Meet our Designer

Emma Franks has been the brains behind the interior design of Apex Hotels since she joined our architect partners, ISA in 2007 as Head of Interior Design. We caught up with Emma to find out more about what you can expect of our newest hotel in Bath.

Hi Emma, what’s your background in interior design?

I’ve been at ISA for ten years now. I’ve previously worked with Design Consultancies in London and Edinburgh, but I’m more akin to working with architects. I prefer the early concept  stage, understanding the brief, looking at the interior as a  journey and being able to mould and influence the space that you are working with, rather than come in at the very end with the interiors.

Who are you designing for when it comes to Apex City of Bath?

We are catering for two different types of guests. The leisure weekend guest, and the mid-week conference and events guest. It’s important that our style makes guests feel like they could happily use all our hotels, and that’s why there are continuous design elements that are familiar across all of them, but each one retains its own identity. We do want people to know and recognise the Apex brand for its quality and attention to detail, whilst still offering them different experiences at each hotel. However, the Bath hotel is a bit quirkier than the other Apex Hotels. It’s fun; brighter, bolder, and softer…

Tell us more.

Each Apex Hotel is like a next generation. For example, the Bath bedrooms are a completely different concept from the other Apex Hotels. As a designer, I’m always thinking about the guest experience. From the minute, they open the door, what’s the feeling when they come in? And then as they go further into the room, how do they view it?

At Bath, the rooms have a longer footprint. Half of the rooms are ‘’double doubles’’ – meaning there are two double beds next to each other for four guests. We have had to completely redesign the headboard to ensure every guest feels that they’ve got everything they need at their fingertips.

One of the very first rooms at the new Apex City of Bath Hotel to be completed.

So, how did you do that?

Ultimately we wanted to create a cosy feel when you get into your bed, so we’ve got the beds set into dark recesses with a narrow partition between them, ensuring privacy and allowing all users to have a dedicated lamp and bedside table. I had a lot of freedom to try something different. The bedrooms have a calm, Scandinavian feel. We’ve included grey patterned carpets, rich velvet throws and strong contrasts between light and dark, to create that cosy atmosphere.

Slight changes in the wall finishes and full height mirrors give a more sophisticated feel. Previously, we’ve tried to show that through fabrics and carpets. This time we’re doing it through the architecture, so you feel the room’s impact as a whole when you first enter. We try to create an experience that you wouldn’t get at home.

Apex always pay particular attention to detail to the guest experience, and as the architects, we aim to produce an overwhelming sense of comfort and style in the bedrooms.

What do you think that the bed partitions will add for our guests?

Families will use these rooms. For parents, there’s often the desire to sit back, and especially with small children, avoid eye contact at bedtime, to allow children to get to sleep without distraction – partitions allow that privacy. The same applies to the business guests – they’ll get privacy if they’re sharing a room with a colleague and they won’t have to argue about when to turn the light out!

And what can you tell us about the public areas of the hotel?

The public areas are always individual and unique to each building and location. It’s quite a challenging footprint as it’s an L-shaped continuous space, with no division between the restaurant, business lounge, reception and bar lounge.

We’ve been very conscious of the modern business traveller. Walk into most hotels now and there are lots of sofas with everyone packed in on their laptops. It’s a massive learning curve for us that your desk can be anywhere, next to anyone, at any time and we’re all breaking down the barriers of our personal space and what we find acceptable. With that in mind these areas are busier than the public spaces in our other hotels, with more seating in the bar and business lounge area. I ended up  stacking  books around my chair and using a tape measure to mock up and feel the space – that’s the only way I can decide if I’ve got the spacing right and I’m not too close to the next person!

An early sketch of hotel’s reception area.

And what about the conference, restaurant and bar areas?

The general concept was to create a continuous blending of colours from one spectrum to the other, as the guest takes in the full journey through the linked spaces.

The restaurant and conference area have been designed in hot colours, bright reds, orange, yellows. We have bold coloured furniture and these huge, fabulous, bright orange, artichoke-style light fittings. This blends with the yellowy-green of the business lounge and Meet & Greet area. The reception area brings hints of gold and green and this flows through to petrol and peacock blues in the bar area.

The bar area has a dark and cosy aesthetic, and we were very keen to make it an early evening destination. The lovely floor-to-ceiling windows slide back and forth, so the space flows out from the bar onto the terrace beyond.

I really hope people will feel the lounge and the bar are both warm and welcoming spaces to relax. There’s lots of seating for people to perch or sit, plenty of little laptop tables, it is designed with all day use in mind. It should be perfect for local business people to come and sit with a coffee and work.

Emma’s early sketches of the restaurant and front of house spaces.
The first drawings of the conference space.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I’m very responsive to textures and patterns in every day life, the juxtaposition of things and how they relate and respond to one and other. I’ll see something (a piece of fabric, a colour, furniture item, or light fitting) and end up building an entire concept around it. A job can last for years in the planning and building stages before you see the finished result, so you can choose a colour that a few years later you’re seeing everywhere, before it materialising in your own design.  I think sometimes there is a subtle influence of colours from magazines and fashion that you don’t even realise you’re picking up.

What’s the favourite part of your job?

Oh, that’s a difficult question! The excitement of being involved in something from a very early stage. The possibilities, knowing that it will become something real that you can touch, and walk in to. I love it when it’s all coming together, although towards the end of a job, as everything is taking shape, the experience is much more nerve-wracking. I couldn’t do the early design and then never see it built. I love sitting with bits of paper, drawing, and thinking about the design, and just being part of something which becomes an experience for others.

It’s a magical feeling to have created something on paper that becomes real and tangible that other people might enjoy.

Can you sum up the Apex style in three words?

Contemporary. Dynamic. Stylish.