Designers Profile: Peter Joehnk and Corinna Kretschmar-Joehnk – Co-Managing Directors – JOI-Design GmbH

Name: Peter Joehnk and Corinna Kretschmar-Joehnk

Company: JOI-Design GmbH

Position within company: Co-Managing Directors


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• Tell us a little about your backgrounds in 

design (education, experience, etc)

Peter: We are both qualified interior architects with degrees from German universities. In 1984 I founded my first practice, joehnk.Interior Design, and Corinna joined the firm in 1993 as an interior designer, progressing to managing director in 2003 when she opened our new branch office in Switzerland. We formed a business partnership in 2003 and the practice’s name changed from “Joehnk Interior Design” to “JOI-Design”, and then around the same time our private relationship developed and we married in Hamburg in 2004. And now, JOI-Design has been successfully designing hotel interiors for over 30 years. We have been fortunate to find talented people who became very loyal and committed to the company – this is one of the most important foundations of the JOI-Design brand. Our expertly skilled team of interior, product and graphic designers; architects; engineers; and artists creates exceptional hotels, restaurants and spas, each of which are fashioned with an individual style that emphasises the project’s special qualities. Over the past few years we have published numerous books about hospitality design and the use of colour, and then we’ve also launched Products by JOI-Design, our industrial design division creating bespoke FF&E collections in partnership with high-quality manufacturers.

• How would you describe your personal design styles?

Corinna: We have adopted the mantra “Shaping Atmosphere” because this is the guiding principle for everything we do as hospitality designers. We evoke emotions through a built environment’s design, thereby creating an atmosphere where guests love to linger. One of our biggest strengths is our holistic approach, which leads to each project having its own unique character. We strongly believe that design should authentically blend influences drawn from a region’s culture and history to create something that inspires its guests – while also reflecting the establishment’s brand values. We understand that hospitality design is not just a piece of art which brings to life the vision of the building’s architects or designers. A successful design is one which interprets other people’s wishes in an attractive yet functionally viable way – it must please the people for whom it was created. Peter and I have quite different styles of work though. For example, encouraging young imaginative designers to concoct crazy ideas is something Peter really values. However, I prefer not to be such a risk-taker, which has taught Peter that not every challenge is worth the associated hazards. But alternatively, I have come to see that without any risk, our office would quickly come to a standstill. Having diverse personalities does not mean that a couple cannot live and work in harmony! In fact, the results are even better when two different perspectives dream-up ideas and then the best aspects are chosen from each concept to create a truly inspired, collaborative design. Usually we work together during the conceptual phase of a project, but of course we also need to be cost-effective, so once a project is further along it will be managed by one or the other.

• Where does your design inspiration come from?

Peter: Corinna and I love to design and do the creative work. Our jobs require us to travel a lot so we use these opportunities to observe changes happening across the world. Both of us love watching people, exploring and debating about what we see, and noticing the many different manners, cultures, behaviours and needs of our changing society.

• In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?

Corinna: The trend has become not to follow the trends – differentiation is the buzzword in design. It’s a very exciting time to be in this business because clients and guests have become more style savvy and consequently their expectations have risen in terms of wanting to experience something new and unexpected. So while there isn’t a single dominant trend in hotel design today, we see distinct movements happening across all levels from the imaginative ‘posh-packers’ to luxury hotels, destination resorts and everything in between.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design:


1. Hotel design currently seems to be fixated with the past rather than truly progressive. This enduring fascination with 20th century design classics will fade as a modern expression of our time emerges. This may be shaped by the speedy growth of 3D printing technologies, and in hotels will reflect the convergence of shared work, socialising and dining spaces that were previously separated.

2. The surge in popularity of “shared economy experiences” like AirBnB means that hotels need to up their game even more by offering a sense of local immersion and personalised touches through both design and service delivery. This can mean everything from materials and craftsmanship to artwork and fabric patterns. Individualised details make guests feel valued: a top quality pillow, a carafe with cognac, the security of a domestic atmosphere, a special wellness bath, their preferred newspaper in the morning – even complimentary peanuts since most hotels do not usually offer this. But the most important thing is to make sure guests do not feel like a number, that the staff knows their name and responds to them personally.

3. The focus on wellness continues to strengthen, with some hotels even hiring “celebrity” fitness trainers to create a point of distinction. As designers we need to approach this from a holistic sense, embracing guestroom design concepts that were previously considered more “feminine” but are now increasingly in demand from men too, for example offering the option of a bathtub for guests to enjoy a relaxing bubble bath instead of just installing an efficient, task-oriented shower, larger wardrobes and a dressing table with focused lights for personal grooming.

4. Design-wise, the cruise ship industry has been lagging behind hotels, but this will soon be changing to have sophistication of luxury resorts.

5. Hotels have changed their role from being conservative places intended for the establishment to being lively places in which to socialise and become inspired. A property’s style must be interesting to attract future guests…this can be state-of-the-art in-room technology, but I strongly believe that individualism and interesting, inspiring places are the future. Technical advances can of course help to create personalised experiences through, for example, lights that change the colours of walls, but it will be the overall design concept, its flair, its style and its difference, which will attract tomorrow’s guests.

• If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design, what would it be?

Corinna: Stay open-minded! It’s really important to keep on top of the latest technological advances too so that as a designer you can have an intelligent, informed perspective about what should be integrated into a design – or be left out.

• How important are The International Hotel and Property Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?

Peter: Awards schemes are a very important arena for showcasing the best talent across the globe, as architects and designers we often work in a bubble so it’s good to see what our peers are up to. We would be very honoured if we were to receive this award, as it would reaffirm our reputation as hotel design specialists in the international arena.

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

Corinna: We will continue developing the different strands of the JOI-Design brand – interiors, products and publishing – with an unwavering vision and always staying true to our core values. We would love to venture into cruise ship design, and creating a luxurious hotel in a celebrated international city like London, Paris or New York is also one our top aspirations.

• Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself – 

Your favourite food and drink?

Corinna: Sushi or Steak.

Peter: German currywurst!

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?

Corinna: Running my own small hotel where I would enjoy chatting and welcoming each guest with personal care.

Peter: Repairing old tractors… while still, of course, designing hotels!

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