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Interview: Talking Interiors with Areen Design

With Andrew Linwood, Head of Hospitality Design

With over 30 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, Areen Design, have worked with some of the most exclusive names in the industry taking on projects large and small to deliver a flawless, high-quality finish; winning them countless awards and a highly reputable name within the world of interior design.

Here, Andrew Linwood, Head of Hospitality Design at Areen, tells us a little bit more about what he’s expecting to see through 2017.


What key themes are trending this year for hospitality design in your opinion?

In general, we are seeing fewer boundaries, with the rise of the global ‘nomad’ and a fusing together of cultures. Cultural exchanges are feeding directly into the design of spaces in terms of the decorative elements and spatial use. For us, as designers, it’s more about encouraging flexibility and interaction. Moving away from formality.

The key trends we’ve picked up on are a mix of new and developed trends, including:


The importance of relating to a situation and reflecting culture and heritage is now a well-developed trend; the days of walking into a hotel and not knowing if you’re in Freetown or Frankfurt are long gone.

Guests want that local experience and it’s all about how we as designers can help to reflect that. Design has to be rooted in the landscape and communities in which new hotels are planned.

The Cape Sierra Hilton in Freetown is a classic example of the cultural sensitivity and awareness we try to achieve through an understanding of the historical, physical and social elements of a locality.
Opening later this year the interior design conforms to a Hilton branded hotel but brings together regional and local heritage through artwork, local materials, and place-making.

Areen Design - Cape Sierra Hilton, Freetown, Sierra Leone - V Society Bar

This was actually the trend that stood out most while judging this year’s Sleep Set: the winning room got top marks for ‘sense of place’, ‘curated feel’ and cultural relevance – all of which are becoming increasingly important to today’s more sophisticated and experienced travellers.

Hotels are not only a place to sleep: a well-designed hotel that reminds guests of where they are helps to optimize the experience.

Patricia Urquiola – Mate Hotel Milan

Flexibility – catering to the ‘global nomad’

The nomadic lifestyle trend of the seasoned traveller is directly impacting the design of hotel interiors. We are seeing innovative developments in the product design industry that reflect this non-permanence, with designers are moving away from cupboards and wardrobes to open closets and wired shelving, allowing greater flexibility, and accessibility.

Bespoke furniture items – The return of the artisan

What is exciting is there seems to be a resurgence in timber craft, but with a raw, expressive feel. It’s all about artisanal authenticity, individuality, sustainability and an expression of location – a development on the theme of bringing nature indoors.

• Bespoke furniture items – The Return of the Artisan

What key trends are emerging over the next 12 months?

The feeling amongst designers across industries is that 2017 will have a more ‘organic’ focus. Technology is a part of our everyday lives but people are now looking for a connection with reality; moving away from artificial environments.

Interiors will likely reflect this transition by increasing tactile and sensory experiences within hospitality spaces. Natural elements and materials will grow in importance as a sort of counterbalance to the pace of growth in technology and social media.

The following are key trends to watch out for in 2017:

Fusion of elements

I think we’ll be seeing a move away from the hard lines, and bold geometric shapes that have dominated the design landscape recently, we’ll be seeing more chinoiserie, ornate historic motifs, florals, organic patterns and handmade elements; materials we can more easily relate to; there’ll be more of a melting pot, bringing together the different styles and materials.

Hotel Daniel Paris

Design Collaboration

Interdisciplinary design collaborations have been growing over the last few years, especially in fashion and architecture. 2017 will see more crossover and collaboration in interior design. Fuelled by the power of a concept, artists are now collaborating with designers at the earliest creative stages to work on holistic design solutions, materials, and spaces.

Colour Tones

Green is moving from the runway to a cushion cover near you, with wall coverings and soft furnishings seeing a surge in vibrant colour, inspired by nature. The green palette is being given a fresh interpretation, creating tones that are going to convey a sense of earthiness and reimagined familiarity.

Beverly Hills HOTEL

Waste Materials

Reinvention, reclaiming and reuse are some of the buzz words for the emerging trends focused on innovative use of waste materials. We’re seeing some really interesting decorative finishes coming onto the market; for instance, a recycled wood has been created in Norway by rolling up waste paper with solvent-free glue into a sort of log, then slicing it into usable planks for interior and exterior finishes.

What is the most popular theme/trend of the year in your opinion?

Bohemian and Eclectic Folk

With the world getting smaller and travel becoming more accessible, many continents now influence designers’ choice of colour combinations, materials, and artwork. Take textiles for example, where the influence of North Africa, India, South America and Mexico help to give designers the opportunity to introduce the well-travelled bohemian look into interiors. Imperfections in woven fabrics are welcomed and seen to reflect their origin and revive memories of past travels.

