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Design Seminar: Biophilic design in the Public Sector

Experts in education and hospitality sit alongside architects and designers to discuss the benefits that biophilic design can bring to public-sector interior environments

Style Library Contract Launches New ‘Momentum’ Collection from Harlequin

Home to some of the world’s best interiors brands, Style Library Contract brings together high performing, design-led, contract-specification wallcoverings and fabrics. Created to be the one-stop international resource for interior designers, archite…

NOBODY & CO: The art of new generation interiors

Pushing the boundaries of Italian craftsmanship since 2005, NOBODY & CO is a new generation interior design company that translates visionary impulses into desirable, multi-faceted quality furniture and bold, non-conformist design objects

Salone del Mobile, Milan review

Editor Johnny Tucker and London Design Guide author Max Fraser pounded the pavements and piazzas to bring you the best design the city had to offer

How do interiors define boutique hotels?

Words by Jo Frost

When you think about 'boutique hotels' you will most likely imagine a place full of style and sophistication. A boutique hotel should be individual and should rely upon its image and its design ideas to live up to its reputation. It will be small and stylish and should leave visitors with a sense of relaxation and satisfaction. The size of a Boutique hotel is normally 10 to 100 rooms. Anything smaller than 10 rooms would be classed as a B&B or an inn.

People often expect boutique hotels to differentiate themselves from the others in some way. The main way to achieve this is through interior design. There are many different ways which you could approach design and colour themes. A common trend with boutique hotels is to create a different theme for each room, allowing guests to choose their preferred look. This helps to ensure that guests will be pleased with the décor, an important part of building the feeling that the hotel is superior to competition, and that the stay is a memorable one.

When planning your design, always make sure you use what you already have and work this into your plans. For example if you have beams, you need to consider these and might even choose a theme based around them. If the beams are dark brown wood, see if you can match to this in the forms of mirrors and furniture. Work this in with other features and create the look that works. You may be working with a listed building and there may be certain features which must remain. You can use these to your advantage and work them to create that unique look that so many hotels fail to achieve.


Accessories and furniture can work with the walls to create the desired effect, plus large flower patterns will catch the visitor's eye

Another good starting point is your wallcoverings. Wallcoverings can be the centrepiece to your room and the eye can be drawn to a stylish wall. You can use a feature wall to give a room its character and to add level of class. Accessories and furniture can then work with the walls to create the desired effect.

Wall panels are often a more luxurious option when it comes to your wall décor. They can be made to work in a variety of rooms such as dining rooms and bedrooms. Through their texture they add an extra dimension and a real focal point to a room. A very neutral colour palette is evident in the main image; however as you can see, even with very simple furnishings and neutral colours, the use of stylish and modern wall panels can upgrade the entire room.


Glitter wallpaper can bring a touch of glamour to any room

A similar example we have is the use of glitter wallpaper. This standout trend is becoming increasingly popular and adds a touch of glamour to any room. The use of cream and brown has been used below: a simple colour scheme that embodies a fairly minimalistic look. However with the addition of eye catching wallpaper, the room is given some character - becoming more memorable and unique.

When it comes to the communal areas, be careful not to neglect their importance. The dining area should be arranged and decorated to give a customer a relaxing place to enjoy an evening meal or breakfast. Even the reception area needs to keep up the pace when it comes to style and you may find larger spaces such as these will make good use of bolder patterns. Large flower patterns will catch the visitor's eye and create an effective backdrop to your rooms.

It is important to find ways to stand out from the crowd, whilst maintaining the chic, modern and sophisticated ambiance that is expected from a top class boutique hotel. Try not to make it too personal - going by personal taste will not work here - and if you are aiming to keep colours neutral and appearances minimalistic, find ways to add character and bring life to the space.

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Superior interiors


Words by Sarah Burghard

While I love the term 'cookie-cutter design', creating a standard look couldn't be further from my ethos as a designer and what I offer the hospitality industry. I am lucky to have the choice. There is a luxury in working directly with the owner and/or final decision-maker, as is possible with a boutique hotel, rather than with one link in a chain of large organisation employees hesitant to take new directions.

