The work speaks for itself. You may sum up all of your resolve to be unimpressed. However, the moment you enter a space that is designed by AvroKO, you are defeated. Make that utterly defeated.
It isn’t just the evident level of taste or opulence. There is something else in the design powerhouse’s artfully orchestrated symphony of lines, lights and textures that elevates pleasure — whether it is from dining, lounging or even something as perfunctory as using the loo. (The washroom in question is the one at Nanbei, Rosewood Bangkok, below.)
AvroKO’s work has established it as a leader of the pack in the domain of hospitality design. Since its founding in 2001 by partners William Harris, Kristina O’Neal, Adam Farmerie and Greg Bradshaw, it has expanded across the world. In addition to its New York City design bureau, it now also has offices in San Francisco, London and Bangkok.
The brand’s portfolio includes restaurants, bars, hotels and retail projects in 32 cities across 22 countries. And it certainly says something that every new project continues to add on to its reputation for creating spaces that are thoroughly imbued with the wow factor. As founding partner William Harris shared with us, there is a secret to creating such successful spaces, beginning with the process itself.
You recently expanded into Asia. Tell us about the new Bangkok studio.
Our Bangkok studio has an international mix of 30 staff that’s still growing. It has a gorgeous, functioning bar. And this is where we regularly have experts in the mixology industry come through to host demonstrations or events. It’s actually a fantastic way to build the community and foster education.
We also have a gallery where we showcase some of our custom lighting and furniture designs, as well as our signature product collaborations.
While our interiors team continues to grow, we are also steadily building our strategy team called Brand Bureau. This will focus on bigger-picture strategy and branding. Thus, over the years we’ve been able to further develop a strong, holistic team to undertake projects with a 360-degree view.
What’s the Avroko design process? Does it change for the Asian market?
Process is sacrosanct to us. We use a proven model that we have developed. But we’re also mindful of local expectations and cultural norms. In the Asian market – and this is a big generalisation, as there are many different cultures here in Asia – we find that there are more layers to navigate. As it applies to actual design, fengshui is very important and we try to understand its key tenets.
Social norms also impact our designs for our clients in the east. We find that larger and more dramatic seating areas for group and family dining are more in demand. On the other hand, bar dining, which we absolutely love in the West, has been much harder to introduce successfully in our Asian work.
Lighting is also critical. And it seems that no matter how detailed our drawings are, or how often we specifically ask, it’s been almost comical how dimmers are frequently excluded from lighting installations. We still have to convince many contractors that dim restaurants are ok and actually what we specified.
What new Avroko designs will we be seeing in Asia and Singapore?
We have many exciting things on the boards. We’re designing The Standard Hotel in Phuket. We’ve also just begun working on the interiors for two striking ski resorts in Chongli, China for the chic Singaporean-born brands Capella and Patina.
On the restaurant and bar front, we’re thrilled to be entrusted to bring the renowned Artesian Bar in London to the upcoming Langham Jakarta, where we’re also crafting a new Morimoto restaurant.
An upcoming high-touch restaurant for the Single Thread in Sonoma California is also in the cards in Tokyo. Lastly, we’re cooking up some new top-secret projects in Singapore, but you’ll have to wait awhile for more on that.