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High-end hotel designer has Israeli roots

Posted By Abigail Klein Leichman On August 30, 2011 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

Nir Gilad of London-based Nous Design is the genius behind the interiors of some of the world’s poshest hotels and spas.

Photo courtesy of Nous Design
A suite at the Kursi Beach Hotel in the Galilee.

The developers of a new luxury hotel in the Galilee, to be the largest all-suite hotel in Israel, put the interior design of the project into the hands of Nir Gilad of Nous Design in London. The choice makes sense. Gilad, one of the world’s hottest go-to guys for high-end leisure centers, is Israeli.

“It’s going to be fantastic,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “We are creating a true sense of travel to a remote destination. You’ll get the feeling of being on a faraway holiday in a place that is connected to the beautiful lake settings but still gives a feeling of being detached from time.”

Some of the world’s poshest hotels and spas are appointed by Gilad, who founded London-based Nous Design two years ago after 15 years in the industry.

One of his splashiest jobs was the $1.4 billion Mardan Palace in Antalya, Turkey’s first five-star destination resort opened in May 2009. With 700 rooms and 70 luxury villas, words like “opulent” and “palatial” don’t begin to describe the property.

“It was the most money ever spent on a hotel in Turkey and gave us the opportunity to create extraordinary spaces which the guests love, such as an underwater restaurant, luxury suites, a tower of eight restaurants and large ballrooms,” Gilad says. The opening ceremonies featured a million euros’ worth of fireworks and a celebrity lineup including Seal, Sharon Stone and Richard Gere.

Photo courtesy of Nous Design
Aquabar, Mardan Palace in Turkey.

“We have to understand the high-end market and potential guests’ expectations at this level,” he explains. “What is true luxury? For some people it is as simple as sitting on a sofa facing the ocean; for others it is gilded interiors and ever-flowing champagne. We need to cater for all and anticipate their needs before they do.”

He is ever mindful of surroundings. “We always attempt to link the concept of the development back to the original roots of the land, to understand and celebrate the history of the location. We take a few symbols or key features that belong to the place and find a subtle way to incorporate them inside. People appreciate and remember that, and locals feel they are part of the process.”

A prime example is the refurbishment of the Marriott Cairo Hotel and Casino, where the Nous Design staff was challenged to enhance the reception experience for travelers arriving in a hot, humid climate in a multi-cultural environment.

Photo courtesy of Nous Design
Nir Gilad.

“What do they need? Do they have somebody to speak to? We custom-make that environment in many cases. A lot of the time it’s a matter of very simple things to make guests feel secure and confident they are getting value for their money.”

‘We don’t just do space planning’

Born in 1970, Gilad was raised in Kiryat Bialik near Haifa, one son among four daughters of an interior designer and an engineer.

“I grew up looking at drawing boards and got familiar with carpentry, woodwork and stone because I lived around it all my childhood,” he says.

After his military service, Gilad traveled around and lived in Australia for awhile before returning to study architecture and product design in Holon. He began designing restaurant interiors and leisure centers in Israel in 1994.

“By 2000, I decided I needed more international experience in the leisure industries including country clubs, conference centers and hotels. London was gaining a reputation as a worldwide design center. I never thought I’d end up staying, but the projects became more and more interesting and I thought that I can develop myself here.”

Nous Design works with some of the biggest hoteliers in the world. Gilad accepts plenty of commissions in Israel, such as the refurbishment of Isrotel’s Royal Beach Resort in Eilat and the Orchid Park Plaza in Tel Aviv.

Photo courtesy of Nous Design
Reception area at the Orchid Park Plaza, Tel Aviv.

Whether it’s the Sheraton Heathrow Airport, projects in Moscow, Rome, or private development in the Maldives, the common thread is an organic interior in which the sights, sounds and even smells are part of a balanced whole.

“We don’t just do space planning,” Gilad stresses. “Everything is linked, from the function and use of each space, to the materials, colors and textures, to how sound and light resonate. It all comes down to the small details. A chair does not stand on its own but in the context of a space in a building in a city. We’re very much asking the question, ‘Why this chair?’ That’s very important.”

His North London home, shared with his Canadian-born wife and their two-year-old daughter, displays an eclectic mix of items representing various periods of his life. “I like raw materials and use them as much as possible,” says Gilad.

That affinity also finds expression in his love of diving and “exploring countries that are not on tourist maps, including Madagascar — places where I can get inspired. The best part of traveling is the conversations that you have with people on the way, small moments that have the potential to change your life.”


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