During Sleep, Europe’s leading event focussed on global hospitality design, conference moderator, Guy Dittrich and Laufen Commercial Director, Ilker Hussein took some time to share their views on how they see the hospitality design industry.
Guy: How do you see the value of Sleep with respect to your activities within the hospitality design industry?
Ilker: Sleep is the perfect platform to meet, inspire and engage with the client, design and hospitality professionals through communicating our core brand values. The globalism of the event also reflects our values and aspirations; it is the perfect environment to demonstrate how we are able to add value through developing and nurturing our global network.
We do not see ourselves as simple exhibitors but more of an active and committed part of the hospitality design community. A good example of this acceptance by the hospitality design industry may be illustrated by the invitation of Sleeper magazine to become part of their extremely successful Sleepover initiative this year.
We also view the Sleep Event as a platform to develop and evolve the knowledge and understanding of our team; the conference is an amazing source of first hand information from the people who are creating and driving trends within the hospitality sector. I look to the initiatives our team have successfully been working on and can see the impact of the previous Sleep Events.
Guy: What are your thoughts on customised products for hotel rooms compared with standard products?
Ilker: In high level design environments, interior designers look towards differentiating their creativity, they also require the security of a globally respected brand to deliver solutions in a unique form that complements their concept whether by the creation of a completely new shape or by the customisation of existing Laufen products such as our expertise in cutting ceramic and customisation by colour and texture. Recent examples include Marcel Wanders Interior Design working with Laufen on the Mondrian Doha Hotel (Falcon Towers) in Qatar, which included a specially designed custom bathtub, Moxy Hotels using a customised washbasin solution for their new bathrooms and Purpose Design collaborating closely with us last year for one of the Sleep Set hotel competition rooms with a completely customised bathroom concept.
Our understanding of materials enables bespoke solutions which require higher levels of engagement and understanding of what is needed. Sometimes we are asked to work outside the box and our comfort zone in order to provide a solution. This is a great motivation to our team, as we love to be challenged, and to demonstrate our ability to work closely in creating unique solutions with our partners.
The development and acceptance of the boutique hotel has also challenged all hotel channels, for example, the demographics associated with the new millennials has seen growth in brands like CitizenM, Motel One and Moxy Hotels stamping a high level design signature on budget hotels; highlighting the principal that pioneering design need not come at a high price. All of these hotels have been designed with customised product solutions. Laufen have worked with the Moxy Hotels team from a very early stage to develop a customised washbasin solution creating a total bathroom concept.
Ilker: What have you seen in the last 6 months of new hotel openings which has made you stop and stare?
Guy: That’s a tough one as it’s been a busy few months.
One of the real showstoppers has been the Lanserhof Tegernsee in Bavaria. I know this part of the world well and it is traditional and closed. So the concept and realisation of this medical spa with a great architectural pedigree is all the more remarkable. It has a reduced colour palette and only a few materials have been used to create a luxurious and calming environment that is perfect for the contemplative activities of guests that are there for the ‘cure’.
Jouin Manku have been making waves recently. Their work on the Alain Ducasse restaurant and the Bar at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris is jaw dropping but even better they manage to ‘release’ previously underperforming areas making them into premium space. The blue cloud floating in the bar takes the plaudits but the smart re-use of space around the new bar counter makes the money. On the other hand, Jouin Manku’s much more austere interiors at the former priory at Fontevraud in the Loire Valley have a reduced feel that is so compelling I am adapting a few of their ideas in the renovation of my own home.
Guy: What type of project do you most enjoy working on?
Ilker: I love working with people, especially on projects where we have an opportunity for increased involvement with creative designers and clients, to be a part of a team that inspires and pushes the boundaries of interior design. The world I live in makes me fortunate enough to regularly meet, travel and engage with people from different cultures, professions and attitudes bringing increased success both professionally and personally.
To connect stakeholders from different parts of the world to our local markets and teams is a great privilege, and can often demonstrate the value we are able to offer, both as colleagues and supply partners.
Ilker: How do you think hotel companies see suppliers?
