Henry Chebaane created the multi-disciplinary design studio Blue Sky Hospitality in 2002. A culmination of 18 years of experience in the sector, working for several international designers and luxury hospitality brands, it was a natural progression. Specialising in the creation and development of hotel, retail, restaurants, bars, clubs and leisure branded concepts, the studio has won recent recognition for their magnificent work at Kojawan. Henry talks professional hurdles and the journey between fashion and interiors with The LuxPad below…
Growing up did you always know you wanted to work in the design industry?
It has been a gradual process via many pathways, too many to list here. In short, I grew up in Paris with an over-active imagination, a desire to explore the world and tell inspiring stories. An internship with Pierre Cardin opened my eyes to the endless creative potential of combining art, culture, fashion, lifestyle, dining and design through multi-sensory branding. A polymath approach that I still practice every day for my clients.
Do you have a favourite project or a most memorable one?
I have worked on every continent in an endless quest to learn and improve my understanding of our world and its inhabitants. Each project provides the opportunity to meet new people with their own ambitions, concerns and desires. My role is to assist each one of them to come closer to the future they seek, within given constraints. We use design as a tool box to provide solutions to clients balancing technical contribution, cultural awareness and artistic imagination. Each project is memorable for different reasons but each involves experiencing our planet and its local cultures (59 countries visited so far). Collaborative design can be truly transformative for a community as I have experienced while working on the Four Seasons Doha with the amazing Simon Casson (then GM) and is remarkable team.
What has been your biggest professional hurdle to date and how did you overcome it?
Time: there is never enough of it. It can’t be overcome but we can learn to value and respect this most precious resource, in every part of our lives
Many fashion designers have moved into the interior space and created a home line, from Ralph Lauren to Versace, would you ever consider doing the opposite and moving into fashion?
Actually, fashion is and has always been part of my creative space. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to personally meet and workshop with amazing people like Pierre Cardin, Vidal Sassoon, Joseph Ettedgui, Anouska Hempel and Roger Saul (Mulberry).
For a few years, I also created my own fashion and homeware label (Katja) with boutiques in Chelsea, Knightsbridge and showcases in The Savoy hotel.
This was the first Scandinavian label of its kind and allowed me to meet many UHNW celebrity clients, some for whom I went on to design their private residences in Europe and the USA. We also had some interesting brand collaborations, like a bedroom suite for Savoir Beds and the first Diptyque boutique in the UK (Notting Hill).
When our leases were up for renewal (Walton street and Brompton Road) I decided to stop retailing and focus instead on commercial interiors, product design and brand development.
So in the near future I might go back into collaboration with fashion brands and combine this past experience with the knowledge gathered from designing for the global hospitality market over the last 14 years.
If you could have designed the interior of any space in the world where would it be and why?
The International Space Station. I have always been fascinated by Astro-Physics and Space travel.
As an interior designer what do you think is the most important personality trait to possess and why?
A flexible attitude: irrespective of scale and budget, a commercial project is always fraught with challenging issues of time, space, location, physical boundaries, market place and client expectations.
How would you spend your perfect day off?
Walking outdoors with my wife and our two Border Terriers.
What are your top three tips to creating a timelessly stylish interior?
It depends to some extent whether it is for a personal or commercial space. I would suggest that aiming to be relevant, considerate and cultural could be a good place to start from.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
I have met some remarkable clients, many of whom have shared their table and life philosophy with me. One of them in Catania advised me to always “stay true and go with the flow”. Another one in Kuala Lumpur told me: “be who you are and follow the wind”. Who would have thought that a Sicilian and a Chinese would share the same wisdom (and love of food) on two opposite sides of the world?
What does the rest of 2016 hold for you?
The opening of two offices in Singapore and Los Angeles, as a launch pad for a new business just announced in Las Vegas at Licensing Expo 2016: SupaPop Universe. It’s a joint-venture with the very talented Canadian pop artist Sean Danconia.
Together, we are creating branded characters and narratives to develop into animations, feature films, merchandising, retail and hospitality products. We have already signed with two major studios and more deals are under negotiation.
This year, I have also started a design collaboration with Kirin Ichiban beer and been commissioned by Narumi, the Japanese porcelain brand to create a new luxury tableware collection for their 70th anniversary. I feel humbled and honoured as this is the first time in their history, that they appoint a designer outside Japan.
I am also working with several Michelin-starred chefs on various dining projects and currently looking for a site in London to start an art gallery.