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Interview with Marcel Wanders on the Next Big Thing in Hotel Interior Design


I met renowned Dutch interior designer Marcel Wanders during today’s laying of the foundation stone of Zurich’s posh Kameha Grand Hotel that will be opened in March 2015.

I got the opportunity to pick Marcel’s brain and conduct an interview, here’s what he had to say…

What sets Marcel Wanders Studio apart from others

Marcel Wanders and his 50 staff team in Amsterdam work intensely on a hotel’s interior details and innovate and develop them during the project together with their clients. All ideas, initiatives and projects start and end on Marcel’s desk, he’s the studio’s mastermind. Yet, he and his team will always exactly want to understand what the hotel guest’s needs are. Or, as office director Robin Bevers puts it:

“You can hire an interior designer to put chairs in your space, or you can hire Marcel Wanders Studio to make people come to your space.”

Wherever Marcel and his team go, they will want to understand local traditions in order to “pass forward the fire” that has lived in traditional objects for generations. They want to make sure that guests eventually will want to come to their hotels due to the local details and identity.

Andaz Amsterdam: Reception area with three bell shaped chandeliers

Andaz Amsterdam: Reception area with three bell shaped chandeliers

The bell is an icon Marcel uses frequently in hotel design. It used to be a tool to call people in order to gather, say at church, for lunch, or call the ‘bell man’.

At the Hyatt hotel Andaz Amsterdam (here’s our own review) for example you may find the typical Dutch wooden shoes but they come with a twist in that they have a yawning mouth painted into them…

Clogs with a yawning mouth

Clogs with a yawning mouth. Mind the crosses, will talk about them in a while

In cases like Kameha Grand Bonn Marcel Wanders and his team were even co-authors of the brand proposition in order to guarantee a seamless customer experience.

Architect Sebastion Knorr, Operator Carsten Rath and Marcel Wanders for Kameha Grand Zurich

Architect Sebastian Knorr, Operator Carsten Rath and Marcel Wanders for Kameha Grand Zurich

Marcel stresses the point that he wants to give hotel guests the feeling that they have actually arrived at a given city. You should feel, really, whether you came to Amsterdam’s Andaz, (freakin’) Miami’s Mondrian South Beach Hotel or Manhattan’s Hotel on Rivington.

Interestingly enough the latter features several furniture items that are also being used in Amsterdam’s Andaz. Obviously Marcel Wanders’ understanding of the Genius Loci, the site’s feng shui, is not based on furniture alone…

How they work at Marcel Wanders Studio in the Westerhuis, Amsterdam


What’s the Next Big Thing in Hotel Interior Design?

When I asked Marcel Wanders my last question, i.e. what the next big thing in hotel design would be, he thought a while and then came up with Andaz Hotel’s video installations. Instead of paintings and ‘conventional’ artwork they have 45 top level art video installations in different areas of the hotel and they award and buy around 3 to 6 more per year from artists like Ryan Gander, Erwin Olaf or Mark Titchner.

Andaz Amsterdam: Video screen installation in the chandelier

Andaz Amsterdam: Video screen installation in the chandelier

The largest display screen for the presentation of video footage is located in the lounge and is comprised of nine 60-inch televisions. But you may as well check out the videos on the dedicated art video channel in your guestroom’s TV.

The rationale behind this is that nowadays guests that come to lifestyle hotels usually in their work day don’t have much time. But in a hotel of this type they do. They go to the spa facilities, the gym, and, they hang out in the lounge…
Hence Marcel wants to entertain them with appealing interior design and according art and video installations.

Walter Schaerer in mirror in corridor

Corridor that could make for a video installation ;-)

Marcel almost compares his hotels to top notch museums:

“Name your preferred museum and imagine you could live, eat and sleep there in style.”

What an experience, indeed! It gives me goose pimples when I think about it…

“And what if you not only saw the pieces of art but you also actually knew that they are from fantastic masters in their field, that changes who you are, right?”

I guess so, yes! Since you ‘see what you know’ I personally tend to go with guides to see touristic attractions. You just see so much more when an expert explains the details… Or, to cite the beforementioned clogs: Would you have guessed that the three crosses stand for Amsterdam’s virtues ‘Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate’? You will come across that symbol several times throughout Andaz Amsterdam…

Marcel wants to give hotel guests the feeling that they’re coming to an art connoisseur friend’s house and should feel free to participate in the host’s passion for art.

At best, rich authentic warmth is the result of this personal museum experience. In such an environment the simple words ‘be my guest‘ contain a completely new meaning!

Marcel didn’t necessarily want to dub this a coming trend, yet, but it’s something he invented and now observes in his daily studies.

Well, we’re looking forward to go and experience Marcel’s next hotel opening soon…

Thanks to Marcel for the interesting walk and also thanks to Robin Bevers for shedding light on the details of their working procedures.

Kameha Grand Zuerich press conference

Kameha Grand Zurich press conference

Here are our impressions from a quick visit to Andaz Amsterdam.

And also many thanks to Vanessa Bay and Susanne Schmitt of Primus Communications for having me at the press conference!


About Author

Walter Schaerer’s extensive background in the travel industry, passionate enthusiasm for photography and a firm belief that luxury destinations can also be affordable; were some of the main factors that motivated him to create the travel blog In his day job Walter is an online marketing manager based out of Zurich, Switzerland.


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