Meet the designer behind this $6000-a-night ultra-luxe hotel

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Internationally renowned interior designer Tara Bernerd has a long list of high-profile clients. From Four Seasons to Belmond, Hari Hong Kong to SIXTY SoHo, she’s been tasked with designing – or redesigning – some of the world’s most luxurious interiors. She shares her musings on all things design with Forbes Australia. 
Tara Bernerd. Image: Supplied

Where do you draw your creative inspiration from? 

There are so many places from architecture, film and certainly travel. Unusually the smallest object can sometimes be the catalyst to the bigger picture and equally from everything that stimulates that is current. I also tend to draw on traditions from the past. 

What piece of work are you most proud of? 

This is a tremendously hard question for me, as each project has a personality and story of its own. It’s almost like asking me which child I’m most proud of. However, two projects come to mind; one launching next year is unique and incredibly layered, which is the launch of Maroma, A Belmond Hotel – Riviera Maya.

f Maroma, A Belmond Hotel – Riviera Maya. Image: Supplied

On this project, we have also worked with many local artisans to bring colour, life, and authenticity to the resort. In addition, we have also been appointed to work on a project in the heart of Milan, which is an honour and a privilege to work in the heart of a city I am linked to – from the people to the design savvy. 

Tell us about the Maroma project. What was key in that process? 

It is crucial to find that balance and to be conscious of what not to change. When working with such an iconic hotel as Maroma, it was vital to retain that original spirit and character that is so beloved of the property but then to subtly reinvent and contemporise the design bringing a sense of home away from home. 

Maroma, a Belmond hotel, reopens on 25 May.

What inspired your work there? 

The Mayan Riviera is a beautiful place, and inspiration is everywhere. The property itself was once the home of architect Jose Luis Moreno. This tells a unique story of a home and certainly touches the DNA. Add in the wonderful artisans and craftsmen of Mexico, and soon you have to start editing because there is so much inspiration. 

What’s the difference (mentally and design-wise) between re-vamping and starting from scratch? 

This very much depends on the project. Starting with a blank canvas on a new project can be thrilling because anything is possible. Then at other times, when you are re-vamping a treasure, you perhaps see more clearly what elements genuinely bring the magic to the place. We can retain that specialness whilst simultaneously bringing it subtly up to date, infusing some new themes of our own into the established DNA of the hotel. 

What is your greatest achievement? 

Going to work every day with the most extraordinary talent. I feel great pride in the entire team that has built up over the decades and how our passion and care for every project remains as energetic as the day I started. 

Who do you admire in the design industry? 

Endless people in the design industry come to mind – particularly Thomas Heatherwick, who is also a friend, for his incredible vision and dynamic approach. Of course, Frank Gehry is a legend; his effortless style, sheer confidence, and the artistic value he brings to the world of architecture. 

Tara been tasked with designing – or redesigning – some of the world’s most luxurious interiors. Image:

What are some important considerations when designing interiors? 

Our design philosophy is very layered, taking into account many different influences. We tend to take a very holistic design approach to each of our projects, envisaging the key elements of a design in our first brainstorming meeting. We try to ensure that each project we undertake is indigenous to the surrounding environment, and we find each has its unique identity. We also provide a character, or what we refer to as a ‘DNA’, for each project that is embedded at the earliest stages. 

Luxury

Where is the most beautiful interior architecture you’ve ever seen? 

Pierre Chareau and his work in the 1920s on Maison de Vere was then, and remains, a timeless achievement and is perhaps more handsome than beautiful, but it brought an urban elegance to a city so ahead of its time. 

Is there a design project you haven’t worked on that you’d like to? 

I think my dream is always to be working. Each project brings a new story, and a new host of characters. We are working increasingly on resorts which I find exciting. I find a constant goal is that of bringing a sense of home, something inviting to all our projects, a sense that the hotels belong to their guests 

What was most important for you when designing your own home? 

Having recently just designed my pied-a-terre in Milan, I think it is about how one uses the space and then the layers of finishes and ensuring interesting furniture that means something, as well as the practical side. Of course, colour and textures come bounding in, and these are the same values I uphold in all my projects. 

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