Joey Goei Jones, Design Manager, glh HOTELS
SPACE’s Can Faik speaks to Joey Goei Jones, Design Manager and the creative vision behind glh Hotels…
glh Hotels stands for Great London Hospitality and is London’s largest hotel owner-operator, delivering unforgettable hospitality. With more than 5,000 rooms and 120 meeting and event spaces across 17 locations, glh is at the heart of London hospitality. glh Hotels’ brands Include Amba, every, Guoman, Thistle and Thistle Express.
Tell me about your role at glh Hotels?
My role at glh Hotels is to improve the overall design and spatial experience within our hotel properties. We ensure there is a consistency in standard without sacrificing the unique characteristics of each of our hotels to create the best possible experience for our guests.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
My first professional job within the hotel industry was as Design Manager of Accor Hotels in SE Asia, back in 2012. Before that I’ve also worked on some hotel projects with the architecture firms in New Zealand.
How and why did you get into the interior design industry?
I have always had a strong interest in the way architecture shapes our culture, and the way we experience life. I was lucky enough to travel a lot as a child, and this was my first introduction to hotel design and my parents played a big part in introducing me to what ‘good design’ involves. This passion only grew and eventually I decided to work towards my architecture degree at the age of 15.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
I think there is a return in focusing on timeless designs while using the best of new technologies to make every guests’ stay comfortable as possible. In our new refurbishment/design projects as we continue to develop and grow the Amba Hotels brand and are currently working on using new technologies to enhance the guest experience during their stay. Things like personalised apps and new ways of connectivity is something we are really interested in.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
The public areas are the first point of contact between hotel and guest. It is fundamental in establishing the mood and atmosphere of a guest’s experience.
If you are unable to hit the right notes at this first point of contact, it will affect the perception of the rest of the stay at glh Hotels.
In our upcoming projects, the F&B outlets of our hotels are going to be a huge focus. Having a welcoming bar or restaurant close to your lobby is essential for integrating the hotel guests in a relaxed environment.
Have you seen exceptional growth in any part of the world in hotel design?
Hotel design today is no longer just about the look. The modern guest demands quality and practicality. This means that use of technology and personable design touches are essential in every aspect.
How much time do you dedicate to sourcing products and suppliers for the projects you work on?
I always keep an eye out for new products, trends and suppliers everywhere I go. It has become second nature to me to constantly look at what finishes are used where and observing how different materials can be used in an innovative way.
As a result all of my ideas can come from any source and at any time of day/night.
Do you find it easy to source new suppliers or do you work with existing companies on a long-term basis?
We are very lucky today that we have such a connected world. Technology has allowed me to constantly find new suppliers to work with via various blogs, or even social media platforms such as Pinterest.
I also love working with some of my long-term contacts as they continue to inspire me with new ways of thinking and often together, we are able to create something unique.
What has been your favourite project to date?
Choosing a favourite project is hard, as it is a bit like choosing a favourite child. Every project I’ve worked on has been amazing and challenging in it’s own way.
What’s your favourite part of a hotel?
For me personally, the bedroom is the most important part. After all, the main reason for a hotel is a place to sleep. Having somewhere that you can call ‘home’ while you are away is very important to me.
How would you define your ‘Hotel Style’?
My personal style would be a combination of classic, comfort and innovation. I feel that whilst it is important to be unique and different, you can never go wrong with established classics. They have become ‘classics’ for a reason after all. A bed will always need to be soft, comfortable and inviting hence I often use warm materials for bedheads for example. In our latest projects, we have focused on using timeless materials such as stone and wood finishes whilst also adding some on trend patterns on our fabric choices.
What does design mean to you?
Everything we experience and do in life has a connection with design. I feel that design is a kind of backdrop to our life. Design can influence the way we feel and how we feel can also often influence the development of design. For me it is an essential part of everyday life.
What would be your dream hotel project?
My dream hotel project would be something which involves a lot of history. Restoring heritage architecture allows us to connect the present with the past. I have such a deep interest in architectural history as it continuously inspire and show us how we can improve.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
For me Japan has always been my favourite place to visit. I feel that their approach to architecture and design is so unique and balanced. It is the epitome of how the traditional and the modern can work together in such a harmonious way.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
I think hotel design will continue to cater to a wide variety of demands and flavours. Our world is such a rich source of different cultures and ideas that in return we have to become more global in our approach – yet we also need to respect the local history of a building/place to make the experience a unique and memorable one for the guest.
What do you love about being a designer? Where do you draw your inspiration?
Being a designer means being able to connect and touch people’s lives both directly and indirectly. I feel that as a profession it is such a privilege to be able to enhance the daily lives of others. Just as well, my inspiration can come from anywhere. But I have to say travelling and experiencing new cultures is what widens my vision the most. By travelling you are introduced to so many new smells, sights and textures. And these senses are what make design such a big part of our lives. Since moving to London the great diversity in culture and amalgamation of history and modernity has also continued to inspire me on a daily basis
In your opinion, what will be the top trends in interior design for 2018?
At the moment I’m seeing a lot of brass and mid-century inspirations. There is a focus on simple lines but ensuring that each design element is well made with quality materials. There is also a focus on ensuring that what we design has a sense of timelessness.
Who is your favourite architect and interior designer?
I’m not sure I have a favourite architect/interior designer per se. During my studies Jean Nouvel and Tadao Ando were a constant inspiration. Others like Eisenman and Piranesi I am always in awe of the way they present architecture on paper. But then again the true innovators from Palladio to Gaudi are also ‘favourites’. At the same time I can’t deny the elegance of Art Nouveau architects such as Victor Horta and Rennie Mackintosh. So I can’t say I have a singular favourite at all!
Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
We have just started our design process for a new project that I am hugely excited about – watch this space!
What colours, textures and furniture pieces do you love the most?
I have to say my favourite raw material would be wood – as you can do so much with it that the options are endless. In terms of textures I am very partial to surfaces that are soft and ‘fluffy’ as for me they are the representation of comfort.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
I would say, Hotel Bristol in Vienna, any of the traditional Japanese Ryokans and of course my childhood home in Wellington, New Zealand.
There are plenty more places I would love to stay in, such as Peter Zumthor’s spa design in the Swiss Alps and the new Waldorf Astoria in Versaille.
What’s next for you?
We have so many exciting projects coming up in glh Hotels and I am so looking forward to be involved in every aspect I possibly can. There are exciting new standards that we are designing for our branded chains, some potential refurbishment on our luxury properties and many more.
With each glh Hotels project having such rich links to London’s history – I will be able to continue to draw inspiration from this great city. There are so many layers to be discovered that often you may not come across the same things twice!
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?
Architecture school has taught me a lot about taking time away from work. I find that if you do not have this balance, often your inspiration can dry out. I am currently part of a ballet company and we rehearse up to three times a week for various shows. Each of these 2.5 hour sessions are the only time I am able to fully clear my head from the stresses of the job and also just focus on something very different. Also having a good quality sleep is very important to me, after all, I get my best ideas after a nap!