Constantina Tsoutsikou: Designing for a Brand

As interior designers of luxury hotels, storytelling is at the heart of everything we do. Each project has its own story that we are charged with transforming into concrete and memorable hotel experiences. So, when invited to create a Sleep Set in collaboration with a lifestyle brand at this year’s Sleep + Eat, we were excited by the opportunity to develop a guestroom concept for a brand whose story had never been told within the hotel design space before.

We were delighted to be paired with the Natural History Museum – a well-known and much-loved brand which each year attracts thousands of visitors. The museum’s focus on exploration, discovery and understanding the natural world truly resonated with us and was rich inspiration for our concept.

Central Hall, Natural History Museum

                                                                                                        Central Hall, Natural History Museum

We began our research with a tour of the museum called the ‘spirits’ tour, which took us through not only the galleries but gave us a rare glimpse into the back-of-house rooms, libraries and research labs. As we journeyed through rooms stacked high with exhibits and filled with enormous containers holding preserved animals, we felt like we had entered into another dimension of the planet that we share with all of nature. The soul of the Natural History Museum brand was becoming apparent.

Collecting and exploring was once a commercial as well as cultural endeavor requiring huge financial investment, so it was the only the wealthy and educated few who had the opportunity and privilege to participate. Some of the earliest specimens and sketches were brought back by Charles Darwin and his contemporaries and they wanted to share their findings with the British public. Eventually the Natural History Museum was born, free to visit from the beginning. Today the museum opens the doors to all, raises awareness about the dangers of species extinction and uses its exhibits to instil wonder and a sense of responsibility for our natural world.

Constantina Tsoutsikou

                                                                                  Constantina Tsoutsikou , Creative Director, HBA London

We decided to build our Sleep Set around these notions of travel, discovery and collections, creating a profile of a collector and designing “their room”. Just as the museum was conceived in the spirit of sharing findings from the natural world with a public eager to discover them, the concept for our room is accessible and layered with discoveries. It is a dynamic space for the naturally curious mind, the road warrior and the trailblazer.

The Romanesque architecture the Natural History Museum building was itself an inspiration. Patterns from the natural world and ornamental motifs found within the building’s awe-inspiring architecture have been translated into bespoke engravings on fittings within our Sleep Set. We have chosen classic materials such as natural woods, grass wallpaper and linens which might have been found in Darwin’s camp room. We have also injected the palette with new, high-tech materials that have strong environmental credentials – an aspect that is particularly important to us in our 21st Century understanding of conserving the world’s resources.

HBA Teaser

                                                                                                              HBA London teaser image

One of the differences in working with a lifestyle brand as opposed to a hotel brand has been that there are no guidelines. We were able to embrace the values, explore, and choose any visual direction that we saw fit, acting in many ways as our own client. As the Natural History Museum is home to a vast collection of some of the world’s most recognised illustrations and etchings, we had an enormous wealth of visual materials to choose from. Navigating the digital library was a long and challenging process; it was a case of only extracting what we needed, paring back to express the brand’s core values.

Our collaboration with The Natural History Museum has given us an insight into a world of adventure in an unconventional way, delving deep into the past, exploring and appreciating the present, and paving the way for the future. We all learn from the past to set new boundaries to educate the next generation of influencers.