10 Minutes with Alexandra Champalimaud

April 2015

Alexandra Champalimaud has woven context and heritage into striking narratives and exceptional encounters from the Bel-Air in Los Angeles, the Dorchester London and The St Regis Beijing to private residences across Germany, Japan and South Africa. The internationally acclaimed designer and Interior Design Hall of Famer illustrates what informs her elegant styling and unassuming luxury to DESIREE KOH.

1. Which came first: your penchant for travel or how it found its way into your forte in hospitality design?

I find hospitality design fascinating because the outcome has a profound impact on a traveller’s experience and leaves a lasting impression. I've lived in several countries throughout my lifetime, including Portugal, England and Canada, which has surely planted the seed for curiosity. The more you travel, the more inspired you become to create lasting art, which in my case is through interior design. All of the places that I have visited, fashions that I adore, wonderful meals I’ve had, and gorgeous hotels I’ve stayed in have influenced my design sense.

2. How much of your personal travel style and preferences go into your hospitality projects?

It's a delicate balance between delivering a product that suits the project and its clientele, and our firm's own vision for what we see the project as. Our mark is certainly prevalent so that you can enter a space designed by Champalimaud and feel our presence – but no two projects are ever the same. A great example of this is The Liberty Hotel in Boston, which used to be the Charles Street Jail. We loved the challenge of converting an unusual and inhospitable place into something beautiful and welcoming.

3. What are the new perspectives and sensibilities you might need to bring into the upcoming projects in Asia?

Asian sensibilities differ greatly from those in Western culture and our firm must be sensitive to these cultural differences. There's nothing quite like Asian hospitality – their attention to detail is impeccable. We find their outlook on design to be remarkably rich yet clean, streamlined and sophisticated.

4. How do you stay ahead of jetsetters in a smaller world to keep your hotel designs fresh and exciting?

It's not difficult when I find myself constantly travelling. I'm on a plane at least a few times a month – mostly for business but sometimes for pleasure. It's also important to go beyond the main attractions and deep into the soul of a destination. Savour what the locals cherish and experience the bespoke. These types of experiences are invaluable to me.

5. What do you look for in a hotel?

For me, a hotel must first and foremost be indicative of its location and local culture. When I travel across several continents for an authentic experience, I would like for my hotel to be an integral part of this cultural immersion. Design, culinary offerings and well-curated services and amenities are all features that grab my attention.

6. What are your secrets and tricks to maintaining balance and wellness travelling six months of the year?

I'm so used to always being on the go that travelling has become second nature. Any frequent traveller develops a system – from packing appropriately to maintaining a nutritious diet. I love to swim and cycle, so I to try to stay at hotels that offer those facilities.

7. Which places in the world have been your best sources of inspiration?

I recently travelled to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which left me speechless with its beauty. I'm utilising my findings for inspiration behind our firm's latest line of textiles.