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Ariane Steinbeck says the best hotel stays can be distinguished by thoughtful hospitality design and exceptional service

Hospitality design involves designing interiors and creating welcoming environments in venues such as hotels, restaurants, members clubs, nightclubs and cruise ships.

When working with a hotel for example, a hospitality design practice would be responsible for setting the required interior tone and ensuring guests feel comfortable whilst their needs are being met during a stay.

Lighting, furnishings, color schemes, floor plans and layouts are all contained within a hospitality design firm’s remit, as well as conceptualization, planning and design development.

Ariane Steinbeck is an award-winning interior designer who was behind the grand refurbishment of the Peninsula Hong Kong.  She was also a founding partner of The Gettys Group in Chicago and became the Managing Director of the leading London hospitality design practice, RPW in 2015.

Whilst Ariane’s current firm has worked on many prestigious hotel interiors projects across the world, RPW’s accomplishments have included the complete renovation of the Marriott Park Lane, the London Marriott Hotel County Hall, as well as Conrad St James and the Fairmont St Andrews.

A bathroom at The Fairmont St Andrews

This practice is internationally recognized for creating bespoke hotel interiors that exude elegance, individuality and style. RPW’s successes have also been achieved through collaboration and a consistent focus on the needs of the hotel guest.

Hospitality Designer and Entrepreneur, Ariane Steinbeck

Guests want an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations and at the price point they’re prepared to pay

Here, Ariane tells Nativa World about her career and explains why the best hotel experiences can be achieved through good hospitality design in conjunction with service..

Ariane, what does the word ‘Achieve’ mean to you?

Achieve means constantly striving for new goals! You can’t achieve without stretching beyond your comfort zone or without taking risks. It also means the privilege of being able to share my experiences and knowledge with my team.

Why did you enter the hospitality design industry?

I was steered towards a career in hotel management by my parents, but my heart wasn’t in it.  I liked staying in hotels, not working in them!  I enjoyed my time in the hotel kitchen, as I’ve been a passionate home cook since a very young age.  As an undergraduate student at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, I was exposed to a course in hotel design and I’ve never looked back. It can be said that I generally followed the path of most resistance as there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for a trained hotelier within the design field.  So I had to forge my own path often against all odds. I became an entrepreneur by necessity and not by choice. My passion for beauty and function is something that has always been at the core of my career focus.

Any defining moments in your career?

Every day should have one. The combination of all these different moments, which might not seem defining at that time, are essential for who I am today and who I’ll be in the future.  I also believe in letting yourself be transported by life’s river rapids. You get tossed around a little, but when you make it out the other end – even if somewhat bruised – you feel exhilarated. Taking calculated risks usually carries rewards.

Which has been your most recognized hospitality design project?

This is difficult to answer, as every project has its positive aspects and its downsides. My favorite projects are those where we can really make a difference and where our team is valued and trusted. If we would go down the recognition route, it would probably be the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, but you should ask me this question again in a couple of years!

A suite at the Marriott, Park Lane in London

The reason Airbnb has had such success is simply because it presented guests a better “box” at a more competitive price than what the typical hotel experience was offering.

How is the hospitality design industry changing and how is RPW staying competitive?

If people focus on what the core principle of hospitality is, really not that much has changed. What has changed is the unfortunate prevalence of marketing and branding trends and trying to put guests into “boxes” according to generational means or stylistic preference.

Guests still want the same thing as ever- an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations and at the price point they’re prepared to pay. At the center of good hospitality design is the ability to give guests the best experience throughout their stay, through comfort and attention to their needs.

I feel that  the hospitality industry is pushing towards greater and greater segmentation, rather than understanding that they should simply concentrate on improving delivery of the core principles of hospitality! The reason Airbnb has had such success is simply because it presented guests a better “box” at a more competitive price than what the typical hotel experience was offering. There’s no need to overthink design approaches with useless new trends, as these will only distract you from what’s essential for outstanding hospitality design – a great General Manager who inspires a team to deliver intelligent service and such high standards that you’ll be delighted to pay a premium.

A suite at the London Marriott County Hall

I don’t want us to have a recognizable style because that’s utterly boring

What inspires you in your design work?

Voracious reading and keeping my eyes open in reality and the alternative reality, the internet. Plus lots of travel, of course!

What’s your signature design style?

My signature design style is the fact that you won’t be able to tell two projects are done by RPW. I don’t want us to have a recognizable style because we believe that’s utterly boring.

What RPW projects can we look forward to seeing in the future?

In London, we’re currently renovating the Intercontinental London Park Lane, the Marriott Grosvenor Square, a member’s casino in a listed building in Mayfair, the Royal Air Force Club on Piccadilly and a Hilton Curio in the Docklands.  We’re working on 5-star hotels in Hungary, Malta, Georgia and other points in Eastern Europe.

RPW Managing Director, Ariane Steinbeck

I always feel at home wherever people welcome me in theirs!

When you travel, which essentials do you pack?

Red lipstick, my iPad and my signature scent-before anything else.

What do you miss when you’re away from home?

I love traveling and enjoying the concept of hospitality.  I always feel at home wherever people welcome me in theirs! When I go on longer trips, I definitely miss being able to cook. Contact with my family is so much easier these days and I’m rarely away long enough to miss the hugs and kisses.

Business Travel Tips:

  • Take your business trip as the opportunity delivered on a platter to explore new places and cultures!
  • Never ever leave a city without having a good stroll-you never know if you’ll be able to come back and  there is so much to learn from every city and culture.
  • When you see something you really like, buy it.

The Fairmont St Andrews, Scotland

Photography courtesy of RPW & Ariane Steinbeck

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