Interior Motives redesigns Doha hotel in six weeks with greenery and monochrome palette

When Interior Motives was brought in to revamp another firm’s lacklustre design, it managed a complete turnaround in as few as six weeks for a massive airport hotel project in Doha, Qatar.

When Qatar Airways wanted to open a new hotel airport near the country’s international airport, it seemed to have been presented with a less than winning design for its proposed Oryx Rotana Hotel. As soon as the architectural structure was built, the client knew he had to change route quickly or he’d end up with a project that was less that enticing architecturally speaking as well as design-wise.

Enter Interior Motives—a leading commercial design firm in the region that’s been delivering design-forward projects for over ten years.


“The client was fantastic because it was Qatar Airways and it was the quickest presentation I’ve ever done. He wanted something contemporary and as a stop-over,” explains Julia Dempster, the managing director of Interior Motives.

“What I didn’t realise at the time when we were designing, was that they were going to actually purchase everything we specified, which never happens and it was amazing. Another interior designer had been on board and the client wasn’t happy, so we walked in to completely revise the scheme in a six-week period. I had to decide and re-specify everything on the project.”

According to Dempster, Qatar Airways was ultimately the ideal client as it tended to approve her designs and act quickly. In addition, the client rarely put the design team through any loops by needlessly involving the operator. But what really made the client stand out from Dempster’s previous ones, was its leniency towards purchasing the specified furnishing, rather than ordering market copies.

“My presentation to the client was eight minutes and he approved everything in that eight minutes. And we were working with a project manager who kept telling me to create alternative designs, but basically everything that I had originally chosen, the client said yes. He literally went from board to board saying ‘Yes, yes, change that fabric, yes.” It was so quick and it was easy,” says Dempster.

She adds: “It was meant to be contemporary, but he didn’t really give a massive brief apart from wanting a contemporary space for international travellers during a stop-over because it’s right next to the airport. But I tried to save him money by using inexpensive fabrics on the curtains, where a massive amount of fabric was needed.”

The design team was governed quite heavily by the pre-existing structure and materials that had already been purchased before being brought on to salvage the interior. Challenges included managing the large atrium in the centre, working around a central courtyard and trying to connect the interior to the exterior façade.

With the exterior façade boasting a lot of black, white and grey panels, Dempster would ultimately decide to go with a monochromatic palette. “It was very graphic and it had a lot of black, silver and white. So I had worked from that basically and moved backwards. Everything in the central lobby is white, grey black and there is a lot of greenery. Because of the sky-light, I wanted it to feel like an open garden so I kept it quite graphic and monochromatic.”

Due to the massive size of the atrium, Dempster and the design team opted for sound-absorbing design features such as carpeting and large chandeliers to bring down the height of the ceiling.

Dempster explains: “To soften the noise in the central area, we used carpet from Steppe V, which again was its design but I never thought the client was actually going to purchase it from Steppe V. We also used a lot of Maxalto pieces of furniture.”

According to Dempster, the furniture spaces in the lobby evoke the sense of various caged sections because the marble used appears to be striped. “My design was quite masculine and we went for curves in the furniture because the architecture was so sever almost,” she adds.

As the structure had been built by the previous architect, it maintained nothing delicate about it, and Dempster and her team of designers strived to bring some softness into the design. While doing so they maintained the industrial colour palette, but added life via greenery.

In addition, through the use of architectural lighting inserted into the structure, Interior Motives managed to add a more human touch to the space by creating ambiance.

As for the guest rooms, they had already reached a mock-up stage and the client had spent a large amount of money on purchasing the original specification made by the original architects. When Interior Motives came in, they opted to save from the previous design as much as possible – not only to avoid wastefulness but also due to the time constraint.

“What I did was re-use the fabrics and I changed where they were put. The previous designers had made really busy curtains and instead of wasting fabric, I used that as the bed throw so it was quite busy but it was just a strip. And then I used it as a border on the curtain. So the curtain was plain, but it had the border. I was trying to re-purpose fabrics and the carpet, because the client had already purchased them and I was dictated by what had already been purchased and what was in the mock up,” explains Dempster.

With a Chinese restaurant, bar and all-day dining area, the project’s FF&E section had a budget of $20m, but with all the original designs purchased, Dempster questioned whether or not the client was able to stick to the planned price.

Dempster says: “There wasn’t that much artwork. The atrium is absolutely massive and because of the architectural cladding, there wasn’t much space for walls. But in the lobby, it’s more intimate so we had portraits of the sheikhs. But we had a specialist finish consisting of marble and plaster. It was more about the architectural details than artwork.”

Ultimately, Interior Motives managed a big turnaround for the Oryx Rotana Doha. With only six weeks to complete the interior, the team managed to strip the design of superfluous chaos in the aesthetics and soften the space through curved furniture and architectural lighting.

Dempster concludes: “I would not say it’s an attractive hotel externally, but business has been fantastic and all the reviews I’ve had have been great. I’ve had work from that project because everyone said the detailing was so good. So I’ve had really good clients like Hilton who said it was impressed by the detail and lighting elements.”

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