The interiors in the Marriott Moxy brand are a good example of this kind of eclectic juxtaposition.

Marriott Moxy

What have clients been asking for this year?

In a word: refinement. From designing striking yet subtle spaces through to creating that elusive authentic ‘sense of place’: an intangible concept, which sets a place apart from others around it. A space which has been carefully analysed and can combine a light personal touch or feature elements which respond to its locality; not just a pastiche of local elements but a carefully thought through solution: refined simplicity.

What design challenges do you think the hospitality sector faces over the next 12 months?

With increasing competition from boutique hotels and Airbnb, the bigger brands need to continue to reinvent themselves by tapping into the changing definition of luxury: its dynamism, personalisation, and transience. Customer expectations are changing more quickly than ever and designers need to anticipate these changes and innovate accordingly.

Luxury is certainly not just the finishes, it can be found in anything, from sourcing fresh local produce, through to personalised welcome messages. Our challenge as designers is to capture this essence of authenticity and incorporate it into our creative response.

Are you seeing a rise in hospitality establishments wanting bespoke fittings and furniture? If so, why do you think this is?

Individualism is recognised as a global mega-trend; consumers’ want to be recognised as having ‘personal needs’ not just part of the ‘mass market’. The result is that in order to be competitive every project must respond to the need to be different, fuelled perhaps by the internet; and bespoke fittings are one way to do that. Also in converted properties, you often find that custom fittings are a physical necessity.

Hotel Indigo York

Do you think that the number of establishments wanting bespoke fittings and furniture will rise in the next 12 months?

Bespoke fittings and furniture build on the concept of personalisation. This is a very prominent trend, and with an increasingly discerning travel base, it’s one that’s likely to remain in play. Thinking back to some of the trends mentioned earlier bespoke fittings would certainly complement the use of both natural and waste materials, they’d also work well for the Eclectic/Bohemian trend, leading to an increase.

What do you think are the best trends of the year in the following sectors:

In both instances, it would be about developing a concept or a theme, something which will attract people. A concept is like an umbrella trend: it groups focused trends like bespoke solutions; the use of new materiality; applying context; having Instagram value and catering to millennials etc., together. When you have a great concept, you are ticking all those boxes. And it’s not necessarily about having a quirky trend, it’s about having a design narrative or story which pins everything together so it doesn’t look like a circus. There should always be an element of context and grounding because you want to cater to a range of different consumer bases.

What advice do you have for establishments which are looking to refurb their premises over the next 12 months?

First and foremost, assess what you want to achieve and budget for that. Don’t make the mistake of setting a budget first! And next, find a design team who have the relevant experience for the project, be it new build or refurbishment of a listed building.

Over half of our work is now refurbishment. Sometimes within an iconic building in a city centre such as the Westin Palace Madrid and sometimes upgrading an airport hotel only 30 years old but desperately in need of a makeover.

Westin Palace Madrid

What should establishments bear in mind when choosing a theme or trend for the coming year?

Pick themes and trends which will resonate with your target market, avoid gimmicks you want your interiors and indeed your investment to stand the test of time. This means striking a balance between trends and timelessness while fostering something that stands out.

Do you have any words of wisdom for establishments looking to hire an interior design company?

Establish your target market and what you want your designer to achieve. Once clearly agreed then budget for what you want to realise and appoint designers with the experience to meet your aspirations, from both a visionary and financial perspective.

Lastly, which projects are you most proud of over the last year, that in your opinion epitomise the year’s trends?

Boutique Hotel Concept – Central London
The brief here was for a London-based hotel aimed squarely at overseas tourism. Set in a Grade II Listed building, the interiors were to be used as a vehicle to fuse old and new using traditionally British elements with a nod to the humour and eccentricities of the fabled Londoner.

Sleep Set Concept Room – 2015 Wonder Tale
This concept room explored the theme of duality, challenging the traditional plan of the guest room in order to delineate the space subtly whilst providing for a smooth transition from dark to light, hard to soft and cold to warm; these transitions are reflected in materiality: colour and texture, lighting, sound, mood, reflection, and detail. The functional usage is planned to fit the quality of each zone at its point along the gradient.

Areen Design - Sleep Set Concept Room - Corner of Enchantment

You can visit Areen Design at their website at For more on the movers and shakers of the hospitality industry, keep your eyes peeled for the Hilden Style Guide 2017. Coming soon.


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