Ruby Hotels

Designer Profile: Matthew Balon, Head of Design at Ruby GmbH

Name: Matthew Balon

Company: Ruby GmbH

Position with company: Head of Design


Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)Matthew Balon, Head of Design at Ruby GmbHI started working for an interior designer doing primarily residential work outside of Chicago when I was 15. Since then, design has always been in my life in some form or other. Having moved to Europe in my early twenties I later attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany earning a degree in Interior Architecture. Immediately afterwards I began working with brands such as Emporio Armani, Etro and Esprit, building retail spaces at the Munich Airport. Next, I pursued projects in the hospitality industry which led to successful collaborations with Marriott, Renaissance, Westin and other brands. Currently I’m ‘Head of Design’ at Ruby where I manage our crack team of interior designers, interior architects and buyers.

How would you describe your personal design style?
My style is varied. I like objects with patina, with a history and tend to avoid anything too precious. I appreciate the weird, bits of humour and historical references too.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
Having a wide variety of interests that aren’t necessarily related to Interior Design.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
Design is cyclical. We’re seeing a lot of luxurious materials like velvet, brass and marble being paired with very geometrical forms lately. The arch is everywhere. After that’s run its course, I think more natural shapes, textures, and materials will resurface.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2020 and beyond.

  1. The lifecycle of products and materials
  2. Supporting regional manufacturing
  3. Curated technology
  4. Encouraging and supporting the next generation of local designers
  5. Using buying-power mindfully

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
Always know for whom you’re designing.

How important are The International Hotel & Property Awards?
The International Hotel & Property Awards offer industry professionals a unique chance to inspire, be inspired and also celebrate. It’s crucial to take those moments to appreciate great work being done around the world.

What projects are you currently working on?
Ruby is opening hotels and a coworking space in Düsseldorf and Frankfurt this year. We currently have projects underway in Zurich, Geneva, London and Cologne as well.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?

  1. To always get better at what I do.
  2. To get my sailing license.
  3. To brush up on my French skills (We’ve got that project in Geneva.)
  4. I’ve been really interested in textile production lately and would love to do a sheep-to-sweater type project and learn more about all the steps and skills involved in processing wool.

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?
I’m not really tied to possessions.

Your favourite holiday destination?
It’s always the last place I’ve been. The last place I’ve been is the Trentino province in Italy with my family. It was wonderful.

Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar?
I like ‘Haus Hirt’ in Bad Gastein, Austria
‘Tony’s Pizza’ in Valparaiso, Indiana (a relic from my childhood)
‘Zephyr’ in Munich has such great cocktails

Your favourite book, film & song?
Anything by Patrick O’Brian
‘True Lies’
Goldberg Variations

Your favourite food and drink?
Chicago-style deep dish pizza and a beer

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
Wandering around a garden somewhere.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
My childhood ambition was to play in an orchestra. My Dad wanted me to be a hairdresser and my Mom thought I’d make a good chef. That career test you take when you’re 18 said I should be an orthopaedic shoemaker whereas I think I could have been a decent landscape architect. Who knows? Maybe a florist.

Ruby Hotels have been shortlisted for Hotel Under 200 Rooms – Europe Award in The International Hotel and Property Awards 2020.

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