Founded by Inge Moore and Nathan Hutchins, Muza Lab is an award-winning design practice based in Notting Hill. With their combined, longstanding experience in interior design and architecture, the duo has so far proven to deliver every project intelligently, intuitively and imaginatively. Their exceptional spaces are inspired by a heartfelt passion for re-telling the stories that make every place special. Exercising a global outlook and a dedication to the authentic, the team infuses each project with the natural and cultural heritage of its location, creating design that engages body and mind and evokes magical memories. Having completed projects like otherworldy Belmond Eagle Island Lodge in Botswana, and iconic The Alpina hotel in Gstaad, they often work to enormous scale, but always with the refined touch and attention to detail equated to small, boutique projects.
All planned out from behind the doors of their unassuming Notting Hill mews studio, the astounding scope of their work is another reminder to us how much a creative hub this area remains to be today. Muza Lab is at the forefront of a strong group of design visionaries who choose to work, live in and be inspired by our colourful, creative little pocket of London, whether it means growing the creativity here, or – like Muza Lab – taking it to remote corners of the globe.
Current and recent work includes: residential projects in London and Barcelona; the redesign of a 1931 vintage super yacht; Kanuhura Resort, Maldives; Rocco Forte hotel, Shanghai; Four Seasons, Kingdom Tower, Jeddah; Ananda resort, Goa; a luxury golf club and bar in Saudi Arabia; and Grosvenor House in Park Lane, London.
In 2017, they were presented with the So Cool award at the Gold Key Awards Gala in New York for their transformation of South America’s first luxury sleeper train, Belmond Andean Explorer in Peru. This project is possibly where the vernacular of their style is most wonderfully apparent. The very finite structure of the train has in no way restricted their ability to continue weaving the tale of a Peruvian landscape inside. Drawing upon the palettes and textures of the majestic terrain, as well as Peruvian crafts and artistry, Muza Lab has developed an understated concept of timeless luxury. Select nostalgic elements of the original train, Great South Pacific Express, have been restored or added as emblems of the golden age of train travel and their story is so well written, you’d be surprised not to find Hercule Poirot himself on board.
The pair was generous enough to share more of their story with us…
How and when did you first decide to collaborate and create your impressive studio?
Inge: Nathan and I worked together for over a decade and came to realise that we shared a vision of founding our own studio where we could do things our way. To us that meant getting back to our creative roots – exploring and challenging pre-conceptions so that we can create amazing spaces.
Nathan: We launched Muza Lab in January 2017 after several months of going through a branding process that helped us clarify our goals and points of differentiation. The time we took over this initial stage proved invaluable as it gave us a solid foundation and true understanding of who we are and what we can bring to clients.
What are the core principles Muza Lab approaches design with?
Inge: We believe in storytelling. Wherever we work, we seek out the stories of the land – its history, legends and culture, as well as its natural world – and we re-shape these into our interiors, creating new stories in which the users of our spaces take part. Our aim is to offer moments for people to experience.
Nathan: Muza Lab has a very particular studio culture, shaped by the skills and passions of the team. This means we are interested in the potential of the project and the client’s aspiration more than simply the size and scale of the commission. We are naturally curious, delving into the past until it’s told us all it can. Then we model a new tale, experiment and explore further so that the essence of the place is woven into the sensation of our spaces.
What do you think defines Muza Lab?
Inge: Our name reflects what we are about. The word ‘Muza’ translates as ‘inspiration’, which suits us perfectly as our wish is to create inspired spaces that will, in turn, inspire those who use them. And then for us, the meaning of ‘Lab’ can be taken two ways: it describes the meticulous, analytical framework necessary for successful results, and it also refers to the dash of ‘mad scientist’ that goes into our designs, the stretching of our minds to put ideas together with a new and innovative approach.
Who or what are you influenced by?
Nathan: We are influenced by many things: the location of a project, its history, the needs and desires of our client, each other and the other members of our team. I like to travel and find inspiration in the world’s cultural cross-currents. I have also been fascinated by the souls of buildings from an early age, and now work to tell their stories through design.
Inge: I also find inspiration in travel and like to search out what lies behind the enduring qualities of beauty, style and the sense of well-being. For me, leading a well-balanced life is important. That means time to share with those most precious to you, time to connect with the natural world and time to listen to the cultural echoes of the world we live in. This is what influences me as a designer and as an individual.
How does your working space reflect your professional styles?
Nathan: Finding a working space which could reflect Muza Lab’s values was vital to us. We wanted to create an open and dynamic atmosphere in a beautiful setting that our team and our clients would enjoy. In our Notting Hill mews studio, we have been able to foster an informal yet professional environment, one which encourages the sharing of ideas and inspiration.
How do you strike a balance between what is aesthetically pleasing and what is practical?
Nathan: Whilst we always strive to create beautiful, luxurious interiors that the owners will love, design is only successful if it works. Before we draw a single line, we consider how the space will be used, think about the needs and desires of those using it, and study the site. Only when we have become experts on these do we begin to develop our design concept.
Inge: By taking this time and care, harmony between beauty and practicality can be achieved. For example, in our renovation of the private island resort Kanuhura Maldives, we had to consider how the furnishings and decor would weather outside and we not only chose materials that would last, but materials that would increase in beauty over time with natural patinas. As the location is remote, we also made sure that the items we selected could be maintained by the island’s workshop.
What kind of projects are you generally drawn towards?
Inge: At Muza Lab, we love nothing more than getting involved in unique projects and being able to take guests on spectacular journeys through design. I gain a lot of inspiration from nature and adore working with properties and clients that embrace the natural world.
Nathan: I’ve become keenly interested in understanding what luxury means in today’s global world. I’m drawn to projects that allow me to explore the kind of luxury that offers an ageless quality and authentic values. This can be in a high-end hotel on the other side of the world or in a private family home a stone’s throw from our studio.
What would be a dream development site for Muza Lab?
Inge: I think it would be a series of houses tucked away in a Notting Hill mews, working with a client who wants to convert them into a very cool meeting place, part restaurant and bar, and part working space. I imagine a venue that is tuned into
how we like to live our lives today, for local people and others ‘in the know’.
What is next for Muza Lab? Does 2018 hold anything particularly exciting in store?
Inge: We’ve been lucky enough to work with some phenomenal clients in creating unique and award-winning projects and we have a lot more coming over the course of this year. These include the conversion of one of Barcelona’s most significant 19th century buildings into an exceptional residential development, the Rocco Forte hotel in Shanghai, a super yacht for a private owner and Luxury Collection Park Towers in London.
It’s been eye-opening to discover the core ideals and heartfelt design that steer this award-winning company and all their successes. Muza Lab’s honest, meaningful storytelling is setting exciting new benchmarks in individualism amongst their own, and other, high profile-developments. In the short time they have officially been in business, Inge and Nathan have accomplished so much; we cannot wait to see what more this year will bring!
Muza Lab: muzalab.com