INGE MOORE & NATHAN HUTCHINS

Posted in People on 3 May, 2024

Inge Moore and Nathan Hutchins are the visionaries behind multi-award-winning interior design studio, Muza Lab. Following the recent launch of their latest project: Six Senses Southern Dunes, they discuss crafting a space, weaving a narrative and why ‘no’ is never an option.

Muza Lab’s extensive portfolio of projects is a mix in every sense. From hotels to super yachts, trains to safaris and a swathe of restaurants, bars, and residential offerings in between – there is little the duo haven’t turned their creative hands to. Aesthetically, the mix continues with myriad genres embraced – from mid-century nostalgia to classic luxury – demonstrating the true versatility of the team they lead. Founded in 2016, Muza Lab has gone from strength to strength, with a 20-strong design team based at their studio, in London’s Notting Hill, and a wider team of 50 in India. I start by asking Inge and Nathan to take me back to the beginning.

What sparked your original interest in design?
NH: I grew up in the Virgin Islands, and my father worked in construction – so from an early age, I was always in a building site environment. I loved the idea of changing buildings and making something from scratch but the creative element, for me, was initially in the design of the architecture.

IM: Making things has always been my passion, as a child I would redesign the shelves on my bookcase into different room settings for my Barbie dolls. Growing up in Johannesburg resources weren’t readily available and so, I learned to be imaginative. My first job at Museum Africa was during a major redesign and move, exposing me to various design disciplines and when an opportunity opened to join a hotel design company, I jumped at it and have never looked back.

One&Only Cape Town

What was the inspiration behind Muza Lab?
IM: We met while managing the European office of a large international design company, where I served as President for Europe. Both Nathan and I felt the focus on admin and managerial tasks over actual design work was frustrating and it became clear that the drive for meeting growth targets was affecting the quality of design. We left the company on good terms but were determined to create our own business where we could prioritise spending time on design. We were willing to take the risk for the sake of producing amazing work.

What are your strengths as a design duo?
NH: As a duo, we are passionate about crafting spaces and curating places within those spaces. One of our biggest strengths is the ability to delve into the considerations of how people live and inhabit various places, and understanding how the composition of rooms can evoke wonder, whimsy, and joy. We fully embrace the client’s grand vision, taking that idea or dream and turning it into reality.

IM: We also always remain practical about ensuring that designs are feasible and buildable, yet at the same time, we are driven by an incredible dream we continually aspire to achieve. For us, “no” is not an acceptable answer; there is always a way.

Finolhu Maldives

Your projects are diverse in every aspect from the cool calm elegance of One&Only Aesthesis to the rich opulence of Gstaad Alpina, and everything in between. What do you believe clients are looking for when they come to you?
IM: Our clients come to us with visions of creating spaces that are not just places but experiences. They look to our creativity in finding unique ways to reflect the local area, weaving the fabric of its culture, history, and natural beauty into the narrative of the project. It’s about crafting a story that makes a destination memorable and truly unique.

NH: They also appreciate the fact that we are very hands-on. Inge and I make sure that we are involved in all elements of the design from start to finish. It is this personal approach and attention to detail that delivers quality.

What is the design process once a project is confirmed?
IM: After an essential initial meeting to discuss our vision and objectives, phase 1 is all about drafting initial concepts, where we craft preliminary designs and mood boards to capture the essence of the project. Moving into Phase 2, we refine these ideas into detailed schematic designs, focusing on colour schemes, materials, and the overall ambience. In Phase 3, it’s design development, where we dive deeper, finalising the plans and specifications that will guide the project to fruition. Phase 4 is critical as we complete the interior design documentation, preparing everything for the construction phase. The tendering process in Phase 5 is where we select our construction partners, a crucial step to ensuring our vision becomes reality. Finally, Phase 6 involves the actual construction and installation, where we personally oversee the execution, ensuring every detail aligns with our initial vision. Through this process both Nathan and I remain deeply involved, to make sure our design not only meets but exceeds our client’s expectations.

Above and below: Six Senses Southern Dunes Saudi Arabia

Six Senses Southern Dunes looks quite exceptional. How much of the design was inspired by its extraordinary location?
IM: The local culture and of course, the incredible natural settings played a huge role in our design. Gaining an understanding of the local culture, history and environment is a must before we even start the creative process.

NH: The desert really caught our imagination, from the dunes to the striking rock formations. We wanted our design to flow like the dunes themselves, reflecting the land’s natural lines so everything felt like it belonged. There is also this essence of an oasis that we’ve tapped into, bringing the desert’s ever-changing colours and vast skies indoors. Our colour scheme is all about earthy neutrals with pops of terracotta, amber, blue, and sage, to capture the charm of the area in a way that feels both grand yet inviting.

There appears to be a lot of beautiful craft-led elements within the design, were these sourced locally?
IM:
We ensured all pieces were specified locally, collaborating closely with local organisations that promote local craftsmanship to guarantee the authenticity of our designs. We used traditional crafts such as jewellery making, pottery, and weaving within the design.

Does craftsmanship always play an important role in your projects?
IM: Definitely, in every project, craftsmanship is central, it reflects our commitment to involving and thinking local; quality, personalisation, sustainability, cultural depth and emotional connection.
NH: It also allows us to integrate more local elements, adding a layer of richness that resonates with the spaces we are designing in an authentic way.

What are the challenges of working in a desert location and how did this impact the overall design?
IM: Dealing with the desert’s extreme conditions—like the temperature swings between hot days and cool nights, the intense sunlight, and of course the sand—meant we had to be very thoughtful in our approach. Selecting materials that could withstand the elements, choosing the right types of window coverings to manage the heat and light, and deciding on a colour palette that worked with the desert’s natural hues were very important.

How would you describe the design of the public areas?
Designing the public spaces of this resort was truly about marrying the tranquillity of the desert with unique experiences tailored to each area, from restaurants to the Earth Lab, giving each space its own distinct character. The entrance sets the tone from the moment guests walk in, the unique flower-shaped canopy, is an open invitation into a different kind of retreat, one that brings the outdoors inside. Community spaces like the lounge, earth lab, and art gallery are there to foster a sense of discovery and connection. We aimed to create a haven for new barefoot luxury that allows guests to be transported to a realm of unparalleled natural beauty and tranquillity. The heart of this desert camp is the pool and grill area. We wanted it to be the perfect spot to relax with cool tiered platforms and sunlight bouncing off the water, plus cosy cabanas, loungers, quirky beaded swings, and fire pits for when the evening cools down. The terrace restaurant matches this with the desert sunset vibes complete with mosaic tables and colourful textiles that pop against the desert backdrop. At the highest point of the resort, you’ll find the Bedouin restaurant and bar that comes to life as the sun sets. It’s quite glamorous with silver chandeliers reminiscent of local jewellery but it also has a slight rustic feel with cool textures and colours that draw you in. Plus, there’s an infinity terrace for enjoying the sunset, sharing stories, and just soaking in the night sky.

What is the overall ambience of the hotel and how was this achieved from a design perspective?
IM: The hotel ambience is focused on tranquillity, emotional hospitality and location, blending the beauty of the desert with local design touches. Achieving this wasn’t accidental; it was all about choosing the right raw materials, colours and artistic details. There’s a strong emphasis on emotive hospitality too. The restaurants don’t just serve food; they celebrate local culture by weaving in traditional arts, crafts, and design.

And finally, what were your emotions when you saw the completed project?
IM: It brought a smile to my face. I think that says it all.
NH: Excitement! It really evokes a sense of wander lust.

 

Captions:

One&Only Cape Town

 

Finolhu Maldives

 

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