Guy: Mmmm…..you put me on the spot there. Of course it depends what they supply but in the FF&E field I think that hoteliers are firstly looking for performance and support in the event of difficulties. As a GM once said to me, “short term is before lunch and long term is after lunch”. The show must go on. Suppliers need to be super reliable as tonight’s hotel room is only for sale…….tonight. Hotel rooms are the ultimate disposable commodity. After reliability you are talking about the suppliers who really bother to understand the hotel market in terms of operational efficiencies. How quickly can that particular piece of kit be cleanED? How long will it last before it needs to be replaced? Only after that do the design and style really come into their decision making process. And let’s not forget that it is often the owner and not the operator who appoints the suppliers. But that’s another can of worms…..
Guy: How do you manage complex projects which are crossing so many borders, cultures and local requirements?
Ilker: Our philosophy to ”Think Global, Act Local” is something we live and breathe, and can be seen in the way a wider global perspective is demonstrated whilst respecting local cultural conditions, requirements and expectations. Building a strong internal network supported by a global perspective certainly facilitates this.
Laufen encourages and promotes best practice principles to be integrated into the learning and development plans of our people. This helps us evolve as people in an ever changing environment, and motivates us to be successful. We also have processes that empower a structured approach to projects but also encourages inspired solutions enabling a far more effective and creative engagement.
The most recent example of this was for Moxy Hotels where the project touched contacts starting with the client in Lithuania, to the Laufen team in Switzerland and logistics in Czech Republic, order processing in Netherlands, designers in Sweden and finally through to the supply point in Northern Italy.
Taking consideration of all the key stakeholder’s aspirations is also a fundamental principal that needs careful attention through the life cycle of a project. By doing this, our team not only ensures a positive and professional approach to the project, but looks towards developing longer term trust and relationship for future collaborations. Finally not forgetting that the end user is also a stakeholder, and their expectations and experiences are important.
Though the Laufen Global Project Team are still relatively young, our passion for hospitality is very visible, and can be recognised through the relationships with most of the International Hotel Groups, where we enjoy recognised, approved or preferred manufacturer status.
Ilker: What has been the most significant development you have seen in hotel design in the last 5 years?
Guy: A few years back I would have said CitizenM and I still think what Rattan Chadha, Michael Levy & their guys have done is extraordinary and plain good fun. It is a real step change in the way hospitality is viewed by punters. More recently I see the rise of the Hot Hostels, particularly Generator Hostels, as a real sit-up-and-take-notice moment for the full and even limited service hotels. Personally I am not a fan of bunk beds in dormitories, or at least not whilst I am working, but certainly the hybrid hostel-hotel model has legs. However I am also interested in the guys at the margin. The tree house hotel and the monastery are right at the edge but can be a bit gimmicky. So it is the innovative hoteliers such as Christoph Hoffmann at 25Hours Hotels, Paul Rinkens at Qbic Hotels, Brad Wilson at Ace Hotels and Carlos Couturier of Grupo Habita that are laying down the road map for others to follow.
Guy: How do you see other design disciplines influencing new product development at Laufen?
Ilker: Product development and innovation has been a part of the Laufen DNA from the very beginning. The invention of the wall hung toilet, developing pressure casting as a production process and the recent creation of a new ceramic material enables us to support the push of new design boundaries.
I believe the new ceramic material, SaphirKeramik, will influence design for years to come, it is very exciting to be at the beginning of such a development. We are highlighting some of the newest designs that can be made from this material at the Sleep Event this year.
As a team we are also exposed to wider design and cultural experiences through our participation at events like Art Basel, La Biennale di Venezia, Design Miami and Design Festivals which have educated our team to appreciate design and art which consequently impacts product development.
A good example of this Laufen philosophy of empowerment and creativity was demonstrated at Sleep last year. Not only did we have a stand with innovative designs but were challenged to create a concept bathroom with Purpose Design using customised solid surface material. Additionally Nous Design inspired our team to create a unique showcase champagne bar made out 46 washbasins. The Sleep bar not only became a centrepiece of Sleep 2013, but also won the Award for Best Pop Up Bar at the Bar & Restaurant Awards 2014.
Guy Dittrich is a freelance writer and independent commentator on hotels, travel and design. He frequently programmes, moderates and presents for both corporates and at conferences including Sleep. Writing regularly for Wallpaper* and Condé Nast Traveller Guy is also Editor-at-Large for Sleeper, the specialist hotel design magazine.
Ilker Hussein is working for Laufen Bathrooms as Commercial Director. He has worked with clients, architects and designers on bathroom projects for the past 20 years and has global responsibility for the delivery of customer satisfaction in both retail and commercial environments.