The Philippe Starck protégé and founder of Belgravia-based interior architectural practice, Tara Bernerd & Partners, talks about her latest project, the Zentis Osaka, a new brand boutique hotel concept from Japan’s celebrated hospitality company, the Palace Hotel Group.
Options: Tell us about your latest hotel project, the Zentis Osaka.
Tara Bernerd: Whilst I have spent a lot of time in Asia since my childhood, I had only actually travelled to Japan a couple of times before and it was a long-held ambition to work there. This was my first design project in Japan, so it was a particular honour to work with the Palace Hotel Group, one of the leading hoteliers in the country, on its new brand offering. We are known for helping brands set and evolve their DNA, so this was an exciting opportunity for us; and its new brand, Zentis Hotels, will certainly build on its enviable reputation.
What were the first thoughts running through your mind, given Osaka’s location and vibe?
From my very first visit to Osaka, I have found it to be really intriguing. On the one hand, it has a strong historical heritage; on the other, it is modern, vibrant and colourful. It was fascinating and inspirational to be immersed in the multi-faceted local culture and we were really inspired by the hotel’s exciting downtown location.
How do you want guests to feel when they enter the property?
With Zentis Osaka, we wanted to bring a freshness and new approach to the local hotel market. As with so many of our projects, the design of the hotel takes inspiration from its locale, the heritage of the area and the people who are going to use it. We designed the hotel to be a home away from home, an oasis from the bustling city. When guests stay at the Zentis Osaka, we want them to relax, regroup and revel in good food and good company, in an atmosphere that feels refined yet comfortable.
What are some of the design highlights?
The furniture is a mix of mid-century and modern contemporary pieces. For the guestrooms, we took inspiration from the traditional Japanese bento box, with interlocking layouts that were devised to optimise the sustainable room sizes and create a functional yet inviting sanctuary for guests. Traditional art by a local Japanese artist was also commissioned as a nod to the vibrant location in which the hotel is set.
Tell us a little about your own living space.
I am fortunate to live in a beautiful apartment on the banks of the Thames in London. The building was designed by Norman Foster and I have redesigned the interior of the space, introducing concrete panels in the entrance hall that make a dramatic statement and changing the layout so that the double Crittall-framed glass doors into the open-plan living space frame the view beyond.
How has the pandemic changed the way you work?
The pandemic has reminded me how much I value my team, who are like family to me. I am extremely grateful to them for their fortitude and support, and for the way they have adapted and risen to the challenges of the year. While I still believe it is important to be able to design collaboratively in person, we have become extremely adept at working remotely via Microsoft Teams or Zoom calls.
What apps or tech devices proved most helpful to you during life in lockdown?
My iPad and mobile phone have become close companions over the year. And, as mentioned earlier, thanks to apps such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, we have been able to continue working effectively from wherever we are. In the evening, it has been wonderful to spend time unwinding with my husband and Netflix, which has been a great source of entertainment.
Where did you travel to just before the pandemic struck?
My last big trip was for meetings in New York, discussing our Los Angeles project for Equinox Hotels.
And where are you looking forward to visiting once life resumes a semblance of normalcy?
Whilst I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to travel within Europe over the summer, I dream of being able to go to Japan to see the Zentis Osaka finally realised. After, I’d love to go on to Hong Kong to see The Hari Hong Kong that is due to open in a couple of weeks as well as our penthouse at Dukes Place Hong Kong, which we have designed with Couture Homes and Asia Standard.
This article first appeared on Dec 14, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.