An initial, informal chat about when and how the hotel began and what they are particularly proud of often turns into a wonderful scramble for a long-lost piece of memorabilia or ignites a story that their guests would love to hear. This creative process is refreshing for my clients, as they are often wary of designers who give the industry a bad name by charging far too much while taking over the vision.

Boutique and independent hoteliers are incredibly versatile people who deal with myriad tasks -- everything from the food and the chef to the service, housekeeping, maintenance and garden, plus finance and interior design.

Because of this, I find them to be broad-minded people that I believe are intrinsically creative, and I find they truly enjoy bringing this part of their skill set into our collaboration.

Clearly, some hotels trade on the consistency of their offering all over the world, and cookie-cutter design may be the only type of creativity they will ever entertain, although I think there is space for individuality in any hotel. The staff aren't clones, so why should the lampshades be?

Thankfully, the rise of the boutique and independent hotel means there's an abundance of wonderful places that pride themselves on being unique with their interior styling.

The Spend A Penny Collection, commemorating Sir John Harington, godson to Elizabeth I. He lived at the hotel and was the inventor of the first lavatorial flush
The Spend A Penny Collection, commemorating Sir John Harington, godson to Elizabeth I. He lived at the hotel and was the inventor of the first lavatorial flush

But, unique in this capacity lies the skill of bringing together an eclectic mix of carefully chosen furnishings that create the desired ambience. While guests appreciate these aspirational offerings, in reality these products can often be found in similar-level hotels because they are still mostly off-the-shelf. My mission is to take the notion of bespoke one step further and so far my ideas, affordability and provenance mean that this fresh approach is keeping me very busy with some fabulous projects.

So what exactly is the bespoke offering I bring to the hospitality industry? Sarah Burghard Designs creates products displaying the hotel's specific identity through visually eye-catching digital textile designs on lampshades, cushions, wallpaper and upholstery. Perhaps the archive, history and story, maybe the location, architecture or internal features, a rather wonderful letter sent from a guest or the wage slip from an employee back in the day when the building was a private house. As a former actress my training and skill set includes storytelling, characterisation and a desire to entertain, which sits very comfortably inside the hospitality industry. The aim is to impart knowledge to the guests about where they are and delight them with the individual story the hotel has to tell.

With the word bespoke comes the fear of the price tag, but digital printing means short runs, and individual pieces are now available to the trade at roughly high-street retail prices. One fabulous design can be used on a wide range of interior products, for marketing and promotional materials, perhaps corporate gifts that have meaning. There are further opportunities to develop an own-brand product range to sell on to guests, creating a new revenue stream. I also partner with an expert with 20 years' experience building retail collections for large high-street brands. Our combination of skills is opening exciting new collaborations.

While the corporate brands often have the headlines, they can't compete with the unique experience that brand Me guests want to tweet about and share with their followers. Generic is hardly newsworthy, but a truly bespoke design in a beautifully unique hotel most certainly is.


Dream location


Words by Francis Pearce

No two rooms in the new Reverie Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City are alike. Nor for that matter is the Italian-dominated decor of the hotel much like any other's, especially in Vietnam. The ultra-luxury property owned by Leading Hotels of the World is in Times Square, a 39-storey high-rise building near the Opera House. The glass-fronted complex cost some £82.3m ($125m) to build, and as its centrepiece the hotel is unashamedly eccentric in its opulence. All 286 rooms are individually furnished by some of Italy's finest design houses.

It has the city's longest bar, an 1895 Bechstein piano, a custom-made, 3m-tall Baldi clock and a fleet of vehicles that includes a limited-edition Rolls-Royce Phantom Dragon.

A stay in the most expensive suite will be close to £10,000 a night -- but the use of the 1,200 sq m spa is included. What were they thinking? Chief architect Kent Lui of Hong Kong-based Kent Lui Tactics, says: 'In French, the verb rêver means to dream. The inspiration behind this project was to present travellers with an experience that they would have thought they could only dream of, by designing a sky-high palatial retreat in the increasingly vertical city that is ever-evolving Saigon, and have it rise far above everything else -- in both height and quality.'

