Tara Bernerd: concrete design and indulgent bathrooms

We question design authority Tara Bernerd on her riverside London apartment, its industrial concrete interior and seek her kitchen design advice

Tara Bernerd bathroom interior neutral shades

Photos (left) © Philip Vile and (portrait, right) © Jason Alden

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Former ‘It Girl’ of British design, Tara Bernerd has grown up. Daughter of property tycoon, Elliot Bernerd, she has left her stamp on a long list of high profile projects including Crown Aspinalls Casino, Jay Jopling’s White Cube Gallery in Hoxton and an apartment in Trump Tower, as well as collaborating with Philippe Starck and her former husband John Hitchcox at Yoo. She has designed furniture and soft furnishings for The Rug Company and has made a name for herself in hotels, with her latest, The Principal London, due to open this autumn. Her first coffee table book ‘The Rug Company’ was published this year.

Nikki Pierce profile interior

How would you define your style?

Warm but handsome, with an industrial edge.

Why does your style work so well in hotels?

I always try to remember that hotels today are homes away from home. We will often pay homage to this with perhaps a fireplace at the entrance, creating a mood that greets you, as we work our way into the lounge bars and restaurants and up to our bedrooms.

Tell us about your latest hotel project, The Principal London.

The building has quite a legacy presiding over Russell Square, so we have tried to respect that, marrying the old with the demands of the new. We’ve reinstated the Palm Court as the very heart of the hotel, as well as lobbies and reception and have remodelled 370 bedrooms and suites, so it’s been a mammoth task, and I do hope that London will embrace her once more.

Where does your creative energy come from?

I was fortunate growing up that there was always creative flair around me. My grandmother was a marvellous artist while my father, who is very much a visionary, has always worked in creative development and therefore I was always exposed to incredible architecture and architects. My father has legendary energy and my mother is a force of nature, so I have inherited a lot from them, which is just as well because an abundance of energy is a necessary ingredient for my job. My father always says what I do is like pushing elephants up a hill, but when you get to the top and look around and see what you have achieved, it’s a pretty amazing moment.

Tara Bernerd Four Seasons hotel interior
© Tara Bernerd & Partners
Photo by Tara Bernerd & Partners

Where do you live?

I’m constantly on the move and have become somewhat of a nomad in recent years. However, when I’m in London, my apartment on the river is my base and it completely embodies my design philosophy with its mix of concrete, woods and petrol blue leathers. It sits in a very particular spot on the river which is a great place, merging the ultra-modern in terms of the Norman Foster architecture, with a very local neighbourhood feeling of shops and bars all around Battersea Park. It’s rare to find a view right on the water with greenery and trees around. I’m drawn to nature and like to spend time in Switzerland.

What is the current thinking on bathrooms?

The way we feel about them is changing; they can no longer be throw-away areas or an afterthought. They need to be spaces of indulgence; chic havens that are practical, yet alluring.

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And kitchens?

As our lifestyles evolve and we increasingly move towards open-plan living, they have never been more relevant. Large preparation areas and work surfaces accommodate the theatre of modern dining and provide an impact aesthetically, while also being ultimately practical. Choice is also a big factor and the wealth of options available for fixtures and finishes today is incredible, allowing for one to create something truly bespoke.