Renowned for her dynamism, Kelly Hoppen is the powerhouse behind Kelly Hoppen Interiors. Can Faik sits her down for just long enough to find out her plans for the company’s future …

What three words would you use to describe Kelly Hoppen Interiors?

Pioneering, passionate and purist!

How can design be used to manage the guest’s expectations of the hotel experience?

When it comes to designing any space, first impressions are always key; the easiest way to offer full impact is with spectacular hallways and reception areas. This principle applies to hotels and is a fundamental way to set and manage guests’ expectations of the hotel experience.

By bringing together a perfect balance of light, artwork, texture and seating in the first encountered space, guests are instantly aware of what to expect from their prospective hotel experience. Many different people use these spaces so it’s important they are designed with diverse audiences in mind whilst never losing the integrity of our design.

How important are public spaces in hotels? Are there ways in which you’ve used innovative design in these areas to facilitate innovative usage?

The public spaces within any hotel are paramount to the overall experience. These spaces are where you get your first impression of a hotel and spend a lot of time, so it’s really important they have impact and are comfortable for every traveller whether you’re on business or with your family.

My work for Celebrity Cruises and Lux* Grande Gaube  are fantastic examples of groundbreaking, multi-functional design where every detail was designed to the highest quality. Using premium carpets and fabrics rather than standard commercial fabrics meant that every finish was high-spec, and elevated the look and feel of each room.

Do designers think about loyalty when they design a hotel or is it just an operator’s concern?

Yes, we absolutely do, but this is something that is also intrinsically part of my design ethos, we create harmonious and balanced spaces which people can come back to time and time again. Whether it’s the lobby, spa or their own suites, we create a sanctuary for the guest and if they feel great in the space then I’m confident they will want to come back time and again. And we offer the ideation for all brands which takes design to another level.

How high on the list is revenue creation for designers?

I want all my projects to be a success for my clients so, yes this is on the priority list. When it comes to marketing and launching a new project, we have our whole team behind this to support clients with press and marketing on every level. 

Social media, especially Instagram, is becoming an increasingly important marketing tool for hotels. What are your thoughts on this and do you take this into account when designing spaces?

Social media is a fantastic way to promote interiors and designed spaces. Everything spectacular about that space can be captured in a few images or short promotional videos and it does play a part in the design process. Pictures can say a thousand words and the reach on social media is huge ... I love to share my work on Instagram and we get great feedback on some of the content.

I also use my Instagram to share mentoring videos and speak directly to my followers, broaching topics like how to be a woman in business, how to overcome intimidation or overcome conflict. I love sharing my knowledge and the things I’ve learned over my 40-year career, and hope it will be of some help to future upcoming designers and business women.

“Simplicity does not have to mean minimal; my styles have always incorporated a neutral colour palette which is enhanced with layers, texture, form and light”

How do you think the influence of new technology affects the luxury traveller now and in the future?

We’re all becoming more and more dependent on technology so I think it will continue to be important especially for the business traveller who needs certain technological tools to do their work. I think in the future more and more people will be working from anywhere in the world so hotels need to be ahead of the game, offering tools that will make these types of travellers’ lives easier. That said, when travelling for leisure, many people just want to relax and be away from all things digital and technology and what they really want is the most comfortable bed, room, amazing food and time spent with their friends and family.

Do you believe simple design has become luxurious?

I’ve always been a firm believer in the luxurious capacity of simplicity. Simplicity does not have to mean minimal; my styles have always incorporated a neutral colour palette which is enhanced with layers, texture, form and light. This belief is what has given my career such longevity and made my designs a worldwide success.

What particular trends have you noticed in hotel interior design?

In my opinion, hotel design has become overloaded in recent years; there’s more focus on being bigger and better than on detail and understanding the client or the area. The key is detail, detail, detail, add experience and luxury as the core focus!

As I said, spending time in a hotel has to be about the experience of a home away from home and finding the balance between fantasy and reality to have a connection, whether that’s with the hotel’s style or services.  

Turning to the topic of authenticity of experience, how do you approach each project?

