Marcel Wanders, MARCEL WANDERS Design
Marcel Wanders dazzles with his ability to create both cutting-edge spaces and the warmest of atmospheres in any project he tackles. Can Faik finds out how he manages it…
Marcel Wanders is a leading product and interior design studio credited with 1,900+ iconic projects. Under the creative leadership of Marcel Wanders, who has been supported by Gabriele Chiave since 2014, the multi-disciplinary team of 40 breathes creativity across a multitude of projects.
Tell me about your role within the studio.
In my studio in Amsterdam, I take on both the creative and art director roles, which I’ve shared with Gabriele Chiave since 2014. Together we oversee all stages of the design process, be it in interior, product or art direction projects. There is a structured flow in the studio, and my role is to come in at specific stages to question, disrupt and push the limits of what we do, from sketching to shaping ideas. During each project, there are intensive forms of collaboration and dialogue, allowing multiple disciplines to come together to raise the level of work. Whether we are creating an object for the home, a hospitality interior or an iconic collection, being creative isn’t what we do – it’s who we are. Our minds are always working to give more than expected.
What five words would you use to best describe Marcel Wanders Design?
Surprising. Audacious. Bold. Exciting. Uplifting.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
Our first interior design project dates back to 15 years ago and our first hotel opened in 2008. That was the start of a long-standing relation with SBE – Morgans Hotel Group, who trusted us to complete this chic modern fairy-tale bohemian experience. The original Miami South Beach reflects the local lifestyle and when it opened it became the place to be, for its bold design, pool and outdoor coolness, for its lavish entrance and lobby, and dazzling cocktail bar. It was such an exhilarating and sensuous experience both for the team and the guests that ten years later, together with SBE – Morgans Hotel Group and SW Architects, we opened the Mondrian Doha.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
Trend is really a word we don’t use or believe in. But if you want, 2019 is seeing a fluid intermix of indoor and outdoor by creating furniture that can be placed both in – and outdoor and bringing more natural elements indoors. Additionally, we are definitely going to see smarter features in hospitality and home settings, the appliances and the lighting. Moving forward you will see the use of brighter colours and muted design palettes. We are also seeing a move towards a more communal living, a shared economy. The next big thing will be sustainable living and connecting everything about the home to your life through the internet of things, and actually all of these things are already happening.
How would you describe your style?
Our way of designing is centered around a single word: surprise. Of course, that being said, there are many, many ways in which we go about achieving it. Through the use of rich, bold colours that are luxurious and festive, and patterns and textures that are dimensional and unexpected, everything we do is meant to touch the hearts and minds of people. Our creation of both beautiful and relatable, but also surprising and intelligent, products has evolved over time, though. Through the use of different materials and new technologies, we imagine and craft different juxtapositions and more unique experiences.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
Public spaces are very important. Very often they are the invitation to the entire concept found within. Public spaces are where people gather, connect and relate to one another. We want these spaces to connect to the private spaces in some way also in order to create continuity and personality throughout the hotel.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does your studio stand out from the rest?
We stand out by repeatedly designing with signature touches. We often bring our bells into welcoming and reception areas. We create juxtapositions within suites and private spaces to make them unique. We also find ways to bring the local culture and customs and colours into the designs – making hospitality settings destinations and not merely hotels where you stay.
What is the biggest thing the company has learnt over its years in the industry?
That ideas can come from anywhere. We are continually challenging each other and inspiring one another to achieve the next level in design.
What characteristics of product design do you bring to your interior work?
We often design with bespoke objects and are very aware of how objects work together spatially to create a whole theme and experience, and to generate flow throughout a space. We also find seamless ways to make multi-sensory experiences by using different surfaces and textures to make spaces come to life, have character and be memorable.
I know from our previous conversations that product design is close to your heart, how and why did you come to collaborate with premium brand Laufen on the New Classic collection?
