Emirates Palace designer proud of his crowning achievement

Kongsak Yuktasevi’s talks about what it's like to design the interiors of the world's most expensive and luxurious seven-star hotel.
Kongsak Yuktasevi, the interior designer of Emirates Palace, standing inside the luxurious seven-star hotel in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National
Kongsak Yuktasevi, the interior designer of Emirates Palace, standing inside the luxurious seven-star hotel in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // Kongsak Yuktasevi’s brief was as simple as it was daunting – to design the interior of Emirates Palace, the world’s most expensive and luxurious hotel.

His vision was four years in the making and came with “an open budget” to spend as he saw fit.

Strolling through the landmark almost a decade after it welcomed its first guests, Mr Yuktasevi says he is still more than satisfied with the results.

“This was not a hotel by design; a hotel is only for business purposes. This truly was a palace,” he said. “We are very happy with the result.”

Emirates Palace opened in November 2005 and Mr Yuktasevi was involved in everything from choosing the colour of the walls in its 302 rooms and 92 suites, to picking the upholstery for the chairs.

“It may be one of the largest hotels in the world in terms of area but I think one of the things we did successfully was to scale down such a huge space,” said the managing director of Leo International Design Group in Thailand.

“When you walk in you still feel comfortable, you don’t feel overcome by the space.

“I came up with the concept that when you walk through every area of the hotel you feel the continuation of the space, right down to the small details and motifs.”

Mr Yuktasevi is no stranger to the high demands that come with such grand buildings. He has designed the interiors of two palaces for the ruler of Bahrain as well as the Royal Paradise Hotel in Phuket, Traders Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, and the Dusit Nikko Hotel in Manila among others.

Despite a huge array of features including a grand ballroom, sprawling corridors and giant guest rooms, it is the smaller areas of the hotel that Mr Yuktasevi likes the most such as the east wing rooms, where the central lobby is more compact than the open spaces of much of the rest of the building.

“This place is my favourite, I think. It is much smaller, more human, I think,” said Mr Yuktasevi, from Thailand.

The lobby’s standout attraction is a room-length water feature, with small fountains leading to the end of the wing.

Creating the illusion of intimacy in a building of such scale was a major challenge for Mr Yuktasevi’s design team.

“Everyone had the same expectation,” he said. “They wanted a stunning feeling when they walk in.

“Originally we had seating areas in the main atrium, elevated, because the ceiling was so high. But it was decided that the atrium should be empty, and now everyone who walks into the hotel stops and looks up at the dome.

“Stunning is what people expect. I think my achievement is definitely still in the atrium, the mosaic on the dome.

“We had five or six alternatives for that design and a lot of work went into it.

“Personally I always wanted a more intimate feeling and I think we managed that for a lot of the hotel. It was one of the things I think we did well.”

The designer was back at the hotel yesterday to go over plans for a revamped guest area.

Set to be completed by the end of the year, it will feature an Emirati coffee shop, retail space and a new bar.

“It is going to be very cosy, more lively and colourful,” Mr Yuktasevi said.

“This gives visitors a nice place to sit, have a drink and buy some souvenirs.

“It will add new feeling to Emirates Palace, it is a bit fun, and a bit trendy. It is stepping away from the formality of the rest of the Palace. It really will add some life to the hotel.

“It has a real sense of entertainment, but it will still blend with the rest of the hotel.”

ksinclair@thenational.ae

Published: March 25, 2014 04:00 AM

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