Each project is completely unique, but the process remains the same; there must always be an understanding of the client’s needs, the purpose of the space and so on. Once these aspects have been affirmed the design process begins. However, clients do come to me because of my style and ethos so that part is core to every project and my approach.

I had the same question asked of me recently by two hoteliers, and that was ‘If you had a limited budget to spend on design, what area would you focus on?’

The guest rooms, as this is where you lay your head and there are many ways to use budgets to make the design go further. Ultimately, you cannot beat that feeling of going into your own space, your sanctuary even if it’s for a couple of nights – you feel safe, comfort, warmth and when you wake up, you still want to feel amazing in the morning.

What are your thoughts on the wellness trend in luxury hotels? 

As I mentioned, a hotel is a home away from home and should allow guests to unwind, much as they do at home. However, unlike home a hotel can be a space of indulgence, escape and relaxation and these factors have kick started wellness trends. Whether it’s the inclusion of an amazing juice menu, a meditation space in a suite or amazing exercise facilities, I think it’s great to be able to offer guests that little extra to help them feel great. 

How did your partnership with Celebrity Cruises begin?

A few years ago, I was approached by Celebrity Cruises and they asked if I would design the interiors of their new ship (Edge) and assist them in making a bold, modern luxury statement that would change the face of the industry. It was a no-brainer and I instantly jumped at the opportunity. After a few meetings I became fully invested in the Celebrity Cruises brand and their vision but also to creating a ground breaking design to take sea travel to the highest level of luxury.

You’ve created many amazing interiors on land, but a cruise ship must have presented many new challenges. Can you tell us a bit about those?

The sea is unpredictable, and my designs had to withstand every up and down the ship might face. The technical crew worked tirelessly with our team to ensure we could make everything work within the safety and practicality measures we needed. What was amazing is that we were never once told ‘no’. They were so behind the vision, and that’s extremely rare, especially when you’re talking about something on this scale, which has to travel in high seas and be really solid. 

Movement is the biggest challenge as a designer. How do you make a chandelier stable and safe when you’re on water, and the whole ship can rock and move at any time? Weather changes in seconds, so how do we make sure the furniture can’t move and hurt anyone while still looking the way we want it to? You also have to think about the sustainability of the fabrics we use – they have to last through wear and tear.

What’s next for you and Celebrity Cruises?

We are launching the next cruise ship, Celebrity Apex, which will set sail next spring which I’m really excited about! And there’s incredible things to come so watch this place.

Where do you see hotel design in the future?

I believe timeless luxury is crucial, as is clearly defining hotel design to the country and place it resides in. Over the years the hotel experience has become the same no matter which country you’re in, which is such a shame. 

The joy of travel is the experience of being somewhere new; whether you’re in New York or Bhutan there needs to be a distinct design difference whilst never losing the quality and integrity of the brand through exquisite design.

Is there anything exciting that you’re working on which you can tell us about?

Aside from 47 projects all over the world which we will be launching in the next year or so, I also launched some amazing new product ranges and lots coming up in 2020.

In short, earlier this year, I launched another Mickey Mouse collaboration with Leblon Delienne. I also designed an incredible range of interchangeable wooden flooring and wall tiles with Hakwood in my neutral style which works amazingly well in commercial spaces.

I’m launching a new velvet fabric range with Richloom where we came up with 50 different colourways which is a top-grade commercial product designed to give other interior designers access to quality materials – this is rare in commercial interiors so I’m really proud to be able to bring this to market. We have a huge furniture range with Markor in China.

We have an interior fittings range coming out early 2020 which will feature light switches and plug sockets with Focus SB. The world of electrical wiring accessories is generally very conservative, but I wanted to create something that would very much be part of the overall design, introducing jewellery-like details and alternative finishes. This collaboration with Focus SB introduces a new aesthetic to electrical fittings in a way we haven’t previously seen.

I’m also about to launch another Yacht with Pearl Yachts, which will launch in Germany.

What would be your dream hotel project?

I think it would have to be designing a boutique hotel in LA or working with a hotel chain in New York. Both cities have such fantastic energies, but I have yet to be truly blown away by an LA hotel that reflects the energy, thoughts and attitude of the local area. And redefine the luxury of chain hotels which can attract a new range of audiences.