Striking a balance between light and space

Design firm Thomas Klein International talks to Hotelier Middle East

Light, Space

Design firm Thomas Klein International talks to Hotelier Middle East about its creative approach to hotel interior design and the team’s focus on space allocation and natural light when designing a challenging space in a Dubai property

Thomas Klein International recently spoke to Hotelier Middle East about a hotel design case study, whereby the company was tasked with proposing a multifaceted interior design approach and providing a solution for space allocation in an area with a lack of natural light.

Established in 2001, Thomas Klein International (TKI) delivers a complete range of design, consulting and management services in the hospitality sector throughout the Middle East and beyond. Headquartered in Dubai, Thomas Klein International has worked on a number of projects for such clients as Four Seasons, Le Royal Méridien and Mövenpick, as well as restaurant spaces such as Pintxos Kuwait which won TKI the Best of Year 2013 Honoree in the bar category by New York publication, Interior Design magazine. Most recently, TKI and its Chicago architectural office PS Studio worked on a challenging design project for a top Dubai hotel, with very creative results.


TKI was tasked with converting an disused space on a high floor of the hotel, which had been left empty by the operator because of its limited natural light.

Thomas Klein International was asked to present a solution for space allocation, providing a multifaceted interior design approach for the project.

This required creating a space for a suite in an area that was divided into four zones and had just one access point. Managing circulation within each suite had to be considered so that guests and service could flow with minimum crossover. The major challenge, however, was that some areas had few windows, and therefore very little natural light.

The Rational

“We started looking first of all at what to do with the huge amount of wall space and the lack of light, but early on in the project, we realised that we were going around in circles,” explains Daniel During, principal & managing director of Thomas Klein International.

“We soon understood that we needed to ignore the lack of daylight, and to focus first on space allocation and circulation.”

Given that guests have different needs, the company came up with two possible scenarios: one for a traditional Arab family and one for a typical western business traveller or family.

“In the case of the traditional Arab family set up, (see layout option one), we explored ways to minimise corridor use, hence bringing the living space to the forefront of the penthouse.

Therefore, the master bedroom took the northwest corner (the one with the concrete wall).

“We have also considered that typically traditional Arab families tend not to entertain in their own suites, and they spend more time in the bedroom.

“The master bedroom has therefore been conceived here as an independent apartment on two levels, with a living area on the ground floor and the bedroom on the first floor, a relaxation area and a whirlpool separate from the bathroom,” comments During.

The option for the Western business traveller or family on the other hand (see option two) explores the use of the most premium of the spaces — but also the one with the least light — the northwest corner, as the living and main entertaining area of the suite.

This gives the space views of the Burj Khalifa and the sea beyond, continuing the overall experience further into an outdoor space.

“The second option required a longer corridor, and in order to break the corridor, a family area with a mezzanine was inserted allowing for natural light to bathe it and split it into two,” says During.

In both options one and two, the maid’s quarter is located above the entrance gym.

Once a layout was allocated to each type of guest, Thomas Klein was faced with the challenge of the high wall-to-window ratio in the northwest corner of the space (marked in options one and two by a green bubble).

“The walls were the most challenging part of the process, until we realised that the solution was not how to
utilise the ‘dark’ space but rather how to make the massive amount of wall vanish,” During explains.


The renderings displaying the finished product show no shortage of windows in the room. In renderings two and three, what appear to be windows or an aquarium, are floor-to-ceiling high definition digital screens. Curtains can be pulled in front of the screen to complete the real window effect.

In rendering two, the screen projects a real-time live image of the outside world. This is achieved by high performance digital cameras placed at the exterior of the building transmitting 24/7 onto the indoor screens. Rendering three shows a pre-recorded motion picture of an aquarium.

The screens also offer a unique selling point since they double as HD TV screens, able to transmit a hotel’s normal entertainment offering with an in-room cinema experience. They aslo provide an excellent source of light.
In the case of the traditional Arab family set up, (not rendered here), the digital screen complements the master bedroom living area, transforming it into the world’s most exclusive private cinema in a hotel room.

Thomas Klein International is based in Dubai Media City. For more information go to

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