The first time I visited Radisson Blu Nairobi, I got the impression that the person behind the interior design of the hotel must have a liking for feathers.
This is because feathers in different colours adorn the walls as you walk towards the ballroom in the hotel, each cluster seemingly brighter than the other.
“I do like feathers, I painted them myself,” confirms Christian Lundwall, interior architect with LWA Architects, the team behind the interiors of Radisson Blu Nairobi and Lagos.
He is a man with a meticulous eye for detail, ensuring each space is utilised and the art work matches with the modern theme evident throughout the hotel.
The Scandinavian interior architect has worked with the Carlson Rezidor Group, the management group behind Radisson and Park Inn among other hotel chains, as well as Starwood and Hilton to design the interiors of multiple projects across the globe.
Eight years ago, he made his first visit to Kenya to the site that would be a high-end hotel in the city. Working with the architects and developers, what he had put on paper began to take shape.
“I draw and have everything custom-made,” he explains. This includes the wallpaper, the carpets and even the art.
For the Nairobi property, Christian explains that he wanted to give the hotel an open feel and use natural light as the main source of light, especially on the ground floor.
When you walk into the hotel, the glass doors open up into a main atrium lit by a skylight roof and glass doors and walls on either side. The centre-piece is a classic white piano with an abstract waterfall behind it.
“I wanted to give the feel that you are outside even though you are indoors,” he explains.
Born 65 years ago to an architect father and a prima ballerina mother, he initially had plans to get into advertising. Along the way, his two close friends got into interior design and he decided to join them.
He set up LWA in Karen, where his Kenya operations are based. As an interior architect, the father of one simply describes himself as a co-ordinator and messenger.
He describes each part of his work in great detail including the carpeting in the conference hall. The design, he says, allows the room - which can be partitioned in to three - to look identical.
In addition, the motif allows you to know how many seats can fit in the room depending on the spacing and seating design chosen by the client without having to physically arrange the chairs.
The art work, he adds, is locally sourced from different artists and collections including art from African Heritage and sculptures by Kevin Odour.
“We imported some of the décor pieces, though they sometimes get damaged while on transit,” he says.
In one such case, pieces of intricately styled metal pieces for the wall arrived damaged. The team sought out a Kenyan artisan who made them in the limited time that they had to complete the project.
Restaurants pose challenges when setting up, says the Christian. The intricacies include the food, ambience and service. Each determines the layout, colour scheme, theme and décor that will be used.
He planned the designs for the hotel nearly eight years ago, and the costs then and now are very different. The styles also evolve from one year to the next, meaning that the person behind the interiors has to take keen consideration of pieces that are modern yet timeless.
The rooms too are striking from the turquoise carpet to the textured wall paint. The design for the wall was doneby Christian and his team alongside local interior outfit Classic Moulding, who provide personalised and custom made paints for individual and commercial projects.
According to Christian, he was fascinated by the paint and it came at a much lower cost than importing the wallpaper that was initially supposed to be used.
One of the little knacks that stands out in the suites is the bathtub with a glass partition into the room. This means you can enjoy watching telly or enjoy the natural light in the bathroom while still in the tub or close the blinds for privacy.
He imported fully computerised lighting from Germany, which he says in addition to the natural lighting, dramatically reduces the electricity costs.
He says, if you want to see the real extremes in hotel construction and design, Dubai and London would be where you will see it all.