David Morris is Creative Director of leading hospitality design practice Studio Proof, whose portfolio includes award-winning hotels, F&B spaces, spas and residential projects. David takes pride in creating designs with an original aesthetic, without gimmicks or house style, and his background in branding helps him to combine the science and art of great design, working with his clients on everything from architectural interventions to Do Not Disturb signs.
Today is my turn to do the school run. I get my boys there early for their Sports Club before heading to the office. This is one of my few chances to drive my car – it’s an opportunity I always relish. Once I reach the studio, I meet with the team and plan the week ahead. We’re a small and dynamic practice, headed by myself and Chris Holmes. The office itself is a hub of activity with sketches, material samples, and points of inspiration covering every available surface.
Chris begins by briefing us on a new residential project in an affluent area of London before I tell the team about a recent research trip to New York, where I also picked up our Casual Restaurant Finalist Award for Grand Café in NH Collection Grand Krasnapolsky Amsterdam from Hospitality Design Awards.
Chris and I pop out to lunch at our favourite hidden oasis, Italo – a great little café located in the guerrilla gardener paradise that is Bonnington Gardens – and brainstorm a new pitch we are working on. Being a Monday, it’s a late one in the office writing a fee proposal and checking shop drawings from a joiner on one of our projects.
I arrive on site early at the Royal Lancaster London hotel to oversee the installation and critical height settings of the beautiful ‘OLed’ light fixtures by Blackbody, which help pronounce the reception desk, and Nemo’s ‘Crown Plana Maga’ chandeliers that dominate the lobby area. We work around the hustle and bustle of the hotel’s guests and staff, as we have been doing for the past two years since the project went on site.
It is currently the largest hotel refurbishment being undertaken in London and has been a phenomenal journey, with 412 guestrooms housed in an 18-storey mid-century tower, a newly structured lobby and façade, as well as dining venues and large functions rooms. This is the perfect sort of project for me, as it involved us in the entire process from branding and brief development to artwork selection, from the website to the bathrooms.
It is now 70% completed and as I stand in the new triple height lobby space, surveying the light installations and plotting the next steps for the introduction of the huge new carrara marble staircase, which will represent 300m2 of the stone, I feel elated. It’s wonderful to be able to see a project come together and this one has been a real thrill.
I get to City Airport to catch an early day-return flight to Amsterdam for a meeting with a potential new client who has seen our work at NH Collection Grand Krasnapolsky.
Afterwards, I drop into the hotel for a spot of lunch at the Grand Café. We completed the public area’s refurbishment last year and it’s always special to come back to projects after they’ve been completed to enjoy the space as a customer. It’s great to be able to live the experience that you helped to create. After lunch, I grab the chance to catch up with an old friend Remco Groenhuijzen, the General Manager at Sofitel Legend The Grand, and have a quick cocktail at one of my favourite bars, The Lobby Nesplein, before heading to the airport.
Back in the office this morning for a conference call with an Italian furniture manufacturer who is seeking out a partnership with us on a new furniture range aimed at the luxury hotel and residential sectors. We are basing the collection on a few of the pieces we have made over the last few years, and I’m relishing the opportunity to expand upon them and hark back to my original training in product design at the London College of Furniture.
I return to the Royal Lancaster for a meeting with hotel’s Food & Beverage team to discuss menus in the new dining spaces; it is important for us to bear the dining options in mind when creating the restaurant and bar spaces of projects as what is being offered naturally has a huge impact on our layout, scheme, furnishings and the way we map out the back of house areas.
After this, I lead a small group of journalists around the newly completed guestrooms – we have designed each around the wrap-around windows, and on this early Autumn evening the dimming light casts a beautiful glow over Hyde Park’s changing leaves, bringing a serenity to the space.
The day begins with the arrival of samples of bespoke carpets we’ve designed for a project, followed by a trip to Kensington to meet with the owner of one of London’s largest luxury residential blocks. We spend a productive morning going over our plans for upgrades to both the brand and public spaces in detail and discussing the building’s rebranding.
I call the office to check in with Chris whilst making my way to The Landmark Hotel where I’m meeting my friend and fantastic branding consultant, Kenny Laurenson. We find ourselves in the Mirror Bar, which Studio Proof refurbished back in 2010, and get to talking. I often meet up with Kenny and other knowledgeable friends in the industry to cross-fertilise ideas on projects and discuss brand development within the hospitality sector. I find this breeds great creative results and means that we’re always able to keep our fingers on the pulse.
The weekend means a drive down to my old shipwright’s cottage in Whitstable with the family. We bought the property a few years ago and it needed a lot of loving renovation. It was certainly an interesting experience being my own client, and I had to consider ways in which to balance the ever-changing demands of two growing boys with my own aesthetic wishes.
We go to the Turner Contemporary in Margate to see a retrospective on Turner before heading to the Sportsman pub in Seasalter – a lovely Michelin-starred spot on the seafront – for oysters and a leisurely lunch. We take a wind-blown walk on the beach afterwards. For me, weekends in Whitstable are the perfect antidote to the fast-moving, high pressure reality of London and the work week. I’m truly lucky to be able to get away from it all and spend time with my family in such a calming and grounding environment, and feel that these beachcombing weekends always reinvigorate me.
After our wonderful and hearty breakfast at the Windy Corner Stores & Café has digested, we head to the seafront courts for a game of tennis. The fresh morning air is crisp and the sound of the waves on the shore can be heard between volleys. When we’ve had enough, we pack up and drive back to London where I take my time to cook a big meal for our family dinner. Once enjoyed by all, I check my work emails and draft a blog I’ve been asked to pen for a design website.
I spend a mellow hour before bed rifling through my extensive vinyl collection, letting the smooth sounds of Beck and The Boards of Canada wash over me.
To see this feature with its illustrative images, please view the October 2017 issue at www.indesignmagazine.co.uk