Champalimaud Design returns this iconic landmark in Abu Dhabi to its palatial design splendour with overarching concepts originating from the destination’s layered and ancient history – a rich story of ‘The Land where the Ocean meets the Desert’
Champalimaud Design, the New York-based interior design studio, is committed to creating transformative spaces and unparalleled products in the residential, hospitality, and wellness spheres. The latest venture from the award-winning studio is the redesign of the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, the iconic beachfront resort in Abu Dhabi. Champalimaud Design has integrated a sense of place, emphasising high craftsmanship and weaving a contemporary sensibility through renovated Guest Rooms, Suites, Public Spaces, and Restaurants.
The concept for the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental is inspired by its position between one of the world’s largest continuous deserts and the aquamarine waters of the Arabian Gulf, telling a rich tale of ‘The Land where the Ocean meets the Desert’. The studio’s narrative was informed by an exquisite landscape of patterns shaped by nature and by the layered history of cultural exchange in Abu Dhabi. The redesign of the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental presents a vision of sophistication and modernity while authentically reflecting the traditions of the Emirates. Design elements come together to immerse guests and inspire an emotional connection to the location. Artworks throughout were curated by art consultant VISTO, completing the final layer in a rich visual story.
“This design narrative brings to life a romantic and bespoke, sophisticated yet understated residential sensibility. There is a major focus on craftsmanship and precision. It is luxurious in every aspect, from the broad concept to the mood of the lighting and the tactility of the materials.“ Kajsa Krause, Principal and Director of Strategy, Champalimaud Design
Upon entering the lobby, guests are welcomed by ornate marble and gilded ceilings paired with new contemporary furnishings and finishes. Along the corridors, bright wall trim and inset wallcoverings are contrasted against dark stone door drops and custom carpet patterns inspired by raked sand, which pick up the tonality of the various existing marble colorations to blend in with the grand corridor atriums. Door signage is designed with layered cut-outs based on Arabic geometric patterns, backlit for added glow and ambiance as you move through the corridors.
The hotel’s rooms and suites possess a modern residential aesthetic. Headboard walls are adorned with back-lit screens inspired by the geometric lighting effects of traditional Arabic screens. An oversized mirror integrated at the end of the screen reflects the terrace and surrounding views, giving a sense of expanded space and deep connectivity to the sky and the ocean. Headboards, bedside tables and lamps were designed and curated to bring a rich sensibility, using thoughtful leather and metal detail throughout. These are softened with bespoke colourful ceramic lamp bases, soft linen shades and custom area rugs inspired by the patterns created by water and sand. Each custom light fixture draws inspiration from organic forms and local gardens.
Bespoke furniture and upgraded finishes throughout the suites carry on the visual theme of tradition through a contemporary lens. Mother of pearl inlay in the bedroom dresser references the history of pearl diving that once sustained the Arabian Gulf, while sheer drapery and a deep aqua blue accent colour scheme connect the outdoors to the indoors. Cerused wood flooring is complemented by hand-tufted rugs with patterns inspired by the movements of sand and water. New screens have been added to the arrival entry areas, alongside an upgraded custom pattern at the headboard wall. Integrated custom light fixtures evoke the heritage of oil lamps and hanging lanterns, and heritage of oil lamps and hanging lanterns, a nod to local traditions of the past now interpreted in a modern design. The interior doors were replaced with new white door frames and fluted translucent inset panels for a renewed experience that provides more light between the rooms, without compromising privacy.
The Royal Suite delivers a superior private residential experience. At every headboard wall is a custom-made dimensional panel expressing a sand pattern motif. Rich in tonality and pattern, Champalimaud Design joined exotic marbles, stingray leathers and boldly veined woods with high-touch finishes, all speaking to the narrative of Abu Dhabi as a node along the ancient trade routes. Juxtaposed against this richness, a calm and contemporary layer is introduced in the choice of fabrics and wallcoverings, with abstract patterns inspired by local heritage and the surrounding nature.
The EP Club comprises 660 square metres of elevated living, dining, and relaxing areas exclusively for members and suite guests. Champalimaud Design has created a sequence of residential en-suite rooms, all with different characters and offerings to provide a breadth of experiences, from private moments to social gatherings. The open kitchen is located at the heart of the space, with secondary spaces radiating and connecting, such as a library lounge, a living room, and a private dining room. Material contrasts of white polished stone set against reflecting surfaces and darker millwork build visual excitement. In the various layers of seating arrangements, custom patterned metal screens speak to the tradition of moving light through screen elements and lanterns, with a floral pattern that takes cue from the Mandarin Oriental brand.
As part of the culinary destination EPISODES, Champalimaud Design has reimagined a series of three exquisitely designed dining spaces, each reflecting their sense of place. First is the Tea Apothecary, where inspiration from the Far East meets the Middle East with pastel tones evoking tea fields and gardens. The selection of furniture and materials brings a contemporary aesthetic, with crystal flowers and silk leaves integrating light for a dramatic transition from day to night. A gourmet Deli has been designed to deliver an energetic and less formal setting for all day dining. Luxurious white marble details, rich wood toned millwork and dark metal accents both play off the gilded backdrop of the Palace. A Gelateria perfectly complements the original Mandarin Cake Shop with a colourful and playful aura, adding softer, creamy colours with a nod to the old Italian art of gelato.
The Hideaway by Emirates Palace Spa and The Hideaway Spa Cabanas are an effortless and intimate sanctuary for the senses. Here, Champalimaud Design has unveiled a new Moroccan spa where the lounge areas will be further enhanced with heritage pattern-cut screens. A Members Pool and Fitness Centre adjacent to the spa have been completely redesigned with new stone finishes, modern millwork, and elevated brightware selections. A sauna and steam room, a new fresh juice bar and a retail area are resplendent with contemporary wood and marble touches.
Champalimaud Design’s work is always about designing through the lens of the visitor. Their forward-thinking ability to infuse spaces with modernity while maintaining integrity, character, and a sense of place keeps the studio’s work relevant and captivating. Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental is a globally recognised landmark with a rich history. It represents an urban oasis between the desert and the ocean offering an essentially Arabic sense of hospitality, meeting ancient culture with modern opulence. In the redesign of the Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, Champalimaud Design honours Abu Dhabi’s local heritage, joining traditional styles and craftsmanship with a contemporary point of view.