YOO, the luxury residential and hotel design company, wants to take the stress out of designing your home says Jacky Parker
If you’ve ever hesitated over buying a new sofa, or bed, or for that matter any piece of furniture whether large or small, because you’re unsure of how it might look in your own home, or worse, made an expensive mistake, there is a way forward.
After fifteen years designing contemporary luxury hotels and apartments, the founders of YOO, entrepreneur John Hitchcox and designer, Philippe Starck, have introduced its first interiors collection, YOO Home. Available at Harrods and designed by the elite of the modern interiors world, the collection consists of 160 original pieces, such as a luxurious studded leather table by much-loved British designer, Bethan Gray, as well as exclusive pieces by international design houses. Poltrona Frau, Flos, Boffi and Maserati by Zanotta with their Corina chair, inspired by the seat of their famous Tridente sports car. Many other top names have participated in the collection, which also includes furniture and lighting from YOO Studio, the in-house design team, headed up by Philippe Starck. ‘Over the years, we’ve built good relationships with these great masters and design houses, so it made sense to collaborate and create our own retail collection,’ says co-founder of YOO Home, John Hitchcox.
Importantly, alongside YOO Home is YOO Styler, an in-store design system that cleverly enables customers to use a table-top touchscreen to create a plan of their home. They can then drag and drop their chosen pieces of furniture or lighting onto the plan and see a 3D scaled version of their roomset projected onto a five-metre screen. The software will even calculate whether the furniture will fit through doorways and stairwells. ‘The whole concept of my business from the outset has been about satiating my frustrations when it comes to furnishing a home,’ says John Hitchcox. ‘I’m the son of an architect and I’ve been immersed in design for years yet I still have difficulty trying to imagine a piece of furniture in a showroom, in my home. So I thought if I feel like that other people must do too.’
Indeed it was whilst running his first business, The Manhattan Loft Company in London in the early 90s, that John had the same thought, and the idea for YOO was first conceived. ‘We were creating loft apartments in these interesting industrial buildings, taking people through the process of designing their own homes,’ he explains. ‘I realised then that our customers knew where they wanted the walls and doors, but, like me, they were less comfortable when it came to the furnishings.’
Having spotted a gap in the market for apartments with well-designed interiors, the entrepreneur then considered who would be best to work with, and it was on a trip to The Delano – designed by Philippe Starck – that the penny dropped. ‘I noticed whilst I was there that our customers were very similar,’ says John. ‘By sheer coincidence I then happened to be working in Paris and my business partner’s next door neighbour was Philippe Starck. He’d heard about what we were doing, so we met and I put my proposition to him; which was that he had designed everything to go in the home, so why not design the home too.’ The designer was clearly receptive and the result of that happy accident has been a successful 15-year business partnership that has spawned 56 apartment towers and luxury hotels around the globe. ‘It’s great fun working with Philippe and he has become a close friend and a loyal partner,’ says John. ‘We have clearly defined roles. Philippe takes care of the design direction, with the design team under his tutelage, but we share the same ethos; that design is not just about aesthetics, it should improve the quality of people’s lives at home.’
What all of the award-winning YOO properties share is not just good design and stylish interiors – some of which were designed by Kelly Hoppen, Jade Jagger and Anouska Hempel – but a community aspect as well, with clubhouses, spas and large lobbies. ‘We build vertical villages,’ says John. ‘People rarely live where they were born, particularly in the emerging markets, so in one of our properties they can be private inside their own homes but the layouts are designed with shared areas for those who want to interact.’
The international nature of their business was one of the reasons having their furniture collection at Harrods appealed. ‘We have projects in 30 different countries around the world and every one of our customers has heard of Harrods,’ says John. ‘It’s such an international brand and that really gelled with me. Eventually, we’d like to do something in Dubai and Hong Kong too.’
The furniture in the showroom at Harrods is stylish and more conservative than anything you might have seen in the YOO hotel projects, such as the Mira Moon in Hong Kong, with its huge eye-catching red tulip chairs and giant wood carved lanterns by Marcel Wanders. ‘There’s far more theatre in our hotel lobbies,’ says John. ‘For YOO Home, we’ve incorporated the four
styles in our residential projects: Classic, Culture, Nature and Minimal, which are about guidance when it comes to choosing furnishings. Our retail collection is calmer; we want people to feel comfortable.’