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Interview

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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

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

800 502 Hamish Kilburn

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

1000 450 Daniel Fountain

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