INGE MOORE, Principal & Creative Director of The Gallery HBA

Posted in People on 5 October, 2015

From doll’s-house decorating as a kid to President and principal designer of the Gallery HBA, Inge Moore’s come a long way. Here, she shares her ethos and approach to interior design with Can Faik…

It’s a really good time to be a London-based interior designer working around the world in the hospitality and residential sectors. I don’t think that there has ever been so much scope for diversity and so much appreciation of the authentic, artisanal and therefore original approach to design that infuses the luxury experience. For me, this means that each project is an adventure into a unique narrative and the privilege of my job is to distil what I learn and what I see around me into the building that I am designing.

As far as I can remember, I have always loved the possibilities of interior design. As a little girl, I would create “rooms” for my dolls complete with small items of furniture I fashioned out of odds and ends, and I was always drawing and cutting up bits of paper on the kitchen table. Home was the family farm in South Africa and this life taught me an industrious work ethic as well as the need to be resourceful at a time when imported goods were few and far between – both really useful traits in a future designer!

I was also fortunate to graduate from design school just as South Africa was re-opening to the world. It was an empowering time. I worked with the team creating MuseumAfrica, South Africa’s first post-apartheid museum, which involved going into the shantytowns to learn about the lives of their residents, and then reworking this into exhibitions. So, the first lesson of my career was how to create a powerful impact and convey memorable stories within a very limited budget.

My next move took me into the world of hotel and casino design just at the time when South Africa was developing new hotels and fantastic new super casinos but my thirst to see the world and really get under the skin of different cultures meant a move to a multi-cultural city beckoned. I came to London some 15 years ago, joined the then embryonic UK arm of the global hotel design company, HBA, and found my new home.

It was great to have the support of a large international practice behind me but I sensed that the London office needed to form a distinctive creative language in order to appeal to hoteliers and owners in Europe. It was hard work – lots of late nights, airplanes and different time zones – but steadily we developed a portfolio of bespoke, award-winning projects. I found a small and very dilapidated theatre in West London which we transformed into an extraordinary and inspirational studio and, eventually, the London office became The Gallery HBA, an expression of both the boutique culture of my team and the resources of an international company.

Today, our body of work includes iconic hotel refurbishments, luxury resort destinations, standalone restaurants, exotic spas, business hotels, countryside retreats, family residences and top-end urban residential developments. A project may be a single signature space or it may be an entire hotel with multiple restaurants, leisure facilities and several floors of guestrooms. It may involve scouring neighbourhood markets for objects, discovering artisans able to provide centuries-old craft skills, visiting marble quarries or pounding the pavements in order to absorb the local culture. It will almost certainly involve recourse to history books and indigenous archives – a part of the project that I really enjoy – before venturing into the unique story that underlies every one of our designs. And, it will definitely include tenacious space planning and considered use of budget. However playful, stylistically extravagant or sumptuous the spaces we create, we always need to be realistic and commercial in the design decisions we take.

One of my dreams came true recently when we were given the opportunity to redesign a safari lodge – the Belmond Eagle Island Lodge in Botswana. Our concept is all to do with capturing the spirit of the Okavango Delta, an astonishing and still virtually untouched expanse where the lodge is located. By drawing on the watery wilderness and its wildlife and abstracting these into materials, patinas and curiosities, the experience of the lodge itself will be one of exceptional discovery, uniquely belonging to its location.

The Gallery HBA also has many other beautiful projects in the pipeline. For example, we are currently developing the concept for an exquisite resort in the Maldives and we are designing a Four Seasons hotel for the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, which will be the world’s tallest building. Meanwhile, closer to home in Richmond, we are redesigning one of Winston Churchill’s former homes, Templeton House, to become a lovely family residence. I’m also developing a custom product range, but at this point the details are a secret – so stay tuned!

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