That may just explain why many designers are lending their talents to the hospitality industry even though their names don’t appear on the marquees. Examples include Christian Lacroix’s curious new Hotel du Petit Moulin, which the avant-garde designer recently converted from a 17th-century Paris bakery, or the impressive deluxe suites at the St. Regis hotels that have been newly decorated in the style of Christian Dior, Tiffany & Co., and Tomas Maier for Bottega Veneta. Diane von Furstenberg was called upon this past June to create a series of designer suites for Claridge’s, the landmark London hotel, employing her iconic prints, bold colors, and original furniture designs in the process. Oscar de la Renta, who has vacationed in the Dominican Republic for decades, is now the designer-in-residence at Tortuga Bay, a cluster of 13 exotic-themed villas operated by the Caribbean’s Puntacana Resort & Club, while Ralph Lauren recently put his tropical imagination to work on the Round Hill Hotel and Villas in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Most fashion stylists insist their transition to hotel and restaurant design is simply a new medium in which to express their visions, not unlike photographers who have morphed into filmmakers. “The thinking involved in designing a room applies equally to planning a garden or creating a dress,” the British couturier turned hotel designer Anouska Hempel once told Architectural Digest.
“Trees are tailored, matured, and coutured; a dress has the architecture of good corsetry; and draperies dance like a ball gown having a great night out,” said Hempel, who has infused both The Hempel and Blakes hotels in London with her design vision.
Of course, you may not know it simply by registering at the front desk that Karl Lagerfeld designed the 53 rooms inside the Schlosshotel in Berlin or that Salvatore Ferragamo is behind the Lungarno, Continentale, and Gallery hotels in Florence, Italy. However, their signature looks and influences — from the wall treatments, bed linens, and electronic equipment found in the suites to the light fixtures, seating, and even paper used to create the restaurant menus — are instantly recognizable the moment you step into the room.