Sep 13, 2019 | By Athena Chen
May 04, 2017
By Carla Buzasi
There have been various signs over the past few years that I might be finally growing up: I have attempted to cook something from an actual cookbook rather than resorting to Deliveroo every night; I sorted out a will (that was a depressing experience, let me tell you); and, more telling, I’ve stopped buying fashion magazines and swapped them out for interiors ones instead.
In my head, there is a future beckoning when I waft around hotel rooms telling little armies of assistants the right colours to paint the walls, and where to place artfully chosen slouchy sofas.
That was the image – an hour with the uber-successful Ariane Steinbeck has educated me somewhat further. Sadly, interior design for hotels turns out to be less wafting and more hard graft, and as much crunching numbers as sketching floor-plans. But this is a woman who has lived across the globe, founded and built a successful business in two continents, and most recently taken over as managing director at specialist interior design consultancy RPW, so she knows what she’s talking about.
So while I go back to mood-boarding and magazine tearing, this is what it takes to really succeed in interior design:
How do you describe what do you do for a living?
I design enduring and unique interior spaces for owners, developers and brands around the world. We focus on the hospitality industry. I’ve worked on numerous projects at famous hotels including the Peninsula Hotels’ flagship, The Peninsula Hong Kong, but also on many properties with lesser visibility. It’s all about the positive impact we can make on the value of the assets we work on – that’s the desired outcome on each and every job.
At RPW, we have recently completed the Fairmont St. Andrews in Scotland, Marriott Park Lane and Marriott County Hall in London and are working on several leading properties in this great city at the moment, which still have to remain nameless until we are allowed to finally unveil them!
What’s behind the success of your business?
Technical knowledge honed by decades in the field and having designed for a great variety of projects across the globe. Having lived and travelled amongst many different cultures and being acutely aware and respectful of individual differences and desires of the end users, our guests.
Tell me about a failure, and what you learnt from it…
Not resisting being ‘too many things to all people’ and growing a firm too large. If you compromise your values, it WILL come back to haunt you.
Do you believe in light-bulb moments?
Where do you do your best thinking?
Randomly ideas for solutions will pop into my mind. No special place.
When you get creative block, where do you turn for inspiration?
The Internet: everything you’d want to research at your fingertips.
How do you celebrate?
Who or what makes you most happy?
Genuine appreciation for the work we do. And on the private side, our nuclear family at peace with each other, discovering new places, cultures, food and sharing affection.
What would be your best advice for today’s 16-year-olds?
I’ve got one of them at home… don’t settle on a career path you don’t passionately believe in.
Can creativity be taught?
I think so, definitely!
And what about business nous?
Yes, I think you can learn the mechanics of business sense, but I don’t think every expert is necessarily a good practitioner. If you stick too closely to doing things by ‘the book’ you lose sight of the human aspect, spontaneity and the ability to bend a few rules. I have certainly learned along the way and I’m still learning.
What constantly surprises you about the world at large?
How people make political choices in their own worst interest.
What is the biggest change we’ll see in business in the next 5 to 10 years?
What are we losing that we’ll regret?
Patience for the tough but crucial work that is human interaction.
What’s your best prediction for 2030?
For the world at large: still fixing the poor choices of 2016.
For me: still full of energy in my late 60s – for whatever it is I’m doing.
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