Nick Sunderland of Nicholas Sunderland Interiors (NSI Design)
Nick Sunderland, founder and lead designer of NSI Design, has just won two prestigious awards at the Interior Design Awards for two of his high-end residential design projects. Tonje Odegard from SPACE magazine quizzes him on why he wants to venture more into luxury hospitality design…
Being the founder of one of London’s leading design companies, Nick has a range of experience working on residential homes across the world, mainly in the UK and the Middle East, over the past 30 years. He has also designed various hotel suites for clients in the Middle East, but would like to venture more into the European hotel market.
Nick recently won the Best Luxury Residential Interior Design Company in London, and Most Innovative UK Residential Project for Kensington West London House, in the Interior Design Awards.
Why do you want to break into hospitality design?
I have been designing luxury homes for many years now and without exception my clients have wanted bedroom suites to emulate the luxury hotels they visit on a regular basis.
Even smaller projects demanded the boutique hotel look to remind clients of the places they have stayed in. It was a welcome break from the tradition with the scope to be bold and luxurious.
Bedrooms can and should be different to the rest of the home, a haven of peace and comfort that allows you to unwind and relax, and yes, make you feel special. The natural progression for me was to extend my design company into this area, able to focus on the individual spaces people inhabit, albeit for a short space of time, and go away knowing they have spent a time in pure luxury.
For many, a hotel stay is a luxury, a treat to be savoured and remembered, and while poor service can be unpleasant and dealt with, an uncomfortable basic room sticks in the memory, and we don’t go back there. I have stayed in many hotels around the world, and it’s the rooms I remember, and I’m not unique in that.
Design is my passion, and the joy I get when a client walks into their suite for the first time is something I would like to think happens almost daily to clients entering my hotel suites.
How does hotel design differ from residential design?
There are many ways it differs, mainly in the fabrics and finishes you have to use in public spaces. Health and safety is a different level – you have to cater for many different types of clients: disabled, the elderly and the infirm. With that in mind, as long as you follow these criteria, design can be as extravagant as you want.
The design, in a sense, isn’t that different, because the residential clients still want the big luxury headboards, the stylish lighting, soft sheets, the same flooring and rich drapes as you find in a hotel room. They want the big walk-in wardrobes and spacious bathrooms with free-standing baths and a separate shower. Still, I’m finding the decorating process quite different because in a home it is much more personal – the wall art and the finishes are related to a person or a family’s character and history. A hotel has to be more generic and appeal to a wider audience.
In terms of freedom and creativity, there’s not a great difference between residential and hospitality – it all comes down to the budget with both. In terms of creativity, whether in hospitality or residential projects, I just let myself go with it. A lot of the rooms I’m commissioned to do allow me to be quite extravagant, if you’ve got the budget. There’s never a reason to not be creative, just because it’s based on a hotel room you’ve seen – you just have to be quite clever with it.
With that being said, I would like to break into hospitality design more because it does allow me to be uniquely creative and it gives me the freedom to do my own designs instead of the clients. Although the hotel will give you a set of guidelines and an idea of how they would want it to look, they are not as particular as private residential clients, so I can be more adventurous.
How does design in the Middle East differ from design in Europe, or more specifically, in the UK?
The Middle East has a luxurious style all of its own. Most rooms are spacious and opulent, contemporary to rich gilt elegance, and relatively newly built. The UK is restricted in many ways with space, particularly in cities like London, so rooms are laid out in a space defined format and are governed more by turnover than overall comfort. The Middle East has the advantage of space and wealth.
The budgets in the Middle East are bigger than in the UK, they have luxury budgets most of the time. But equally, you can get more for your money out there, so you can be more extravagant, even on a ‘small’ budget. Using local resources and manufacturers, you can get finishes and greater purchasing with the budget you have. The richness of textures, fabrics and colours out there allows for more wild designs – that’s what’s so exciting – you can be really unique.
How do you hope winning the Interior Design Awards will help your career?
Entering and winning awards will always elevate your status in the design world, and clients are drawn to award winning developments and projects. It has status and gravitas.
This particular award was awarded to me, it wasn’t something I entered into.
I have entered various awards in the past, and always made it to the final stages, but this one I was really thrilled about. It is quite a prestigious award for me.
Tell me more about Twos Company – what is it, how did it come about and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Twos Company is the coming together of two award-winning companies with different backgrounds, but a synergy of experience ideally suited for commercial hotel design. Nicholas Sunderland Interiors specialising in luxury residential style, and Koubou Interiors’ expertise in commercial design, a mix that allows us to pool our experience to create on track luxury hotel design, be it public areas or private rooms.
Gilly Craft, the woman behind Koubou Interiors, and I have known each other for many years and we are both BIID registered interior designers, Gilly being the CPD director.
We often met up at hotel conferences and seminars gaining experience and knowledge as part of our individual interest in hotel design. The more we talked the more it was clear we needed to work together on this passion.
Last year we formally launched Twos Company Interior Design, and we are working towards the growth of this design arm alongside our own companies. Yes its more work, but we are eminently suited to this and with energy and experience we are surging forward. We both get on extremely well and share our views and ideas, not compromising but creating, learning from each other, and working together.