Meet Fiona Thompson, Principal at award winning design studio Richmond International

Having just celebrated their 50th birthday, and making a move into the residential sector, Richmond International seem to be going from strength to strength. We speak to Fiona Thompson to find out more.

Award winning, world renown interior design studio Richmond International have been bringing to life some of the most innovative and beautiful hotel interiors for the past 50 years – in fact, the company celebrated its 50th birthday in 2017. Their creative and timeless designs have resulted in Richmond working with prestigious hotels around the world, including The Beaumont in London, The Langham in Chicago, and the Gresham Palace in Budapest.

Over the last five decades, Richmond have designed some of the most iconic interiors within the world’s hospitality scene. Most recently they have worked on one of the largest restoration projects in Ireland: Adare Manor. Within the project, Richmond were responsible for the interiors of the Manor’s new 42 bedroom wing, balancing this with reimagining the public spaces – a ballroom, cinema, meeting rooms and spa.

Image: Jack Hardy, courtesy of Adare Manor

Another special project has seen Richmond International branching out from the hospitality sector into something new – the residential market. Set to complete in 2019, their first residential project, Auriens, is a luxurious retirement complex situated in the heart of Chelsea, London. With so many interesting, high end projects being worked on and still riding the wave of their 50th anniversary, Richmond seem to be moving from success to success.

With this in mind, we spoke with Fiona Thompson, Principal at Richmond International, to find out more about her involvement in the company, and why she thinks Richmond continue to thrive:


What was your background before Richmond International, and how did you get involved with the company?

Originally I trained as an architect, but right after university I decided to move more towards the interior design sector. My involvement with Richmond began in the early 80s, as a designer. I then left the company for a while, only to re-join in 1992 as Studio Director. During the course of the past 25 years, I have moved from Studio Director to Design Director, and finally to my current position as Principle - it has been quite a journey!

What excites you about the company, and the industry?

Several things! I think the hospitality industry in general, particularly at the top end of the market, is what really excites me; it is an incredibly varied industry to be in. It is an industry that has changed dramatically over the years and I have been fortunate enough to have worked on a diverse range of projects, which is something I have thoroughly enjoyed.

Also, having the opportunity to work in so many different locations makes this job even more interesting and inspiring. I can be exploring a city with the team for a new project one day, to getting involved with painting walls on a remote island the next. Another aspect that will never cease to excite me about my job is how much I learn from each project that I embark on.

Plus, being able to manage the new designers as they come in is a part of the company that I love. Having worked for Richmond for a good number of years, I have been able to see a number of colleagues grow, those that came in as new faces to the industry and have moved up within the company. I feel very fortunate to have such a rewarding job!

Do you get involved in all of Richmond International’s projects?

As Principal, I am involved in all of Richmond’s projects - some more than others, of course. Having built up a number of strong relationships over the years, I like to bring my experience and knowledge to all projects we embark on, whether it is revisiting a previous client or familiar location, or starting somewhere completely new.

How does the team work together?

Richmond has a small management team, consisting of Directors and Associates. Team leaders are responsible for each project and work closely with Associates, as well as the senior and junior team members. In recent times, my role has changed and I have become less involved in the day-to-day activities; instead, my focus is mostly on setting the parameters for the projects, ensuring all elements are on the right track and geared towards the clients wants.

What inspires Richmond International’s designs?

We can take inspiration from anywhere, at any time. A play at the theatre, a design fair, an art exhibition or a fashion show can all be potential sources of creative inspiration - we always encourage our team members to experience a variety of places and activities. For example, a small group of designers recently visited Stockholm Design Week; trips abroad are key for the team to get inspired by a variety of elements.

We also engage brainstorming sessions, where all our designers - from associates to junior team members - are given a platform to contribute with their ideas and take part in the design process. Our collaboration with the project team can also be source of inspiration; depending on the project, we work very closely with architects, lighting designers, and manufacturers, whose different approaches encourage our creative thinking.

Image: Jack Hardy, courtesy of Adare Manor

What is your favourite part, and biggest challenge, in a design process?

My favourite parts of the design process are the initial stages of a project, as well as completion - it is extremely exciting to see the final product finally coming together! Also, as a company, we have the opportunity to work on projects situated in beautiful locations, such Barbados, Florida, California, so a project’s location is very often a real source of excitement.

 In terms of challenges, at times it can be difficult to convince clients to be daring. This is particularly important as we like our designs to have longevity; at the same time, they need to capture the moment, be relevant, striking and appealing to the market.

Why the luxury hospitality industry and what makes Richmond International so well placed within this sector?

We chose the luxury hospitality industry because it is extremely varied and diverse. The mid-market hospitality industry tends to use a cookie-cutter approach, which doesn’t reflect how we operate. In comparison, the luxury end of the market gives us the opportunity to develop bespoke designs; it is all about individuality and creating something truly unique.

Richmond International has been working in the luxury end of the hospitality market for over 50 years now - as a result, operators can trust us in delivering products that they can easily operate, without compromising on quality and craftsmanship.

What does it mean for Richmond International to have celebrated your 50th anniversary?

I think turning 50 and celebrating this milestone showed a real longevity of Richmond International as hospitality specialists to the outside world. It shows we have been doing what we do, successfully, for a long time. Interestingly, the anniversary gave us a rare opportunity to look back at what we have achieved over the past 50 years, which is something you do not often get to do.

The anniversary has also given us the chance to reflect on how much the industry has changed; for instance, when we started, new hotel opportunities for interior designers were few and far between and it tended to be more refurbishment projects. What has equally been important is the education the 50 years celebration has given to our younger colleagues, who did not necessarily know the history of the company. It was an important chance for us to revisit our history and share our exciting story.

How did you celebrate the anniversary?

We had a party… or two! The first was held at The Langham with Richmond International’s employees, old and new. All our colleagues have been instrumental to Richmond’s growth, and it was important for us to show that we recognise everyone’s hard work.  We then organised a trip to Norfolk for all of our current employees for a well-deserved break and party. This anniversary really was the perfect opportunity to have some fun and celebrate!


Image courtesy of The Langham, London

Dedicating their passion and expertise to every project – including designing the interiors of the cruise ship Britannia - Richmond have proved that they are masters at their craft. One of their latest projects, the ocean front Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito, is set to open later this year. Already a superior name in the hotel industry and making bold next steps into the residential market, we can safely expect that Richmond International will continue to surprise and delight us with their designs for the next 50 years.

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