Amsterdam-based interior designer Saar Zafrir talks to BHN about his approach to transforming corporate properties into boutique hotels.
• Greater attention is being paid to our physical environments and the ways in which we utilise space. How are you reimagining communal and private areas? “We reimagine communal and private areas by taking private corners into consideration whilst designing. When working with a larger space, we know how to create side-corners which create a sense of privacy and intimacy.”
• In what ways are the needs of the modern and millennial traveler inspiring and influencing design? “It starts with the small things, such as more USB sockets and more working space in the communal area. In the past we had a lobby that was mainly functioning as a lounge, but currently it has more of a multifunctional use. This area is now used for working, dining and chilling.
“Room wise, the need for a minibar is reduced. Guests can now order via one of the delivery services from within the entire area. The old traditional wardrobe has also become more open and flexible (smaller).”
• You’ve worked on several upscale hotels. What is it about these projects that make them boutique? “Using cosy, home-feeling materials and warm light, combined with some features that guests would not choose to put in their homes themselves. For example, the ‘provocateur mode’ – a switch that dims the lights and projects video art on the wall with a playlist of one hour.”
• Empty retail stores and office blocks, along with under-utilised corporate hotels provide opportunities to repurpose and/or revamp. How can you make projects like these stand out and deliver value? “Those kinds of retail and rooms have become more and more multifunctional rooms. As an example, we are working on a corporate hotel now in Rome that during the working season, will use its ballrooms for corporate events but during the summer and holidays will turn into a huge kids playground. It will be great for family entertainment. We are trying to create more functions for each hotel we design.”
• What advice would you give for creating a sense of identity through design? “Each hotel starts with a story and a narrative. The design must follow the narrative. It’s similar to a movie that has a story line.”