There’s a new voice in leading hospitality interiors business RPW Design, which promises an unforgettable five-star approach to luxury interiors

Waiting to meet Ariane Steinbeck, the new Managing Director of leading interiors company RPW Design, I can’t get enough of my surroundings. Opulent lighting, decadent wooden furniture, chairs that you just sink into… And this is just the meeting room at the Barbican-based business. A flat screen TV, meanwhile, reels off some of the hospitality interior design practice’s recent work, a byword for style and luxury. ‘It’s the absolute insistence on five-star quality for any price range that we design to,’ Ariane breezes in and clocks my awe-struck gaze. ‘If you want to talk to someone about a hotel project, you couldn’t come to a better team of people, both in terms if creativity and knowledge of the business.’

Ariane is just back from Krakow, but you wouldn’t notice it, given that she is full of verve and energy whilst talking about her new job. It’s probably due to the fact that she has spent her working life travelling – from the US to Hong Kong via the Middle East – and also the opportunity that presented itself when she found herself working alongside RPW Design founder, Jan Wilson. ‘We spoke the same language,’ she grins. ‘I would have never left Hong Kong if this situation had not presented itself. It was a company that was doing work to the exact level of quality where I had always focused my energy.’

Her role at RPW Design marks the first time she has immersed herself in the European market. ‘A lot of people do say London is where it is at,’ Ariane says. Does she agree with that? ‘I do. I think it is as vibrant as any big city. There are so many cultures. Here [Barbican] feels like where the creativity really happens. You can find small specialist stores, gilding shops, interesting fashion, little pockets of very creative, but sophisticated design.’

Since 1988 RPW Design has been renowned for its creation of stunningly individual interiors, and just four years prior to that Ariane also caught the bug. ‘In my view hotel design started in 1984 when Andree Putman did the Morgans in New York,’ Ariane looks back. ‘I was still at university and that’s when I saw what could be done with a hotel, and that’s when I knew that’s what I wanted to do.’

Pre-RPW Design, Ariane was one of the founding partners of The Gettys Group, Inc., in the US, and spent eight years in Hong Kong where she established the firm’s Asia-Pacific HQ and opened their Manila office. Can she pick out stand-out projects from this period of her career? ‘I can narrow it down to one,’ she beams, ‘the Peninsula Hong Kong, the grand dame of the Far East. It was a very complex project because it was so near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts. I am very proud of the work as I think it showed what could be done in a renovation, and what can be done with a well functioning team.’

Ariane name-checks the Marriott Park Lane and Marriott County Hall as stand-outs for RPW Design – ‘You are only as good as your last project,’ Ariane says – but thoughts are already turning to the future. ‘I was in Krakow to look at this palazzo project and it’s wonderfully located,’ she enthuses. ‘Before I can even start thinking what I would do with it, I need to see what’s going on around it, what are the restaurants that work, where do the people like to go, then I look at the building, which is basically a wreck right now, but you start imagining things. It’s all fine and dandy to have a fabulous concept proposal, but to actually bring it to life? That’s where the real skill is.’

The glint in Ariane’s eye shows she can’t wait to get started. It’s only been a couple of months since she took on the post at RPW Design, but her energy and enthusiasm is plain to see. ‘I think I am incredibly young at heart, I feel like I am in my 20s!’ she laughs when I mention that point to her. ‘I feel much younger than I am. My husband feels the same way, so we have always been close to different age groups, so I feel I am young enough to bring the energy and naughtiness, but also experienced enough to know when to draw the line. That’s an interesting dynamic to bring to the table.’ The future for RPW Design looks very eye-catching indeed.

WORDS Mark Kebble

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