In Conversation With Ariane Steinbeck Managing Director of RPW Design

Ariane Steinbeck is the new managing director of RPW Design; the company is responsible for the recent incredible overhaul of the suites at The Marriott Park Lane and Mandarin Oriental amongst many other award winning projects in London.

Ariane’s stellar career spans the USA to Asia and has now been appointed to build on RPW’s considerable worldwide recognition, adding a new dimension to existing skills and contributing to the performance of the many successful projects.



Ms Steinbeck kindly took some time from her busy schedule to talk to us about her exciting career and future trends within the luxury travel sector.

What attracted you to RPW Design and your new role?

I think it was a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time when the opportunity to head RPW came to my attention. Once I learned more about the team, the ethos of the firm and the quality of projects RPW was attracting, it was simply too great of a chance not to take.

After spending the last eight years in Hong Kong what are the main differences you notice about the two cities and what do you miss about Hong Kong and love about London?

I believe the atmosphere of world class cities such as London, Hong Kong or New York are very much similar to each other. I love the vibrancy and multicultural society we enjoy here, which also attracted me to Hong Kong when I first considered living there. The big difference between London and Hong Kong is the weather of course, but I do enjoy experiencing more than one season in any one day….

Describe a typical working day for you (if such a thing exists!)

I will typically get up at 6 am to get my son Cyrus ready for school and out of the house by 6:45. After that, I will enjoy a coffee and catch up on any overnight emails, news and arrive at the office sometime between 8:30 to 9:30. The day will be filled with checking in on the teams working on the various projects, editing and directing, seeing suppliers, researching materials and reaching out to potential clients. Lots of time on the internet, reading and distilling. Lunch usually at my desk if I’m not meeting clients or friends. I usually get home by 7 pm to cook dinner with Cyrus and tuck both of us in by 10pm. A few pages of a good book or the New York Times on my IPad and I’m off to dream big dreams.

RPW, Marriott Park Lane Bathroom

You’ve been in the industry for many years, how do you manage to keep ideas fresh and where do you find inspiration for each individual project on which you work?

With every new season, just like in fashion, come new fabrics, finishes and art. Some are classics, to be used again and again-and some are fleeting affairs. First and foremost, I like to spend a few days in the city/area our project is located…go to the market, local galleries, crafts shops, boutiques, restaurants-just to get a feel for the location. The inspiration comes from all of this– and the accumulated knowledge of what the global luxury consumer’s expectations are.

Please tell us about any forthcoming projects you’ll be involved with and why you’re excited about them.

On the new projects on the boards, I can’t divulge much more other than: city life, and beach are involved. For the golf aficionado, the Fairmont St. Andrews renovation is under construction and most public areas should be finished by early summer. In London, we have the Leisure Club at the Marriott Park Lane finishing up by April this year.

What does luxury mean to you and how do you think a successful luxury brand substantiates its proposition?

Personally, Luxury is a memorable experience that is unique to me and not necessarily for everyone else. Luxury is not easily attained and it’s always a bit mysterious. Luxury could be a simple meal that is well prepared and expertly served in an undiscovered inn somewhere in the country or it can be an amazing find in a big touristy city. Luxury doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money. Simple, and perfect-simply perfect, but not easy to attain.

A luxury brand will always be able to substantiate their existence if the customer experience is tailored to the customer’s expectation, even more so if their expectations are exceeded.

For luxury hotels, the element of genuine, warm and knowledgeable service is the most distinguishing component. And that is exceedingly hard to scale.

With your level of expertise you must have seen many different trends deployed within the hospitality sector – are you a trendsetter, trend follower, oblivious to trends and do your own thing….



When I see a trend, I’d like to run the other way. The big problem with “trends” is that once something is already a “trend”, it’s not luxurious anymore. Again-likening hospitality to fashion: once hotels are starting to look alike, all following a trend, they are no longer special or unique-and I believe today’s luxury customer is interested in something more bespoke. Why would one want to drop £ 10,000 for a bag, when you’ve seen it on the internet everywhere and knockoffs can be had at every corner?

We advise our clients to do what’s right for the location, the property and to stay away from architectural or interior design moves that may be “on trend” if those choices negatively affect their investment goals. My adage is “back to basics”-wide open for interpretation….

Similarly you must have noted evolving expectations from hotel guests. How have these changed, what has been the catalyst and how has this influenced the sector?

Expectations from hotel guests are ever higher. Inexpensive plane fares have made destinations affordable today that have long been the purview of a moneyed few. It sounds trite, but if I had to name one catalyst, it would have to be the internet. Don’t have money today for a jaunt to the next hottest destination? Jump on TripAdvisor and check out photos of who’s been to your dream location….Love that seating by the killer view? Jump on Pinterest and see how you can “get the look for less”…it’s the accessibility of information that has leveled the playing field between luxury and mass market. Everyone who wants to can become more sophisticated and will expect better-at every price point.



What are your predictions for how the luxury hospitality sector will evolve over the next few years?

I firmly believe that the luxury hospitality market will have to create truly bespoke experiences for the traveler to attain and retain their customers. A modicum of chic can be had very cheaply and is no longer good enough

Sign up for our newsletter for inspiration, exclusive previews & luxury tips