HL Lim, founder and principal partner of LTW Designworks, reflects back on his first ever hospitality project, his time as a painter and his enduring passion for interior design in our latest TOPHOTELDESIGN exclusive.
Specialising in luxury hospitality interiors, LTW Designworks has helped deliver a host of hotels, resorts, restaurants and bars across Asia and beyond over recent decades, working with the likes of Four Seasons, The Ritz-Carlton, St Regis, Park Hyatt and Shangri-La. Under the watchful eye of founder and principal partner HL Lim, the design studio blends innovation, technology and industry-leading concepts to create spaces that embody timeless values like sophistication and elegance.
What does your role at the company involve?
There are two main components in my role.
The first is procurement of the project and maintaining the relationship with the clients and operators. The second is being primarily responsible for conceptualising and executing the overall design direction for each project, working closely with the dedicated team of designers, FF&E [furniture, fixtures and equipment] specialists, artists and draftsman to bring to life our vision and inspiration, making each project unique and outstanding.
Could you tell us about your career to date?
It’s definitely been a ride – we’ve just celebrated our 40th anniversary last year and I guess it’s a good time to stop and look at what we have done and where we want to go from here onwards.
When I first started, it was just myself and my wife, Christine. Our first project, Nutmeg, was a restaurant in the Hyatt Regency in Singapore. After completion, we were given an opportunity to design another restaurant, Hugo. Subsequently, we were asked to design the 352-room extension of the hotel. Such was the way we have grown.
Now, we are designing full-scale luxury hospitality projects and our company has grown to more than 100 staff, with offices in Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai and a coordinating office in Milan.
What key hotel projects have you worked on down the years?
The first major project we did was Hyatt Regency Singapore, which has since been rebranded to Grand Hyatt. Thereafter, we worked on various Hyatt hotels in South-East Asia, and more recently the Grand Hyatts in Dalian, Changsha, Sanya, Hefei and Xi’an – which won two categories at AHEAD Asia 2019 and was shortlisted for AHEAD Global 2020.
In the mid-’80s, we were invited to work with the Oberoi Group, designing first their property in Bali, then Lombok and Mauritius. For the Oberoi Group, we also designed three of their iconic hotels, Rajvilas, Udaivilas and Amavilas, in Rajastan.
We successfully renovated the world-famous Oriental hotel in Bangkok, won the design competition for Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo, and followed this up with the refurbishment of the Mandarin hotel in Hong Kong. For Marriott International, we are proud of our designs for The Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong and JW Marriott in Qufu, Shandong province – the birthplace of Confucius.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
Being consistent in achieving an identity for each hotel within the same brand.
We stand in line with our design philosophy – reflecting an aesthetic ideal born from a respect for a sense of place and a commitment to innovation. That becomes the foundation for the design concept, resulting in an intimate and unique experience for all hotel guests.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
To realise the end product in accordance with the design concept and design intent.
How would you sum up your design philosophy?
Identify your target audience or end users, and design liveable, timeless and artful spaces to suit. Create each project with its unique identity and, most important of all, enjoy the process of design.
What would your dream hotel look like?
I was a painter and both my parents were painters, so in my younger days I was very into fine arts. However, I felt I was not reaching the masses through fine art. It was then I had a thought to instil art into living spaces, instead of art for art’s sake – which is how I got into interior design.
So my dream hotel would be an art hotel, the spaces are not just decorated but have some true value of art all around.
What’s your advice to up-and-coming talent looking to make a name for themselves?
My advice for them is that they have to love the profession and love what they do. Treat the profession as an art form and have the perseverance to weather setbacks and become wiser to take on the next tasks.
What are your main hobbies outside work?
I have no particular hobby because all my energy is put into work. I live for the art of design.