Inside a grand Deluxe room at the Reverie Saigon
Inside a grand Deluxe room at the Reverie Saigon

The dream took time to realise. 'The Times Square building was always intended to be a mixed-use development where premium office spaces, high-end retail, luxury apartments and the most extravagant hospitality experience in Vietnam would come together as a new landmark for the city -- with The Reverie Saigon as the crowning achievement of a project which took nearly seven years to bring to life. The basement and superstructure alone took approximately three years to put in place, and then work on the interiors began in 2011, starting with a worldwide search for the best in furniture design and craftsmanship,' Lui explains.

He says the overarching design approach was to create spaces 'that would exude a contemporary luxury defined by unreserved grandeur -- generous in splendour. The hotel really does present a design experience like no other. This was very deliberate on our part, as from the very beginning we set out to be a trendsetter rather than a trend follower. Unlike conventional hotel blueprints, ours was never limited by preconceived designs and concepts. The idea was to deliver a delightfully outside-of-the-box experience. It's meant to be opulent and extravagant -- and unapologetically so.'

Lui set out 'to give guests the opportunity to experience and enjoy some of the most interesting, most unique interior decor that they've ever come across'.

He cites the grandiose sofa in the seventh-floor lobby, from Colombostile's Esmeralda line of masterpiece works. 'Ours is being outfitted in a regal purple ostrich leather with striking gold leaf trim. It's the only one of its kind in the world,' he says.

'There's also the one-of-a-kind Bechstein grand piano from 1895 that has been re-imagined and transformed by Baldi into an opulent piece of art, with a veneer of a mosaic of precious malachite stone and accented with gilded bronze. And then there's the backlit golden agate fossil stone that lines the guest elevators, flanked by sleek, stencilled steel. Nothing is ordinary here, and that was the idea.'

Lui has mainly turned to Italian design, and although a predominantly florid and extravagant strain permeates the decor, cleaner contemporary pieces are also to be found among the fixtures and furnishings and on sale. Tactics Kent Lui appointed a full-time representative based in Milan to handle the procurement. The hotel's seventh-floor retail spaces have their own lobby and include showrooms housing products from the likes of Cassina, Colombostile, Visionnaire, B&B Italia and Georgetti; items from many also being in the rooms and public spaces. 'Guests desiring to have some of the same pieces they come across in their guest rooms can very easily choose their favourites without having to painstakingly source them like we did,' states Lui.

The bathroom of one of the hotel’s Junior Suites
The bathroom of one of the hotel's Junior Suites

But Italian? 'It's true that the physical setting, at first glance, may not be apparently Vietnamese,' declares Lui. But 'those familiar with the local culture will be quick to realise that the Vietnamese people's fondness for all things colourful, vibrant and lively, is very well represented throughout the hotel. From the colourful installation of individual pieces of Murano glass on the ceiling of the ground-floor lobby (which collectively form the geographic silhouette of Vietnam), to the equally exquisite chandeliers and vases by Venini in richly coloured, hand-blown glass; from the vibrant, hand-laid mosaic art by Sicis to the hand-woven silks by Rubelli (one of the oldest fabric manufacturers in Italy), the Vietnamese people's naturally joyful character and their enthusiasm for colours are actually apparent throughout.'

He says that Asian symbolism can be found throughout the property, interpreted by European artistry and craftsmanship. In The Royal Pavilion restaurant, for example, the rich golden and vermillion colour palette speaks to many Asian cultures, particularly those who have been greatly influenced by China. 'The bringing together of seemingly contrasting yet complementary elements -- and taking inspiration from the world outside Vietnam -- is, in many ways, illustrative of the country's storied past. That's why throughout the hotel you'll often come across an eclectic arrangement of furnishings, textiles and decorative pieces,' says Lui. 'Anywhere else, a hotel as eccentric as this would likely have a different effect, but its placement here is perfect. It is in so many ways quintessentially Vietnam.'


What does your client’s brand sound like?


