A designer, photographer, and hotelier, Thomas Hays is a man of multiple talents and boundless energy. His Manhattan-based company, Thomas Hays Interiors
, specializes in high-end residential interior design as well as commercial projects focusing on hotel, restaurant and office design in the U.S. and abroad. His photography has been exhibited at the National Arts Club, among other institutions. His restless creativity has led him to embark upon a third career -- as a hotelier with Riad Meriem in Marrakech. Hays chose Morocco for what he characterizes as its friendly and generous people, but also for its exoticism. "You can travel six hours from New York or two hours from Europe and feel like you are in another world," Hays remarks. "There are not many places like that."
Relentlessly curious, Hays is known for his versatility, his keen eye for exceptional pieces and his near-alchemical integration of texture, line and color. In his design work at Riad Meriem, Hays focused on the interplay with modern and antique. For example, he used a lot of saturated colors, an aesthetic rooted deep in his design sensibility, which means that some of Riad Meriem's outstanding textile collection bears more kinship to Mark Rothko paintings than traditional Moroccan designs. And while Moroccan elements are present, other textiles come from Indonesia, Kurdistan and Uzbekistan, while the washbasins are bronze cooking vessels from India.
Like the riad itself, which is enclosed behind walls and open to a center courtyard, the design is part of the discovery. "A riad is the inverse of a villa," Hays explains. "The focus is the inner courtyard of these old palaces, with a fountain or a pool. You can stroll through the alleyways of the medina of Marrakech and have no idea what lies behind the walls. But when you step inside, it can be like going through the looking glass. And that's a considerable part of the charm. As a designer, a small hotel like this allows you to be more theatrical, to let the imagination run."
With a broad and multi-faceted background in both the arts and business, abetted by extensive travel, Hays brings a world view along with a sophisticated sense of style and taste to his projects. Thomas Hays came to New York after completing a Masters degree at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and extensive language training in Paris, Berlin and Lausanne, Switzerland. Before entering the design field, he held investment banking positions at Merrill Lynch in New York and Bankers Trust in London. He studied art, design and photography in London at the Chelsea School of Design, and in New York at the Parsons School of Design, the International Center of Photography and the National Academy of Design School of Fine Arts.
Hays' projects have been featured in The New York Times, Elle Decor, Departures, House & Garden Hotels By Design, Culture + Travel, X2 Global Hotel Design, Travel + Leisure's Special Hotels Issue, Luxury Homes, and have been featured on HGTV, NBC, MSNBC, the International Designers Showhouse, and the New York Junior League tour of homes in Manhattan. He also recently designed and opened a luxury boutique hotel, Riad Meriem, in Marrakech, Morocco which was chosen as one of the most beautifully designed hotels in the world by House & Garden Hotels By Design and selected to the 2008 IT LIST Travel + Leisure Editors' Choice Awards of the top 30 new hotels in the world.
A noted photographer, Hays' portraits, landscapes, and still life images from Asia, Africa and the sub-continent are an oft requested element in his design projects. His work is in private collections worldwide and has been exhibited at the National Arts Club, the Diane von Furstenberg Studio benefiting DIFFA and an exhibition for the African Rainforest Conservancy.
Hays lives in a penthouse loft in Manhattan with his wife Marlene, two parrots, Etu and Brutus, and their standard poodle Lulu.