Seated in the lounge of Park Hyatt, Velachery, with a beautiful view of the lily ponda rather laidback Ganesha interior designer George Wong is in his elements as he talks about the city and the local touch in his work.
I first came to Chennai for my sister’s wedding two years before I began working on this project. I found the city calm, green and tranquil. There are six million-odd people here and you barely see any high-rises. That’s the great thing about Chennai — it’s not ostentatious or in-your-face. I’ve included this impression in my design. It’s very private, inward-looking and not flamboyant. Chennai is not about bling or bold colours but has a deeper value. Luxury here is about intimacy, space and experience rather than material.
What do you look at before you design a property?
I don’t determine the hotel’s outcome but its style. The clientele of the hotel leads to its outcome. I just look at the city the hotel is in; if it’s Las Vegas, people come in expecting an entertaining sin city. Then, the whole idea is to give people more than they expect.
What is the story behind Park Hyatt’s interiors?
This hotel has the character of a host who treats guests well. He invites people in and makes sure they are entertained. He is a Chennai man who goes into the history of the city, its hardworking and modest character. He travels around the world and gives back to his city a collection of international ideas. That’s why he built this house, to let people here have the experiences he has had.
You have worked in Las Vegas, Bali and now Chennai. How different is design when you think spa, honeymoon or gambling destination?
We look at certain experiences we want the guests to feel. A getaway in Bali should be like being in a sub-tropical forest with green landscape, thatched bungalows, romance, spa sanctuary and so on. Las Vegas will never have enough glitz; people would be disappointed if that element was missing. The Palms Place Condo Hotel Spa I designed in Vegas was among the first to use a contemporary modern approach rather than the neo-classical everyone uses. And there’s no casino inside the hotel. But it became popular because people could still connect to Vegas even if it wasn’t flashy like the rest.
What is your personal signature?
I always try to bring in a surprise element; something people won’t expect, like plates on a wall with animal portraits. At the New York Grand Hyatt, we made a Lego gorilla and placed him in a suite. The guests loved it. We had a hippo in one hotel and a fuchsia donkey in another. Over here, we’ve used a lot of textile motifs, to signify Chennai as textile city. These are stories we create and add our creativity and quirkiness to it.