 Daniel Fountain

Think of 3D printing, and you might well think of high-profile news stories a decade back involving airport security and ‘printed firearms’. Rest assured, the technology has moved on considerably since those burgeoning days. And one of the pioneering companies has been Stylo, the Hertfordshire-based print firm, which is now at the forefront of some incredibly exciting possibilities in three-dimensional printing.

Hotel Designs caught up with Stylo MD Simon Olley to find out a bit more about the company and the potential in this technology…

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Stylo has been in business for nigh on twenty years, starting out from humble beginnings – “…all from a spare room in my flat”, Simon tells me – to now being one of the leading UK names in the print industry and employing dozens of people.

“The original key markets for us were exhibitions and events. Also, we manufacture in-house – mainly so that we can control the quality and delivery of anything we do. The benefit of that has been developing the technology in line with the demands of the clients, mostly retail, that we’ve built up over 20 years of being in business, and have been with us since we started – like Café Nero who have been with us since the beginning.”

A lot of that work involved two-dimensional work for retail shopfitting and display, and Simon admits that two-dimensional is still a big part of Stylo’s remit. But over the last two decades, the firm has moved into various other areas.

“Since then, we’ve realised that a lot of the work now required from clients has been moving into three-dimensional. We found there is a strong niche in taking everything we do in 2D and giving some dimension to it,” Simon says. So, how did they go about achieving that?

Stylo 3D

Some examples of the breadth of work possible using the technology…

“About two years ago, we created a 3D design team and the logic behind that was we could take our 2D print work and add to it around fabrication and construction. We told our 3D team to monitor where the technology was going – and we didn’t think small-scale really had a place in our markets, so it’s all about large-scale. So, our team is self-taught, really, in taking a 2D image and turning it into a three-dimensional shape – which involves a lot of computer-generated-imagery – creating an image and then printing it in 3D,” he adds.

Realising the potential of the technology led Stylo to join forces in 2015 with Israeli company Massivit, who themselves had been carrying out research and development on large-scale printing solutions, which fit the bill for Stylo perfectly. “The key things for us in printing large are speed and being lightweight – especially if we were installing something like a sculpture in a hotel for example. If the item weighs half-a-tonne the logistics are just too difficult to manage. Being lightweight, it needs to be hollow, which is vital and something Massivit’s technology allows,” Simon states.

Massivit 3D technology

A Massivit 1800 3D printer unit…

Indeed, traditional 3D printing involves building layers upon layers, to create a solid unit, which would take far too long. Simon explains: “We needed something that allowed us to print 10 times faster but also using a tenth of the material, which is what this technology allows us to do – integrate our 3D design into a hollow structure. It also cuts down on costs when quoting for clients – for something that is eight-foot high; if we used traditional methods that would cost something like £25,000 which you and I both know is never going to get approved!”

With only a handful of machines being installed globally, being the first UK adopters of the new technology has allowed Stylo to carve a niche and gain a market edge. Something Simon takes pride in: “About 15 years ago, print industry took a turn towards direct printing. Before then, anything that was printed had to go onto a bit of paper, or vinyl or some sort of surface, which in itself would then be mounted to a rigid surface. So this method of direct printing changed the game – getting there ahead of everyone else means we’re challenging ourselves internally with how we can push technology, we’re never quite satisfied with just doing it the same way as everybody else. Even Buckingham Palace think we’re innovative as they awarded us the Queen’s Award for Innovation!”

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How the technology works…

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So can this be applied to hospitality? Work in the hospitality sector has started to come in; Stylo recently worked on a 2,000-room project in the far-east providing 45,000-sq-metres of printed wallpaper – but there is so much potential in this sector according to Simon.

“I have to say that we are still really early in terms of applying this technology to hospitality. All the people who have bought these machines have either bought them for a specific purpose to complete a specific task or they’ve bought them in an entrepreneurial spirit – like ourselves. We bought this technology thinking ‘it’s really cool, it’s really exciting’. We’re saying now that if we could get into the early design stages of hotels, especially in boutique and independent hotels, where creating a personalised identity for every room is key – even if it’s only a 30 or 40 room hotel – it could be really cool to have an individual statue for each room for example.

“Or in the entrance to a hotel, having a really quirky feature that strikes visitors as soon as they enter. And even in the gardens – we could use our Buddha head, that we’ve been showing off at shows recently, around water features. It’s about creating that initial ‘wow factor’,” Simon says.

Stylo 3D

For this Buddha head, Stylo worked with Anarchy, one of the UK’s leading model making company’s based in Watford, who took Stylo 3D print and used it to create a fibre glass mould from which this Model was cast. This makes it externally durable and can be quickly and cost effectively re-produced re-using the mould time and time again…

Getting in with designers is now the priority for Stylo. Simon believes that once the technology is ‘out there’, it will be about convincing design professionals of the creative potential of its applications. “Having a discussion purely from the design perspective about doing things on an enormous scale, completely random things and off-the-wall things is what we want. So it’s about working with designers to come up with these ideas and then us showing them the capabilities of creating some really unique pieces,” he adds.

The production benefits are definitely there to be seen also. The ‘additive’ method of production – namely starting with nothing and building into something, rather than starting with something and taking away – means hardly any waste and its lightweight nature means transportation savings, which both tick environmental and sustainable boxes. Furthermore, Simon is proud of the fact that artisanal skills will still be maintained. Once a piece has been printed, the finished article still retains the look of the UV gel. Yet, each piece can be finished in countless styles to request – and having seen the giant Buddha head (above) at the recent 100% Design show, Hotel Designs can vouch for the quality of the finish. It also means each piece, even if identical in print, will have a slightly unique look.

Stylo 3D
Is Simon tempted to bring design in-house at Stylo and come up with and create the ideas themselves?

“It’s a fine line, because if we play the role of designers as well as producers, we run the risk of stepping on the toes of our clients. I personally love design myself, but one of the downsides of being a production-driven company, is that if we are designing as well – we are going to be designing in a ‘production-friendly’ way. So what we want is designers to not have to worry about how the items will be made – they should have free rein to do whatever they want. It’s our challenge to take their concept and then our 3D designers can turn that into something ‘producible’.”

The enthusiasm for the technology and the endless possibilities within the hospitality sector from Simon and his team is both audible and visible. And looking at some of the fantastic pieces they’ve created already, we have no doubts that it won’t be long before it becomes commonplace to see 3D-printed items in independents, boutiques and major chains – with Stylo continuing to be pioneers at the forefront of the field…

stylographics.co.uk