nHow London, UK

Pic: Twelve Photographic

With each of its six establishments across Europe, nHow Hotels has created a bright, colourful and creative destination for guests, mixing fun, vibrant interior design with a cool, modern feel.

The latest addition to this portfolio is nHow London, which opened in January of this year. The hotel is situated inbetween Hoxton and Shoreditch – in the creative heart of the city. Playing on its geography, the hotel describes itself as “a space where tradition and innovation collide. Located in a district marked by an industrial past and technological future [the hotel] soaks up those contrasts and plays with them in an unconventional and disruptive way”.

The hotel, which houses 190 rooms, alongside a restaurant, bar, meeting spaces, lounges, and a gym, was designed by interior design studio Project Orange, in collaboration with lighting design from  Elektra Lighting.

Magdalena Gomez, Design Director at Elektra, explained how the studio got involved in the project: “We were approached by the project managers, JLL, as we were recommended by Project Orange, having worked with them previously on a couple of other hotel projects; it has always been a great collaborative work with really satisfying outcomes.”

Elektra and Project Orange worked together to develop a scheme that would enhance all the different areas of the hotel at different times of the day. “You can say that this was a wholesome design between the interior design and lighting,” Gomez added.

As with the other hotels in nHow’s portfolio, each boasting their own unique character, the new London branch is a hyper-stylised, visually stimulating destination. Gomez explained further how Elektra used lighting to complement such a striking interior design: “It’s a very lively and fun space. The lighting concept was envisioned to highlight and be a part of this fun and colourful experience.

“You can see this in the lift lobby. Here, we worked together with the interior designers to use their proposed fittings and transform them into a light art piece. As they take over the whole ceiling space, it feels like they are suspended in the nothingness, leaving the feeling that the ceiling above the pendant is very deep. 

“The fittings then change colour at different times of the day, with different colours every day of the week. This gives the guests different impressions and different experiences whenever they arrive.

“We also had a lot of fun highlighting the sculptures, graffiti, etc throughout the hotel. There are so many details, we just needed to be careful to select some and not overdo everything.”

Central among these myriad features was the introduction of a number of light-art pieces from the nearby Jealous Gallery. “Some of the artwork was conceived from the beginning of the project,” Gomez explained. “On these pieces, we made allocations and designed the lighting to work around them.

“There were a couple of last minute additions and changes, as is usually the case on every project, but the flexible lighting system we planned for allowed us to adapt to these additional pieces.”

By taking this flexible approach, Elektra was able to cater the lighting scheme to any number of changes that were implemented along the design process, from technical amendments, to different design choices and even adjustments to the budget.

Gomez continued: “Our original design brief didn’t change, but there are always some changes that we need to adapt the design to; for instance, the main brand colour changed from red to green, and with this obviously the interior colour scheme was changed. As the lighting is closely linked to the interiors, we had to make changes in order to have the best result.

“Elsewhere, part of our initial brief was working with exposed services on all ceilings, including the guestroom corridors. From our proposals, we looked into convenient ways to make the lighting system flexible in order to work around all possible obstacles we might encounter.

“We worked together with the wider design team to coordinate Reflected Ceiling Plans for all services and lighting. There is always so much happening on the ceilings and it all needs to be considered in detail. Our solution for the public areas was to locate areas for air vents, ducts, sensors, etc, and work the lighting tracks and decorative pendants around these items.”

In some cases, Elektra requested that the services be moved to allow the lighting to be above key locations. In the guestroom corridors, a suspended, slatted ceiling was installed to conceal the services from direct view; here, Elektra worked with the interior designers to select the right spacing between slats that would help them locate surface mounted spotlights, while making them less obvious, with the aim to create a theatrical effect for guests.

Despite the high number of changes over the course of the project, Gomez said that one of the most challenging aspects came with the budget. “We had to keep a very close eye on what is expected and how we could deliver what was expected within the expected budget,” she said.

“This meant that we selected some luminaires, and later on we had to replace them to fit the solution but with a smaller price tag. On this subject, we’re very careful to always specify good quality products – we always do thorough testing of solutions and luminaires – but without accruing high costs.”

Throughout its multiple spaces, the hotel features a combination of both architectural and decorative lighting, with custom-made pieces from Northern Lights and pendants from Gubi complementing lighting from Linea Light, LED Flex, LightGraphix and Precision, among others. 

This blend of architectural fixtures with more decorative pieces came as part of the ongoing collaboration between Elektra and the interior designers in creating a unified, coherent lighting scheme. “The architectural lighting always falls in our scope of work, and the decorative elements are on the interior designers,” Gomez explained. “We normally work together with the interior designers to see their intent for the FF&E lighting. We select the right lamps to do the right job, and to work properly with the lighting control system.”

The overall impact of the lighting scheme complements the hotel’s playful interior design, with its “mix of vibrant colours, dark corners and dramatic effects”, to create a strong, lasting impression on guests. 

And while the nHow features a number of unique ‘Instagrammable’ spaces, Gomez feels that designing inspiring spaces that create lasting impressions is more important than social media ‘likes’.

“I think one of the most important parts of the design process is travelling, getting familiar with different brands, and enjoying what you do,” she said.

“These days we are trying harder to create innovative spaces and trying to cope with the high demand for ‘insta-moments’. But more than just designing for a nice picture, we prefer to design for people, and to make lasting memories.”