Leaders in Luxury | An Interview with Michael Keech and Graham Green, Creative Directors at LINLEY

“The process of designing the interior of hotels versus super yachts is remarkably similar. New super yachts are now so colossal that old age considerations of size and weight are no longer an issue. Therefore the spaces one inherits are much the same as land based projects, beset with some challenges but no more or less challenging. I must add that truly good interior design can overcome any physical obstacle, aided of course by the steadying hand of the appointed naval architect, with whom one is working from day one.”

In this double interview with LINLEY’s creative directors we learn just what it takes to create beautiful interiors that preserve all the charm and important details of the existing space, whilst creating something totally new. Michael and Graham share insight into how they were able to put the LINLEY stamp on the suites they designed for Claridge’s whilst keeping the hotel’s Art Deco feel, and just what it takes to design interiors for superyachts.

How are you navigating your business for re-opening post lockdown?

We are working hard to ensure the safety of the staff and clients while in the building during the next stage of reopening. The showroom now has a controlled reopening to clients since April 12th at both Belgravia and Harrods. Having said that, even during lockdown we were conducting numerous Zoom and WhatsApp video calls every week, especially with our international clients which helped them make their selections.

Under the government scheme we have registered for weekly Covid testing at the office for those staff who will be in the building. We have added new hand sanitisers and sanitiser stations throughout the building.  Social distance measures must be maintained between staff while in the building as well as clients coming into the showroom.

LINLEY designed a number of suites at Claridge’s recently. How did you manage the balance of putting the LINLEY stamp on the design whilst keeping the Art Deco feel and aesthetic of the hotel?

Michael – We’ve just completed our 39th Suite at Claridge’s – In fact our Suites cover almost a third of the main hotel frontage. It goes without saying that Claridge’s is a “Grande Dame” of the London hospitality scene with an interior which harks back to both the Edwardian period and the roaring 20’s. Needless to say, the art-deco aesthetic features heavily, exuding an air of glamour, luxury and ordered symmetry, highlighted with exuberant shapes and colours. Many pieces within the LINLEY furniture range espouse a modern take on traditional design – the LINLEY Classic Bedside for example – so we were able to work them into our various schemes seamlessly. Several of the more prestigious suites (we are in the process of finishing one named “The Queen of Spain”) called for LINLEY Bespoke pieces; this allowed me to let my creative juices really flow!

How long did the project take and what were your main challenges?

Graham – Lockdown unfortunately forced the hotel to shut and all construction-works to cease on several occasions during the past year. Aside from this forced closure, the hotel has managed to remain open throughout the renovation, the largest in its history. This has meant that we often only work on a half a dozen suites at a time, so to-date our involvement in the project has taken just over two-years. Aside from the “usual suspects” – delayed supplies, discontinued fabrics etcetera – our main challenge has of course been this dreadful pandemic. It’s also been an interesting project in as much as our design is “vetted” by several parties, including the hotel owner but also Housekeeping and Room Service, who need to ensure that the rooms work on a very practical level.

LINLEY have also designed interiors for yachts in the past. How is the design process different from yachts to luxury hotels?

The process of designing the interior of hotels versus super yachts is remarkably similar.  New super yachts are now so colossal that old age considerations of size and weight are no longer an issue.  Hence specification of marble is still very much de rigueur.  Occasionally the rake of the yacht’s hull is a consideration, but the most challenging spaces on yachts are cleverly rationalised by the naval architect’s team, long before the interior designer becomes involved.  Therefore the spaces one inherits are much the same as land based projects, beset with some challenges but no more or less challenging.  I must add that truly good interior design can overcome any physical obstacle, aided of course by the steadying hand of the appointed naval architect, with whom one is working from day one.  For example, when it comes to the installation of furniture, I might specify a vast grand piano but it will be the naval architect’s team that takes responsibility for anchoring it to the floor. LINLEY has designed and installed a large number of suites for Claridge’s  in recent years. Similarly, in this stunning London hotel, the design process has been composed of the same elements that are common to all super projects, whether land based or at sea. In short; an important client, a space, a brief, a budget and a time line.

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