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Cool Britannian

This Just Inn

British interior designer and gal-about-town Tara Bernerd brings her glamorous touch and sexy aesthetic to Belgraves, London’s newest place of rest—and play.

For the sought-after interior designer, Tara Bernerd, work is an international affair. “I’m very privileged,” says the 39-year-old. “I’ve spent a lot of time traveling.”

Currently, the frequent flyer is lending her bold vision to a private penthouse in New York City, and souping-up a 50-meter yacht in southern Turkey. Her swank touch, which goes heavy on the art, can also be found adorning the inner confines of a private ski chalet in Gstaad, luxury apartments in Hong Kong, and some of the most dazzling interiors, from Miami to Mallorca. But it’s Bernerd’s latest project that has brought the world-weary Londoner home.

Belgraves is an 85-room boutique hotel that soars above the stately squares and white stucco crescents that characterize Belgravia, one of the world’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

For Bernerd, who launched her career at Phillippe Starck’s design firm Yoo, the hotel’s opening marks the culmination of decade-long dream. Once a boxy Sheraton (it has since been gutted and renovated by Thompson Hotels), Bernerd dreamed of lending her bold vision to its interior when her office window faced the building almost ten years ago. “It’s fantastic,” gushes Bernerd, who moonlights as an inadvertent fixture in British tabloids. “I’ve always known that I wanted to work with hotels. And I always thought, Wow, if there was one that I would love to do, it’s the one here in Belgravia opposite my office. It’s kind of poetic that it happened this way.”

Bernerd’s work is marked by strong usage of color and texture, but she insists those details are nowhere as important as the space itself. “I don’t even think about materials, either the wood or the walls, the colors, the moods, until I have worked on the layout. How we plan the space and how we optimize people’s lifestyles within that space is key.” Atmosphere is as important as aesthetics, and whether it’s a yacht, a ski chalet, or a boutique hotel, this principle remains at the fore. “We bring personality. It’s not just what it looks like; I’m interested in how things feel.”

Bernerd, who heads her own firm, Tara Bernerd and Partners, says the Belgraves has the sealed-off exclusivity of a private club, without the excessive, old-boy pomp. “It’s not trying to be overly grand, or overly luxury,” she says. “It’s got cocoons of space.” She acknowledges that while small, the scope of the inn will extend past its tenants. “Londoners will see it as a local destination,” she predicts, “and use it almost as their own club. It’s got a little bit of attitude,” Bernerd says, as if describing the neighborhood itself,” but not too much.”

By Dana Drori