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14th annual AZ Awards issue

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One bright side to 2020: It’s been a year in which we collectively reconsidered the rooms we inhabit, giving much thought to how our intimate surroundings affect our moods and mindsets and embarking on ways to make them better. It’s possible that interior design has never been more important than it is now. In that spirit, we’re tipping our hats to these 10 beautifully designed interiors – the homes that inspire us, the public spaces that raise the bar and the hospitality and retail gems that we hope we’ll get to visit (and support) in the very near future.

Bermonds Locke, London, by Holloway Li

Exemplifying the laid-back-luxury vibe of the Locke brand, the Bermonds Locke hotel features all the amenities of a studio apartment with the convenience of a hotel. With 143 guest suites featuring kitchen and living areas as well as laundry facilities, it allows guest to stay for months-long sojourns and make use of its lobby co-working space. While these are all great attributes – in COVID-19 times, guests might choose to physically distance by staying put in their fully equipped rooms – the main reason it’s on our list is its bold use of recycled materials.

As we wrote in our November/December issue, the palette is an imaginative ode to upcycling, with insulated bricks edging the joinery junctions with the floors, co-working tables built with reused concrete blocks and bed frames made of rebar. Altogether, Holloway Li‘s scheme represents a new way of thinking about sustainable interior design.

Gusto 501, Toronto, by Partisans
Photo by Arash Moallemi

Clad in 6,500 terracotta bricks, the walls of Gusto 501 seem to ripple and recede, their embedded LEDs flickering like candlelight. Wrapped in this warm yet ostentatious cloak that at once evokes an organic landscape and a parametrically rendered volume, the restaurant extends upwards into a multi-tiered variety of dining experiences. From the capacious ground floor sheathed with an operable glass facade, a floating blackened steel and walnut staircase ascends to a cozy mezzanine that houses the wine collection, a cocktail bar under a vast skylight, a floating dining room with a view of a strip of highway, and and – at its apex – a rooftop patio. It’s a tour de force in materiality, spatial experience and ambience.

Photo by Arash Moallemi
Papi Restaurant, Paris, by Neri & Hu

A brilliant marriage between past and present, Neri & Hu‘s design for Papi Restaurant, inside a late-19th-century Haussmann building in Paris, honours the inherent beauty of imperfection. Taking a sensitive and meticulous approach to the overhaul, the Shanghai-based studio first peeled away decades-worth of updates and finishes to expose original limestone and brick walls (along with one brick and one steel column) and, resisting the urge to fix or perfect the time-worn materials, they left them raw in tribute to the city’s heritage. From here, the designers added their contemporary masterstroke: an oversized cylindrical volume placed slightly off-centre in the 52-square-metre space.

Clad in vertically arranged, handmade white ceramic tiles (which were also seamlessly carried onto the floor), the curious structure is lined with smooth birch plywood and features large openings that both serve as bench seating and allow light to flow through the space (the insertion also incorporates the chef’s prep counter and areas for display). To not crowd the compact footprint, Neri & Hu custom-designed simple upholstered wood chairs (made by De La Espada) and tables and chose minimal light fixtures by Viabizzuno to contrast the soft stone. The result is a harmonious blending of materials, eras and shapes to create a character-filled space that at once speaks to the past and feels utterly of the moment.

086, Porto, by Fala Atelier

In the seven years since its founding, Porto-based practice Fala Atelier has become a leading figure in the city’s design renaissance. And, for good reason. The practice’s sensitive and graphic renovations and additions into the metropolis’ historic fabric play off “naive” geometries to quite literally reimagine the shape(s) of contemporary life. Take, for instance, a recent remodelling that sees a seemingly mercurial mint-green floor unify a fragmented domestic interior — inside and out. Paired with a series of charming natural wood doors, sharp white walls, bold marble elements and a custom kitchen with patchwork cabinetry, the collage-like scheme captures the nuanced qualities of the post-digital images for which the practice has become renowned. 

Stereoscope, Los Angeles, by Wick Architecture & Design and LAND Design Studio
Drop pendant lights hang from ceiling with graphic mural in Stereoscope Coffee's newest cafe in Los Angeles

Before cafes everywhere were hastily adapting to a pandemic reality, these spaces were enticing customers with bold and immersive interiors. For coffee chain Stereoscope’s second outpost in Los Angeles, designers David Wick (of Wick Architecture & Design) and Andrew Lindley (of LAND Design Studio) followed suit, turning a soaring volume with a narrow footprint into a Neo-Baroque cathedral. The pair adapted American photographer Christy Lee Rogers’s dramatic underwater scene The Reunion of Cathryn Carrie and Jean into a three-dimensional image wrapping the entire ceiling of the spartan 62-square-metre, L-shaped space. Minimal blonde wood millwork elements, blue orca marble and tailored globe pendants further accent the scheme to ensure all eyes are looking up.

