Setting the Mood with Interior Design

Chances are you’re reading this in one of Yangon’s new cafes, lounging on a colorful chair. Or maybe you’re using some WiFi at a hotel, surrounded by ambient light. No matter where you are, one thing’s for sure – it was designed to make you stay there.

It can be easy to forget the ways interior design affects our lives, but the truth is that most of us spend 95% of our day inside spaces created with an end in mind. Most offices, for example, apply utilitarian principles to maximize space and efficiency: hence the ubiquitous cubicle, designed to create the illusion of private space without using much material.

But the real design work comes in when you move beyond targeting needs and begin trying to suit people’s desires. Forget apartment blocks and corporate suites – when it comes to the hospitality and restaurant industries, interior design takes on a whole new value.

“For me, if I walk into a hotel, it might inspire me or change my mood,” says  says Raymond Chan, the General Manager for AA Interiors Myanmar (AIMA), a Subsidiary of AA Corporation.

AA Corporation is Asia’s leading interior fit out and furniture contract company for the hospitality market. The Vietnam-based organization employs more than 2000 workers and provides all in one  from design consultation and manufacturing to installation: a literal one-stop shop. Its Myanmar portfolio includes Shangri-La Residence, Novotel MAX Yangon, Inle Sanctum Resort, M-Gallery Nay Pyi Taw, Samatha 5 Star Cruise, Princess Panhwar 4 Star Cruise, Avalon Cuise, Amapura Cruise, Centre Point Sule, Rangoon Tea House and Private Residences. Since September 2016, AA has also operated a 43,000 sq ft factory north of Yangon, where more than 30 workers are currently producing mill work and upholstery for the Best Western Premier, opening soon in Nay Pyi Taw, Grand Mercure Hotel and Sheraton Hotel Yangon scheduled to open in Yangon next year.

As a company who supports international chains enter new markets, a core part of AA’s design philosophy is integration. A restaurant should feel cohesive, from the cutlery on the table to the lighting behind the bar. The same goes for a hotel – materials and colors should fit together to create an overall welcoming effect.

AA operates two other factories in addition to its Myanmar facility, and its Vietnam plant is considered the largest furniture factory in Southeast Asia. The ability to produce an entire tailor-made interior gives their clients a leg up over the competition.

“Everything you see at Novotel is our product, made at our own factory,” Nguyen said. “We work very closely with the designer before production.”

Of course, a complete fit-out for a luxury hotel can cost millions of dollars. Even if you’re just a small business owner looking for a few quick-fixes to improve your company’s interior design, research suggests you shouldn’t skimp the small stuff. A 2014 study found that 57% of participants were willing to pay more money for a restaurant designed according to their preferences, including lighting, seating quality and color palette, among other things.

There’s no one right way to get your design working for you, though you can always learn from studying the methods of your most popular competitors. Taking cues from the local culture can also be a good place to start, though there is a fine line between thoughtful and tasteless.

In a 2010 interview with Forbes Magazine, AA’s founder Nguyen QuocKhanh offered one design tip that any business owner in Yangon should consider: he said he avoids the stereotypical “Indochine” look, complete with French art deco and Asian touches. Instead, he tries to steer his company’s design standards towards the West, sending his teams to study trends in the US and Italy.

“Westerners make things with Asian accents, so why shouldn’t Vietnamese do contemporary?” he told the magazine.

Contemporary or colonial or even a “fusion” of both, interior design can make or break a new hospitality venture. So the next time you feel attracted to a store or restaurant, pay attention to what it is that’s drawing you in. You might catch on to the little details designed with you in mind.