Suppliers Roundtable: Accessible by design

Hotelier Express meets the design dynamos who are leading the creative charge in the changing face and functionality of mid-market hotels and restaurants in the Middle East

‘Sindbad the Sailor’ art wallpaper by Lama Khatib Daniel, commissioned by Capsule Arts for Mercure Sohar, Oman.
‘Sindbad the Sailor’ art wallpaper by Lama Khatib Daniel, commissioned by Capsule Arts for Mercure Sohar, Oman.

What are the latest developments in hospitality interior design and how do these developments especially benefit  mid-market hotels?

Rachael Brown: Today’s focus is about individualism, Instagram-worthy moments, and instant gratification. This leaves little room for generic design, and this, in particular, is changing mid-range hotels and their brands due to changing audience demands.

Shane Curran: The hospitality interior design field is now thriving on innovation and the ability to blend designs from different cultures and ideas. With the UAE leading in hospitality construction in the Middle East, the industry remains competitive; innovation, coupled with factors, such as quality delivery and price, remains the key in breaking through. The UAE hospitality segment has long been associated with upscale projects; however, due to shifting global travel trends, as well as the approach of Dubai Expo 2020, most people are now opting for affordable yet world-class options. This revolution in the mid-market segment means that brands need to differentiate themselves to rise above the competition. Most occupants book a hotel mostly based on visual effects so it is important to create an innovative design that would attract the end user, and also to ensure quality delivery that would provide satisfaction as well as generate positive reviews.

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Govind Shepley: The industry is forever evolving and so is your audience. Before he or she designs, every designer asks: how can we reach our audience? Currently, mid-market hotels are enjoying high demand from customers seeking affordable stays that are aligned with their lifestyle or identity. This opens up a whole new market for creativity within hospitality interior design, as a few years ago, most visitors in the Middle East only stayed in high-end hotels.

How has the aDvent of new ‘lifestyle hotel’ brands impacted hospitality interior design?

Rachael Brown: Lifestyle hotels are all about personal touches and tailoring the experience they offer to their target audience. The hotel brand is the strongest representation of that experience. That is why, as art consultants, we’re strong advocates for coming on board early, so we can understand the hotel within the brand’s portfolio, key aims for their guest experience and engagement. By understanding these aspects, we can develop an art package that can be an asset to the interior and brand with real added value for the project. Make your art package work for your brand; it’s not just something pretty on the wall or to fill an empty space.

Shane Curran: The new ‘lifestyle hotels’ have encouraged innovation in the hospitality interior design sector, allowing interior designers to be expressive and creative in their delivery to meet new competitive standards. Lifestyle themes promote the use of natural elements, colour blends, artwork, creative lighting display and fancy textures.

Govind Shepley: The Middle East currently sees a high demand for casual, lifestyle hospitality in general. Not everything has to be high-end anymore, from hotels to restaurants to lifestyle. As a design agency, we can only vouch for this new trend; this opens our market and our creativity.

What has your company launched lately?

Rachael Brown: In recent years, interior design in the mid-range hotel segment has included a lot of designs which take the form of artistic wallpapers. These are a very cost effective way of bringing art into a project, and the application means you can develop a unique and engaging design which your guests will remember and which has real impact, thanks to its large size.

We have also received more and more interest in is our styling services. Often interiors will include large shelving units, consoles and vitrines that require accessories, or there’s a restaurant whose cuisine or brand needs to be conveyed through the artwork and accessories. These can often be items that are difficult to specify individually at the specification stage of any project, due to the volume required. As the hotel or restaurant is nearing completion we come in to work with the interior designer, operator, and contractor to understand the brief and select, procure and style with accessories to create a cohesive look for the project.

Shane Curran: Interact Group provides free assessment to all our clients and offers unbeatable prices with quality delivery assured. We stand out in interior fit-out by integrating feasible solutions, key design principles and resource-saving technologies, that are known to develop well planned and properly organised fit outs to increase productivity and performance in the functional space.

Govind Shepley: We stick to the formula that works for us. What we focus on is employing the correct people who bring new offers and ideas, enabling Creneau to always create an evolving offer. We create to connect brands and places with people and the future. Telling stories, shaping consumer perceptions and boosting businesses, both new and established. Creneau International will always design to seduce.

What do you think are the challenges for mid-market hoteliers when it comes to interior design – how do you and your company help to overcome these challenges?

Rachael Brown: In terms of artwork, budgets are usually the main challenge. Careful planning, a creative approach, and effective use of materials and manufacturing techniques can be hugely beneficial when developing an art package. If you have these elements working together,  you can achieve an impressive package which is still within budget. Another challenge is realistic briefs. Often artwork and accessories’ ideas which are specified by clients are not realistically within their budget, yet some how, they’re sold on that particular concept. It’s then up to us to work backwards from that angle, to see what can be commissioned within the available budget while remaining as true to the client’s preferred art concept as possible.

Shane Curran: The main challenge that arises when it comes to mid-market hotel interior design is budgetary constraints. This may in turn affect the project timeline and delivery. At Interact Group, however, we are driven to deliver projects on time, within budget and to ensure every detail is catered for.

Govind Shepley: The main interior design challenge to overcome for mid-market hoteliers is to acknowledge that not everything is about design. This might sound weird, but we believe that design should be part of the functionality of the hotel, and this is even more important for customers that are interested in mid-market hotels. Guests are looking for a series of experiences that evolve throughout their stay. To create this experience, design, functionality, marketing and products have to go hand in hand. We believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Therefore, we never design without background; we dig before we design.

What other news would your company like to share?

Rachael Brown: Capsule Arts recently completed work on the art and accessories package for the latest addition to the Rove Hotels brand – Rove Trade Centre. We’re also nearing completion on the art and accessories package for a new Holiday Inn hotel which will be opening soon in the region.

Shane Curran: We are headquartered in Dubai with branches in Ireland and England have a team of positive and highly motivated professional staff.

Govind Shepley: We are very proud of our latest projects in 2017: Le Petit Belge, a Belgian restaurant and bar in JLT, Dubai and Cho Gao, a pan-Asian restaurant and lounge in InterContinental, Abu Dhabi. For the rest of the year, we are invested in developing the team while working on the design of three restaurants for Le Meridien, the 24th floor of Dusit Thani on Sheikh Zayed Road and building another two outlets for Le Petit Belge.

Meet the expert:

Rachael Brown, Co-founder and creative director, Capsule Arts

Shane Curran, Chief executive officer, Interact Group International

Govind Shepley, Designer, Creneau International

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