Design Systems uses low lighting and marble to create "cold and lonely" mood inside Tuve hotel
Atmospheric photographs of a Swedish lake provided the reference material for this Hong Kong hotel, which Design Systems has lined with flecked marble and textured concrete (+ slideshow).
A hotelier approached the Hong Kong design studio with a set of images by Danish architectural and landscape photographer Kim Høltermand.
The Tuve photoset, after which the hotel is named, features misty lake-side scenes and half submerged rocks.
Høltermand describes his images as having a "cold and lonely" mood – a feeling Design Systems tried to capture through the use of mottled grey materials in the 66-room boutique hotel in Hong Kong's Eastern District.
"The client would like to differentiate the hotel by rarity," explained Design Systems' Harriet Ka Ling Li.
"Endorsing an alternative understanding of rarity, we refrained from using the most exotic materials and the most exquisite fabrics or designer furniture to create a luxurious hotel."
Each of the £200-per-night rooms features grey marble, concrete and timber surfaces, while bathrooms have walls with swirling grey and white patterns.
Doors made from gridded reinforced glass give the domestic spaces an appearance more akin to offices.
"We choose to use relatively common materials such as concrete, galvanised mild steel, brass, oak and wired glass," said Li.
"The challenge is to enhance the materials' natural beauty and unleash design possibilities. We do so by exploring material textures with surface treatment techniques, and by use of lighting."
"We feel that the term luxury has much been vulgarised nowadays," she continued. "Rather, we prefer the term refinement. Refinement goes beyond the surface."
An arched entrance hall by a set of battered metal doors leads from the street into the lobby. Its curving walls feature board-marked concrete and the floor is of smooth slabs of grey-veined marble.
Low-level lighting along the base of the concrete walls guides the way along the gloomy tunnel-like space to a set of imposing metal gates.
"We have created a sequence of fantastical scenes, starting from the patrons' arrival, through the entrance gate into the solemn corridor; via the lift to the reception lobby, and the tranquil room-level lift lobby," said Li.
"Such choreography of spatial surprises prepares the patrons for the room, the destination."
Speckled lighting illuminates the hotel lobby, where a reception desk sits below a perforated metal ceiling. A pair of lifts transport guests to the suites above, which are linked by a network of stark-white corridors.
In each of the rooms, a pale wooden box opens to reveal a desk and minibar. A door folds from the side of the cabinet to reveal shelves with tea-making equipment, while a lid lifts from the top to allow access to the desk and a chair.
Patches of carpet placed below the cabinets provide a homely accent that contrasts the hard materials used elsewhere. Larger suites with integrated tables feature desktop versions of the minibar.
"By unfolding the spaces and details layer by layer, the patrons will be able to discover the hotel's refinement and hidden beauty, making the sojourn an experience of serendipities," said Li.
The rooms are furnished with stools made from lumps of roughly-hewn marble, while the surfaces of brass switch plates have been left to oxidise.
Wells moulded into the ceilings of the rooms hold disk-shaped uplights that emanate a soft yellow-tinged glow.
"Light is a universal design language that is able to induce emotional resonance in travellers of all cultures and genders," said Li. "Either natural or artificial, it is the medium that allows materials to express their special qualities: to reveal textures, to shine, to cast shadows."
Past projects by the studio include a Shenzhen penthouse featuring a lawn shaped like a miniature mountain range and a control room at Hong Kong's international airport with a faceted ceiling.
Photography is by Matteo Carcelli and Design Systems.
Designer: Design Systems Ltd
Project Team: Lam Wai Ming, Kent Wing Kin Wong, Phoebe Wai Fung Chu, Zhang Xing, Kurt Kin Lung Chung, Fang Huanhuan
Sketches: Jada Jinglu Zheng