Contract Magazine - January/February 2018 - 46
DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
floral ceiling that is "very subtle, not overly ornate," he says. The
interiors are light and airy, thanks to a pale color palette and furniture
such as wire-mesh barstools and glass-topped tables with shapely
blonde wood bases.
The William Vale: Munge in New York
An essential example of the recent transformation in Munge's
practice is also his first project in New York: The William Vale Hotel
(2016) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Designed for Riverside Developers,
The William Vale illustrates the power of the Studio Munge narrative
process. "We [initially] went through an interview process just for food
and beverage [services] because the client already had a designer
for the rooms and public areas," Munge says. "But the client was blown
away by our narrative, and as a result, we got to do the whole hotel,"
which includes the restaurant, Leuca; the rooftop bar, Westlight;
all public spaces; and 183 guestrooms and suites.
His pitch? Instead of referencing Williamsburg's industrial past,
Munge focused on its dynamic artistic present. Commissioned artworks
by Brooklyn artists pervade the hotel from the lobby and lounge
to the suites. Guestrooms are bright and modern, and double-height
living spaces in the presidential suite amp up the luxury quotient.
"From the first day we met and discussed our vision for The
William Vale Hotel, Alessandro and his team worked through many
drafts to come to the final masterpiece, which continues to get
rave reviews from our guests," says Benzi Herbst, project manager
for Riverside Developers. "The attention to detail is unbelievable."
The hotel's southern Italian restaurant, Leuca, has a particularly
poetic subnarrative: The restaurant's chef, his wife, and their young
daughter moved to Brooklyn from Italy, and the cuisine is reminiscent
of their homeland. The warm, earthy oak-paneled room, with its
spacious leather-upholstered custom banquettes, is a romantic
evocation of their Italian country house.
Up on the 22nd floor, Westlight, The William Vale's white-hot
rooftop bar, is crisp, refined, and cosmopolitan. Visitors arrive via
elevator and proceed through a corridor for a sense of heightened
procession on their way to Westlight, which features stunning,
sweeping views of New York. It's one of Munge's most satisfying
achievements. "How we take people up into the elevator, narrow
them into a corridor, and then blast them out into the dining room-
that compression and expansion is exactly what we wanted and
is exactly what happens when people walk through it," Munge says.
From clubs to Bisha Hotel
The evolution in Munge's work continues in Toronto, where his most
significant project to date, Bisha Hotel, opened just two months ago.
Developed by Khabouth, whose nickname is Bisha, this high-end hotel
tracks the upward trajectory of both client and designer. Khabouth,
an operator of several Toronto clubs and restaurants, is now an hotelier,
and Munge, who has completed many venues for Khabouth, is crafting
entire hotels. This dynamic duo has defined and energized Toronto's
social scene with style and showmanship. "I think we've designed
15 projects together," Khabouth says. "It's been a bit of a challenge
because we're both strong-headed. We've been able to keep up with
each other, sometimes try and outdo each other, but the end result
has been satisfying for both of us."
True to Khabouth's nightlife background, "Bisha Hotel
welcomes and celebrates the animals of the night that we are,"
says Munge, who designed all 96 guestrooms, the lobby lounge
JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2018