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‘We Want to Feel a Connection’: Design Maven Tara Bernerd on How Luxury Travel Has Changed

Looks like we're finally moving on from the old-world formality of years gone by.

Design Maven Tara Bernerd is the creative force behind London-based interior design firm Tara Bernerd & Partners Mark Harrison

When it comes to travel, the founder and creative force behind London-based interior design firm Tara Bernerd & Partners has seen and done it all. Whatever her latest project—whether a hotel in Hong Kong, a chalet in Gstaad or a 150-foot superyacht—she executes it all in a worldly style that continually raises the bar for modern hospitality.

How has the concept of a luxury hotel changed in the last 20 years?

Undoubtedly, the rise of boutique hotels, with their more genuine and authentic approach, has altered what people now expect from the bigger players. I think our current work with brands like Four Seasons and Rosewood showcase this shift, with more attention being given to creating that same home-away-from-home feeling, but on a larger scale. We want to feel an emotional connection to the people and places we’re visiting, and therefore we’ve moved on from the old-world formality of years gone by.

Where does that leave traditional service—butlers and the like—which could be considered old-world?

Fantastic service is never out of place, regardless of what form it comes in. My work with a hotel group in Osaka has allowed me to spend more time in Japan and experience their wonderful culture and their impeccable service. It’s perhaps more formal than in the likes of the US, but it’s so special and really does enhance the overall experience.

What is the most important part of making a hotel?

For me, a strong DNA is integral to the success of a hotel. A brand name is not enough—you need to have defined values, clear philosophies, a strong grasp on the location and an understanding of the people who will make the space their own.

You also design for vacations at sea. What does the modern yacht as you see it look like?

Just as we have come to expect new things from hotels, we are now looking at yacht design in a different way. We’re currently working on a 183-foot Perini Navi, and the quality of the external structure was something we wanted to carry through inside. We have done this by incorporating features such as stitched leather-clad doors, custom joinery and a curved marble wall in the master bathroom.

What project are you most excited about right now?

I’m currently working on the new Equinox Hotel in downtown LA with Frank Gehry, who has always been a hero of mine and remains so in every sense. As a studio, his is one of the most creative and inspiring in the world, and it’s been a privilege to work with such a sensational team on a new LA landmark.

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