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Luxury hotels

Signature suites, designer saucers

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A room to match your dress? Luxury hotels are roping in designers to maximize their luxe quotient.

There are few things that hotels haven't tried to add the luxe, indulgent touch to their services - flown in Michelin chefs, offered butler service, in-room bartender or even a personalised shamanic healer. But there's nothing like designer digs to attract guests accustomed to luxury and create a buzz about the hotel's brand.

Hotels around the world, including in India, are turning to the world of fashion, not just to harness design sensibilities but also to appeal to a segment that is kitted out in designer wear 24x7. As for the designers, a well-designed hotel can act as a live-in portfolio.

In India, designers like Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Raghuvendra Rathore have swapped the runway for hotel restaurants and VIP suites. It's not simply the linen on the bed or the sofa upholstery that subtly screams designer but also the fittings in the bathroom, commissioned artwork on the walls and an array of quirky signature services.

Sabyasachi's cinema-inspired suite designed for 51 Buckingham Gate in London, a Taj property, has the same effect as his saris. At £5, 100 (Rs 4. 20 lakh) per night, the two-bedroom suite has been designed as a tribute to the history of film and takes inspiration from motion pictures across the globe. "For a person who really and truly enjoys cinema the references are quite easy to understand, " says the designer who designed everything from the wall paper and linen to the tableware and plumbing. It even showcases his list of the world's best movies.

One of the challenges of designing the suite was integrating state-of-the-art technology with a space that is inspired by the cinema of the '40s-50 s. The 85-inch, high definition 3D television and surround sound system from Steinway Lyngdorf had to look at home with the dêcor that was sourced from Turkey, Afghanistan, Morocco, Paris, Great Britain and various parts of India. "It gave me a platform to create a space that celebrates the arts and crafts movement with a mix of technology, " says Mukherjee, who has three stores in the United States apart from five flagship stores in India. The suite's 1, 800 square feet are however more valuable than a few racks at Selfridges.

Rathore, who revived and patented the bandhgala and jodhpur look, isn't just another fashion designer entering the field of interior design. He has a team of eight people who are involved in everything from visual design to sourcing raw material like kota stone and fabric. Having designed Ajit Bhawan, India's oldest heritage hotel which is run by his brother, and a Rajasthani villa in Rawla Narlai, Rathore has also worked on the 5-star fortress Suryagarh, Jaisalmer's biggest and luxurious property that combines the "spartan with the sumptuous".

"We created everything for Suryagarh, right from the crest and logo to the 'Do Not Disturb' sign to the cup and saucer. We conceive everything like we do when we design clothes, " Rathore explains. "And all this is within a fixed budget. As a designer you have to use your resources and space intelligently, without underscoring the elan and ambience of the space. "

The Park invited Tahiliani, known for his drapes and Swarovski-studded saris, to design a suite and a restaurant that would do justice to Hyderabad's opulent regal legacy. The Indian restaurant at the 7-star property, Aish, is a picture of extravagance. Black and white silverframed prints from the Nizam era cover the walls and lit by a giant Swarovski chandelier while crystals and pearls lie scattered about on the mother-of-pearl inlaid serving platforms. The La Sultana signature suite pays homage to the women of the court. The emphasis here is on contemporary designs accentuated by traditional crafts, much like Tahiliani's couture collections.

"My clothes are designed as contemporary silhouettes, which are culturally rooted and have traditional embroidery for the detailing. The same philosophy is followed in our interiors that are modern in form and structure, but have elements of intrinsic Indian craftsmanship such as jali work, mother of pearl inlays in floors and carved panels covered in silver leaf, " says Tahiliani. Tahiliani has also worked on The Sol, a rustic getaway in Goa.

But not all fashion designers want to use a bedroom or a restaurant to complement their couture collection. Bollywood favourite Manish Malhotra dabbled in interior design when he created a Bombaystyle lounge-cum-bar for a friend in New York, but is too immersed in building his brand to find time for another such project. "I wouldn't do it today. I am too busy expanding my brand. And also the day I decide to go in that direction, I would do something completely different. I would of course retain the essential Manish Malhotra ideology of glamour but it would be different from my clothes, " he says.

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