One of the industry’s most sought-after designers, Tara Bernerd launched her interior design and architectural studio in 2002. Based in London’s Belgravia, Tara Bernerd & Partners has built an impressive portfolio of international clients, including Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons, Fort Partners, Harilela Hotels, Equinox Hotels, Thompson Hotels and the Berkeley Group. Known for her industrial yet elegant style, Bernerd and her team have a pipeline of global developments underway, the likes of the new Equinox Hotel in LA, The Hari Hong Kong, and the Zentis Hotel in Osaka.
How did you first get interested in design? Growing up design was always around me. My earliest memories were a fascination with not only art and design but also architecture. A pivotal memory was going to an exhibition of both Norman Foster and Richard Rogers at the Royal Academy. I also remember as a young girl my father taking me to hear Norman Foster speak and to meet him. From there, this developed into a passion: where interiors met architecture.
What makes British design unique? To me, the British have always had an eccentricity, and although having grown up in a very European fashion, I think the British are not afraid of a bold and eclectic, mixing periods and styles.
What are some of the unusual materials you work with and where do you source them? I am very drawn to industrial materials, and for me the ultimate combination is to then introduce warmer textures and fabrics, giving a depth to the interior. Sourcing remains a constant journey. I travel frequently to Milan, and I have an obsession with furniture from the 1940s and 50s—from Murano glass to the richest textiles. I am constantly inspired. However, so much of our work is about embracing the place we are in, and we are therefore always discovering local artisans and specialised craftsmanship, from Japan to Mexico.
What are some of the innovations in technology that are helping you and your business grow or adapt? The technology that has changed our business is without doubt, is the use of platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. They have allowed us to communicate from anywhere, all over the world, aiding us to stay in touch and be communicative. We are growing our own CGI department to explore and stay on top of communicating our design through up-to-the-minute visuals.
What are some of the important yet perhaps unexpected elements of functionality you have to keep in mind when designing hotels? First and foremost, everything about designing a hotel rests on functionality and the guest’s experience. Speaking to the guest room only, in many ways, the list is endless—from mini-bars and refrigerators to the placement of flat screens and most importantly lighting—as well as the endless need for USB sockets. And, add to that, all the fabrics you choose must pass every fire and rub test known to man.
Concierge and greeting is moving rapidly with the times and finding a marriage between technology and the human touch takes care and consideration. Most of all, the design needs to take into account how spaces perform throughout the day and night. So that they look alluring upon arrival, but are also easy to navigate at night.
What gives you hope at this moment? My team, both their commitment and their skill, as well as our collective passion to keep going. That combined with working alongside some of the most extraordinary clients worldwide, keeps everything moving forward.
How have the changes in the hospitality industry—social media, review websites etc impacted your design work? Without a doubt, we are exposed to more imagery and information than ever before, and with a careful edit we can stay in touch with creative talent around the world. But we do have to remember that the online world is only two-dimensional.