Alex Kravetz, Principal, Alex Kravetz Design
Alex Kravetz Design Principal, Alex Kravetz, has come a long way in his 20-year career. Here, he shares his ethos and approach to interior design with SPACE editor, Can Faik…
Alex Kravetz Design was established in 2003 and has since grown to become a highly reputable international boutique design firm. Alex started his career as a designer at the Opera & Ballet Theatre, he then moved on to create the stage designs at the Royal Shakespeare Company. A hospitality design career followed naturally – the stage life is often compared to the life of hotels, where the guests become actors in their fantasy world of dream destinations and grand hotels. Every design therefore always has a narrative and a connection to the location and culture.
Tell me about your role at Alex Kravetz Design?
My role is multifaceted but ultimately, as in any boutique design firm, it is a hands on approach to the design as well as a very personal contact with all our clients.
This type of personal service demands a very high degree of organisation and multitasking and you never stop learning.
What are the five words you would use to describe Alex Kravetz Design?
I think our approach to everything is very simple and the motto of the company is ‘Nothing Is Impossible’.
In addition to that, I would also like to add flexibility and dedication to the mix.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
I started in the hospitality design industry in 1990 as a junior designer at one of the famous hospitality firms which created the discipline ‘hotel designer’. It was a ‘university’ in many ways and I was fortunate enough to work with the founders of the company. This was a very special experience as at the time most things were driven by passion and not by accountants. This mentorship was to become instrumental in shaping my career. I grew to become one of the partners in the company before starting on my own in 2003.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
The industry is full of trends and this is what makes it exciting and varied. There are so many different styles and each one has its own ‘phase’. Ultimately the purity of form and proportion as well as luxury never dies and therefore I prefer to stay true to these principles in our work. This makes our designs sustainable over time and therefore also becomes a better investment for the owners.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Alex Kravetz Design stand out from the rest?
I think it is a combination of the personal attention to each project and client, as well as the very select and highly experienced team who have worked with me for many years. I also believe it is the variety of design styles we can work in – from highly classical to transitional to contemporary as well as a wide range of budgets.
Let’s talk about the Imperial Hotel Vienna, and what does this stunning project mean to you?
The Imperial Hotel in Vienna was a major renovation as we had to re-energise the very old-fashioned spaces, transforming them for the new generations within the constraints of a listed building. I had to present and coordinate the designs with the Viennese Historical Commission and that meant knowing the entire history as well as them. At the beginning of the project a lot of archive information had to be studied and processed prior to pretty much changing the entire way the hotel operated from the entrance onwards.
For example the back of house became the front of house and some parts changed the entire functionality of their original use. It was very special to be able to do all this within the old home of the Imperial family. Additionally we had to work with the previous design layers of former masters of design like Joseph Hoffmann and his protégé Oswald Haerdtl, who was mainly responsible for the 1936 renovation of the Imperial Café.
How much time do you dedicate to sourcing products and suppliers for the projects you work on?
I would say 20 per cent of my time is dedicated to researching something new – I travel very frequently and always explore various manufacturing options in the countries where we work. It is always very rewarding to collaborate with local companies and people as they take a lot of pride in what they do, especially when the project is a hotel in their own country. In addition I always attend all the major exhibitions in Europe and the Far East.
Do you find it easy to source new suppliers or do you work with existing companies on a long-term basis?
I enjoy having new connections and exploring new things – it would be extremely boring if you just used the same companies all the time. However you also need to have a strong A-team to execute your ideas on time and on budget regardless of the location so having a strong network of the suppliers who know you is invaluable.
What’s next for you?
On the personal side I have recently fulfilled my dream of building my own house and this year will be dedicated to completing all the styling touches and finishing the rooms. For the company I would like to continue to refine the way we work and to expand further into areas like aviation. We have recently designed the interior of a private jet, which I really enjoyed as a new experience – speed and sleek shapes are always fascinating and somehow the jet designs are yet to undergo the next revolution from functional to ultra-luxury.
How would you define your ‘Hotel Style’?
As we undertake many different styles in terms of design commissions what I would say unites them all is the use of natural materials, ability to sustain a long term fashion change and the overall luxury approach.
What does design mean to you?
Perfection in every way is what the design brings to us to enjoy – from a painting to architecture to interiors to cars and objects – the sense of beauty and harmony is absolutely paramount to the way we feel. It is sometimes very interesting to see how certain objects or environments could be better by making just a small change, which is often invisible to the majority of people – sensual intuition is what makes the design a fluid art impossible to calculate or engineer.
What would be your dream hotel project?
I think a dream project is when all team members speak the same language and are driven by the same values and principles. Location, budget, branding or exclusivity are secondary. But if I had to pick a location I would say a Mediterranean seaside Grand Hotel would be high on my priority list.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
There is a lot said about technology and how it will shape hotel design but for me I think hotels will always be the social hubs where people interact and play their roles so to speak. The design will always be driven by the location, social fabric, affordability and mobility. This does not change, starting from the Grand Tour of Europe all the way through to the pod hotels in Japan. It is after all the theatre of life whatever your means. Understanding these simple foundations and the desires of the guests will be fundamental to the way the design will progress. If you take wardrobes for example, which are a technology-free element in the hotel room, today it is not unusual to find even 4-5 star hotels with wardrobes without doors, leaving them completely exposed. This makes them ready for guests to pack and unpack garments into their compact hand luggage only cases. Therefore highlighting a key example of changing demographics and mobility, and this is not determined by the model of mobile phone you have.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
Badrutt’s Palace in St.Moritz, Danieli in Venice and Four Seasons in the Maldives.
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?
Unfortunately running your own business means that nine to five does not really exist as a concept. However, one of my resolutions is to get better at this balance, as family is the biggest and the most important project in life and I treasure quality time with loved ones.