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In Conversation with Simon Rawlings

With David Collins Studio having turned 30 in 2015, its Creative Director Simon Rawlings looks back at the firm’s achievements and shares the exciting projects underway in Asia.

In Conversation with Simon Rawlings

Ever since the late David Collins set it up in 1985, David Collins Studio has been creating spaces that have become icons. It is the studio’s imaginative and thoughtful approach, combined with its respect for craftsmanship, that has made it the global name it is today. In its portfolio are hospitality projects such as The Wolseley, international retail spaces for Alexander McQueen and Jimmy Choo, high-end homes for Mount Nicholson, a series of houses on the former site of government staff residence quarters in Hong Kong, as envisioned by Wharf (Holdings) Limited, Nan Fung Group and Wheelock Properties (Hong Kong) Limited, and residential interiors for The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Bangkok.

Here, the studio’s Creative Director, Simon Rawlings, talks about the past, present and future.

David Collins Studio
Simon Rawlings, Creative Director for David Collins Studio

In 2015, David Collins Studio celebrated its 30th anniversary. What does this mean to you?

[2015 was my] 18th year, and the business’ 30th year, and we had to go back over the last 30 years and look at what we had created. Thirty years ago, people didn’t look to London as a leader in the world of food and beverage. I believe we were part of that re-creation of London as a food destination, bringing restaurants back to life. We worked with all the big name chefs at that pivotal stage, when all the world was going foodie nuts.

Then we started doing private homes, and then retail projects. London is now a small part of our business; we work all over the world. I particularly like coming to Asia.

Let’s talk about your work in Bangkok.

We’re working on a tower in Bangkok with Ole Scheeren. Our scope has grown and grown, it’s the F&B side. At the top of the building is a bar called Vogue Lounge – it’s a collaboration with Condé Nast. They’re really pushing into new areas, as the world of print is changing so much.

So they asked us to do Vogue Lounge. It was a really interesting project: I designed it completely in black and white. We didn’t add any colour to the actual design throughout the whole process, because the Vogue brand guidelines are black, white and gold. We decided to conceptualise the whole thing in monochrome and then layer in colour. Then we added a layer of this kind of vintage pink. It’s this kind of masculine pink if there is such a thing. The colour came from a vintage photograph; I really fell in love with the colour.

David Collins Studio
Vogue Lounge in Bangkok

We took a lot of inspiration from vintage Vogue photography and Cecil Beaton photography. We came up with the idea of black and white stripes. They figured quite heavily throughout the whole period of Vogue photographs.

You’re also working on Mahasamutr resort in Thailand with Kengo Kuma – tell us about it.

It’s a resort in Hua Hin, two hours from Bangkok. Our client decided to create a residential development with a difference: it’s a 90-home development built around a man-made lagoon. Our scope is all the restaurants, bars, meeting rooms and sporting facilities, and we’re doing the most amazing kid’s facilities. It’s a really wonderful project to have, to see our style merging with Kengo Kuma’s architecture, with a bit of Thai flair.

I was inspired by Kengo Kuma’s architecture, it looks kind of folded, so all of our designs have this origami-esque design that looks like it’s been folded and taken apart again.

A hand drawing of Mahasamutr’s juice bar

How’s the Mount Nicholson project going?

It’s going to be really beautiful – I guess it’s the home I would want to live in. It’s really beautifully appointed.

With one of the two houses we’re working on, we started with a single colour – we’ve taken the spectrum of that colour. It goes from really gorgeous teals to soft blues to dark blues. It’s about responding to the fact that you’ve got this expanse of sky, and you’ve got the lush green. It’s going to be ready in 2016.

David Collins Studio
A hand drawing of the interiors at Mount Nicholson

You’ve worked in Hong Kong before, on The Continental. What were the challenges of this project?

It’s a room that has to work for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the bits in between. It has to be comfortable for a snack, or a drink, something casual or formal – the celebratory or the every day.

With the previous restaurant, the bar cut across the whole front of the restaurant. The first thing I really wanted to do was to reorient the restaurant to face the greenery, and to celebrate Thomas Heatherwick’s architectural structure.

The colour was actually the thing that came first. I saw that green tile in Milan and it really informed the whole concept. I wanted a green that would be refreshing in the morning, but then worked at night. A lot of greens turn black at night. It was really hard to get that particular shade of green.

DCS_The Continental_2
The bar at The Continental, decked out in the tile that inspired the concept for the Pacific Place restaurant

You work across retail, F&B, residential, furniture… is there a difference in the way you approach this projects?

In a way, they’re all the same. The way I approach it is: how should someone feel in that space? If you make someone feel good, feel special, if the lighting is right… it’s about all of those things. For me, luxury comes from doing things properly.

David Collins Studio

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