A Luxe Airport Lounge Just Might Be a Designer’s Next Big Project

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When PS opened its offsite terminal and dozen private suites at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in 2017, they took the concept of airport lounge to the next level in a big way—think fully-stocked bars, spa services, gourmet meals, private TSA and immigration, and chauffeurs driving BMWs across the airfield to your flight. Another significant leap came when the forward-thinking company tapped Cliff Fong—designer to the stars—to revamp those exclusive spaces, which run customers $4,350 (for four people) per visit, or $3,250 with a membership. This July, Fong’s latest commission for PS, The Salon, opened its doors. Designed for the solo traveler, it offers a more socially-minded concept, with a bar, lounge seating, and light fare in a chic setting.

“Luxury lounges are often fairly simple, often not design-forward,” says Fong, who works with the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, and Ryan Murphy. In PS’s elite space, gone are the white walls and drab rows of the same basic chair and modular tables. In their place are warm grays, earth tones, and midnight blues; gilded mirrors, vintage Goyard items, and Instagram-worthy tiled bathrooms. The ambience is akin to a members-only social club. “As soon as you enter the space, it’s captivating,” Fong says. “I was really intentional about each piece placed on the bar, the seating, the mirrored TVs. Even the glassware is frosted and gold, unlike what you’d normally see at a hotel bar.”

The Salon at LAX, designed by Cliff Fong.

Photo: Courtesy The Salon

The Salon airport lounge has a nearly residential feel, with fine details aplenty.

Photo: Courtesy The Salon

The commission of a designer like Fong to reimagine haute lounges for the future is just one sign that the entire category is evolving, not only in the domestic U.S., but internationally, too. “I was thrilled to be invited to help interpret the aesthetic and new level of luxury [PS] was interested in providing,” Fong says. The designer adds that his approach was more similar to a residential project than a typical commercial one, in that it was “geared expressly toward creating a unique and personal atmosphere… and adding a layer or two of design that’s generally not seen on commercial projects.”

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Portia de Rossi

David Loyola, principal and design director of Gensler’s Newport Beach office, has designed a half dozen global lounges for airlines including Etihad, Copa, and Air New Zealand throughout his career, but says he’s working on five or six currently—a huge uptick from his usual cadence. (In the past, he says, “lounge projects didn’t come around that often.”) To him, now feels like a moment of opportunity for designers with residential or hospitality backgrounds to bring a different point of view than workplace or office interior designers. “We’re busier than ever doing lounge projects,” says Loyola. “Historically the [lounge] demographic was white businessmen, probably over 40,” he adds. “What we’re seeing now is airlines looking to really change that model. They want to capture the millennials who are the next set of travelers.” And what better way to do that than with photo-ready design?

Loyola’s latest, WestJet’s flagship Elevation Lounge in Calgary, Canada, which opened mid-pandemic, was designed to capture the premium luxury traveler as the airline gets its new fleet of Dreamliner aircrafts and elevates its onboard service. “I know Delta has talked about creating a specific lounge for that really premier luxury traveler too,” he says. Today’s tech has changed the game as well, turning old-school study carrels into relics of the past. Loyola says that “flexibility is key” for space planning, as is power at every seat.

The interior of 1850, a speakeasy-style bar in the Centurion Lounge at JFK.

Photo: Brad Feinknopf



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