It’s hard to catch the designer Tara Bernerd. Although her office is in London, she could be in New York, Hong Kong, Munich, or Los Angeles at any given time checking in on one of her ongoing hotel projects. More likely, she’s on a plane between them as she’s often quickly in and out. Meeting at the Four Seasons New York recently—she’s designing one in Fort Lauderdale to open in 2018—even her appearance seems global, with a British accent, California beachy hair, and chic New York attire.
Of course, all that traveling makes her a hands-on expert at what makes a truly wonderful hotel stay. On the ground, she captures the true essence of a city while eschewing the latest ubiquitous hotel trends. Her recently-designed SIXTY SoHo in Manhattan, a collaboration with longtime friend and hotelier Jason Pomeranc (they also did Belgraves in London), feels like you’re in New York with its high design, but no pretension. “We are careful not to over stamp our style and be disingenuous to the locations,” she says. Other past commissions include Thompson Hotels, the Harilela group, and the Principal hotel in London this year.
But hotels aren’t her only field of expertise. Bernerd, who kick started her career in the 1990s working for Philippe Starck’s YOO design before founding her own firm in 2002, works across residential, hospitality, and commercial property development—which includes glamorously eclectic resorts, nightclubs, and yachts as well.
Another big factor in her projects is the art. “Like when you write, your punctuation transforms what you’re saying. Sometimes a room speaks such volumes that you don’t need to fill up all the areas. When you choose art, it has to be a defined selection, not just something to throw in at the end.” For her projects, she turns to Jay Jopling, the director of London’s blue-chip contemporary gallery White Cube, or Tim Jefferies of Hamilton Galleries, one of the world’s leading photography dealers.
“We also have relationships directly with artists. I worked exclusively with Harland Miller, for example, to do a private collection for SIXTY with one off collections in the rooms and some huge canvases in the lobby,” she says.
Her attention to place and space is perfectly captured in her gorgeous book, Tara Bernerd: Place (Rizzoli, $60), launched earlier this year. In the foreword, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Lord Richard Rogers said of her work, “Whatever space she designs is particular to its use; wood, stone, plaster, carpet, textiles all combine to give it a rare sensuality.”