Though plenty of conversations touched on the challenges associated with increased tariffs at HDExpo 2019, the real emphasis was on elevated product designs and opportunities for growth beyond the major hotel chains and restaurant businesses typically associated with the hospitality industry.
Many exhibitors showed off products designed for senior living. Among those taking aim at the fast-growing category, the New Traditionalists teamed with leading design firm Gensler to tease the new Elevate senior living collection at the show. Boasting 100 percent domestic fabrication, the new contemporary collection targets “the modern retiree,” and is designed to elevate the entire senior living experience according to Lucy Chastain, director of hospitality sales. With a firmer sit, anti-microbial and anti-moisture fabrics (COM is available), and reinforced arms that make it easy to stand up from a seated position, the fully customizable modular designs feel modern and fresh. With a major launch scheduled for later this summer, Chastain said, “We don’t think there’s anything like it in the market.”
Outdoor furnishings specialist Janus et Cie also introduced a Senior Living collection and accompanying marketing collateral here. “We’ve expanded four of our best-selling collections — Amari, Arbor, Cortino and Koko II — with Alta Lounge Chairs designed with senior living-specific dimensions,” described Robin Love, Senior Vice President, Hospitality. “The seat heights are a little higher, chair arms are a bit wider and the seats are not very deep. There are no pillows or rockers in the collections because you don’t want anything that is unstable. So many design firms now are getting into senior living,” she reported. “I had lunch with a designer in DC last week and she said, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got over ten projects in senior living right now.’ Here at the show, the response has been tremendous. Senior living seems to be one of the big growth areas of the business.”
Other avenues for new business include multi-unit living environments like high-rise condos. As Michael Chaney, Director of Business Sales at Crate & Barrel and CB2 noted, “We’re finding the emerging real estate development world is really big, with Airbnb-type properties and short-stay hotels popping up like crazy. We got into it about a year ago and it’s become a real niche. We’re finding that they don’t always look for commercial furniture and buy our residential products for a residential look and feel. At the same time, we’re also working with hotels that require commercial specs, so we’re going back and re-testing a lot of our product and making sure that any new products adhere to a more commercial standard.”
As the lines between hospitality, residential and commercial design continue to blur, if not evaporate, and hotels seek to attract and retain customers with exciting new environments, product design as a whole is pushing further into the luxury space, especially in furniture. “You see a lot of detailing now, in everything from nail head designs in upholstery to multi-material combinations of metal and wood and premium veneers,” remarked Ellen Bourque Johnson, Director of Design at Charter Furniture. “Art Deco style is pushing forward and you’re starting to see things move away from square and begin to round out. We are fabricating designs that are pretty complicated with a lot of complex curves. Everything seems to be moving up to the luxury market.”
Nowhere was this more evident than the show’s Social Hub, a space designed by Lauren Rottet, Hall of Fame architect, designer and President/Founding Principal of Houston-based Rottet Studio. Designed as a place for attendees to lounge, recharge and connect, the upscale escape was appointed with hand-painted pillows, signature Rottet Collection upholstered pieces and Dichroic tables, new lighting designs for Visual Comfort & Co., manufactured out of highly refined cut crystal wrapped in textured and smooth nickel silver, brass and bronze sleeves, and a stunning stone and stainless steel bar manufactured by Jonathan Sowter, Founder and Chief Executive of JC Hospitality by Jonathan Charles.
In terms of luxurious looks, porcelain and ceramics that mimic natural stone are key materials in surfaces. Cosentino, for example, introduced Dekton Slim. Just 4 millimeters thick, the ultra-compact surface is designed for high-traffic areas with high resistance to impact, scratches and abrasion and very low water absorption. “Thin and light weight, the beauty of the product is that you can do renovations of bathrooms with old tile by just putting it on top,” said Massimo Ballucchi, Marketing Director. “You don’t have to do all the dismantling which is especially important in high-rises. Also you can decorate with it, because it’s easy to apply as cladding on walls, so you can do beautiful entryways and lobbies of hotels and restaurants, and you can also do furniture. It’s great for tables and fireplaces and even doors.”
Performance fabrics at Fil Doux Textiles offered a soft hand usually reserved for high-end residential fabrics, and walnut was prevalent in case pieces across the show floor. Samuelson employed the wood in its new tete-a-tete upholstery seating, featuring a built-in center walnut table equipped with USB ports, allowing users to plug in devices, set down a drink or enjoy a snack while seated in hospitality environments. The firm’s Occasional Armchair #8730 featured sleek walnut arms, as did its High Back Swivel Armchair #8731.
Known for sumptuous style, interior designer Michel Smith Boyd, star of Bravo’s Buying It Blind, was on hand to promote his collaboration with 1429 Mfg., a collection of American-made, handcrafted, art-infused casegoods and cabinetry. A proprietary seven-step digital process infuses art directly on solid white oak while allowing the wood grain to show through. “We’re pushing the envelope and creating livable art,” he related.
In floorcoverings, texture was the name of the game. Durkan showcased carpets with multi-level textures in its Spirit Moderne portfolio, inspired by the company’s collaboration with the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe. Reported Elizabeth Bonner, Creative Design Director, Hospitality, “We’re at a stage in politics right now where cultural identity is kind of an interesting layer to everything and we looked at how that plays a role in interiors. Definity is the main piece of the collection. It’s a 12-color, cut loop construction that provides the graphic visual with color and design, but also textural depth."
Shaw Hospitality showed off Community, a collection resulting from Tailor Tuft, a custom tufting broadloom machine that allows for pile height customization. “It’s a totally new technology and we’re the only manufacturer in the world the capability at this point,” said Robert Stuckey, Director of Hospitality and Retail Markets. “No other tufting technology is available that can create this high-definition texture which looks almost hand-tufted.”
Finally, when it comes to trends in lighting, “different parts of the country have different requirements,” said Thomas Wang, Brand Ambassador at WAC Lighting. “In states like Colorado and Arizona, white and black finishes are very hot now, and in the Northeast, we like our aged, burnished finishes. And in California, it’s more modern and brighter with an occasional splash of color.”