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Interior designers need to push boundaries to ensure hospitality spaces ‘stay ahead of the curve’

Interior designers need to push boundaries to ensure hospitality spaces ‘stay ahead of the curve’
August 31, 2023

Kate Ockwell, Interior Design Associate at Plus Architecture’s Queensland studio believes that in a rapidly evolving market, interior designers need to push the boundaries to ensure hospitality spaces stay ahead of the curve.

Having collaborated with a number of Queensland’s most prominent restaurateurs and hoteliers, Ockwell, is well placed to know what design concepts work. 

Ockwell notes “with many now living in homes with beautiful, high-spec kitchens and living spaces, going out has to offer something much more - it has to offer them a unique and memorable experience.”

The business of hospitality is renowned for being tough to get into, and even tougher to stay in. After a tumultuous few years for Queensland’s hospitality industry, Ockwell shares four key insights into the transformative role design can play in shaping guests' experience, and keep them coming back for more – theatricality, total-immersion, adaptability, and tailor-made.

Led by Ockwell, Plus Architecture have collaborated with the team at The Star Gold Coast to curate the interiors of three unique hospitality spaces; a Cantonese restaurant, Uncle Su; a retro 80’s themed bar, Atrium and a rooftop bar, event space and pool bar, Isoletto - all open to the public as well as guests staying at the hotel.

Ockwell believes that the success of all three is down to their creative and unique identities. Curating distinct and memorable experiences that invite guests to be a part of their story, is, she says, their key point of difference in what is a highly competitive market.

Reflecting on her approach, Ockwell says “Considering guests' first impressions, as well as their journey throughout the space, and every element they will encounter, is crucial.”

At the Atrium Bar, guests are ushered from the Gaming Lounge, through an exaggerated portal entry. Once inside, guests are transported to a retro-luxe inspired world. Organic forms and curves have inspired the design of the bar as well as the zoned banquette seating which pops with flourishes of pink and turquoise. Through this, and the pink LED strip lighting, the feeling of 80’s disco nostalgia permeates the space.

It’s this sense of total-immersion that Ockwell believes to be particularly important. In their design for Uncle Su, the focus has been on materiality and stimulating a multi-sensory experience.

“Fully customised, the space incorporates traditional Chinese design elements and bespoke handcrafted materials like oversized lanterns, a golden money tree and beautiful koi fish motifs. Bathed in a sea of red, gold, cool ocean blue and jade green, the result is a vibrant and energetic space that transports guests to another world.”

Indeed the design also incorporates a spectacular display of fish tanks filled with locally sourced lobsters and crabs - giving guests an idea of what they can expect to see and taste on the menu.

Ockwell shares “GIven the outdoor lifestyle of Queenslanders, and with many hospitality venues now catering for guests throughout the day, designing flexible spaces that can be adapted as required is key.”

For The Star Gold Coast’s island-inspired Isoletto Pool Bar Privé, Ockwell’s team drew design inspiration from bars in cities across the world, while basing its colour palette off of the coastal paradise's warm sunshine glow.

This poolside venue features flexible indoor and outdoor seating, allowing guests to bask in the warmth of the sun or to escape into a shady spot to take in the oceans’ breeze. With a private event space attached, Ockwell’s team have created a setting with a neutral palette that can be adapted by users with their own personal touches.

Ultimately, Ockwell believes that in a rapidly evolving market, interior designers need to push the boundaries to ensure hospitality spaces stay ahead of the curve.

“In our experience, bars and restaurants that best resonate are those which create and shape a bold and unique experience for their guests. Most importantly they centre around how their guests will feel in the space. To achieve this, consideration must be given to all senses, and attention paid to the very smallest of details. In doing so, the greatest impact can be realised,” Ockwell says.

Looking to the future, Ockwell notes that weeknight dining is becoming ever more popular in Queensland, and particularly so in Brisbane. This, coupled with a growing trend for restaurant pop-ups drawing in a younger crowd, means that alongside fully curated spaces, there’s growing demand for dynamic, informal venues that celebrate and bring great design to a wider audience.

Ockwell concludes “with consumer demands ever-changing, it’s critical to establish a symbiotic relationship with your clients so that collaboratively you can deliver spaces that are tailored to attract and retain your target audience.”

Images from top: Plus Architecture Atrium Bar Credit: The Star Gold Coast; Plus Architecture Uncle Su. Credit: The Star Gold Coast; The Star Gold Coast’s island-inspired Isoletto Pool Bar Privé

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