Hong Kong designer André Fu brings a new layer of luxury to the classic hotel suite
Interior architect André Fu has been described as a go-to designer when it comes to creating distinctive hotels, bars and art galleries. He first drew international acclaim with his sensuous interiors at the Upper House in Hong Kong, and has gone on to consistently deliver stylish spaces in the city for the likes of design trendsetters such as Galerie Perrotin, Ben Brown and Lane Crawford. More recently he designed the striking interiors for the IST TOO restaurant at the Shangri-La Bosphorus in Istanbul, and I by Inagiku at the W Guangzhou. His latest design is for a luxurious new ‘super-suite’ at the Berkeley hotel in London, where he says his brief was to introduce a timeless elegance with a sense of modern simplicity.After a preview of the suite before it opened in September, The Reserve caught up with the designer to talk about the inspiration behind one of the largest luxury suites in London.
How does one create something new in today’s world of luxury hotels?
I wanted to bring a different perspective of luxury to the market, one that’s very modern and pure and that reflects on how the guest really feels. Hotel suites in Europe tend to be either very decadent and have an opulent, classical style, which I think can be more about the space than the person who stays in it; or in an uber-modern, high-tech style that’s not very warm or personal in context.At the Berkeley my intention was to create very clean architecture that was actually quite simple, incorporating subtle textures and materials. It’s about an emotional connection for the guest that goes well beyond luxury. Bespoke design should feel personal, with every detail considered so that the guest feels completely at ease.
What sets this ‘super-suite’ apart from other luxury hotel suites?
Well, first of all, at 260 square metres, it’s exceptionally large: one of the largest in London.We removed five hotel rooms and a suite to create what now feels like a very luxurious, spacious home.There are multiple layers with two bedrooms, family and living rooms, and a study complete with a wonderful library.There’s also a vast master bathroom with a beautiful, free-standing marble bath that has a curved headrest carved from the same stone. Adding a professional kitchen that forms one space with the dining room also represented quite a change from the normally remote and tiny kitchens found in hotels – this is the sort of place where I could see a Michelin chef like Marcus Wareing creating a dinner.
The suite is located on the fourth floor of the hotel and overlooks Hyde Park on one side and Kensington on the other, so it has excellent views and natural sunlight. It’s a very large space, so I created flexible partitions to allow guests to divide spaces like the living room into more intimate spaces when needed. Above all, the suite is a space for people to be in, not just to look at, so aspects like lighting were also very important for embellishing the experience. For instance, we’ve used pendants, floor and table lights instead of the typical down lights, to create a more gentle glow at eye level. The colour palette is very muted too, with mauve, green-tea colours and materials like brushed brass, marble and bamboo.The result is very comforting.
You were born in Hong Kong but educated in Britain, where you studied architecture at Cambridge. How did this influence the design?
I think my training ‘proper’ occurred while I was in the United Kingdom, especially at university when I travelled in Europe a great deal.To be surrounded by all that culture nourished my appreciation for fine and modern arts. It was also fascinating to see what it was like to be in an environment that’s culturally inherited, and although I didn’t analyse that too much at the time, it’s certainly directly influenced my love of art, particularly sculpture.At the Berkeley I’ve introduced a very carefully curated art collection that features a series of sculptures and installations from Christian Cadelli, Cynthia Sah and British sculptor Barnaby Gorton.
Is there a signature André Fu style?
What particularly attracted me to the Berkeley suite project was that the owner of the Maybourne Hotel Group wanted something innovative; something that would be created with thoughtfulness and not just repeat what has been done before. I don’t like to analyse the idea of a style too much. My intention visually is to keep things honest and unfussy, being neither overly fashionable nor too minimal. I don’t think of that as a style; it’s more of a sensibility that I bring to all my work. It’s about thinking very carefully about how a space will be used, and then adding layers of design like fabrics and lighting.The details – like how the materials feel – are very important.
I don’t think Asian aesthetics are a literal thing, so I prefer not to be defined as being “East meets West”. It’s so important that a space reflects a sense of place; that spaces are architecturally done with balance and symmetry to perpetuate a sense of calm and comfort. In the end it’s about designing with human sensitivity in mind.