‘Designing for People’: A Conversation with Colin Finnegan of FG StijlColin Finnegan is one of the driving forces behind interior architecture agency FG Stijl. Together with his business partner Gerard Glintmeijer, he has spent 20 years producing an impressive oeuvre of multi-disciplinary design work for some of the world’s major luxury hotel brands, as well as private residences, restaurants, offices, and retail spaces. Colin is a fan of FreshBed, and at his suggestion, several of the hotels that he has recently designed have installed FreshBed. We sat down to speak with him about his thoughts on design, wellness, FreshBed, and what it means to keep people at the heart of design.
Barry, FreshBed: There is a lot of talk about integrating guests wants and needs into the concept of, for instance, a hotel. FG Stijl and you yourself are known for “designing for people”. Can you explain what it means to you to keep the person at the heart of your design?
Colin, FG Stijl:The key thing for me is that the world is around us, we are always the centre of our own universe. So when we travel, we take our universe with us. Nowadays people travel so much. You have to give everybody a memory to make their experience stand out. What makes it stand out? It is because you are being paid attention to, you feel as though someone has thought about you, and not just an image or aesthetic. It feels personal, like at home.
“Nowadays people travel so much. You have to give everybody a memory to make their experience stand out.”The most important thing when we design at FG Stijl, is that we don’t design for a photograph, we design for people. We always think first and foremost: Who is going to be here? Who are they going to meet? What experiences are they going to have? And then we design around that. So in that way, people are always the centre of our design and everything else is actually an add-on to that. For example, you can have a very minimalist design with just one chair, but you still have to feel comfortable. That one chair should be a very comfortable chair, it shouldn’t just look fantastic. You should make sure that when you sit in it you think, I am now in the centre. Sir Nikolai Hamburg, designed by FG Stijl Colin, FG Stijl: Society is so quick right now. We have come to a point where people really have a thirst for knowledge and experiences above all. People travel the world, and they are less and less worried about owning a new car or owning four houses. It all means costs, maintenance, problems, stress. So we are moving into the sharing economy. Also in the hotel world, we are seeing the rise of branded residences. It’s your apartment and you own it, but it’s actually leased to the hotel. So when you come to your apartment, it’s perfect, it’s clean, the food in the fridge is what you want in there. But you don’t have to worry about it, it’s all taken care of. So this is where we are going – good design and luxury is the ability to have everything you need when you need it. But not to have it in front of you cluttering up your life when you don’t need it. And from a design perspective, you have to give people everything that they need to feel that. The Presidential Suite of the Park Hyatt Vienna, designed by FG Stijl
Barry, FreshBed: We’re happy that you understand what we are doing at FreshBed, and that you are a fan. What was it about FreshBed that attracted you the most?
Colin, FG Stijl:Honestly, it is one of those things that I have been searching a long time for. I personally don’t like air-conditioning in rooms – it is essentially blowing rather dirty air around which is being filtered through rather dirty filters. And when you are in bed, how is your body benefiting from this air-conditioned air? You’re under the sheets, so the only thing that you are getting is a bit of air on your face. When I design a hotel, I always make sure that you can open a window. Imagine – here you are in this paradise, but you don’t want to be stuck inside a box! Travel is about the luxury of the location, which is probably very beautiful, and you want to experience what is happening outside. You go to a hotel and get to the room, and the first thing you do is turn off the air-conditioning, and open a window to get some fresh air in. And so FreshBed really fits the way I think. You want yourself to be cooled or warmed, not the whole space. But also — and this is going back to you being the centre of your own universe — you want to be able to control the temperature enough so that you can sleep. I think that’s the wonderful thing about FreshBed, it’s about the benefits of what a FreshBed brings you: the feeling you get, how it works, how the body reacts to the temperature and to the clean air that you are providing it.
“I think that’s the wonderful thing about FreshBed, it’s about the benefits of what a FreshBed brings you: the feeling you get, how it works, how the body reacts to the temperature and to the clean air that you are providing it.”I think it is also a great thing for people with allergies, because we have so much dirt in our environment and the FreshBed gets rid of the dirt from the air and gives you pure air, while also keeping your body at the temperature it prefers for sleeping. Other beds don’t do that.
Barry, FreshBed: We brought this innovation to beds with FreshBed, but what other techniques or innovations do you see within your profession when it comes to wellness and well-being?
Colin, FG Stijl:It’s all very personal. All of the technology, it’s moving away from aesthetics and focusing on almost medical-like benefits. Take FreshBed as an example: it’s about having a good night’s sleep. As another example, go into the bathroom and look at the showers. There’s massage showers, steam showers, rainforest showers, there are several ways of stimulating or relaxing the body using the wet room. What I always try to have is a bench within the shower. So you can go into the shower and have a quick shower – in and out if that is what you need. Or, you can sit down, lean forward, and let the rain shower fall on your head and have a few minutes to yourself. This is really so important…it’s just a little bench, but it gives such a huge amount of pleasure. People might think sitting in the shower is something that old ladies do, but everyone likes it and it gives such a relaxing feeling. It’s pure, simple, and natural, but something that is given very little thought actually. And that stretches to many aspects of design – how does it make you feel? This is the real direction that design is heading. Not what does it all look like, I don’t think that’s the important question anymore. If you hire an interior designer, of course, it is going to look beautiful. But when you really design for people, you have to think of the whole experience of people – sleeping, bathing, hygiene, these sorts of things which matter most of all. Because if you think of most of these, then the colour of the wallpaper, that’s just a personal thing. But the essence of the design has to be the human aspect. Hyatt Regency Dusseldorf, designed by FG Stijl
Barry, FreshBed: Guests really appreciate little features like a bench in the shower that make thoughtful contributions to the room, and are happy to have these kinds of items in a hotel room.
Colin, FG Stijl:You’re right – guests do care. So if you start to really treat guests well, when you take extra steps to treat them really well, then they get used to it very quickly. It’s the same with all new luxuries: if you have it once, it’s amazing. If you have it twice, you think, “Okay, I really like this”. And if you have it three times, you think, “This is it. This is the standard.” And all of a sudden, it becomes the norm. Because why would you go back to that quick shower when you have a massage shower for just a few minutes longer? Why would you go back to a normal bed after a FreshBed and think, “This is enough.” Because it’s not enough after that.
“Why would you go back to a normal bed after a FreshBed and think, ‘This is enough.’ Because it’s not enough after that.”It’s something we don’t really talk about in our culture. We just talk about the colour of the wallpaper. But actually the essence of the design, and how the people experience it, and how the body reacts to the environment – this is what is critical. This is the question that is being answered more and more.