Words by Chris Wilcox, Music & Media Manager of Pel Services

'What song are you?' In a brief moment of downtime the other day I did one of those online personality tests, where the resulting song is meant to represent your personality. I shared it with my friends on Facebook and soon they were all at it.

It was just a bit of fun, not to be taken too seriously... Or was it 'just a bit of fun'? The comments among my friends and I hint at something more fundamental. Those songs represent a common experience; a common language we could all engage in and that we actively chose to do so. You see, music is undeniably powerful. Yet it is also intimate and often subliminal.

The High Street plugged in to the power of music a long time ago. It's now rare to enter a store and not hear music, whether it's in the background or front/centre throughout -- sometimes at club volume! But the choice of a playlist can be hit and miss -- or lazy and formulaic, directly affecting the intended shopper experience for the worse. Frequently, individual store staff are left to improvise by plugging in their mp3 player with their own choice of tracks on shuffle, which can be the polar opposite of what the brand represents.

It's my belief that the time has come for retail and leisure brands to pay expert attention to their brand soundtrack. This is often something that falls between the gaps, but if you are involved in the 'look' of these facilities, then also consider the 'sound' of them, as they often go hand in hand. Music represents an excellent opportunity to reinforce the interior design, providing a richer overall brand experience. It's about matching the music directly to the brand and, just as importantly, to the customer.

And that's not as easy as you might think. It involves a clear understanding of the brand and its target market's emotional and rational desires and habits.

The delivery of that music then needs to be flexible enough to accommodate that brand's customer requirements as they change throughout the day and may well vary across different regions. So what's playing in a London flagship store at 6pm on a Friday might be slightly different to a smaller outlet in, say, Bath. And what's playing in that same Bath outlet at 6pm is likely to be different to what was playing at 10.30am that same morning.

Leaving the soundtrack to 'shuffle' should never be an option, as it takes a knowledgeable ear to translate a brand into audio, to adapt that sound to different demographics and to apply that audio-branding consistently, but adaptively, over days, weeks, months and years.

I know that for large retailers with multiple stores, an in-house 'Live Radio' feel syndicated over its stores has been one highly effective solution, albeit an expensive one. However, for the majority of retailers the outlay is rather prohibitive. Not that this should rule out smart forms of pre-recorded, in-house radio -- bespoke pre-recorded radio shows, but without the expense of your own dedicated radio station.

Services such as this, including PEL's MediainStore, can be very flexible in that they can incorporate music, a DJ, ads and in-store promotions.

A cost-effective alternative that is highly popular with smaller high-street organisations, from retailers through to hair salons, health clubs, restaurant chains and car dealerships, is a music-only supply service. The provider works with the client to create a simple music playlist that reflects the brand image and customer profile. In the case of our MusicStore service this is updated monthly, either by broadband or CD to be downloaded on to a hard-disc music player in each location. It's very affordable and a very easy-to-use service, hence its popularity.

Getting a brand's soundtrack tone and balance right doesn't have to be overly complicated or expensive, but it does need to be done by professionals who understand the brand and have a wealth of music knowledge. Whether your customer has the budget to be able to invest in in-store radio (live or pre-recorded), or has more modest means, there is a music supply service out there to meet a wide range of budgets and requirements.

Oh yes, my song! In case you're still wondering, from that online test it was that 2006 classic by the Scissor Sisters. I think that's just ridiculous... I always 'feel like dancin'!


Hotels: Taking an app


Words by Francis Pearce

Hub by Premier Inn at 110 St Martin's Lane, London is the first of Whitbread's new brand of city-centre budget hotels intended to pack 'everything you need and nothing that you don't' into a tight space. Although the rooms are only 11.4 sq m in area they include an en-suite bathroom with power-shower; Wi-Fi; a 40in smart-screen television; a desk that folds into the bed; and luggage space beneath the bed, plus an app that enables customers to book, check-in and preset or control their heating, lighting and TV. Whitbread reckons that a stay in one of its hubs will be 30 per cent cheaper than in typical Premier Inn rooms, and yet the rooms are stylish and far from pokey.

