DENNIS IRVINE, FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, Dennis Irvine Studio
Dennis Irvine knows all about multi-tasking and team motivation, ensuring his studio’s band of experts always achieves excellence in their field. Here, he reflects upon success with Can Faik…
Dennis Irvine Studio is a London-based design studio providing luxury interior design to international hotel brands including Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Marriot Luxury Collection, Raffles Hotels & Resorts and Waldorf Astoria Hotels, private high-end residential schemes, super yachts and luxury spas.
Founded by Dennis Irvine, his studio of talented designers possess varied experience gained from global projects. They blend spatial intelligence with intuitive design and produce enduring interiors with a layered design aesthetic.
Tell me about your role at Dennis Irvine Studio
As founder and Creative Director I wear many hats. Each day is different and rewarding on many levels. Often I’ll be driving initial briefs or shaping design narratives to provide initial design solutions. On other days, I’ll be space planning, designing bespoke furniture design or material palettes for the team to develop and implement. Listening is key, clients, hotel operators, specialist consultants, your team and suppliers all have a voice and extracting the core thoughts and ideas then rationalising solutions so that everyone is on the same page is paramount.
What five words would you use to describe Dennis Irvine Studio?
Thoughtful, engaging, creative, intuitive and collaborative.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
I began working in hospitality design in 1999 with Fox Linton Associates, London. It was here that I really learnt my trade and cut my teeth as a designer. I was heavily involved in global high-end residential and hospitality projects from day one. Some of what I had been taught at university was challenged in the real world. However, the combination of academic teaching and learning from the many inspirational people I have met over the years has been invaluable.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
Recently we have increasingly seen the recurring idea of ‘sense of place’ narrative and neighbourhood. Taking elements from a hotel’s environs to inform its design, which helps to create uniqueness.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
The importance of public spaces really hasn’t changed for hundreds of years; we have just become smarter in designing spatial sequences and the guest journey through hotels. A deeper understanding of the guest’s expectations has helped us appreciate and interpret what can be successful in public spaces. As long as these areas encompass the essence of ‘great design’ by blending brand values, aesthetics and function, public spaces will remain relevant to hospitality design.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Dennis Irvine Studio stand out from the rest?
We like to think we offer something a little bit different, a holistic mindset from concept to completion. Always thinking about the guest experience and operational functionality with guest touch points, both physical and emotional, are taken into consideration.
How is the current economic climate affecting the hotel design market? And has Dennis Irvine Studio felt the effects?
For sure the current economic climate is a concern, we work globally and are involved with such varied projects that as yet we haven’t felt a downshift in interest or live projects. Touch wood it stays that way!
What is the biggest thing the company has learnt over its years in the industry?
That virtually everyone involved with hospitality projects has something to contribute. You just need to keep listening, absorbing and making considered decisions about what benefits the client, guest experience or the project as a whole.
What has been your favourite project to date?
We have been fortunate to be engaged in some amazing commissions, which have taken us all over the world, so it would be impossible to single out one particular project. Different projects stand out for various reasons. Often the best are when you have clients who wholeheartedly buy into the design vision and really value your knowledge, insight and passion.
Let’s talk about Jumby Bay, and what does this stunning project mean to you?
Where to start? From brand immersion through understanding the ethos behind the island’s culture and mindset to delivering superlative dining experiences – it was a privilege. It was one of the first projects completed by our team so it will always be close to our hearts. The feedback we have received from stakeholders and guests has been immensely flattering.
What drove the design narrative for Jumby Bay?
We aimed to achieve a modern interpretation of the Colonial spirit, which we achieved by retaining historical elements of the original structure and combining it with subtle nods to the island’s history and traditions throughout.
How did you draw on Antiguan culture at Jumby Bay?
It was vital to spend time there talking to local people – not only hospitality and design experts but also other people who live and work on the island.
And how did you interpret the culture in the design?
In many ways. For example, we commissioned and curated local artwork depicting indigenous flora and fauna and sourced original vintage maps. We also designed hand-crafted furnishings in ebony, teak, rattan, and antiqued leathers that emulated the style of past travellers and explorers.
What’s next for you?
We are currently working on several high-end residential projects in London. We’re also involved in a Luxury Collection Georgian House Hotel that includes Victorian follies, a 2000sqm Luxury spa with cryo and altitude chambers, which is a little bit different to say the least. We are also just about to embark on the design of our third super-yacht for a private client.
How would you define your ‘hotel style’?
We like to think we don’t have one. Each commission is different and relies on us understanding and engaging with clients and the DNA of a particular hotel brand. We have core values that echo throughout the projects we undertake, from acknowledging cultural context, refining the design during each stage of the project, engaging in creative collaborations and creating memorable enduring interiors.
What does design mean to you?
Design is all-encompassing; when I think about good design, I think about functionality and the ability for someone who has never experienced the interior or item before to ascertain the information he or she needs quickly. ‘Great design’ adds beauty and style to that functionality and creates distinction.
What would be your dream hotel project?
Somewhere remote, perhaps deep in a rainforest where environmental impact needs to be minimised and beauty can be derived from nature.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish-list?
Mexico City, Lake Louise, Calgary and Hanoi.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
Clients, operators and designers will have to adjust to ever-shifting guest expectations. We will need to be more inventive when it comes to creating memories and local experiences that satisfy the appetite of the well travelled guest. The boundaries between hotel and surrounding areas will be blurred as hotel concepts seek to extend further into local communities.
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
We are extremely fortunate as designers, to do what we do. Having chosen this path in life, there is an understanding among all those involved in hospitality design that a work life balance is sometimes challenging. For me, I spend as much time with family and friends and try not to talk design, just for one minute at least.