Inge Moore, president of Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) International's European division, has directed the design of some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, spas and restaurants. She is passionate about creating stylish interiors that nevertheless have relevance and a story to tell, as Hospitality Interiors’ Gemma Ralph found out ...

Born in South Africa, Inge Moore’s  career began in her hometown of Johannesburg. She was responsible for designing the country’s first post-apartheid museum in collaboration with Museum Africa, and worked on a number of innovative hotel and casino projects for South African hotel group, Sun International.

These formative roles certainly set Inge in good stead for her move to London in 2001 to join HBA, where she has since progressed from head and creative director of its London Studio, The Gallery, to president of HBA International's European division. Her passion and innate capability for design, however, were prominent from a very young age.

“My mom was a keen photographer and fashion designer who kept us very busy making and creating things,” Inge recalls. “Growing up in this kind of environment, I always wanted to be a ‘maker’ and loved to create room sets for my dolls; my bedroom had one of those modular white plastic wall-to-wall bookshelf systems, so each shelf became ‘a room’ for me to design. Really I opted for interiors from a very early age – and then as an adult my passion translated into real living spaces.”

“My mom was a keen photographer and fashion designer who kept us very busy making and creating things”

It is interesting that Inge’s childhood preoccupation with creating distinct, individually designed spaces has remained with her in her adult life. Indeed, she has long professed a distaste for the anonymity and soulessness that can often accompany hotel stays. Instead she favours comfortable, sensual touches that encourage a connection, however temporary, between guests and their environment.

“I like to design highly tactile interiors that inspire feelings of calm and relaxation,” she explains. “Hospitality design has become so much more exciting … there are so many new ‘wow’ materials, finishes and possibilities. “I always try to re-think the design of the guestrooms so that the experience feels special every time. We also work hard to ensure our projects receive absolutely the best quality available for the budget.”

This intuitive appreciation for guests’ experience and response to their environment arises in many forms throughout her considerable portfolio. For example, The ESPA in The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong – located on the 116th and 118th floors of the city’s tallest building – allows guests to enjoy their vantage point over the urban landscape, while also cocooning them from its hustle and bustle. Filled with soft, natural materials, the space has been carefully designed so that there are no sharp corners, the walls themselves curving in a kind of protective embrace.

“Hospitality design has become so much more exciting … there are so many new ‘wow’ materials, finishes and possibilities”

This flair for creating a unique and holistic guest experience is perhaps anchored in Inge’s respect and  fascination for other nations and cultures, something that only deepens with her extensive travels.

“The non-stop pace of life as an international designer can be quite demanding – it’s rare a week goes by that I’m not travelling to at least one other country,” she says. “At the moment I’m working in Tunis and have found it fascinating to learn more about its culture and artists. And then, I’m designing a luxury safari lodge in the beautiful landscape of Botswana which is a wonderful experience. Plus, of course, I love working in cities like London that have such an interesting melting pot of cultures, and Italian cities can never fail to fascinate with their centuries of heritage and awe-inspiring architecture.”

Inge’s frame of reference thus far has ranged from Queen Elizabeth II’s acclaimed fashion sense, for her design of the Royal Suite at the InterContinental London Park Lane, to Russian folklore, in her ethereal vision for the Il Lago dei Cigni Restaurant in St Petersburg.

“Research is such an important part of the design process and it allows me to get stuck into my other passion – reading about the history, arts, legends, myths and fairy tales that underlie the character of a culture,” says Inge. “The result is that each location’s unique identity is translated into the design and every hotel has its own personality.

“For the Hotel Atlantis by Giardino near Zurich, for example, we are re-creating a glamorous destination which is all about the juxtaposition of city and countryside, urban sophistication and rural calm. We’re also designing a new hotel, the Hilton Schiphol in Amsterdam, which unravels the creative features of traditional Dutch artistry and reconstructs them within a modern context. And for the ESPA in the Ritz-Carlton in the Galaxy Macau, our dramatic yet tranquil design draws upon the locale’s Chinese and Portuguese roots to form a luxurious spa.”

Despite favouring thought provoking details and finishing touches within her schemes (she has long been an advocate of using custom-made furnishings and fittings wherever possible) – Inge favours simplicity, above all, in the creation of luxury.

“I listen carefully to the brief and then combine it with my cultural research to create a very strong concept,” she says. “The entire design is then woven around this core touchpoint.”

This ability to immerse herself in a project, to assimilate multifarious narratives and present them as a refined, entirely unified concept is a rare skill, and one Inge has been widely commended for.

Indeed, perhaps one of her most significant achievements to date, and rightly so, was earning the title of Gold Key Designer of the Year at the 2013 IHMRS Gold Key Awards.

“I was very honoured to receive the award,” says Inge. “That was certainly a highlight, but really every project opening is a highlight as well.”

Despite this level of recognition,  and the obvious demand for her expertise within the industry, Inge remains resolutely focussed on her mission to create unique and experiential destinations.

“My dream is to continue designing more really special spaces that make a difference to the people who experience them. Someday, though, I’d also like to design a luxury product line.”

If Inge’s future product line (and I do hope there will be one) matches the richness and authenticity of her work thus far, I feel it is sure to be a roaring success.

Favourites

Place: Cape Town
Moment in history: 1930’s
Drink: Classic Mojito
Item in your house: My fireplaces
Time of day: Early mornings when everyone else is still asleep
Book/film: The English Patient - I want to learn to fly a bi-plane
Quote: There are so many quotes I love. I have a collection at home that I’ve gathered together over the years, and it’s still growing! One I really like is from Nelson Mandela: “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”