Paul Izzard was educated in the UK, where he completed a degree in interior design at the University of Leicester. He then worked for Anthony Barnes Associates, a company which specialised in hotel interiors. During his time there, ABA won a contract to travel the UK and Europe for the Forte Hotel Group, buying up old manor houses, castles, and stately homes, and converting them into luxury boutique hotels.

“I cut my teeth hanging around these fantastic buildings, but was also designing interiors for the reception, bar, restaurant, rooms and everything else that goes along with it,” Izzard told Hotel Magazine.

He found his niche in hospitality design, and after working in Britain for eight years he moved to New Zealand in 1998, working for a couple of local interior designers in Auckland to get experience in the country’s industry. Izzard then launched his own hospitality design business, Izzard Design, in 2000, which has since completed over 300 projects.

“Everybody wants food, alcohol, bars, and restaurants. Whether it be kiosks, fast-food, takeaways associated with their offer – it’s how you get people off the internet and into the stores again and create that experience.”

Izzard recently completed two Auckland projects – the Auckland Fish Market and The Goodside hospitality precinct out in Smales Farm. Both projects are centred around smaller offerings, shared tables and a sense of community.

“I think both of those are really important in our evolution as hospitality and experience professionals. Developing how people are now enjoying their entertainment or their hospitality and what form it’s taking. Those projects have started shaping the way people go out and enjoy themselves.”

At the Fish Market, all the hospitality offerings are wrapped around a fish shop. Alongside the hospitality offerings, people are encouraged to learn about sustainable fishing and species protection practices.

“All the offers around the fish market are stuff like cooking lemonfish and species that are not so fished-out. The market is educating people as to how they taste, how to cook them, and then how to buy them.”

A diversity of options around a central dining space at Auckland Fish Market allows one individual to dine on fish and chips, another to get a burger, and another to bring their own packed lunch. But all three can drink from the bar, at the same table.

“The way we’ve expanded on it is you can bring your packed lunch; you don’t need to have something to eat. There’s no segregation, and there’s no ‘us’ or ‘them’. It’s proved to be a real success at breaking down that barrier of expense.”

Izzard doesn’t just work on restaurant spaces. His early days were spent on hotels and he’s still involved in the scene, currently working on Novotel at Auckland Airport. Recently his studio worked on the Churchills Rooftop Bar at Four Points by Sheraton Auckland. In terms of hotel design, he said that a notable change he’s seen over his career is the meaning of luxury.

“Luxury doesn’t have to be expensive. But how do you experience it? Was it comfortable? Was it striking to look at?” Izzard suggested that modern luxury, like modern dining, it is defined by experiences. “In a good hotel you want that higher end feeling. You want experiences to elevate you to a place of luxury."

He spoke of the power of small touches, like including Egyptian cotton on bedsheets. Guests are not necessarily used to those kinds of indulgences at home, and respond well to such features. “That romanticism around staying in a hotel, being transported somewhere else that isn’t your own home: that’s an experience. It’s about giving guests something they perhaps don’t have in their normal lives.”

In the future, he sees the luxury experience extending to beyond the walls of the hotel. “How do hotels influence the area around them? The whole area, not just the hotel. You walk out the hotel door and there’s something else linked to the hotel, bringing the hotel revenue, but makes you feel like you’ve stepped outside.”

Izzard also believes that incorporating elements of the hotel’s location is hugely important. “If I’m in Chicago, I want to feel like I’m in Chicago. Is there jazz music in the lobby? Make me feel like where I am. Everything needs to take you to that place.”