Creative Conversations: Graham O’ Donnell

Date: 01 Jul 2020

Coming to Dublin in September 2020, our latest urban aparthotel, Zanzibar Locke, strikes the perfect balance between heritage and modernity. Read the full story behind its design.

Designed by interior architecture and design studio O Donnell O Neill Design. With over 15 years working diligently and passionately with a team of talented Interior architects, designers and creatives to produce some of the most exciting and innovative hospitality spaces in Ireland in recent years – O Donnell O Neill Design have been benchmarking the highest standards of design in the social scene, so it only seemed they were a natural fit to team up with for the development of Zanzibar Locke.

To find out more about the story behind the hotel design, we got in touch with Graham O’ Donnell, studio director at O Donnell O Neill Design, to better understand his craft and how it reflects modern Dublin. We fired some questions his way:

What stories are you trying to tell through design?

In our design work we endeavour to reveal another layer or story behind the interior design itself. This story can evolve from many sources and inspiration can often be drawn from the history or use of a building, its geography, or sometimes even a local character. A backstory often creates another depth... a subliminal layer to a designers vision and intent.

Where do you find design inspiration in Dublin?

Not only is Dublin a vibrant cosmopolitan city, it's also a city that is steeped in history. Inspiration for new designs are often referenced from our rich architectural heritage and history. This could be the delicate details of some the finest Georgian buildings, or the even best examples Victorian pub interiors on which our renowned Irish hospitality is culturally embedded.

What were some of the unique design challenges involved with the Zanzibar Locke project, and what kinds of solutions did you come up with?

Zanzibar Locke has been designed to set a benchmark for aparthotel design for Dublin. We were challenged to adapt the hugely successful look and feel of the established Locke brand and to allow its interior design for Dublin to respond to the unique context and character of our city to give it a sense of place and belonging in the heart of our community.

What are the key design elements that you feel cater to the next generation of hotel guests? 

Hotel guests have so much choice for their accommodation needs when staying in a vibrant city like Dublin. First and foremost, it is important that as designers we create beautiful interiors and spaces that are desirable, endearing and have soul. Creating comfortable front of house spaces for dining and drinking, or just hanging out, are really important. There must be a synergy from the studio accommodation spaces through to the communal relaxation and socialising spaces. For Locke aparthotels it is critical that guests have easy access to the best in class technology and for many nomadic business guests a comfortable co-working space is a prerequisite.

What are your top tips for making a small space feel like home?

The main criteria for making small spaces work and feel homely is to not to create clutter, use simple clean lines for cabinetry and furniture and soft colour palates. Careful consideration to artwork, mood lighting and style of light fittings used are key to creating the home from home feel. It is important to specify the correct materials for small spaces and floors - soft furnishings, fabrics and furniture should create the comfortable familiar feel.

What are your top design accounts to follow on Instagram?

We follow a lot of Instagram accounts that keep us informed on new interior products and finishes particularly. We also follow trend setting publications and designers such as Kelly Wearstler, Elle Decoration, Maison et objet, Sleeper and Dezeen.

Which designers would you invite to your virtual dinner party?

Roman and Williams founders Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer would be cool to virtually catch up with and so would French Designer Jacques Garcia.

What are your favourite spaces in Dublin?

The newly refurbished National Gallery Ireland is an amazing space and one my favourites. I also enjoy a pint of Guinness in the window snug in Toners Bar, and a trip to the vibrant Castle Market Arcade on a Saturday morning.

What is the most important design consideration when creating spaces for travellers? 

It is really important to consider the Comfort, Atmosphere and Lighting and Mood created (CALM) in both the accommodation and the public areas. For guests of Locke particularly, some stays are often for a number of weeks if on business, and so consideration must be given that this is their home from home for that time.

How is designing for Locke different to designing for traditional hotels? 

Locke is a very exciting and forward-thinking brand, and from the top down they put huge emphasis on quality considered interior design to capture the customers imagination and interest.

There is a subtle Californian design influence across the Locke brand and this has influenced an interior design approach using warmer colours and building in both facilities and an offer that encourages a unique healthy lifestyle stay.

What new Design considerations are there in 2020?

In addition to creating beautiful and experiential spaces, in 2020 more than ever, new design considerations must include the impact that our designs and specifications have on our built environment. It is also really important we are cognizant of the needs of customers with disabilities to ensure that their experiences in the environments we create are as positive as they are for the able bodied. 

Bookings for Zanzibar Locke are now open. So, you can get planning all those special occasions or last-minute getaways you have missed with family and friends this year sorted.

Want to stay in the loop on our opening offers? Be amongst the first to hear by joining the Locke community.