'We were given the brief to create an iconic room to house double occupancy in the "hotel of the future", knowing that space in London and other cities is at a premium,' says JSJ Design partner Simeon Thompson. Although the rooms have a template design created to get the maximum from the smallest space, they are neither capsules nor cabins. 'As a designer JSJ is obviously aware of other brands and their execution, but that helped the client understand what was possible and what could be done with perhaps a bit more comfort,' says Thompson.

The room concept was 'prototyped five or six times over the space of two to three years,' Thompson adds. 'Whitbread quantitatively and qualitatively researched and evaluated it throughout, so it wasn't a case of "here's an idea. Now let's run with it". The only thing that remained the same was the room size. It was all about what was doable. We tried to keep things as open as possible, utilising every space, but bringing in hard surfaces such as acrylic to create a sculpted space,' he explains.

'We chose glass bathroom walls, for example, and that came through the design process. Whitbread is one of the leading hotel providers so the cleaning regime is timed and costed, and we had to think about how long the room takes to clean and multiply that across the estate. So, there are special antibacterial chemicals on the sliding doors, which also allow water to slide down without smearing, the same with the bathroom walls too.'

Materials and other aspects of the design, such as the colour temperature of the all-LED lighting -- a warm 2700K -- carry through the whole building, including its corridors and F&B area. The high-tech nature of the experience is reinforced at the reception, which has a digital, interactive screen wall and check-in terminals that read QR codes. Any starkness is tempered with an eclectic mix of bespoke furniture and artwork in the deli and bar.

'As soon as you step out of your taxi or the Tube there are signifiers that you are reaching a Hub. The grey backcoated glass, the flashes of lime, the reclaimed nature of the furniture and the architectural detailing in the F&B space -- they are all signifiers,' says Thompson.

The £30m office conversion, by Axiom Architects and principal contractor McAleer & Rushe, has resulted in the first hotel in the UK to achieve a BREAMM outstanding environmental construction rating. The conversion involved using a high level of recycled materials and building in features such as a 'brown roof' where wild flowers grow.

More than a dozen Hubs are in the pipeline, including four more in London. 'Office conversions have inherent conditions and problems, which makes it interesting and keeps us on our toes,' says Thompson. 'There are always irregular spaces; you never get a smooth, clean rectangle.'

Close encounters

James Dilley of Jestico + Whiles argues for the human touch in hotel design.

'In retail and hospitality we are familiar with a requirement for authenticity, be it real or perceived. Food should be real, prepared freshly by humans in sight of the customer, from locally sourced products, ideally with the name of the farmer attached. Fitness areas have become honest gyms. These spaces are no longer full of beeping, chrome machines, but worn leather medicine balls, wall bars and hairy climbing ropes. Exercise has become moving a pile of sand from one side of the room to the other or three rounds in the boxing ring,' says James Dilley, pictured right.

'Inherent in all of this is a sense of place, reference to and respect for context. There is a pivot away from universal design and experience towards specific experience responding directly to place and time. So, how does this need for authenticity of experience thread through hotels?

'Hotel operators are striving to project an efficiency called 'select service', whereby unnecessary and frivolous elements are eliminated, leaving a core of essential services that must be delivered immaculately. This has resulted in greater reliance on technology and is particularly evident in the will to eliminate human contact from the arrival/check-in process. This is all very exciting in design terms as creativity and innovation is required to accommodate this.

'But the corollary is the increasing cachet and perceived value of good-quality human contact (exactly as we see in telephone services) and there are operators who now emphasise this as the ultimate gesture to service and care, if not luxury. A brigade of highly knowledgeable specialists have become essential to good hotels at all levels, beyond the definition of concierge and receptionist.

'This reinvention of the human-based first contact is the challenge in design, to enhance this experience beyond the perfunctory.'


Delta Light catapults into the future with headquarters expansion

Proud, witty, ambitious, light-hearted. Those are just some of the words that come to mind when describing the charismatic Ameloot family, founders of Delta Light.

Founded in Belgium 25 years ago with Paul Ameloot, sons Peter and Jan now join their father at the helm to further cement the global lighting business.

