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International Interior Design Association

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Inspiring Perfection

By Michelle Bowles

Elegant luxury hotels and resorts are sprouting up from Dallas to Chicago, from San Francisco to Boston. And today’s restaurants are judged as much on atmosphere and environment as they are on cuisine. As interior designers create these unique spaces, hospitality product manufacturers are hit with an enormous challenge: to design equally inspiring furniture, flooring, fixtures and the like. The winners of the 10th Annual Hospitality Product Design Competition, sponsored by IIDA and Hospitality Design magazine, have met this challenge —and raised the bar even higher in the process.



When Milliken’s Étage carpet was unveiled at the 2006 HD Expo, the first thing that struck attendees — and likely the judges who awarded it Best of Competition — was its beauty, says Kaye Gosline, Industry IIDA, Creative Director for Milliken, LaGrange, Ga.

But the product’s real appeal is in the technology used to create it. A proprietary digital tool allows designers to turn layers on and off, selecting multiple layers of colors and patterns, and creating hundreds of combinations. “It gives designers the flexibility and freedom to do things they haven’t been able to in the past,” Gosline says.

Judge Larry Wilson, IIDA, ASID, IIDA’s Hospitality Forum Advisor, was impressed by the product’s “amazing flexibility.” “Designers love to do customs,” he says. “The product allows them to create a custom look without a custom price.”

To design the product, Milliken looked outside interior design for inspiration. Layering was everywhere, Gosline says. In fashion, skirts are layered over pants and vests over shirts. Restaurants are layering exotic flavors — giving rise to the “fusion” movement. “We’ve tapped into something that’s at the core of where trends are today,” she says.  It’s becoming apparent that Milliken may have stumbled upon the next great innovation in carpet design.



Today’s designers and clients demand sustainable products without compromising aesthetics, and Maya Romanoff attempts to answer this call through the use of sustainable materials in its line of wall coverings. The company’s Abacadazzle wall covering — made of the abaca plant indigenous to the Philippines — is no exception.

The abaca plant, part of the banana family, is commonly used for clothing and marine rope, says Laura Romanoff, Industry IIDA, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Maya Romanoff, Chicago. But for Abacadazzle, the company ran metallic thread through the plant to create a fresh, dynamic material that is beautiful and sustainable.  “This is an innovative use of a natural product that can be used in a high-style application,” Wilson says. “It’s stylish and sophisticated without being too earthy.”

Manufacturing of Abacadazzle is overseen by a founding member of Aid to Artisans, a non-profit organization that creates opportunities for craftspeople in developing countries. Aid to Artisans ensures products are created in safe, clean environments, Romanoff says. “We try to be responsible in creating beautiful products,” she says. “The market is going that way.”



Carnegie’s desire to connect the design world to urban culture was fulfilled with the creation of Tattoo, a collection of upholstery designs that embrace both the mainstream art of tattooing and the tribal ritual. “The connection is being picked up,” says Cliff Goldman, President of Carnegie, New York. “Today, there’s no separation between the design world and the world around it. Younger designers get it immediately. It’s a fun connection.”

But beyond the “fun connection,” the company conducted historical research in designing Tattoo, delving into the ancient art of tattooing. “This is a creative interpretation of a social movement — the popularity of tattoos,” Wilson says. “But it still is respectful of the inspiration from where it came.”

The company didn’t have to look back quite as far for its second product to capture an HD award. Malta and Capri, created in conjunction with Swiss textile mill Creation Baumann, are open-net, knitted draperies in bold reds and yellows, reminiscent of designs from the 1960s.

In the past, the open-net design of this fabric “wasn’t dimensionally stable,” Wilson says. But thanks to the knit technology used, Malta and Capri are designed for stability and can be hung more than 30 feet off the ground without movement, Goldman says. “Carnegie took a product idea from the past, rethought it, re-engineered it and made it fresh,” adds Wilson.



Sometimes it pays to refuse to take no for an answer. When creating GeoDiamond Textured, GranitiFiandre rejected the common notion that porcelain tiles can’t be produced in bright, vibrant colors — the high firing temperatures used in manufacturing porcelain tile alter the natural minerals needed to create vibrant colors.

The company developed a patented process to create the tile in brilliant yellow, red, orange, blue, white, gray and black, then melding tiny jewel-like embellishments throughout the body, says Jeanne Nichols, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for GranitiFiandre.

The company’s Italian roots allow it to remain responsive to trends on the horizon, Nichols says. “We’ve been using these colors for about two years,” she says. “And now, bright colors are coming back.”

It’s not always easy to introduce a pioneering technology to consumers who may not fully understand it. But with GeoDiamond Textured, Nichols says, “it didn’t take much convincing.” Adds Wilson, “It shows forward-thinking without being too trendy. This product has many application possibilities.”

The company is finding that one innovation spawns another. “[GeoDiamond Textured] seems to stimulate creativity for designers. We hear them say, ‘We could do this with it’ or ‘We could use it in this application,’” Nichols says. “We consider it a palette upon which designers can work.”



Who says electricity and water can’t mix? Not KWC. For it’s new Eve faucet, the company integrated an LED light band with a slender pull-down spout. As water is released from the spout, a subtle beam of light illuminates the area.

The idea to mix light and water in a faucet design has some unexpected and simple roots. It came as a result of Designer Michael Lammel watching his German grandmother wash lettuce, says Joan Bostic, President of KWC America, Norcross, Ga. His grandmother constantly complained she could never see the small insects residing on the vegetable.

Wilson sees the faucet being used in low-light applications such as wait stations in bars and restaurants. “This has really opened the door to new possibilities,” he says.

Aside from the utilitarian qualities of Eve, the simple beauty and elegance of the faucet are drawing customers, Bostic says. “Sleek seems to be what most people are looking for today,” she says.  While KWC also offers Eve without the lighting option, at least two-thirds of faucets sold include the LED, Bostic says. In fact, the light/faucet combo has been so well received that the company has introduced it in other products.



Designers recognize that seating is an indispensable part of hospitality design — and Los Angeles-based furniture manufacturer Janus et Cie knows that well. This year, the company brought home two Hospitality Product Design awards, both in the Seating category.

The company’s Matilda lounge armchair was created to embody the notion of flexibility. The armchair, which incorporates steam-bent, hand-woven rattan, is designed to work equally as well in interior environments as in exterior ones. “This chair has the strength to hold its own in any setting,” Wilson says. “It’s large-scale and dramatic without being overpowering.”

On the other end of the spectrum is the Window side chair. Designed with sleekness and simplicity in mind, the chair’s slim profile matches its colorless, transparent seat and back, and lightweight polished aluminum frame.

“It’s the basic black suit or cocktail dress [of the hospitality industry],” Wilson says. “There are a lot of over-designed products out there. But this has a quiet elegance to it.”