Andre Fu of Andre Fu Studios has designed the interiors of luxury hotels around the world, including Singapore's Capella, Andaz, and Fullerton Bay. Photo: Andre Fu

Perhaps it’s a good thing that he’s one of Asia’s most sought-after interior architects, because Andre Fu – he of Andaz, Fullerton Bay and Capella fame – loves to travel.

The Hong Kong native will soon take his first road trip to Europe since Covid-19 started, he says excitedly: to London, Milan, and then along the French Riviera.

Capella - Andre Fu
One bedroom villa, interior. Photo: Capella Singapore

“People think that I would go to a place and get so annoyed by anything that’s not beautifully designed,” laughs Fu, who says this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“They think, because I work with luxury brands, that I have to be immersed in the most upscale world. Obviously I have that exposure, but equally, I love street cafes and all that. If I can capture that, and elevate it, that’s even better.”

Andaz – 5 on 25
Andaz hotel, 5 on 25 interior. Photo: Tan Hai Han

Why? Because Fu, 47, knows that’s what his hospitality clients’ customers are looking for: genuine experiences. And he is firmly among their ranks.

“I represent a certain generation of consumer that’s more demanding, that has travelled the world, has seen many things, and is knowledgeable about different cultures,” he says. “And so I am a little more sensitive to culture.”

What does this look like in practical terms?  For example, plenty of mirrors and small tables does not make a good French bistro – it’s about capturing the energy and tightness of space to communicate the buzz, he explains. 

Andaz cellar
The Cellar, interior. Photo: Andaz Singapore

Fu, who is no stranger to media features, has spoken at length about how he achieves a sense of experience in his projects: by taking advantage of their typical four to eight-year duration to speak to partners, such as craftsmen, chefs and artists, to find out what’s special to the locals about a city or neighbourhood, and to understand local philosophies and practices.

In our conversation, he clarifies that he considers this “travelling” as well.

“The public’s perception of travel is possibly very different to mine,” he admits. “People ask: Andre, have you been travelling the past two years? And I say: physically I have not, but within the course of today, my mind has been to Shanghai, Bangkok, Taipei, Singapore, and London.”

“For me, travelling does not necessarily mean getting on a plane and flying to a certain place,” he adds. “It could be interacting with people from that location.” 

Andre Fu
Andre Fu. Photo: Andre Fu

Whether or not you share this take, it’s undeniable that demand for travel has returned with a vengeance in 2022. As borders reopen and the effects of Covid fade, all many want to do is experience new places and cultures again, after being stuck inside for so long.

Even so, their demands have changed. Hotels once used to be grand, aspirational destinations, but now people want comfortable experiences that feel personal, says the designer. 

Premier Garden King Room. Photo: Capella Singapore

“Now it’s much more about the person. You build the experience around the person: how would you want that person to feel? People want a sense of comfort, of intimacy.”

So gone are the days of the grand but cookie-cutter lodgings, and in are pressures for brands to offer unique and thoughtful interiors, with attention to details as tiny as seamless check-in, changing ceiling heights, artwork, and the colour inside the drawers.

“It’s not just about giving it a lovely finish,” says Fu, “it’s about injecting spirit into an experience.”

(Related: Celebrated designer Andre Fu’s duplex apartment with a 360 degree ocean view)

5 on 25 Andaz
Tableware at 5 on 25, Andaz Singapore. Photo: Tan Hai Han

We ask the (possibly existential) question of why. Why do travellers want bespoke stays? Why can they no longer sleep in boring hotels that once were perfectly acceptable? Why has everyone gone mad for the experience economy?

“It’s just the way the world that we’re living in works. Social media has made us more aware of different cultures, more knowledgeable about what’s being offered around the world,” Fu says.

“We’re inclined to experience things that go beyond our everyday. We want our life to be stimulating. We want to expand our exposure to different things. All of these elements prompt the desire of enriching your life, and design has taken on a stronger role in provoking that.”

Fu is among the design luminaries – including Ole Schereen, Alexandra Champalimaud and Lyndon Neri – who form the advisory panel at FIND – Design Fair Asia. The panel will speak about post-pandemic hospitality, biophilic design, the metaverse and more during the fair in Singapore from Sep 22-24 at Marina Bay Sands.