Luxury Design Firm HBA Wins Golden Key Award and CEO Michael Bedner Answers Some Haute Design Questions

Hirsh Bedner Associates, the world-renowned hospitality design firm, came to New York City to accept their Golden Key Award for Best Spa, honoring their design for the Four Seasons Seychelles in Mahe, Seychelles. But it’s not the first award for the design firm, which has won countless others including the 2010 Hospitality Design Awards.

We caught up with CEO Michael Bedner while he was in New York to accept the award.

Haute Living: Congrats on the Golden Key Award first of all! How are you feeling about that?
Michael Bedner: Even after 46 years, it never gets old. It’s an honor for our projects to simply be selected out of several hundred entries by our own peers. As you know, we are each others’ toughest critics! It keeps all 550 of our designers inspired and driven to do even better the next year.

HL: Tell us a little about HBA.
MB: HBA is people. Five hundred and fifty of the world’s most talented designers show up to work every day to do what they love best: design. From 13 studios worldwide, our designers blend incomparable industry experience with a passion for artistic exploration and a philosophical approach to each project as a discovery opportunity. By expanding the aesthetic envelope, we develop strong, inspired identities that set new standards for luxury and comfort. With a 46-year history of developed best practices, we aim to create inspired, brand-defining design experiences that evoke a distinct sense of place, while delighting the world’s most discriminating travelers. Our portfolio spans more than 80 countries and encompasses the planet’s finest nameplates.

HL: What are some of the most luxurious projects you’ve done?
MB: All the Wynn properties we’ve had the honor to work on have been super luxe and glamorous: Okada at Wynn Las Vegas, Encore Las Vegas and Wynn Macau. Take, for instance, the restaurant Wing Lei at the Wynn Macau. The main art feature is a 10-foot crystal dragon that hangs over the main banquettes on the back wall of the restaurant. It’s just opulent, lavish and über luxe. We go from designing some of the largest luxury casinos in the world to the tiniest dining room in the world for Mont Blanc. The space is chic, luxurious and no cost was spared to emulate the Mont Blanc philosophies into the space. The dining room is housed in London’s members only Mossimens club; it seats two and just dazzles in a delicate ensemble of fine materials. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the St. Regis Grand Rome, originally built in 1894 as the first deluxe hotel in Rome, after an extensive restoration and renovation, the hotel reclaimed its status as the finest hotel in Rome and one of the best in the world.

HL: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
MB: The elements that we draw inspiration from are the space itself, most importantly the location, and the possibilities we have within each project to create a space where people gather, play, work, love and sleep. Subtly, each project needs to be contextual to where it is located. I like the word a client of mine used: “glocal” meaning going global but staying local. People want the experience of travel but still want to feel at home, they need to escape but feel connected. I try and design in a whisper of each location, or else design the building so we frame the views of where the building is located, I also try to use local materials but in a new, innovative and unexpected way. We design with a timeless sensibility. Take for instance Coco Chanel; she designed beautiful clothing that is perfectly timeless. We aim to design timeless interior spaces using exquisite materials and details.

HL: We love the lobbies here in New York that you’ve designed. Do you have a favorite?
MB: That’s like asking which of your children is your favorite! Each of our New York properties have something unique and special that makes each different from the rest. Take, for example, the Mandarin Oriental lobby in the sky providing respite from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, the lobby is stylish, elegant and sleek with lines that echo the profile of New York’s skyline — long, lean and drop-dead gorgeous. If you take a short walk down the south edge of Central Park, you’ll hit another HBA property, the Jumeirah Essex House, which takes you back to the glamorous Art Deco era of New York City.  It has a 75-year heritage and is a hotel that cannot exist anywhere else in the world. The Peninsula lobby, we’ve all spent a great deal of time in. It’s a unique, intimate space tailored for exclusivity, privacy, and gatherings. Design aside, the Peninsula is one of our favorite places in New York to meet friends for high tea or a classic drink.

For more information on HBA, visit

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