Design, innovation and a healthy dose of optimism were evident themes on every level at HIX 2022. From the insightful speakers on stage to the bold brands showcasing new products and creative installations on the floor, designers were weaving their way through and between creative moments that together made HIX one of this year’s stand-out trade shows, globally.
With the event mantra anchored as ‘Great Things will Grow’ referencing this innovation in response to all the challenges having been faced by the industry, the most literal interpretation of this was the Mush Room installation, the result of a collaboration between WeWantMore, La Succulente and Côme Di Meglio. The studios threw open the conversation on alternative materials by designing a bar that would grow towards the event while at the same time developing an example of what one of these ‘great things’ might be – in this case, mycelium as a design material. The design of the mycelium bar drew inspiration from shapes and textures found in and on shells. It illustrated the infinite source of inspiration nature can be, both aesthetically and structurally. The overall shape had a sacral feel to it – almost like a tomb – which was, according to WeWantMore, a metaphor for burying a traditional way of thinking and reflecting on new ideas when designing spaces.
The installation was just one very loud statement from the show, though. All interior designers and architects know that lighting is key to successful design, and the lighting on display at HIX addressed all aspects of this – from the statement pieces, through to energy-saving solutions. These trends were clearly exhibited on the Northern Lights stand where a understated yet perfectly formed rechargeable lamp was mere steps away from the showpiece brutalist inspired Breuer – an impressive chandelier that instantly grabbed attention with its raw, honest narrative displays layers of brass metal. Beautifully finished, the chandelier is as much a sculpture as a lighting solution.
Proving that timeless can also be decorative (and never dull), Chelsom, a brand that can be found in all corners of the the residential, cruise ship and hotel design arenas, was front and centre during the two-day show, displaying some of its hero products from the Edition 27 collection – and marking its very special anniversary of 75 years.
Another lighting solution that was hard to keep eyes off – and that was as much about installation as illumination – came from Quasar. The modular and asymmetrical designs that characterise the suspended Quasar design throws light both downwards and upwards, while the design structure manages to be both geometric and modular while at the same time referencing the natural world in its elemental structure. The term Quasar, apparently, means a rising star, and this brand is certainly a rising star in the lighting realm that caught our attention.
Bathroom design at HIX saw two main areas of focus, addressing concerns of sustainability and water conservation, while also elevating concepts of wellness onto a more personal level. Brands such as Laufen, Roca, Graff, Gessi and Hansgrohe proved that wellness has gone further thanks to variety. No longer confined to the realm of the spa, wellness and spa concepts are being introduced into the daily bathroom routine both in the hotel and the home. Brands such as GROHE was keen to highlight products that gave consumers the experience and indulgence of spa from the bathroom.
It was interesting perhaps with the focus in the hospitality industry more broadly on experiential travel and creating a sense of place, that the evening saw exhibitors imaginatively creating their own sense of place with personalised events. These events broke down the barriers between product and designer, shifting the boundaries and creating conversation.
Fabric and surface decoration were visible every step of the way through the hall, and again the thread of sustainable design in tandem with innovative design was a visible thread. Contract fabric house Edmund Bell addressed environmental issues head on with its new sheer range REPREVE, made woven from 100 per cent recycled materials, including post-consumer plastic bottles and pre-consumer waste.
Strong design statements showing us the directions and trends for both colour and pattern were clearly brought to life on the stands of fabric houses such as Sekers and Zimmer + Rohde where a common thread of warm and earthy – possibly biophilic? – tones and textures were apparent.
Speaking about the personalisation of design-led spaces, the surface designs by Arte made a strong statement in trend and colour direction, combining both in its striking Secret Silhouettes design, printed on chenille in rich colours, more artwork than wallcovering.
Since its arrival last year, HIX has characterised by the conversations it creates both on the floor and on stage, and this year was no exception. The HIX Talks stage, sponsored by Kohler, was a hive of energy throughout the two days. Rather than focussing on recovery, which has been the hospitality narrative for the past few years, it was, in general a forward-looking programme that encapsulated in the strap line ‘Great things will grow: the hotel is back’.
Kicking things off, Alon Baranowitz dug deeper into narrative-driven design, moving onto looking critically on where we are headed on the path to net zero; and yet another conversation discussing the impact of trends like digital nomads on the hospitality industry.
Having identified the foundations and meaning of narrative in hotel design, the ‘narrative’ of the show moved onto exploring topics that were slightly outside the perimeter of hotel design. One panel in particular that captured a progressive tone was that on members club in hotel design. The model may not be new, however, what became clear in the discussion between Hamish Kilburn (Editor of Hotel Designs), Naomi Heaton, (CEO, Founder and Owner The Other House), Natalia Miyar, ( Founder, Natalia Miyar Atelier), Myriel Walter, (Global Director of Culture & Membership, Sircle Collection) and Chris King, (Co-founder, Birch) all key players in this movement, was that the way in which it is being driven forward has developed a new and often design-led – and sometimes socially-conscious – momentum.
“Stepping off the stand after this event felt like having looked through a window into the overwhelmingly positive future of hotel design.” – Pauline Brettell.
The talks were not just limited to the HIX Talks stage, as some brands took the initiative to carry the conversations onto the stand. The discussion on the Ligne Roset stand saw and in conversation with Damien Perrot of Accor and Ramy Fischler of RF Design, moderated by Kilburn, that dived into the collaborative hotel design project – redefining the Novotel brand – that was the hero of the Ligne Roset stand. It was an intimate chat that explained both the design process and concepts, as well as the idea behind the collaboration from the brand’s point of view. Stepping off the stand after this event felt like having looked through a window into the overwhelmingly positive future of hotel design.
And finally, I confronted my own personal bête noir by taking a front seat in front of the stage where things moved into the metaverse. Pallavi Dean, (Founder of Roar), Timothy Griffin, (Co-Founder of Wellbrook Hospitality ) and Emma Chiu, (Global Director, Wunderman Thompson Intelligence) unpacked the mystery of the digital world in a panel discussion moderated by Kilburn. In the process, the visionaries made cyberspace feel not only a lot more accessible, but, dare I say it, exciting! While I might not be ready to head off into the virtual sunset just yet, the conversation certainly opened my mind to the possibilities being presented to us, a sharp reminder to embrace change and look for the positive. And if that is the primary take-away from HIX 2022 it can, surely, only lead to a bigger and bolder hospitality industry, where, indeed, the hotel is both back and moving forward!
Main image credit: HIX