Japanese hospitality in bustling London

How B3 Designers created the first hotel interior for new five-star hospitality brand The Prince Akatoki in just six months, without closing the hotel.


Project summary

  • Loose furniture for 82 rooms at new five star boutique hotel
  • Furniture and lighting for reception, lounge, corridors and workspace
  • Seating for 50 covers in the TOKii robatayaki and sushi restaurant and tables for 30 guests in The Malt bar and whiskey lounge
  • Phased installation around a fully operational hotel, with six months from brief to completion.

The Prince Akatoki was to be the first full hotel project for B3 Designers, although they had often created interior design for concepts within hotels as specialists in interior design and branding for hospitality. It was also to be the first location of a new global boutique hotel brand forJapanese operator Prince Hotels & Resorts.

“We didn’t know it was the first one in the world until we were a few weeks in,” says Roisin Reilly, associate at B3 Designers. “We were like, oh – no pressure then!”
B3 Designers selected the Cover chair from Muuto, Rén lounge chair from Stellar Works and Ace footstool from Normann Copenhagen to furnish all rooms and suites throughout five star hotel The Prince Akatoki.

The design team set out to create an experience that draws on the nuances of Japanese aesthetics and hospitality, without becoming overly themed. “You’re not meant to feel like you’re in Japan, it has to feel like you’re in London, you know?” They needed furniture suitable for contract environments with exceptional detailing and craftsmanship, without long lead times, and ideally from brands closer to home.

The new hotel interior design fuses the subtlety and tactility of Japanese luxury design with considered detailing and craftsmanship from Scandinavian furniture design brands.

Swift furniture specification and samples through one point of contact

B3 Designers received the brief from their client in March and needed to get everything signed off just five weeks later. “In the time it would normally take for us to design one restaurant, we’d done the entire hotel, entire restaurant, entire bar and everything else.”

The TOKii robatayaki and sushi restaurant interior design features Setter dining chairs by British design brand Deadgood, with Spine bar stools from Danish design brand Fredericia amongst dark wooden screens.
In the time it would normally take for us to design one restaurant, we’d done the entire hotel, restaurant, bar and everything else.
Online specification

Junior designer Justina started out by adding products the team had in mind to a fresh project on Clippings, where they could be organised visually for quick initial decisions. “It was just so fast-paced… it’s a really good online resource for being able to build up projects.”

Sourcing service

Roisin then worked with Clippings account manager Jake to source alternatives for items that weren’t working, optimise lead times and reduce costs – all through one point of contact. “I could turn to him and say ‘this is what I’m looking for’, and it was just a really nice process.”

Product samples

Attention to detail was key to the project and the client was keen to see every item in person, so Roisin asked Jake to organise samples of every product to be sent to the hotel for meetings. “Jake was really on the ball – he really cared and wanted this project to succeed as much as I did.”

A Tres Vegetale rug from Barcelona brand Nanimarquina brings warmth and tactility to the lounge and lobby area, made of natural hemp and wool.

Phased install with minimal interruption to hotel operations

The hotel was to remain open during its transformation from the former The Arch hotel into The Prince Akatoki. “We were working round a functioning hotel. The entire build, there were guests in it – the hotel was full, apart from the rooms that were getting refurbished.”

Phased delivery

B3 Designers used Clippings consolidation service to store all items off-site, then organised delivery to site in eight separate batches. “We’d get the keys on a Monday and hand back the completed room the following Friday, with guests booked in to stay the next night.”

Project manager

Clippings project manager Inga was on site for the more complex installations and handled any moments when the tight turnarounds meant some furniture arriving while rooms were still being painted. “Furniture’s a major part, but when I had so many other things going on I knew it was someone I can trust – that was invaluable.”

Dark ridged Moon tables from Gubi create cosy and atmospheric places for up to 30 guests in The Malt, used to host tea ceremonies in the afternoon and a cosy whisky bar and lounge by night.

A serene setting for elegant hospitality

The final hotel interior design draws together natural and sensory materials with furniture specifications that focus on detail and craftsmanship. “The furniture choices are really detailed Scandinavian things and it fuses so well with Japanese detail.”

B3 Designers have created a sanctuary where guests can step in from the bustle of London and experience the calm, considerate and sophisticated elegance of Japanese hospitality principles in a way that feels appropriate to this city. “London is manic and I think this really offers a place where people can step inside and just breathe for a second. People are attracted to places like this when they just want a bit of calm – it feels pure and uncluttered. I get a lot out of that.”

“If my team is struggling with something, I will say ‘have you spoken to Clippings’? It’s a very knowledgeable team and you all have a design background or a furniture background and you’re passionate about it. You’re not just the face of a salesman, you know your stuff, so I feel confident having a discussion with one of you guys.”

Images: 1-3 Prince Akatoki Hotel, 4-6 Tom Bird

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