Interview of the month - Daniel Englender talks hot design
Autumn is the design season here in London. The design centred events just overflow the calendar boxes in September and October, so we needed to add our drop on the top. We have met up with Daniel Englender to talk about interiors in hotels and restaurants. Daniel is a key purchaser in Benjamin West, company that equips the grandest, the coolest, the most exclusive, the most beautiful places. He buys all is needed for the clients - from lamps and switches, through all furnishings and finishing on state of art statement pieces. Daniel shares with us his thoughts on what styles are hot now, which ones would prove being short lived trends, and which ones will live long. IG: Looking at the hotel design today we can see it has become very adaptive to the lifestyle of younger generations. Things that were unthought of, lets say ten years ago, now are becoming a norm even in luxury brand sector. For a long time more was equivalent with better, now we see a lot of designers simplifying the interiors. Where are we in the design today? DE: Hotels have been challenged by appearance of Air BnB. You are right, the hotels needed to adapt to the lifestyle of younger generations, they needed a drastic change. What counts today is the functionality, simplification, being able to accommodate the needs of people who work and travel. But today’s working and travelling guest is no longer the cliche of a businessman we have been used to. Today is casual. Formality slowly becomes an experience rather than every day life. Long gone are the times when I wouldn’t have been allowed to have a breakfast in Connaught, unless I was wearing a jacket and a tie. Today’s needs of the guest are about the wellness, the meeting rooms and common spaces. Marriott is a brand that serves the example greatly, they came up with the idea of keeping sports/running gear of their regular guests. In modern hotels lobbies will need to become co-working spaces with business meeting facilities, there will have to be space for a yoga/meditation studio, jazz club. One of the true visionaries of modern hospitality was Alex Calderwood who founded Ace. He blew some fresh air over hospitality when it comes to service as well as design and functionality. Now just look around, big brands just started copying him, look at Scandic Hotels or the new Marriott projects. IG: Is there going to be a place for classic luxury, old fashioned elegance and plentifulness? DE: Of course, there will always be hotels in beautiful classical buildings with expensive interiors, but they will exist as places you go to for a certain experience rather than a setter of standards for luxury. IG: Just like the Ritz, or Orient Express, an exclusive brand that magnetises people with the nostalgia. What about the new styles, what is happening now, and what is coming up? We see minimalism around, we see industrial inspired styles, we see greenery and gardens within indoor spaces. Are those styles here to last, or will they melt like last years’ snow? DE: Each of these styles brings something that will last. Minimalism works great in some of the spaces, like for example in London’s Lyle’s restaurant. The interior is raw, simple, clean, sharp... almost like the food served there. Would it work everywhere? I don’t think so. Minimalism gone wrong seems very cold, not homely. Industrial style brought easiness in maintenance - all the exposed pipes and cables, what an excellent invention for hotelier? Such a great cut on repair costs. Opened wardrobes were so extravagant 10 years ago, now start appearing even in luxurious hotels. Brutalism with the exposed concrete is also staying, the floors of industrial strength, the material is hard to beat in durability. The candied colours and plush textures inspired by Wes Anderson is also going to stay atop for few more years. What is coming in strong though is eclecticism mixed with retro. The designers started to go crazy, the new MAXIMALISM bubbles like fresh glass of champagne. Retro styles taken straight from your grandma’s bedroom back in 70’s - floral patterns, thick colourful printed materials, flamboyant lighting, lots of small decoratives all over. Just look at L’Avenue in NY by Philip Starck - this place looks at times like a dated Swiss Chalet! I actually don’t see that many people around doing something very original, but I see people who put the oddest things together, and they compete in extraordinary matches. IG: What bout the mad rush about live plants? DE: I see the green spaces being more and more sought after, however I really doubt this concept will transfer to big players. It is simply too difficult to maintain the live plants. The inspiration wills stay though, the demand for artificial plant is growing and so is the interest in botanical inspired fabrics. IG: What are the most interesting new concepts you have heard of recently? DE: One of the hotels we were commissioned with had artists in residency who were creating statement feature pieces for the property. They produced feature pieces, furniture, ceramics and textiles. It would be great if this model found its place in future, with the big brands involving local craftsmen. There are, however issues with the regulations and durability which make it quite a challenge for both sides. I won’t buy for example anything that wouldn’t pass the certificates, so if I really care about a piece of furniture, it would be my responsibility to make sure the piece will last and be legal. This of course costs me effort, time and money. Therefore I really can’t see this approach having its place on the bigger scale. What is however interesting to observe, and in a way it also gives a way for big brands to recognise the local artists or craftsmen, is the new outlook of hotels on the design of individual properties. The hotel groups have finally started recognising their hotels or restaurants do not really need to look the same. What needs to identify the brand is the feeling, the quality of service, the philosophy, but the design may be totally different. Look at Locke - their properties are really different from each other, and this differentiation makes them more exciting as a brand. IG: Couldn’t agree less. Thank you for all the very mind provoking insights. Now, as the last thing, could you share with us which hotels would you recognise as the best designed? DE: Hmmm... a tough one, but let’s name a few here. Hotel d’Europe in Amsterdam, Arts Club in Dubai, the Lockes - they are really one of our nieces projects. Also, keep an eye out on Studio Tack from Brooklyn, as they intent to go into hotels soon as well, and I bet they will come out with something very exciting!