One-on-One with Jan Wilson, Founder and Owner of RPW Design
You walk into a beautiful luxury hotel and you are greeted by a well-appointed lobby, check into your room and are so delighted by the way it has been set up and above-all, how functional it is. What do you do next? Evidently, you begin to wonder about the person who created something so alluring and want to know more.
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Jan Wilson a great name behind hotels. Australian born Jan Wilson founded RPW Design to do what she loves best – creating beautiful interiors for luxury hotels. Jan is widely recognised as an innovative designer with a unique understanding of the operational and commercial issues fundamental to client satisfaction and the successful outcome of any design project. She has been pivotal to RPW’s Development and collaborated with some of the big names in the industry to create a variety of projects of great artistic and historic value.
Jan’s RPW Design counts some of the World’s most luxurious hotels among their clients. They include the Dorchester, Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental, JW Marriott, Kempinski, Fairmont Raffles, Ritz Carlton, Okura, Waldorf Astoria, and InterContinental among many other luxury brands.
For Jan, it is all about property owners giving her pleasure of using their money to improve their assets. The objective is to add-value and enjoy the process while doing so.
Jan has travelled the world and worked on a variety of projects which have all turned out to be very successful. She likes hotel rooms so much so that she designed a whole suite for herself. I have to say that even using the loo at Jan’s is an experience!
How did it all start?
I trained and qualified as an architect in Australia in 1976, got married a year after and then moved to London to take my career to the next level. After ten years working with one of the big names in the hospitality and design business, RPW Design was born.
What makes a good designer?
Any designer who has taste knows how to ask the right questions and by asking the right questions you can understand what the client is hoping to achieve. The ethos is to ask the intelligent questions and have a prominent eye for detail. You have to understand the people you are working for and their guests. You should also not confuse impressing people with real comfort.
A good designer will also collaborate well with other design specialists such as lighting and security for example to achieve their goal. They must also know who to call on to assist with a project.
What are some of the things that you consider when designing a hotel?
For me, the locality is very important. The hotel has to reflect its location. I like someone who understands the locality to be involved in the room design. I like to meet the local craftsmen, artists, visit the local markets to get a feel of the location and select beautiful artefacts.
I especially want to be surprised when I walk into a hotel. Whenever I walk into a hotel, it is always the visionary memory that has delighted me. I believe that the visual memory should be particular, I would like to think that everyone who stayed in a hotel that I designed would come back to request or inquire about my work.
And for hotel bedrooms?
We design rooms to increase room rates. Guests who stay in hotel rooms do not want to be frustrated during their stay. We sit with the client to understand what they want to achieve and then advise them on how to achieve their vision.
Some cultures only want to impress. However, travelling is hard work so simplicity must come before comfort. Today’s luxury is not about space but volume. First things guests do when they arrive in a room is walk to the window. Switches need to be in the right place; corridors must not be noisy, there should be mobile phone charging stations by the bed for example.
Would you say that a beautiful design is the answer to any hotelier’s business dream?
No. However beautiful the design concept, I would say that service is key. Guests are immediately awed with the opulent design when they walk into a hotel and naturally expect the same quality of service to follow and quite right too. Take the Claridges model for example, the hotel exudes grandeur and service is paramount. An excellent service must always be delivered to compliment a beautiful design, right acoustics, good smell and feeling. Everything they do at the Claridges has the same goal of excellence; from how you are received, to attention to detail. Great service comes naturally, you do not have to ask for it.
What would you say is the perfect hotel lobby?
It all depends on the hotel and its operations however, I would say the Oberoi Mauritius with its warm “meet and greet” on arrival without the infrastructure sets a good example.
Who buys the artworks and ornaments?
I buy most of the pieces to make sure that they are different from competitors. I search for interesting pieces and propose them to my clients. Usually they like them.
What is your favourite destination?
London makes a great destination but I like Mauritius.
What keeps you motivated?
I have got the most exciting job in the world. My clients give me an opportunity to enjoy my hobby. They give me the pleasure of using their money to improve their assets.
I have a job where I can work with creative people and when people like my work, it is my satisfaction.