With recent sucesses including the award-winning Reichshof Hamburg Curio Collection by Hilton, JOI-Design has more than 30 years of hospitality-design experience. Co-managing director Peter Joehnk speaks to Hotel Management International about delivering personality, and why his studio is as happy developing new concepts for economy brands as it is designing luxury.
How would you describe JOI-Design's unique offering to the hotel industry?
Peter Joehnk: Something along the lines of 'experienced but youthful'. Despite three decades of experience, JOI-Design is still a fresh, young-spirited studio. We never repeat concepts and continuously imagine new designs to ensure the perfect fit for every hotel's building, brand, location and, naturally, guests.
We enjoy working on luxury brands like Ritz-Carlton, Kempinski and Fraser Suites as much as developing new concepts for budget groups like Premier Inn and Moxy. Our team's diverse experience means we understand both sectors' branding and functional requirements.
You recently worked on Le Méridien. How did you develop a design that delivers the brand identity?
Dedicated to art, culture and a social, 'open-house' concept, Le Méridien aims to attract the creative crowd. Le Méridien projects are especially fun because it's like we're designing for ourselves - their relaxed approach is in sync with our mindset.
Le Méridien's HUB concept transforms the lobby into a place where guests and locals meet for coffee or wine tasting. The design guidelines specify handcrafted, mid-century furniture because the comforting familiarity encourages a cosy, friendly atmosphere. We also introduce local features, often artwork, which, for Le Méridien, is not framed pictures but rather a large installation, a talking point that determines how everything else falls into place.
How do you marry heritage with modern comfort?
Bringing new life into historic buildings is truly satisfying, although modern comforts sometimes lead to concealed heritage features. Unpeeling past renovation layers can be an interesting education. We accurately restore architectural details, contrasting the old with new contemporary touches that emphasise authenticity. The final mix varies depending on the location, history and brand.
How does this contrast with new-build projects?
In both scenarios, we examine the neighbourhood, history and competition before developing the design story. The hotel's personality is derived not only from its design, but also from the underlying context of its look. While it's easier to develop authentic stories for historic buildings, they are trickier to renovate, and, conversely, the tale takes more time to weave for new projects, but they are easier to build. We strive to make each project special, with a unique personality.
You've also turned your hand to economy-brand projects. How do you adapt design for this market?
For luxury hotel projects, we invent individualised designs, whereas with budget properties, we develop concepts that are rolled out across the brand's new or renovated sites.
We developed the German prototype for Premier Inn, a new brand for our country. Creating another Ibis, Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn or Motel One was not an option. We needed a concept strong enough to work throughout Germany, from the North Sea to the Alps.
Our idea plays with a modern interpretation of Britishness, an authentic brand trait and a clear differentiator amongst competing hotel groups in Germany. Rather than adapting the existing UK Premier Inn design, we interpreted British style for German Premier Inns. It was fun.
What can the luxury segment learn from boutique or economy brands, in terms of design?
Luxury properties can certainly find inspiration from design trends on the opposite end of the hotel spectrum.
In fact, this will probably be one of the industry's next big moves. It's undoubtedly possible to create a luxury interpretation of Moxy´s industrial style, for example, but scaling down luxury hotel concepts for budget brands is much trickier.