Clint Nagata, Founder of BLINK Design Group • Hotel designs

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Since setting up his own studio in Bangkok in 2006, Clint Nagata, as founder, has been the driving force behind BLINK which now has three studios and an impressive number of clients and projects, as well as several design awards on the way. of road. The studios are characterized by a sense of collective creativity, and despite an obviously demanding schedule, Nagata remains an integral part of the process, overseeing each project from concept to completion.

Before exploring the latest design released from the BLINK studio – the W Dubai Mina Seyahi – we took a few steps back…

Pauline Brettell: Before opening your own studio, you were at WATG in Hawaii – you left to start BLINK Design Group in 2006. What prompted this move and made it the right time for you? in your design journey to open BLINK?

Clint Nagata: I will be forever grateful for the years spent at WATG, especially working with my mentor, Don Goo, and becoming the firm’s youngest partner. Despite this, in my mid-thirties, I realized I wanted to start my own business and moved to Bangkok, where I founded BLINK. The name is a tribute to Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” which emphasizes the power of first impressions. For me, it’s that first impression – when you meet a new client or visit a site – that drives the whole creative process. Since its launch, BLINK has focused solely on luxury hotels and resorts, and is now also moving into luxury residential designs.

Image credit: BLINK Design Group

PB: Why did you launch the studio in Thailand?

NC: I was and still am drawn to the arts, culture and vibrancy of Asia. In Thailand, I found many talented and creative designers who are fun to work with.

PB: What was the first project you did as BLINK Design Group?

NC: Conrad Sanya Haitang Bay in China.

PB: Since opening that first studio in Thailand, you now have offices in Bangkok, Shanghai and Singapore – do the studios work in collaboration or do they focus on their own projects?

NC: Our studios work collaboratively and we split the work between teams to ensure that every project and every client gets the most appropriate resources. Currently, the teams are working together on several projects around the world, from Spain to Bora Bora and everywhere in between!

textures and design details in BLINK design for W Dubai Mina Seyahi

Image credit: BLINK Design Group

PB: The notions of travel, experience and traveling are all recurring references in your work, can you talk a little more about them?

NC: At BLINK, we are committed to translating our clients’ visions into remarkable pieces of architecture inspired by travel experiences and cultural encounters. The first step in the creative process is listening: we need to understand why our customers choose a specific place, what is the story behind it, how the local community interprets the place and how customers can connect with it. We invest a lot of time in this preliminary phase of the process.

We then delve into local traditions in search of ideas that will inform our contemporary projects: we draw inspiration from cultural elements, indigenous materials, traditional crafts and local artwork. The result is a design that reflects the intrinsic qualities of a place through the eyes of the inhabitants.

Zen table garden, wood and tiles in the lounge area of ​​Roku Kyoto by BLINK

Image credit: BLINK Design Studio / Ben Richards

PB: Your design for Roko Kyoto received the Kohler Bold Design Award – can you tell us about this design? its history, its challenges and how you created this balance between traditional and contemporary in design.

NC: We designed Roku Kyoto, the first Hilton hotel under the LXR Hotels & Resorts brand in Asia-Pacific, with the discerning traveler in mind, someone looking for what I like to call a “sense of place”. We knew Hilton and the owners were looking for a one-of-a-kind design concept, a resort that would stand out from the crowd while blending into the landscape. For us, every space is a journey created by people and places: that’s why we were inspired by Kyoto’s rich heritage, its organic beauty and its Zen philosophy to create something that is both authentic and avant-garde. fashionable, elegant and contemporary.

view of Roku Kyoto at night across the water

Image credit: BLINK Design Studio / Ben Richards

Nestled at the foot of the Takagamine Mountains near the Tenjin River, the hotel is an endless exploration of Kyoto’s landscape and the simplicity of Japanese craftsmanship. It has 114 beautifully appointed rooms and suites, a restaurant, a spa, maple and cherry gardens and an outdoor heated swimming pool. We have strived to incorporate local aesthetics into every aspect of the resort’s interiors, from the pavilion-style lobby and dining room to the wooden tea room, serene wellness center and all guest rooms and contemporary suites, which exude a sense of minimalist grace.

lanterns and white leather in the bedroom at W Dubai Mina Seyahi

Image credit: BLINK Design Group

PB: Moving on to W Dubai Mina Seyahi – there are very clear references inspired by location, culture and craftsmanship – what was the starting point and how did these ideas arise?

NC: The “Traveller’s Port” – a former copper trading center where the hotel is located – was our main inspiration: we started from scratch to imbue W Dubai – Mina Seyahi with the soul of storytelling and culture. spirit of the souk, a place where people can meet and share stories. The concept resulted in rooms and suites loaded with lavish touches and hints of intrigue, adventure and romance. From treasure chest-shaped bedside tables to white leather headboards – with ribbing and shapes inspired by the plunging shape of traditional Dhow boats – patterned fabrics taken from local calligraphy and lights that look like old ones lanterns from the thousand and one nights, nods to Arabic culture is dotted everywhere. The element of surprise extends to the walk-in closets, closed off by flowing curtains in a gradient of sunset colors, echoing the hues of the bay. Here we have played with the philosophical theme of the secrets behind the veil. The storytelling continues in the bathrooms via a calligraphy motif, with bold black and white colors to echo the ink and paper. The bathrooms also feature a sitting area, encouraging long bathing rituals and conversation.

bathtub with a view and seating area in the bathroom of W Dubai design by BLINK

Image credit: BLINK Design Group

PB: What was the biggest challenge of this design?

NC: Cost and time have always been a challenge for designers, and the pandemic has exacerbated it, especially in Asia. Customers need things designed and built under very difficult deadlines and budgets.

PB: Do you have a favorite element or space at W Dubai?

NC: My favorite space in the hotel is the restaurant, Ginger Moon. I love that you feel like you’re at a beach club, but you’re still in the bustling heart of the city. The eclectic interiors connect seamlessly with the terrace and pool, but guests can still find plenty of quieter spaces tucked in between.

QUICK FIRE ROUND

PB: The best hotel to be invited? NC: All properties of Aman
PB: The most inspiring hotel design? NC: The Puli, Shanghai
PB: Icon of design? NC: Geoffrey Bawa
PB: Your favorite country to work in? NC: Thailand
PB: Cake or caviar? NC: Caviar

PB: On your website, it says: “Currently, we are collaborating with a new era of hospitality entrepreneurs. By sharing their energy and imagination, we challenge ideas and create spaces that reward every customer and reach every guest.
Can you tell us more? What are the differences in this “new era of hospitality” and what ideas are being challenged?

NC: When we talk about a “new era of hospitality entrepreneurs”, we are referring to our clients who come from wealthy families who have now ventured into the hospitality industry and are looking to define their niche in a rather crowded market. We help these young entrepreneurs tell their story. Our goal is to take them on a creative journey and define a bespoke design that cannot be repeated or duplicated.

In a world where travelers have seen it all and shun luxury for luxury’s sake, there is a desire for experiences imbued with simplicity, authenticity, sustainability and a perfectly imagined “sense of place”. Bringing all this to life is our mission. We make every effort to build our hotels with respect for the environment, integrating the surrounding nature into our designs to the point that they are reciprocally enhanced.

seats and tea at Roku Kyoto designed by BLINK

Image credit: BLINK Design Studio / Ben Richards

PB: If you had to choose one design that you will remember, what would it be?

NC: Roku Kyoto. Its design is, in many ways, close to who I am as a person.

Main image credit: BLINK Design Studio

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