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Pushing the design envelope

I have consciously avoided the critique of specific designers or hotels, especially when it comes to our own projects, in my blog posts. However I think it might be interesting for readers — who are not necessarily designers themselves — to learn about the ideas that make a designer’s heartbeat quicken.

So for this post I’m going to break my own rule and tell you about the nhow Berlin, a “music concept” hotel designed by Karim Rashid. I originally heard about it around a year ago, not long after its opening — you might remember my earlier blog about the secrets of designing top hotels. Now I’ve had the opportunity to stay there. It was an interesting experience to say the least.

What impressed me when I originally saw photos of the nhow Berlin was not only that a hotel group was brave enough to do something so completely different, but also that Karim Rashid was given a second opportunity to design a hotel (following his prizeotel project, a budget property in Bremen).

An international design star, Karim Rashid is well known for his sculptural organic forms, plastic product designs and digital graphic patterns. If you were to hire him as a hotel designer, it’s probably because you like his sense of aesthetics. So if the intention for the nhow Berlin was to get a “Karim Rashid” design, he certainly did not disappoint! The décor is extremely colourful, with patterns on every surface and large-scale organic plastic sculptures that house the public areas’ operational functions — as you can see in these pictures of the reception/concierge, bar/lounge and buffet areas.

The guestrooms are also a little crazy, not so much in terms of the layout, but more with the very original and distinctive colour scheme, furniture and finishes. Digitally printed laminate flooring, a curved wall encasing the TV, a pink sculpted desk and even a pink patterned bedspread are all combined to create this wild atmosphere. The bathroom, while rather standard in size and footprint, also has plenty of pink tones in the floor and wall tiles (in two different patterns), washbasins, tub, soap and shampoo. Again, digital prints appear on the glass wall and towels.

As a designer, my opinion of this “dream in pink” is somewhat divided. I like Karim Rashid’s digital philosophy as well as his product designs — although to some extent my personal enjoyment of the hotel’s design is irrelevant. What he has achieved with the nhow Berlin is a big step forward for all designers and many hoteliers. Because everything in its interiors is so different, it inspires the world to see design in a new way and encourages hoteliers to be a bit more courageous with style. This concept pushes the envelope of what is possible for designers; even a little less “design” in this hotel would still be significantly more than most hoteliers would consider having! That is, until this hotel came on the scene …

So although I wouldn’t want to live at the nhow Berlin for the rest of my life, it is a fun place to experience — and I actually like it!

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