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How to create a STUNNING airport lounge: interview with designer Ilse Crawford

Ilse Crawford of StudioIlse London is taking airport lounge design to new heights (pun intended). She recently came up with the concept for Cathay Pacific’s beautiful new First Class Lounge at The Pier at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA). [Photos by photographer Lit Ma via StudioIlse]

The 2,061-square-metres first class lounge features homely amenities that will please any traveller.

“There’s been a tendency in lounge design – and so many public space designs – to think of the luxury experiences in the abstract, as something aesthetic. They tend to have wow factor in broad strokes but rarely do they address human needs and feel as good in reality as they look,” said Crawford.

“We wanted to make people feel as good as humanly possible in The Pier. We wanted to make them feel healthy with good fresh food, to ground them in rooms with natural materials, considered lighting and with lots of plants and beautiful, comfortable furniture.”

the lounge

the lounge

the lounge

the lounge

The First Class Lounge at The Pier can seat 231 people in comfort and style. The chairs are superbly designed, the entire space feels warm and welcoming, and it even has its own signature scent.

There’s a full-service restaurant as well as The Pantry, a self-service area that stocks everything from fruits, to pastries, to beer, to coffee, much needed before, or after, a long flight.

Oh, and then there’s also The Bar. With a curved marble topped bar, green onyx walls and walnut wood panels, it exudes a 007-like elegance and is one of the most sophisticated places in the world to enjoy your favourite tipple.

the bar

food

the dining area

the dining area

For those looking for an extra level of relaxation, you’ll enjoy The Retreat.

Once you enter, you’ll instantly feel at home with interiors built from warm, natural materials. The area includes the Day Suites, eight private nooks with low upholstered daybeds, and quiet views over the runway.

There are 14 shower suites that look more like mini spas with their marble and brass finishes, as well as a selection of Aesop products.

And did we mention they give complimentary 10-minute foot massages? Yes, they do.

For those who want to catch up on work, there is a The Bureau with stations that have iMacs, or you can simply make yourself comfortable in the lounge area.

The designer was also thoughtful enough to alter small details that affect a customer’s overall experience. Further proof of Cathay’s commitment to humanising long layovers.

“We designed wooden side tables for the lounge area with integrated USB plugs and sockets for ease of recharging all your devices. One of my pet hates in airports (and so many public spaces) is having to scrabble around on your knees to find a socket. I think this is a tidy, helpful solution.”

the lounge

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This lounge is a brilliant example of how airlines can tap design to improve customer service. By taking something so detached, so unwelcoming, such as an airport, and give it the warmth and cosiness akin to home, Cathay Pacific and Ilse Crawford were able to create an environment that you’d like to stay longer in.

“Seeing passengers inhabit it as we hoped they would, the feedback we have had from so many people has been heartwarming,” she added. “When we finish a project, it is really just the start of its life and you always hope as a designer that it has life breathed into it by the people who use it. Or, to put it bluntly, that it works.”

 a fan

the lounge

the lounge

the lounge

The Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge at The Pier is located at Gate 63 in terminal one of HKIA. You can find out more about it here.

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About the author

I co-founded Lost At E Minor in 2005 and run Conversant Media.

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