The Aman look comes home
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
“I first went to Amanpuri as a guest in 1990. I was working [trading commodities] in Hong Kong and remember wanting to buy everything in my room, from the beds to the ashtray.” Aman CEO and chairman Vladislav Doronin is describing the moment he became an “Amanjunkie”, long before he led the investment company that purchased Aman Resorts for $358mn in 2014. “But, despite the incredible service, when I asked, they could only suggest I speak to the designer. That’s when I decided that one day I would create something for clients who love Aman and want to furnish their homes.”
Few at the luxury resort would have noticed the billionaire’s request as being unusual. Staff at Aman, where guests might pay $1,900 per night for a signature suite or pavilion, will go to almost any lengths to meet exacting needs – including staging a white Christmas for guests of the Amanjena in Marrakesh by transporting truckloads of snow from the Atlas Mountains. Doronin, meanwhile, has made good on his own promise. This month at Design Miami, he is launching Aman’s interior design studio and its first collection of furniture – a limited-edition line named Migumi, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.
Kuma, a visionary known for merging architecture with nature, designed Aman’s Amanpuri retail pavilion in Thailand and, most recently, Aman Miami Beach, which is expected to be completed in 2026 and will be the architect’s first residential tower in the US. His furniture collection – there are 30 editions of the table and dining chairs (22 of which are reserved for resident-owners at Aman Miami Beach) – was conceived as part of the Miami project. “We could imagine the space where furniture would be placed,” Kuma says of the oak pieces, “and focused on the shadow created by the light through the windows.”
The skeletal timber framework recalls some of Kuma’s most spectacular architectural buildings – the aesthetic synergy deriving from a design language that reinterprets traditional architecture for the modern age. Kuma attributes this specifically to the use of kigumi, the Japanese art of wood joinery, which was employed when handcrafting the furniture. “It is also an element found in our architecture,” he continues. “Ise Jingū [Japan’s Grand Shrine of Ise, which is constructed solely from jointed wood] is rebuilt every 20 years, and the wood used for the construction is produced to that cycle. I think it’s important to control production in a sustainable economy – and the fact that wood is used in various scales, from architecture to furniture, makes it the most compatible material for us.”
Kengo Kuma For Aman oak Migumi chair, POA
Kengo Kuma For Aman oak and marble Migumi table, POA
The introduction of Aman Interiors is the next push in the brand’s lifestyle offering, which already extends its interests beyond resorts. So far it has forayed into skincare, fragrance, ready-to-wear and leather goods. Doronin has managed to preserve the brand of understated luxury first established by the Aman founder, Adrian Zecha, in 1988 at a further eight locations (which simultaneously preserve the magic six-to-one ratio of staff to guests). Aman now has 35 hotels, resorts and residences in 20 countries. Last year, it opened its first New York destination, an 83-suite hotel and 22 branded residences by architect Jean-Michel Gathy – and just last month a new Residences in Tokyo.
Location, architecture and design go hand in hand with the brand’s ethos. “Aman comes from the Sanskrit word for peace; everything we do is discreet and private – the minimalist design, the low lighting and cosy ambience,” says Doronin. “Now our clients are buying residences and want our furniture to keep the Aman style.” As such, the brand has quietly established a London design studio – a centralised base for its international pipeline of projects, which comprises architects, designers and procurement specialists.
The studio is headed up by Morad Tabrizi, CEO of interiors. “Creating a home is one of the most intimate processes you can go through with a client – it’s a transaction that requires a considered understanding of the person – and we’re doing it through the design lens of Aman with a focus on provenance, craftsmanship and materiality,” he says. “We’re creating truly bespoke pieces, designed in London but manufactured as close to each project as we can. We are collaborating with the architect, as we have done with Kengo Kuma in Miami, and going forward will develop hero pieces of limited editions in partnership with architecture and design greats.”
Doronin, who is also founder and chairman of OKO Group, has become a serial star-chitect collaborator. His house (one of several) in the Barvikha Forest near Moscow was designed by the late Zaha Hadid, who sketched its spaceship-like form on a napkin when the two met in London. It remains her only completed private residence (2018) and, as with Kuma, the pair developed a powerful rapport: Hadid is reputed to have dubbed her client “James Bond”.
The Aman CEO now has his eye fixed on new design aspirations. “We want to create a standalone gallery space and grow different products, but very carefully,” he says. As for the launch at Design Miami, there will be no fanfare. Tabrizi says they are doing things the Aman way: “We will be hosting a cocktail event at Mr Doronin’s private residence on Star Island with key members, residents and people from the design community,” he says. “It will be a very intimate gathering.”