alex Michaelis and tiM Boyd, co-founders, Michaelis boyd
Co-founders Alex Michaelis and Tim Boyd of Michaelis Boyd speak to Can Faik about current projects they are working on for the Doyle Collection on both the Bloomsbury and Marylebone hotels, and what’s next for their highly established design studio.
Michaelis Boyd is an international architecture studio with offices in London and New York. Founded in 1995 by Alex Michaelis and Tim Boyd, Michaelis Boyd has earned a reputation for its award- winning architecture and interior design and sophisticated, design-led approach with an emphasis on sustainable and environmentally-conscious materials and building techniques.
Tell me about your role at Michaelis Boyd
Tim Boyd: We oversee each and every project that comes into the studio, from quirky private houses in London to our commercial hotel projects in far-flung locations, from New York to Seoul. We are actively involved in both our London and New York offices, supporting our designers however we can.
Alex Michealis: My role is primarily to meet with clients and to bring business in. After working in the business for over 20 years, we aren’t scared to challenge rules and design parameters. I am a job-getter!
What five words would you use to describe Michaelis Boyd?
AM: Family, exceptional design, innovation, happy and fun atmosphere.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
TB: Our first hotel project was Babington House, for the Soho House Group back in 1999. This was the start of a wonderful and productive partnership between ourselves and Soho House, where we went on to design Soho Houses in Berlin, LA and the farmhouse in Oxfordshire.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
TB: Recent trends are that the highly finished material palette hotels have changed and people are looking at more natural materials that will age and wear, changing ethos and the way people think about living.
AM: There is an increasing theme of wellness that has really taken off in the last few years. People are really paying attention to not only what they put into their bodies, but in the environments that they inhabit. Guests now want to know that the materials and furniture in their rooms are ethical and sustainable and expect organic materials and textures to feature strongly in all spaces.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
TB: Hotels are no longer just for visitors but need to appeal to locals too and offer amenities that feel part of the local area. Their design needs to appeal to disparate people, not one type of client. Michaelis Boyd sees the importance of offering guests choices in the public areas from relaxation areas to collaborative social space.
AM: Public spaces in hotels are becoming more and more important. We are now asked to create spaces that are not solely for hotel users but for people in the local community too. These spaces need to be multifunctional to meet a range of different needs.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Michaelis Boyd stand out from the rest?
AM: Michaelis Boyd stand out by challenging the brief and what’s required, pushing the design in both spatial and material terms.
Being based in London, what hotel projects are you currently working on?
AM: We have completed wonderful hotels in the last few years, including The Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Kimpton de Witt in Amsterdam and Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, and we are currently working for the Doyle Collection on both the Bloomsbury and Marylebone hotels. We also have new hotel brands in Japan, China, Los Angeles and Bushwick New York and a new game reserve in Africa.
How is the RYSE project moving along and how many members of the team do you have working on this property?
TB: RYSE Hotel has been open for business since June 2018. We are so proud to have been part of the project working alongside the Autograph Collection team, SCAAA and local artists.
How would you define your ‘hotel style’?
TB: I wouldn’t say that we have a particular style when designing hotels. We work closely with our clients to understand the brief, particularly their likes and dislikes, and we work collaboratively to create beautiful spaces, albeit with as many fun quirks as possible! With Kimpton de Witt in Amsterdam we wanted to respect the heritage of the building and the location and this lead us to use traditional Dutch designs such as the Delft tiles for the public spaces, whilst also working with themes of flora and botanica throughout the guest rooms.
AM: We don’t have a hotel style, as we don’t have a residential or restaurant style. We work very closely to the brief whilst also challenging it. The important thing for Michaelis Boyd, after spending 20 years in the industry, is that we listen and make spaces in collaboration with hoteliers to create a finished interior look that relates to the ethos of what they want to create.
What does design mean to you?
AM: Design means a lot to us. The journey through a space needs to be as seamless as possible, and when designing hotels with numerous public and private spaces there are lots of different factors to consider. The goal is for every person who steps into the hotel to feel relaxed and inspired with a desire to come back!
TB: It means everything. I love designing from bits of artwork to furniture to buildings, it’s something I do all the time, and I don’t consider it a job; it’s a hobby that I’m very lucky to be paid for!
What do you want in a hotel room?
AM: Calm, natural materials, light and views from everywhere possibly including showers and lavatories. No unnecessary gadgetry.
TB: A coffee machine with some great coffee!
Have you seen exceptional growth in any part of the world in hotel design?
AM: I think the great areas of growth are in the Far East, China, India and Africa. But hotels seem to be happening everywhere.
What has been your favourite project to date?
AM: Sandibe was an incredible experience working in the wilds of Africa, building an incredible structure with a wonderful team of local workers and the incredible builders who created this project with us. It has set a new standard in game reserve design.
TB: Babington House – a unique experience working with Nick Jones and creating the first hotel that allowed people to do whatever and whenever as if they were at home.
What’s next for Michaelis Boyd?
AM: We opened our New York office last year, and we’re really excited about working more in the USA. We’re also currently working on a luxury resort in Thailand and several interesting new build homes in the UK.
TB: Our small office in New York is growing and we are looking for projects that will intrigue and pique our interests in the hotel and food world as well as homes. We’re looking to excite and inspire clients.
What would be your dream hotel project?
AM: It would be either a floating island that was totally self-sufficient (energyisland.com) or one of our upcoming projects on an island in Lake Titicaca in Peru.
What is the biggest thing the company has learnt over its years in the industry?
TB: Over 20 years in this business has shown us that simplicity is the purest solution every time — never overcomplicate design.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
AM: Angkor in Cambodia or the Antarctic.
TB: Grenada in Spain, more specifically Alhambra.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
TB: Increasingly hotels are not just for bedrooms. More than ever there is importance placed on the public spaces for various needs such as co-working spaces. I also feel hotels will turn their focus towards more sustainable materials.
AM: Much more environmentally aware, with natural materials that can age over time and not be replaced. Catering for guests and anyone who might use the hotel spaces. Designing beautiful hotels for the wealthy traveller and the budget traveller.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
AM: Sandibe, Benguerra, Arijiju — they are our projects, but they are honestly quite incredible!
TB: Parador de Granada in Granada, La Momounia in Marrakech and The Black Swan Oldstead in York
Let’s finish with the issue of work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
AM: Because I don’t have a job, just a hobby I have a good work/life balance. I can work anywhere in the world, in the office, at home or on-site visits abroad. I make sure I spend as much time as possible with my children.