Richmond International was established in 1966 and has grown to become an industry-leading hospitality interior design practice, designing some of the world’s most prestigious hotels, in locations from London to Barbados.
Could you tell us about your career to date?
DI: Prior to joining Richmond International, I founded and led Dennis Irvine Studio, delivering luxury projects ranging from wellness spas, private residences and superyachts to restaurants and hotels. We worked on projects with the likes of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Raffles Hotels & Resorts, The Dorchester Collection and Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Marriott Luxury Collection. Before that, I worked for several renowned London design studios, honing my design skills and spearheading international projects, all the way through from concept to completion.
Tell me about your role at Richmond International –
DI: I am fortunate to have been exposed to many projects and cultures, and an array of client personalities with their own perspectives and visions that inform any given project. Having an innate understanding of a client’s vision, you become a conduit to communicate, enhance and evolve your own design team, as well as the wider consultant team, to deliver projects that exceed what might have been expected.
FT: We’re incredibly excited for Dennis to join the team. We’ve known each other in the industry for a long time, and I know he will bring a new energy, invaluable expertise and a different set of experiences that will bolster our existing design team. He will be instrumental in continuing to shape, evolve and add a different dimension to our projects.
“Dennis will be instrumental in continuing to shape, evolve and add a different dimension to our projects” FT
What three words would you use to describe Richmond International?
DI: For me, luxury, creative and relevant – it’s what attracted me to the studio in the first place.
FT: I would echo this, and add two more – authentic and honest.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Richmond International stand out?
DI: Of course, we are aware of and acknowledge the number of hospitality designers within our industry. However, we focus on our own design ethos and principles. We do have longstanding relationships, and are trusted with some of the most renowned operators within the industry. We have a strength and balance in depth within our teams, from experts in delivery to younger designers with fresh perspectives on hospitality interiors, that ultimately stands us in good stead to be creative and continue to deliver relevant, quality interiors.
FT: And a great example is Múzsa at Four Seasons Gresham Palace, Budapest, where we recently unveiled a new lobby-bar concept. We oversaw the original design of the hotel over 16 years ago, and since then have returned several times for smaller renovation projects such as guest rooms, meeting spaces and now the lobby. We’ve built a really strong relationship with the hotel team over the years, and they trust us to deliver high-quality results and work closely and effectively with wider project teams, from operators and consultants, to suppliers and, of course, designers.
We have an innate understanding of the hospitality industry, which we have gained by working internationally and integrating with different cultures and landscapes. Travel offers a rich insight into ethnicities, traditions and future trends emerging in various parts of the world, and is an important way of life at the Richmond studio. We bring our knowledge and experience to each project that we work on – whether it be a resort, urban hotel, new build or restoration.
We also understand that hotels are expensive to develop and must adapt to meet the evolving needs of guests, location, and the client’s financial requirements. It is essential for our designs to be futureproof and a wise investment for our client that will continue to offer guests unique and memorable experiences for years to come.
It’s a difficult time for the hospitality industry. What do you think will be the sector’s biggest challenge, post-Covid?
DI: I think the main challenge will be regaining the public’s confidence in travel, following a year of so much uncertainty. At the moment, there is also the added challenge of restrictions and additional costs, that is discouraging people from travelling. That being said, we’re confident that the industry is moving in a promising direction, especially with the reopening of the US borders in November.
FT: We’re definitely seeing positive signs – there’s a renewed confidence in the market, and new projects with fresh investment are coming back on the table.
“We must push the boundaries to create lasting and memorable designs” DI
As designers, how important are brand values for you?
FT: Of course, brand values are important and, as designers, we need to have a full understanding of them. Over the years, we have worked with many luxury multinational hotel brands, and have gained extensive brand knowledge of all our clients. And although we consider a brand’s values throughout the design process, it is vital for us not to become restricted by them.
DI: Absolutely – we must push the boundaries to create lasting and memorable designs. Certainly, brand values are important to the design process, and we must meet the client’s brief. However, it is our role to manage the balance of ensuring the brand values are met, whilst creating innovative and incredible spaces that will give guests unforgettable memories.
Do designers think about loyalty when they design a hotel, or is it just an operator’s concern?
DI: Loyalty is an interesting topic. Strong support and allegiance of guests often strengthens the presence of a hotel or destination. Repeat and returning business requires a fine balance between the familiar and the guest having the opportunity to engage and experience something new.
Do you think there’s a difference in tone and texture between ideas of hospitality in the US and Europe (especially in light of one of your most recent projects opening, The Langham Boston)?
DI: When we work in the US, they often want us to come in and inject a European sensibility with our designs. We have an authentic and bespoke approach to hospitality design that is becoming more and more appealing to the US market.
“Loyalty is an interesting topic – strong support and allegiance of guests often strengthens the presence of a hotel or destination” DI
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
DI: There may well be an evolution of the hotel product. Of course, there will be the focus and engagement with the local community and the focus on memorable guest experiences. My thoughts are that there may be more defined edges to spaces between interiors to socialise and interact with others, as well as open spaces.
FT: The pandemic has afforded us, as a company, the time to pause and reflect on how we operate our business and, as hospitality designers, to look at what our priority and focus should be moving forward. Unquestionably, we have a renewed focus on sustainability, the environment and the impact that hospitality design has on the ecosystem and surrounding cultures. The result of this process is now an environmental policy which is also based on our design philosophy – both of which have sustainability at the core.
We fully expect, and rightly so, that sustainability will be the guiding principle for the future of hotel design. Crucially, though, for this ambition to be a reality, it needs to be a priority throughout the design and build process, with buy-in across the board from owners, operators and suppliers as well as design studios, in order to have a real impact.
Is there anything exciting you’re working on which you can tell us about?
FT: Despite the pandemic, Richmond has had a very busy year, recently completing the likes of The Langham, Boston, Múzsa at Four Seasons, Gresham Palace, and spaces onboard the newest addition to the P&O fleet, P&O Iona.
We are also currently working on some amazing projects in Prague, Venice, London and the US that we can’t wait to tell you more about soon!