Therese Virserius, Founder, and Regina Virserius, Creative Director, VIRSERIUS STUDIO
Swedish-born sisters Therese Virserius, founder, and Regina Virserius, creative director, of Virserius Studio speak to Can Faik about current projects, and what’s next for the well-established design studio…
Virserius Studio, a global hospitality lifestyle firm, comprises a multidisciplinary team that draws from their diverse backgrounds to create superior guest experiences in hotels, restaurants, lounges, and meeting spaces. From conception through to execution, V/S provides a range of interior architecture and design services, and works closely with owners, operators, and developers to realise their creative dreams.
Tell me about Virserius Studio?
Having been involved with hotel design for fifteen years, we are a multicultural design firm with offices in NYC and Paris. We draw from the rich and diverse experiences and disciplines of each member of our team. I founded the firm in New York City in 2003, after experience working in business abroad. Regina joined as Creative Director, having come from a fine art background where she blends the worlds of art and design.
How and why did you get into the interior design industry?
TV: It was an interesting journey. My career began in law and a bachelor of arts degree in Mandarin. I was headhunted by IKEA while at university and shortly thereafter moved to Shanghai to work with the management team to set up their first store there. After several years with IKEA, I moved to New York City to explore a more three-dimensional creative form, which led me to interior design and architecture.
RV: As a fine artist, it’s thrilling and exciting to explore the design world. The teamwork, variation of scale and complexity of each project is a bit different than working with curators on art exhibitions, which I have done since the late 1990s. I come from a more theoretical point of view that is connected with design and architecture.
What five words would you use to describe Virserius Studio?
TV: Imaginative, collaborative, open minded, results-driven and innovative.
RV: Continents, forest, sea, crowded and city.
What makes Virserius Studio stand out?
Everything you can imagine is real! We love to create together, to share knowledge and experience, we are emotionally connected, and we love the challenge to put together making a dream into reality.
Have you noticed any particular attitude in hotel design?
For a while everyone has been focused on public spaces when guests arrive – the lobby, the check in, the lounge. However, now we believe there is a strong focus on event spaces. V/S has been pretty forward in this regard with Le Campus at Hyatt Charles de Gaulle in Paris and The Experience Floor at Hotel Bloom in Brussels, which is our latest super interesting, playful and whimsical yet focused and multifunctional project. We have been very lucky to work closely with both Blackstone and Pandox in Europe and USA to invent new ways for business people to connect.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
They are like your temporary living room so public spaces are very important. First impressions are everything: a public space can lift your spirits after a hectic day of travel or work or, if you feel like no care went into the space or how you feel in it, can make you very uneasy, in which case you would most likely not return.
Have you seen exceptional growth in any part of the world in hotel design?
There are more brands merging globally, covering more segments than they could or had capacity to do before. This is a big shift that leads to a more diversified selection of brands on the marketplace, which, in turn, hopefully leads to higher growth. V/S has been very busy in Europe for quite a few years now but we see that parts of North Africa are picking up again, though it’s still a bit fragile in this region. The United States is doing quite well for us.
How is the current economic climate affecting the hotel design market? And has Virserius Studio felt the effects?
There is excitement and desire for renovations and designs. As we just mentioned some markets really want to see and are in a need of change. The project we are working on in Tunis is an example. We are working on big changes as well on another project in Las Vegas that will also set the tone for the next level of guest expectations and experiences.
What is the biggest thing the company has learnt over its years in the industry?
TV: Enjoy the creative process even when schedules are tough…a deadline is a deadline. Patience is a good tool to have in your back pocket! To rely on our gut instinct when certain things arise, to be bold and creative in the most mundane of places is always a great, unexpected experience and it makes people smile.
RV: To create and connect different worlds when the opportunity comes like we did with Le Campus in Paris and Hotel Bloom in Brussels. And, of course, with the other projects we are working on right now but can’t talk about yet.
What does design mean to you?
TV: You can do anything, the possibilities are endless. The paper is yours to draw on to create new stories, push your creative thinking for yourself and your team to be different and present new, unexpected experiences to the guest that feels genuine and authentic.
RV: It means drawing new lines of possibility to interconnect with people, to study and look for experiences, to explore space, material light, forms. To find new smart and good solutions both for spaces, objects and service. It’s going from an idea and to be able to realise this idea in the very best possible way.
What do you love about being a designer? Where do you draw your inspiration?
TV: Seeing when nothing becomes something extraordinary. I absolutely love that challenge of putting puzzle pieces together so that something that was almost impossible to see or visualise suddenly manifests right in front of you and you can physically touch it!
RV: As an observer and a photographer, I love studying people, movement, and situations, what one person might love and another might think is awful, and what makes people tick because design, more than art, has to put this together and make it work.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
TV: Smaller, even if there are big spaces. We are increasingly global these days, so much that we need to feel and have the intimacy of something more private. Design that feels more curated yet effortless.
RV: Giving options to travellers for more mobile leisure environments – could hotel design be a cool camping car, for example? Developing smart, cool youth hostels + family travel options. And, for business travellers, having smart well-connected places with healthy food and good workspaces.
What has been your favourite project to date?
The Big Easy restaurants we worked on in Durban South Africa and Miami, illustrate our attention to detail. Hyatt Montreal allowed us to incorporate very specific artistic elements, and make a business hotel feel like a lifestyle space. The guestrooms and the public space at the Renaissance Paris La Défense really spoke to our design sensibilities.
Is there anything exciting that you are working on now that you can tell us about?
Yes a lot…and one we cannot kiss and tell…yet!
But some other projects we can talk about include a phenomenal repositioning and branding of a hotel in Tunis, Tunisia. We also have a great W hotel project in Atlanta, with a phenomenal client, and we will soon reveal a full completion and dramatic transformation of a Hilton in Delaware that has been in the works for a few years. These are just a few, so it’s an exciting time for us.
What would be your dream hotel project?
A dream hotel project would be to convert a Hotel Particulier in Paris where high society used to live into a one-of-a-kind experience, where we design not only the space and the furniture but curate all the art, develop the look of the graphics, outfits that everyone wears, the whole package!
What’s next for you?
Growing the Virserius Studio offices both in NYC and Paris, formally launching our new lifestyle and art boutique Imago Production, and enjoying every minute while doing so.