Aldgate Tower, London, by Basha-Franklin

Tasked with turning the formerly austere, impersonal and disconnected lobby of Aldgate Tower into a cohesive and inviting arrival point, creative design firm Basha-Franklin pulled out all the stops. While the office building, located in a burgeoning London-adjacent neighbourhood, is home to a diverse portfolio of companies like Uber, WeWork and Black Sheep Coffee, the 464.5-square-metre ground-floor entry point lacked identity and was under-utilized by its community.

Approaching the project in a way that would elicit “an emotional response to place, community, craft and culture,” the multidisciplinary studio layered in texture and warmth via a carefully selected materials palette that nods to the history of the area: handmade glazed ceramic tile clad a trio of circular leather-upholstered booths, specially shaped brickwork covers a feature wall, patinated bronze sheeting and rich terrazzo enliven the reception desk and three large-scale aluminum-chainlink suspended canopies (from Kriskadecor) in gradated bronze, silver and green fill the double-height space. Between the three booths and two other lounge areas (generously furnished with a variety of seating from Bla Station, Established & Sons, Gubi and others) the lobby now supports a multitude of activities and has become a gathering space for socializing as well as working. 

Coastal Belgian Apartment by Carmine Van Der Linden and Thomas Geldof

If ever an interior conveyed a deep sense of calm, it’s this soothing seaside apartment by Belgium’s Carmine Van Der Linden and Thomas Geldof. Based respectively in Ghent and Antwerp, the two architects successfully brought the ambiance of the two-floor unit’s dune-studded setting on the North Sea coast inside via a deft integration of watery hues, birchwood paneling and various natural stones. In the kitchen, which features grey terrazzo flooring and a handsome marble-topped table, the same seaweed green that covers walls in the hallways and guest bathroom has been applied to the cabinetry, shelving and backsplash. A two-storey bookcase fronted by a galvanized-steel staircase with a pearlescent finish dominates the living room, while a dark-toned sauna overlooking the beachscape through floor-to-ceiling glazing magnifies the aah factor. Cumulatively, it’s the design equivalent of a slow exhale, the perfect antidote to 2020.

Church of Beatified Restituta, Brno, by Atelier Štěpán

They don’t call this exquisitely realized Czech project the Rainbow Church for nothing. Dedicated to a local saint born 600 metres away, the Church of Beatified Restituta in Lesná, a neighbourhood of Brno, was 50 years in the making. It was well worth the wait. As striking as its austere architecture — comprising the circular church volume, a triangular tower and a rectangular spiritual centre — may be, the real miracle is the interior, specifically the altar room. Ringed by textured concrete walls under a flattened, roughly finished dome, this sprawling space is enlivened by the daytime cascade of coloured light that filters through annular tinted-glass windows just beneath the roof. Standing in the space as the light (shaded red, yellow, green and blue) bounces off the concrete, the polished stone floors and the wooden platforms and trim is akin to being in a kaleidoscope. The effect is — dare we say it? — divine.

Seiranri Public Area, Hanghzhou, by PIG Design

There’s nothing more powerful than a black hole. So when it comes to the magnetism of urban place-making, there’s no more powerful inspiration than gravity itself. In the heart of Hangzhou’s Central Business District, PIG Design’s audacious riff on spacetime yielded a series of public restrooms like no other. Framed in vivid monochrome tiles that extend from the lavatories to elevator bays and hallways, it all converges to form a showpiece 1,500-square-metre public space. The white, green and purple ceramic hues are a powerful gesture with more than a hint of gravitational pull. Leading the way to the restrooms, the space-age decor hints at the sinks, toilets, mirrors – and even toilet paper holders – inside to offer subtle wayfinding through the complex. In other words, it’s a portal to another realm.

Off-White, Miami, by Virgil Abloh and AMO

At first glance, Virgil Abloh and AMO‘s Miami flagship for Off-White meets the eye with a sense of industrial minimalism. Corrugated metal walls, concrete floors, stainless steel shelving and an opaque polycarbonate facade combine to give the 262-square-metre space an unvarnished elegance. But as we’ve come to be expect from Abloh, there’s more to it. Elevated by luxe pops of colour – including an electric blue staircase and rails in black marquina – the flexible floorplan is designed to be a community hub as much as a point of sale, hosting a multitude of events throughout the year. When the weather is good (and in Miami, it usually is), the translucent facade can even be pulled back to blur the line between store and street.

Best of 2020: Top 10 Interiors from Around the World

From London and Paris to Brno and Toronto, the residences, restaurants, retail spaces and more that we most admired this year.

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