An accommodation has nothing to offer if its design does not speak to you. That is the vision of Olala Homes’ Head of Interior Design, Sandra Duran. Olala Homes has been focusing on creating a design identity for each accommodation, and we sat down with Sandra to talk about her creative process, and the future of our interior design.
Q: Tell Us a Bit About Yourself and Your Experience Working in Interior Design.
I’ve been working as an interior designer for 15 years, and I started working in the hospitality field for the past 8 or 9 years, so I have a lot of experience at designing and conceptualizing hotels and short term rentals for international projects. In the past I’ve worked in Mexico and the USA, but now I’m focusing a lot more on Europe.
Q: What’s Your Interior Design Philosophy?
Well, once I know the needs of a project, I personally find that coming up with a concept is more like a feeling. When I see a space, the space usually tells me what it needs. And actually, this leads me to a purpose or an identity for that place. In the case of Olala Homes, as the vast majority of the properties are vacation rentals, I try to introduce a lot of “conscious design”, which is a concept of durability in the space that embraces a lot of lighter materials, like steel or wood. I try to work with elements that will last over time and will enhance the space. At the same time, since we are present around the world, while each space has its unique identity, we also will need to create and express a global identity.
Q: Have You Ever Found It Difficult to Find That “Feeling” in a Project?
No, not really. Because I do a lot of research prior to the conceptualization of the project. A big percentage of designing is researching. If I go to a place and it doesn’t tell me something right away, the solution is always: research, research, research. And I always end up with something in mind. Research is the key to everything. If you don’t find me designing, you will find me researching. That is the only way for me to know what works and what is trendy, what happens everywhere and how that can become part of my work as well.
What Does Your Creative Process Look Like?
Most of the time, I visit the place beforehand. Sometimes though, I have to design places that I’m not able to visit first-hand, so pictures help a lot. I usually receive some photographs or videos of the space which gives me an idea of what needs to happen in that place.
When I see it, I also gather all the needs of the project, such as occupancy, how much light it has, the planned level of renovation. Depending on how much work it needs, the design plan can vary a lot. For example, if it’s an uplifting project, what I focus on is giving colors on the walls and bringing materials to enhance the space. On the other hand, if we can fully renovate a place, I have so much fun because I can move walls, change doors, renovate the kitchen, and so it is a completely different process.
Basically, once you decide what needs to happen in a space and the palette you want to use, then you can start researching for the furniture and the final touches. We do a look-and-feel board, and after it gets approved, I move onto budgeting and finding everything to create a unique space. From there on, we work around a timeline of 3 or 4 days to set everything up.
Which Is Your Favorite Interior Design Project You’ve Made So Far at Olala Homes? And Why?
I always think the last one that I made becomes my favorite! Because you put so much effort into making them. If they were my kids, I think the youngest would always be my favorite!
But, if I had to choose, I think Olala Valencia Lofts would be one of my favorites, because it was one of my first projects working for Olala Homes and it has a special place very close to my heart.
And then, there is Olala WOW Apartment 1.2, which is a project where I was able to play around the space a lot being a full renovation. Likewise, I also got to see it happen, so that was very special to me.
What Can We Expect From Olala Homes in the Future in Terms of Design?
There isn’t just one way to go about this. We have very different accommodations in many settings all around the world, so unifying all of them in just one style or one way would be very difficult and maybe not the right path for the future to come. For instance, we are now working on a new building in the city of Barcelona, and because of the area it is located in and the type of building it is, I know for sure that it is going to be very different from Olala WOW Apartments, which are also located in Barcelona. These apartments are going to be more daring, because the building calls for it.
But, what you can expect for sure from Olala Homes is a lot of versatile spaces within an accommodation. I want to start creating a lot of working spaces, be it office areas or other comfortable places for people to work in. Nowadays, the line between business and leisure travel has blurred. Remote working has allowed people to explore a new city while working in a vacation accommodation.
In addition, you can expect a lot more color and light. I’m thinking a lot about the lighting of the spaces now because that makes a huge difference. Many destinations we are present at are blessed with an abundance of natural sunlight, and we should enable our guests to enjoy them.
For sure, you can expect a lot of new exciting projects! And a lot of different apartments in one same city for you to choose from.
Q: You Mentioned That There Are a Lot of People Working Remotely Nowadays. How Does Olala Homes Help the Guests That Come to Visit a Place but Also Have the Need to Work From Somewhere While They Are There?
There’s a huge variety of guests, and everyone has its own habit and preference to work and utilize a space. We need to integrate a workspace in a smart way for as many people as possible to be comfortable while working. I personally work in the living room when I work from home because I can’t work laying down. But there are a lot of people that don’t like working in spaces like the living room, where maybe they are not alone or they have a lot of distractions. That’s why it is important for me to have various functional working spaces in each apartment. It is not always easy, but we have to try and enable our guests to work comfortably when they stay with us. At Olala Homes, we strive to create an amazing travel experience with all the comfort of your own home. And it will be a success if each guest leaves feeling special, like the apartment was made just for you.
Favorite colour? Black.
Advice for people to take inspiration on interior design? I’m very bad at giving advice… And also taking it! (laughs) But, jokes aside, if you are thinking of renovating your place, I think the best idea is to keep simple lines and then have fun accessorizing. It’s the same as in fashion. If you don’t know what you want, play it simple and then accentuate the place with the decor.
Best music band? Placebo, I really like. Very British.
What passions do you have besides your work? I exercise almost everyday. I also really enjoy hanging out with my friends or going to a nice restaurant for dinner. I read a lot, and I like going to museums as part of my inspiration process, even if it is just in my free time. And travel!
Favorite book? Momo by Michael Ende. The movie is really bad, but the book is amazing!