To follow up our recent feature on the Top 10: Boutique Hotel Designers, we thought it would be great to talk to the top triumvirate of designers about their inspirations and aesthetics. Kicking off our interview series is design doyenne Anouska Hempel, who came in at Number 1 for the longevity of her legendary London boutique hotel, Blakes. Despite having dozens of projects on the go, she kindly took time out of her hectic hotel-design schedule to talk to us about the ultra-modern Brazilian retreat Warapuru, exploding pianos, and the Moomins…
When did you first realise you wanted to be an interior designer?
I’m not really an interior designer: Anouska Hempel Design is an architectural practice. I never wanted to be just an interior designer – I wanted to be a designer full stop, from the age of five, I think.
You’ve styled some of our favourite city luxury hotels (Blakes, for example, where Mr & Mrs Smith’s founders James and Tamara got married, as well as the iconic Hempel). How vital is the decor of a hotel to you?
If you’re choosing a hotel for romance, or to have fun in, its interior decoration is very important, because it sets the mood for your stay. And it indicates what sort of person you are: I think the people who are pulled towards our hotels are more theatrical than most, and not of the corporate ilk.
Do you have any hotel hates?
I don’t like checking in. I hate being hassled: I hate having to fill in that damn form, and I hate having to get the passport out, all that paraphernalia – that doesn’t work for me.
It’s certainly not conducive to relaxation!
[Laughs] No! It has to be done, but there are better ways of doing it. For example, at another project I’m working on – La Suite London, in Nottingham Place, which is a really fantastic young business hotel in the West End – check in will be very different, even though it’s a corporate hotel. You’ll get checked in at the airport, or at a café round the corner, or in a bar. Not at reception, all lined up with all your stuff, as though you were going in for a jail sentence.
Another of your ongoing projects is Warapuru, a highly anticipated state-of-the-art hotel and villa complex in Bahia, due for completion in 2010 – I take it arriving there will pretty special?