INTERIOR design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) recently launched its award-winning division Studio to cater to clients in the UAE and Middle East who are looking for mid-tier hospitality interior design solutions.
The establishment of Studio in the region promises to provide stylish and innovative design solutions that can accommodate budget and schedule constraints.
Established six years ago, HBA Studio now has seven global locations, including the latest in Dubai.
Commenting on the move, HBA Studio’s principal and design director Rahul Shankhwalker says: “The global financial crisis shook up the way the world did business. A greater emphasis over the last few years has been around the risk of development. Since that time, we have seen a greater push by clients towards a more sustainable and structured way of going about their businesses.
“What this has meant for Studio is to capitalise on the newer wave of business and we think the hospitality sector offers the greatest opportunity for growth.”
According to Shankhwalker, Studio caters to a different segment compared to the parent firm. “We primarily look at the mid-tier quality of hotel offerings (three and four star) but we don’t dilute any of the quality of the design,” he says.
Studio also offers its clients access to all other divisions of HBA such as Illuminate for lighting design; Canvas for procuring art and accessories for sophisticated and brand-defining spaces; and HBA Graphic Studio, whose portfolio of services extends from signage to the small details like stationary and uniform.
“Flexibility and customised service is what we offer to the market in conjunction with the best design services and we have replicated the model around the world,” he adds.
Justin Wells, Studio director in Dubai, says: “From this office, we will cater to the Middle East and Africa. For the next few years, this region is going to be in focus and we also see a lot of depth in this market. We are already getting inquiries and are looking forward to working with a lot of our clients with whom we have worked in other parts of the world.”
“Although hospitality is our core area of expertise, we are looking at a mix of projects in this market. The way Studio is positioned in the market it is geared to do every kind of project that needs interior design support, be it private residential, developers’ residential, corporate interiors, hospitality or the retail sector,” says Shankhwalker.
Commenting on the market, he says: “One of the main trends in the hospitality sector is to offer maximum comfort to the guests. In a three or a four-star hotel where the rooms are smaller, clever designing can help operators optimise the comfort levels while guests get value for money in terms of comfort.
“Another trend is on localising the guest experience. While a brand operates in many different locations around the world, it needs to maintain the same quality level everywhere; so the key is to design a product which can offer experience specific to the city the hotel is in.”
Wells says the strength of Studio is understanding the local environment and incorporating the same in its designs.
“HBA has been around for 50 years, bringing in a history and knowledge that enables Studio to understand and cater to the market. We are dealing with both local and international operators here in the market.
“We see a lot of growth and opportunity in this market. Our plans include engaging with key stakeholders and consolidating a lot of our relationships,” adds Wells.
“Growth is what everyone is looking at but we believe in taking baby steps and sustainable steps – in building meaningful and strong relationships with operators, stakeholders, developers and also in building a reputation. We have an international reputation and we need to build a local reputation. We plan to invest this year on building that reputation for a solid and sustainable growth in the future,” says Shankhwalker.
Launched in 2007, Studio currently has offices in the US, India, China, Australia and the Philippines. Some of Studio’s key projects include the Hilton Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles and Radisson in Rancho Bernardo, San Diego, US; Aloft Guangzhou Tianhe in Guangzhou, China; Sedona Hotel, Myanmar; Courtyard Marriott in Bangalore, Radisson Blu in Faridabad and Coimbatore, and Hilton Garden Inn in Goa, all in India.