ART & SOUL
Isabelle Miaja has designed and decorated hotels and residences from all over the world, infusing each space with a skillful blend of art and French savoir faire
When we met Isabelle Miaja at the new headquarters of Miaja Design Group, the interior designer and her team were still in the midst of moving in, while busy being in the thick of projects. Founded in 1995 by the Paris-born, Singapore-based designer, her eponymous firm has worked on a range of projects for hospitality groups and residences worldwide over two decades; the Miaja Gallery was established in 2015 to reflect the increasing influence of art in the firm’s extensive portfolio. The designer also seeks to grow Maison Miaja, which focuses on limitededition decorative objects, with her first collection of tableware launching this year. “I think that there’s no such thing as a dream project—i like the idea that you can do that with every project,” quips the founder and managing director of Miaja Design Group. On the occasion of her 25th year as an interior designer in Singapore, she discusses the next steps for Miaja Design Group as well as the latest trends in the world of interior design.
Tell us more about your most memorable projects.
The most memorable ones include my first hospitality project in Singapore, which was for the M Hotel at Anson Road. I was initially given a very small space to decorate, which was the executive lounge. But once we did that, the client let us design the full hotel. That was a satisfying moment, and to this day, if you go to the hotel, it has not changed much; it has stood the test of time. After that, we had projects like The Sukhothai Bangkok in Thailand,
where we redesigned an iconic hotel. It was a meaningful involvement with a hotel that already had such a strong personality, and to keep our design in line with that. Another memorable project was our first foray in the Middle East— the Radisson Blu hotel in Media City, Dubai. When we first started working on it, it was branded as a Radisson hotel but after we finished working on it we managed to rebrand it as Radisson Blu. It was a recognition of our capability to work on both interior designs and the branding of a hotel.
Could you share more about your creative process?
When you start a project, you need to understand its sense of place, the people you’re targeting and the expectations of the client. The concept needs to be grounded in a solid history and storyline. That’s what we do—we create a story that relates to people emotionally. Take the Pullman Jakarta, for example. This hotel is a concrete space that reminds me of museums and contemporary art. I thought about the dynamic Indonesian art scene, and I felt that I can give a voice to these artists, so we created the hotel as a museum, to give guests the chance to look at and interact with the artworks. I think that people visit museums because they want it to be a reflection of the place they are visiting. This is how I think hotels should be—to reflect people living in a moment in time, while envisioning their future.
“TO ME, ART IS AN INTERESTING WAY OF PROJECTING THE EVOLUTION OF A PLACE”
How does the use of art shape your creative process?
To me, art is an interesting way of projecting the evolution of a place; it dictates the shape, materials and inspiration of a project. The Sofitel Mumbai and Pullman Jakarta hotels were the first instances where I started looking at projects with an eye on art. This gave me the impulse to open my own gallery. Now we’re working with art, interior design and architecture through a very holistic approach; there are now projects where art is taking precedence in everything we do. We also work on landscaping when we design resorts.
Why do you think hotel-style interiors are popular with homeowners?
Many clients like having a well-made bed with accent pillows, beautiful fabrics and bedside lights; they want a space that is calm and well-thought out like a hotel room. I think that hotel and residential design have fed off each other in the past decade; this synergy has much more of an effect. Now, the trend is about recreating the cosy environment of the home within a hotel. The result: beautiful homes where everything is so pristine, and hotels that give you something to dream of for your home.
LEFT TO RIGHT The spa lounge of Pullman Jakarta Central Park in Indonesia; French interior designer Isabelle Miaja; the VIP suite at So Sofitel Singapore; the Ozen by Atmosphere at Maadhoo resort in Maldives