Obviously, after a year and a half of the great pandemic, the world has started to open up. Travel restrictions in many countries have been eased, while many people has set off on their journeys again. But of course, everyone knows that the world wouldn’t be exactly the same. Recently, we had an opportunity to discuss with Clint Nagata, Founder and Creative Partner of the award-winning BLINK Design Group, on the upcoming hospitality design trends and the future of luxury travel. With an impressive portfolio (which includes the interior refurbishment of Millennium Hilton Bangkok, the design of design of the Regent Phu Quoc and ROKU KYOTO and many more), this Bangkok-based design firm definitely knows a thing or two.
Why you choose Bangkok as a base? What are the advantages?
“I decided to relocate to Bangkok about 15 years ago, having been romanced by my frequent travels to Asia. I was inspired by this foreign land filled with promise, beautiful scenery, amazing cultures and a blossoming design scene. In a way, Bangkok and Southeast Asia offered the canvas to create authentic, personal stories of both the designer and the patron. Moving to Bangkok became my defining moment as a designer and where I began my pursuit of creating something stronger than an individual thought, which became the very principle of BLINK Design Group.”
What is your design ethos/philosophy?
“Growing up on the North Shore of Hawaii shaped my lifelong vision as an interior designer and my appreciation for seamlessly integrating nature with interior spaces. There was this beautiful idyllic weather in everyday life that encouraged an important connection between living indoors and being outdoors on the lanais, which is a deep covered porch typical of Hawaiian houses. Houses were few and far between, with nature being the strongest connector to it all; I remember endless stretches of sugar cane stalks dancing gently in the tropical island breeze.
I believe in expressing personal stories through design, and to keep an insatiable curiosity that drives you to ideate in this world and beyond. For example, finding inspiration from the innate beauty of the location is an integral part of my design concept. As designers, we strive to enhance the best elements of a location but also to think about the brand and the owner. I believe the best designs are fuelled by stories envisioned through the eyes of its creator.”
What is the most difficult part in hospitality design?
“The most challenging part of designing hotels is creating a concept that resonates with the guests and can be easily understood. We spend countless hours at the beginning of a project trying to understand the essence of a place and distilling it down to a handful of elements to tell a story.”
How will the pandemic shape the future of luxury travel?
“We have been fortunate that BLINK still enjoys considerable interest in Asia and far beyond, including from the Middle East, the Dominican Republic and Zanzibar. Our studios have adapted to working efficiently from home, with quite a few virtual walk-throughs for our current projects, whether it is a site visit or final inspection of an opening property like Hilton’s ROKU KYOTO.
In terms of spatial planning, we have not seen significant changes in what owners and hotel operators require. Spaces for guest privacy have always been considered pre-pandemic, and most of our projects require more than four years to complete, so most owners have a long-term perspective envisioning a future that resumes some semblance of normalcy. People also have been sequestered for so long that it seems most of us are gravitating towards nature and its benefits. A silver lining of the pandemic is that it has encouraged us to better appreciate nature and strive to integrate it more in our design concepts.”
What are the up-coming trends in design?
“While Biophilic design may be hotly trending in the design world now, it has been a part of BLINK Design Group from the very beginning. Nature is something we try to embrace in every aspect of our projects, be it through the sense of place in our creations or the materiality. I believe it is such an innate human desire to be drawn to nature and I think the pandemic has escalated that even more, hence the trend.”
What are you working on? What is the next project that going to launch?
“Some exciting BLINK projects opening this year include ROKU KYOTO and Regent Phu Quoc. We want our guests in ROKU KYOTO to experience tranquility in the ambience of minimalism and elegance, surrounded by a warmth reminiscent of home. Through a recent virtual walk, I was pleased to see the quality level of construction they are able to achieve in Japan. We are also thrilled to be a significant part of Regent Phu Quoc, which is the first Regent resort to open under the brand’s rebranding with IHG and look forward to its opening later this year.”
For more information, visit BLINK Design Group.