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Kristjana S. Williams + The Connaught Hotel

The historic Mayfair Hotel taps the Icelandic-born, London-based illustrator for a fresh and fanciful new face

by Gabriella Garcia
on 28 October 2014

At its core, a hotel should provide its guests with a place to escape. But the hotel-as-sanctuary is an oft sought-after yet equally rare experience. In this regard—with its personal butler service, Michelin-grade restaurant and rich history—London's Connaught Hotel in Mayfair exceeds expectation.

So it is no surprise that when planning to restructure its identity, the Connaught wanted an artist who could not only match, but also enhance the hotel's elysian ethos. They tapped creative agency The Partners to help in finding someone who could incorporate "two hundred years of idiosyncratic details" into a fresh new design. Executive Creative Director, Greg Quinton says, "We knew that the new brand identity had to be unique, but also capture this new confidence." They decidedly found this in Outline Artist Kristjana S. Williams.


Williams' incredibly detailed works typically depicting floral and fauna attract attention by design, while ultimately giving the audience a chance to discover something new with every viewing. "My process is essentially collage, interweaving hundreds and often thousands of layers of engravings, photographs, paintings and drawings, with multiple transfers between analog and the digital," Williams explains to CH.


As part of what the New York Times dubs the "New Antiquarian Movement," Williams leads viewers into the Victorian-inspired wilderness that she captures with the impassioned accuracy of John James Audubon's nature studies and the whimsy of illustrator John Tenniel of Alice in Wonderland fame. At the same time, her process and humorous use of color are distinctly modern. This combination makes Williams a natural fit for the Connaught redesign, which arrives just a year shy of its 200th anniversary. "The seamless mix of the old and modern styles has translated so well," Williams agrees. "It has flowed with great energy throughout."


The centerpiece of the collaboration is a 3x2-meter collage, throughout which Williams weaves the hotel's rich narrative, highlighting figures such as the Saluki hunting hound (a feature of the hotel's crest), the Horse chestnut trees that frame the hotel's entrance and, of course Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn himself. "It was easy [to decide what to feature]," Williams says. "It really is this one-of-a-kind place, where you get transported to a different world." Williams is traditionally diverse in how she presents her work—from classic exhibition, to wallpaper design, to scarves, pillows and decorative globes—a characteristic that The Partners took full advantage of when strategizing the use of her piece throughout the hotel. "There are 160 unique applications," Quinton explains, each a detailed derivative of the collage. "The bags are the hero applications, but my personal favorite details are the spoons on the head dress" (a nod to the silverware from Hélène Darroze’s Michelin Star restaurant at the Connaught) "and maybe the fireflies on the match box," he says. The collection also includes stationery, key cards, and coloring books for the creatively inclined.


Though Williams is still somewhat of a fresh face in the industry (she presented her first solo show just three years ago), the artist is quickly gaining attention for her impressive, diverse repertoire, and the Connaught collaboration confirms her place as a highly talented designer. "[It's] out of this world," says Williams, "[I feel] extremely lucky to have been put forward by The Partners." Quinton notes that the feeling was most definitely mutual, "She was amazing and really understood what we were trying to achieve and exceeded our wildest dreams. The collaboration was so rewarding, and I hope the joy shows in the work."

Works by Kristjana S. Williams are available through Outline Artists and the artist's studio. Visit London's Connaught Hotel for high tea or dinner at Hélène Darroze. Rooms start at £450 per night.

Images courtesy of The Partners

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