The company quickly progressed and expanded across the world while maintaining a strong base at the Belgium headquarters. In 2006 Delta Light boldly shifted their headquarters south from Roeselare to a new building in Moorsele 'The House of Light', which turned into a key step for the company.

Now presented in over 120 countries worldwide, Delta Light reached a point where it was clear that the Belgium headquarters required an expansion to keep up with the rapidly progressive enterprise.

Meeting growing logistical needs, the expansion of internal research and development, worldwide growth and extra storage space were the predominant motives for the headquarters extension.

Paul Ameloot said, 'Since it was founded, Delta Light has focused on in-house design, product development and production. This creative process requires constant alertness and the use of new technologies.'

'If we are to realise the company's ambitions in terms of innovation and R&D, we are going to need a lot of extra space.'

Bruges architect Damiaan Vanhoutte of Govaert & Vanhoutte was called upon to design the expansion of the West Flanders location, adding extra height and width to take the building to a comfortable 37,500sq m. Damiaan has designed the previous headquarters and has maintains a sound friendship with Paul built on mutual professional respect.

Hearing Peter Ameloot talk about the project, you can detect the ethos of passion, forward-thinking ideas and powerful work ethic the family encompasses. Not to mention all the while an underlying humorous notion that makes the Ameloot family so likeable.

'When Damiaan showed us the plans for the first time we were immediately excited, it's difficult to explain in English but something in ourselves said we have to do this, whether we need this building or not! It was always an emotional decision instead of a purely rational decision,' says Peter.

The building is not only an icon of the business but a key element in enhancing the relationship between Delta Light and its visitors - some 3,000 every year - such as designers, architects, clients, and of course the staff.

Jan Ameloot says of the 5,500sq m expansion, it is there to benefit, 'not only for the visitors but for our own people, who can live and work, here, in an inspiring, high-quality work environment.'

The new wing took 15 months to build and includes a new warehouse, providing the company with more space to build and store products. Residing in the warehouse is a state-of-the-art logistics centre that creates space for over 15,000 pallet positions.

The key feature of the expansion is a 26m high lightbox structure that adds dynamism to the building's facade.

Speaking to Damiaan about the project, he refers to it as the 'glass box' and he had a feeling about its place in the building. 'I did not know what its function would be, but something should be there [where the lightbox now lies]'. If instincts are anything to go by in architecture, it is clear they were on the correct path here.

The lightbox has now proved to be a pivotal part of the headquarters building: it merges the different heights of the original with the extension, and creates both an entertaining and corporate space for visitors.

By making two sides of the structure glass, it allows passers-by on the A17 highway to see the inviting space, and provides a counterpoint for the huge black block of the rest of the building.

Damiaan discussed his abstract way of thinking, inspired by Russian artist Malevich, a pioneer in the geometric abstract art movement.

'Delta Light headquarters is half abstraction, half function... The more abstract the building is the more you can do with it,' said Damiaan.

The room's 16m high ceiling was both a challenge but an adaptable one. Where some architects may design a plan and choose to stick to it, Damiaan with the support of Delta Light, found ways to adapt and find an effective solution. With an original idea to close the high ceiling, the concept altered to include detachable ceilings, similar to a theatre. The result is a flexible system, where the lighting can be altered to fashion different atmospheres and moods, as seen in the grand opening.

To honour the building's completion Delta Light arranged a Grand Opening in late October, inviting international clientele to showcase the global enterprise's striking new HQ.

Artist Tom Dekyvere installed his piece 'Digital Jungle' inside the glass lightbox to echo the global network of Delta Light. Dekyvere went further to create a self-made music track where the lights in the room change with the notes.

[insert more room images]

Other artists involved with the grand opening included The London-based paper artist Ian Wright, Willy Wonker-esque British duo Bompas & Parr and Belgium artist Fred Eerdekens.

Delta Light fuses the heritage with the contemporary, working with design and technology to create the best possible products with a network of multidisciplinary workers. The new headquarters exude this notion with past and modern design aligning to reflect the company's community.

Visit Delta Light


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Architect Mahmood Fallahian

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