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Interior designer Tara Bernerd on how to do luxury with character

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From black marble to colored glass

hotel lobby
Ceramic tiled flooring and concrete walls at the SIXTY SoHo hotel in New York City
All photos courtesy Tara Bernerd & Partners

British interior designer Tara Bernerd knows a thing or two about luxury. Known for her work for posh boutique hotels like the Thompson Chicago and SIXTY SoHo, Bernerd operates on the opposite extreme of sterile-hotel stereotypes, creating instead warm spaces rich in color and texture.

In Tara Bernerd: Place, a new book out this month spotlighting the London-based designer’s work, we get a sense of how the same ideas she employs for dynamic hospitality spaces can also be applied broadly in private homes, residential developments, and, yes, yachts.

To find out how one can channel some of Bernerd’s style, we asked the designer for some insight into how she created a few of the intriguing spaces showcased in Place. Below, check out Bernerd’s design notes, which have been edited and condensed for clarity.

How to zone open-plan spaces

A bespoke bookshelf-cum-fireplace creates a cozy zone in Bernerd’s own home

Installing a feature bookshelf or fireplace is a great means of creating cocooned, more intimate enclosures within larger, open plan spaces.

My feeling is to hold onto books and display them, so in my own home we installed a bespoke bookshelf-cum-fireplace within my main living space to create a cozier area to sit, read, and enjoy the view, without detraction from the overall feeling of space and light.

Lighting is also another great way of zoning the space.

It supports the layout by indicating the function of different areas, with careful consideration to uplighting, spotlights, and lamps.

How to liven up a muted palette

A subdued but dynamic room in the Center Parcs Treehouse hotel in the U.K.

Texture is key and plays a pivotal role in ensuring a palette isn’t too washed out, so one must be sure to mix fabrics and materials.

For this particular project, we combined wooden floors with grey flannels and natural linens to create a textured, rustic vibe.

Lighting is always terribly important.

Although this space benefitted from an abundance of natural light, we included low-level lighting and table lamps to ensure that the scheme retained a certain warmth, especially when the evening takes hold.

Finally, art adds that final layer and character.

For this project, we introduced a gallery-style wall with framed photographs of the local wildlife as a nod to its treetop location.

How to work with raw materials

Brick, iron, and timber mix in the hotel lobby at Thompson Chicago

It’s important when using industrial elements to combine these with softer, warmer tones and textures to create an inviting environment.

The hotel lobby at Thompson Chicago is a great example of this with its mixture of exposed brick, iron framework, and timber panelling and beams. The raw components were balanced out with rich, smoky velvets, fantastic grey flannels, and soft leathers to create an overall sensation of rough luxury.

How to use black in the bathroom

Black marble and mirrored glass in a guest bathroom at The Hari London

A key rule when using dark colors successfully is allowing for balance.

Finishing touches such as a mirrored glass wall prevent the space from feeling overbearing, whilst spot-lighting is key to illuminating surfaces and attracting the senses.

The way we feel about bathrooms is changing: it can no longer be a throw-away area or afterthought. Instead it should be a space of indulgence. As a result, we are seeing more bold statements in bathroom design of late and the monochrome scheme in this guest bathroom with its use of black marble for the walls and floor is a great example of this, creating attitude and impact.

Crisp white towels are always a must!

How to make a statement with glassware

Dark-hued glassware is an accent in this Hong Kong penthouse

Colored glass is a great way of adding that final touch to a space.

In this penthouse in Hong Kong, the darker hues work as a subtle accent against the muted tones of the master suite. I’m a huge fan of colored glass and Murano is a personal favorite of mine, especially their smoky, more sculptural pieces.

Even a simple water jug or set of glass tumblers can add that extra touch.

Collecting interesting glass can be a costly hobby if looking at original pieces from the 1950s and ‘60s. However, I often look in The Conran Shop, amongst other stores, for contemporary pieces.