Robb Reader: Andrew Zobler

The Sydell Group founder on weaving magical hospitality experiences

With NoMad London about to be added to its global repertoire of hotels – which already includes NoMads in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as well as hotels in various other USA hotspots and the Ned, London –  these are exciting times for Sydell Group: a hospitality company known for creating unique hotels which are deeply rooted in their location and architecture. We caught up with Andrew Zobler – the group’s Founder & CEO and a bona fide pioneer in the hospitality sphere – to talk about his work and life philosophies.

How are tastes changing in the luxury accommodation realm?
The biggest change that I see is that the consumer is getting smarter and more sophisticated. I’d  like to think this plays well for us as we stack up against the bigger companies. I think luxury continues to be more and more defined by quality and the authenticity of the experience and service, and much less about the amount of marble in the bathrooms.

NoMad London’s exterior 

How important is it that a hotel engages with its surroundings?
We think there are a few basic keys to creating a successful hotel experience and one of them is engaging the local community and selecting thoughtful partners that add a sense of place to the hotel. We always try to tell a story through our hotels and to seek out collaborators who add to the narrative.

What do you look for in a building, in terms of its potential as a hotel?
We at Sydell Group love to breathe new life into old buildings. We love the deep layers of history and unlocking them for a new generation. That doesn’t mean we won’t do a new-build. In fact, a good deal of our current work is in new, from-the-ground-up developments but we got our start in repurposed buildings and will always have a soft spot for them.

The hotel’s atrium, by Roman and Williams 

How important is a building’s narrative for a hotel’s prestige? 
We search for properties that speak to us. The LINE in DC is a great example where, the moment we walked into that old church, we knew we wanted to be there. Coming up we also have the NoMad London, which is located in a 19th century courthouse and police station on Bow Street directly across the street from The Royal Opera. The place is full of history, which makes it unique. We think more about creating experiences and drawing upon settings that allow us to seamlessly do so much more than just offer prestige.

Who – dead or alive – are your major vocational influences?
My early life experiences and travels with my grandmother Sydell, who created a leading New York antique business, have influenced, and continue to influence, my overall design aesthetic and my appreciation for things that have a story and grow more interesting with age. You’ll find that even in our new-build projects there is always some reference to the past. People take a lot of comfort in a sense of being part of the historic fabric of a place. I’m also at my core an art collector. This is most readily seen in each of our hotel’s art programs, but it also influences almost every decision we make at Sydell Group about design, our partners and our culture.

In what places/circumstances do you get your best creative ideas

LOL. Everywhere. It can happen walking the dogs in the country as easily as in a museum or a fashion show in Paris.

Photo by Benoit Linero  BENOIT LINERO 0603003698

Generally speaking, what’s your personal definition of luxury?

I think the luxury of today is about experience – the stories and the memorable moments. I value the knowledgeable waiter or bartender who is himself/herself much more and dislike the scripted.


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