Laufen is well-known the world over for its excellence at generating ideas to create the classic and contemporary bathroom. For several decades now, Laufen has had successful experiences collaborating with outstanding architects and designers. We connected as we saw an opportunity to create a contemporary, elegant and captivating bathroom collection that included items ranging from stylish washbasins to bathtubs to toilets, combined with faucets, cabinets, accessories and mirrors.
What has been your favourite project to date?
Aside from a particular dream mandate, such as designing a mosque, my dream is that people connect with our work in meaningful ways. I believe there’s no greater purpose for our design than that. Our vision for what we create is that it improves the world. Design should exist to open minds, create dialogue and stir souls. Our end result, if nothing else, must be to surprise. Design is at its pinnacle when it reveals itself in the least expected manner and evokes an emotional, involuntary response of joy and enlightenment.
What was the inspiration behind the design concept of the Mondrian Doha?
Conceptually, we have married local culture with a modern design aesthetic, creating a contemporary classic. The core concept of the destination hotel is One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales and stories. It has influenced the design of the space, which is detail-oriented and complex, with a number of surprising and eye-catching facets, levels and layers. Working in this region, we were introduced to so many new ways of thinking and cultural traditions. we wanted to honour each and every one of them. The design process was not altogether that much different in regard to how we approach spatial interior design, but the region is so rich with heritage that it brought a heightened sense of reverence and responsibility to this project.
Can you explain the importance of surrealism and fantasy in your work?
The importance of playing with proportions, of juxtaposing is the questioning of reality’s perfection and durability. This introduces people to another level of imagination and experience. A level where the juxtaposition of serenity, mystique, wonder and magic in interiors unfolds completely. It takes you on an idyllic and unforgettable journey connecting deeper with you, appealing to all senses and fulfilling a need you didn’t even know you had.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
I think more and more we will see the merging of public and private spaces continue. I think there will be a movement towards more open spaces, more connected space and less closed in areas. People long to connect with others, and outdoor areas will continue to be designed to feature personality, create environments that draw people together and build community.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
I am not easily impressed and can in fact only name one. I love the Oberoi, Agra. It is a breathtaking hotel inspired by Moorish and Mughal architecture. You wake up to see the glorious sight of the Taj Mahal, it is like stepping back to an era of Emperors and Princes.
What do you love about being a designer and where do you find inspiration?
I draw inspiration from everything around me. I began designing things as a young boy and my motivation is the same now as it was then – discovery. I have always wanted to understand how things work, and to discover their meaning. Throughout my career, I have wanted to discover new ways of surprising people. Whether I am daydreaming and sketching, or learning about new materials, the driving force is always the same. Along the way, I have even discovered things within myself. I have had an enduring passion for designing things that shape emotion.
Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
At Salone del Mobile 2019, we have just launched a varied collection of iconic items including lighting systems, furniture and carpeting. For Barovier&Toso, we created a new chandelier system that is inspired by tulips and the Golden Age. For Louis Vuitton, for their Objects Nomades collection, we completed timeless items that pay homage to the brand’s iconic heritage through the incorporation of leather. In collaboration with Lladró, we are introducing Nightbloom, a collection of porcelain chandeliers, sculpted by hand and inspired by the gentle dance of flower petals in the wind. For Moooi, a modular, low sofa featuring blow-up stitching iconically known as matelassé will be part of the showcase.
Additionally, we will be promoting The Apulian Dandy collection created in collaboration with Natuzzi, and in partnership with Londonart, we are launching a wallpaper collection inspired by international cities and one special covering that conveys a collage of design heritage. Some of these designs will be introduced to the US during ICFF in May 2019… and much more to come.
What would be your dream hotel project?
I’m not sure I have a dream hotel project per se. What we set out to accomplish and create comes down to wanting to express and connect with meaning and beauty. Our vision of design comes from an innate desire to live with passion and make your most exciting dreams come true. With that as our foundation, we seek to create design that is unexpected, sophisticated, beautiful and enduring. We always feel inspired and the way we see it all of our projects will obey and express this ethos and be exhilarating both to others and us.