Boutique Design Events and Trade Fairs

Boutique Design New York (BDNY) 2017 was all about creative capital. Now in its eighth year, Boutique Design’s East Coast trade fair and conference brought together nearly 7,000 design professionals and over 700 exhibitors at New York’s Javits Center in November for a two-day intensive on everything you need to know about hospitality interiors, investment, operations, client goals, technology and studio management. Whether you wanted eye-candy inspiration from our five Designed Spaces, CEUs offered as part of the conference programming, 15 minutes of fame on our BD Black Carpet Live! or the chance to see (and sometimes build-your-own) products that are launching pads for inventive concepts, BDNY was a one-stop shop for taking your vision and your process to the next level.

Without cloning, there was no way to see it all. Concurrent conference sessions, activities on the trade fair floor such as the Owners’ Grill, Industry Feud, NEWH Green Voice sessions and Designed Space interviews and gallery-like exhibits showcasing what’s new in FF&E challenged self-curating types to get even a glimpse of everything they wanted to see. One thing few missed was the Hospitality Artist and Maker Space sponsored by Renaissance Hotels and BDNY.  The brainchild of steam punk artist Bruce Rosenbaum and David Kepron, Vice President Global Design Strategies, Distinctive Premium Brands, Marriott International, this special display featured eight artists, craftspeople, designers and architects at work on industry-changing concepts and products. The goal, say Rosenbaum and Kepron, was “to fuse history, art and technology within their designs and deliver RON (Return on Novelty).”

These creatives put their ideas to the ultimate test in the Renaissance Hotels Maker Space: Design Challenge. A judging panel that included Dan Vinh, Vice President Global Brand Management and Marketing, Renaissance Hotels, Linda Laucirica, Senior Director, Lifestyle Full Service, Marriott International, David Kepron and me reviewed out-of-the-box ideas ranging from a bar created on a wooden conveyor that could rolled up or retracted depending on the time of day to a speakeasy-inspired guest experience that teased guests with clues that led to a gift secreted away in a bedside table.

The fact that design firm Nemaworkshop’s winning concept multi-tasked as a reception desk, marketing tool and conversation starter really summed up the most important new direction for design. Basically, the team plotted points for all of the places they frequent and overlaid them on a city map.  That grid provided the outline for a massive table, whose edges zigged and zagged not only to reflect the outline of the city streets, but also to allow guests and staff to enter into the piece. The smooth surface was great for just setting up a laptop or connecting with other guests/staff.  But it was also the perfect tech toy. Travelers who wanted some inspo or info could ask the staff member about certain locales, and see those areas highlighted.

Though that element may be pretty techno cool, the message that FF&E is going to be the design star of 2018 came through loud and clear throughout this year’s trade fair, 50-plus sessions and judging for the 37th annual Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design competition.  Architecture is still a muse, but it’s the seating, flooring, wallcoverings, lighting and casegoods that are joining art as the real drivers of creative interiors. Scale, durability and profile were critical to this year’s Gold Key judges as pure creativity.  For more on their rules for great design, see the December issue of Boutique Design.