The past years have deprived us of many beloved hobbies and pastimes. Eating in restaurants. Spending time with loved ones. And — the big one for me right now — travel.
This is the longest stretch in decades I’ve gone without getting on an airplane, and I’m pining for travel in a big way. It’s wonderful to escape and luxuriate somewhere beautiful, yes. But, even more, travel always provides such incredible design inspiration.
In fact, one of the prompts I always give clients during the initial project intake is: tell me about a beloved travel memory.
Not only is this a fantastic glimpse into their personal lives and preferences, but it usually sparks conversations about design details they loved from their hotel suite or the surrounding local architecture. Their answers always provide some spark or inspiration for the design scheme.
But travel-inspired interior design is a delicate art form.
There are a myriad of reasons why you can’t simply replicate a hotel suite in residential interior design. (I mean, you could. But you shouldn’t. More on that in a minute.) So, how do you design a room inspired by travel destinations?
Interior design is a lot like fashion. What is stunningly on-point at the Met Gala would feel extremely out of place for a Tuesday night dinner with friends. (Unless of course, you’re throwing a fabulous party — in which case, send me an invite.)
To really capture the essence of a destination, a skilled designer must distill the features and fixtures down to the very basic elements — colors, materials, the overall shapes and architectural lines. Then, reimagine them in a way that’s tailored to the size and scale of the space, its inhabitants, and its purpose.
And sometimes, when the inspiration is the surrounding physical beauty, the best thing a designer can do is let the designs take on a supporting role.
Aman Resorts and their exquisite location-specific designs
Years ago, a client requested a primary bedroom suite inspired by her recent stay at Aman Venice. Researching the resort, I became enamored with the Aman company as a whole — their design, architecture, and the way they develop modern, luxury spaces that seamlessly integrate into the surroundings.
Aman — which means “peace” in Sanskrit — is a luxury resort group unlike any I’ve ever seen. Largely because the dwellings themselves aren’t really the point.
You’re not meant to walk in and gasp at the dramatic lobby chandelier. (Unless you’re in Aman Venice, in which case, that’s exactly the goal.) But typically, the structures are designed to complement and play a supporting role in the natural beauty around them.
Design inspiration vs replication
Because each resort is tailor-made for its environment, there’s not a common visual through-line across their locations. Typically at high-end resort chains, there’s some signature design element that tells you, “Oh, this is a Ritz Carlton.” It has a familiarity about it. But these really don’t. Every single one is completely different.
Located in Java, Indonesia, the grounds of Amanjiwo look like an ancient temple you might accidentally discover on a hike through the rainforest. Just 2km from a 9th-century Buddhist sanctuary, this resort shows that modern development can be done with absolute respect and minimal impact on the surrounding environment.
And not just visually. The Aman Group is deeply committed to preserving and protecting the local ecology. In an interview with Robb Report, Aman founder Adrian Zecha explained:
“We don’t cut trees, we don’t block the flow of water, and we don’t let any untreated water seep back into the ground. We find sites where we’re protected from visual pollution, and we don’t displace any animals.”
Rather than encroach on the natural beauty — in Amanjiwo’s case, a UNESCO world heritage site — these resorts are designed to take a backseat. Maximizing the experience and immersion into an existing world, without distracting from it.
Their Canyon Point, Utah location, Amangiri, has an entirely different feel, perfectly tailored to the stark beauty of the surrounding desert. Its minimalism almost feels akin to a museum — where the structures simply exist to house and highlight the real star of the show.
What Aman’s resort designs can teach us about residential interiors Aman resorts illustrate another key point: Not only is interior design deeply subjective, but its success greatly depends on both the structure’s purpose and surroundings.
I’m obsessed with the architecture and design of these resorts. In their context, they’re absolutely perfect. But, through the lens of residential interiors, they’re too stark and contemporary for my taste. I probably wouldn’t design a home that looks and feels exactly like one of their suites.
That’s because the goals are different. As a designer, a large part of my job is creating structures that look like they’ve always been there, so you have to take location and the original architecture into account.
Also, a home isn’t simply a structure to be experienced. It needs to actually nurture and support your full, multi-faceted life — not just in vacation mode.
I’d absolutely love to spend a week soaking up Utah’s desert skylines at Amangiri, getting pampered at their spa, and luxuriating in my private heated pool. But day to day? I don’t want to live in a museum.
Of course, there’s an exception to every rule. I recently began a project in Palm Springs that actually is more like a hotel suite. It’s a client’s second home, one that will largely be used for rest and rejuvenation. So we’re having fun with design elements that are more reminiscent of a luxury resort — dramatic lighting, oversized, plush sofas perfect for enjoying an afternoon nap.
It’s a unique opportunity to push boundaries, design-wise. I don’t need to be as focused on meeting a huge range of everyday needs.
Translating hotel designs into residential interiors
That’s not to say hotels can’t make great design inspiration for your own home. It just requires a more nuanced approach.
Material selection is often a good place to start. I’ll also see how we can adapt a few key elements that give a nod to the original design while complementing the rest of the home. In the case of the Aman Venice inspiration, we found similar crystal water taps, sourced the same Silver Wave black marble, and designed a ceiling cornice reminiscent of the original, but more in the scale and style of her home.
I consider travel-inspired designs successful when they evoke the same feelings as the beloved destination, while also maintaining the integrity of the actual home itself. The experience is similar, but the details themselves are rarely the same.
If you’ve ever wanted to design your space to reflect a beloved travel memory, I hope this provides a bit of clarity to my own thought process and approach. Or, if you’re like me — insanely antsy to hop on a plane and travel literally anywhere right now — take some time to live vicariously through the photos of these breathtaking Aman resorts. Until next time,