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The GCC's forecast $9.57 billion (Dh35.15 billion) expenditure on interiors and fitouts this year — around 35 per cent of it in the residential market alone—helped set the tone for Index and Workspace exhibition.
Among the major topics discussed were the motivations behind the latest home and office interior design trends in the region. Designers who attended the Index Design panel agree that money is a key point when creating new products and spaces. But when it comes to creativity, one can't really put a price tag on it, says design firm proprietor Khalid Shafar.
''Creativity is measured by how we take something that already exists, materials or a function, and use it in a new way,'' says Shafar. ''Of course, if we have to take the cost of production into account, we do so in the design process. If we have a free rein, we can be as creative as we wish to be.''
Ivar Krasinski, Design Director at L&B Design Group, concurs: ''Creativity gets measured by novelty. It is very easy to fall into the trap of following what's already trendy and cool, instead of designing something with the rugged edge of uncertainty and see if it will be accepted. Of course, the design process also adapts to evolving technology.''
Christian Merieau, Founding Partner at MMAC Design Associates, adds: ''Creativity is novelty with a purpose.''
Colours and patterns are perfect examples. There's nothing new in them, but they can be altered to make them more attractive, while technology can improve their use. Invariably, novelty fades into trends.
British fabric firm Swaffer reckons flowers are the answer to dress up sofas this year,while Kansai Paint takes a different view on walls, based on research in design, fashion and technology trends.
Kansai's colour theme forecast reflects the notion that colour both unifies and differentiates, as it created four sub-themes — Urban Tribe, Second Nature, Calm Contrast and Inner Space — to play with. Furthermore, names such as Sunset in the Desert and Cloud Terrace beckon. The former is a more obvious orange, while the latter is lilac. So who said choosing colours is boring? Painting the wall Cape Cliff or Bushback certainly has a more sophisticated ring to it than mere blue or beige.
Innovation in paint comes in the form of creating textures that mimic stonewalls, or by making paints more practical such as by adding anti-bacterial properties.
''We have paints that are washable, stain and scratch resistant and even anti-microbial, thanks to nanotechnology, which has introduced silver ions into paints,'' explains Wael Nuweihed, Marketing Director at Kansai Paint Middle East.
Other companies are inventing new ways to bring the garden into the house, from a tree's trunk cum lamp to a whole ecosystem. In the latter, a repurposed aquarium achieves the effect — The Aqua Garden.
''It is a pure ecosystem, a nitrogen cycle between plants and fish, whereby the former provides oxygen to the fish and the latter the needed CO2 to the plants, while shrimps control the algae,'' explains Ibrahim Khardak, Director of Technical Services at Big Exhibitions Technical Services, the company behind the novel concept, which is currently being introduced in the GCC.
From water to fire, Maha Alusi has reinterpreted the use of candles in her collection. ''I used the language of wax to tell a story,'' says Alusi. ''These candles force us to sit down and contemplate, as the wax drips down, creating new sculptures. Moments pass quickly, we should enjoy them with the ones we love.''
If it involves pure fire, however, the international design team at Ecosmart Fire from Australia encourages thinking outside the box. The company took the traditional fireplace and campfires to create an innovative, clean, safe and eco-friendly fireplace with an elegant design that can be used indoors and outdoors. Running on bioethanol, a renewable energy source made of plant by-products, these fireplaces don't require any vents inside the house and produce no harmful smoke.
Considering the heat in the UAE, installing a sauna may be a great idea. Canadian firm Dundalk Leisure Craft is bringing its garden saunas to the UAE, promising an experience that emulates the benefits of swimming in the Dead Sea.
A traditional German strandkorb is nothing new for beaches in northern climes, where it provides protection against strong winds. In the UAE, it also provides much needed shade from the sun. It even comes with a built-in cool box right at your feet.
A reinvention of a traditional method in Germany to keep cool is the Solitaire Punkah, designed by Oliver Kessler. It is designed after the hand-held fan, but with some low-technology flair. It can hang from the ceiling to keep anyone sitting below cool, and it comes in funky feathery or neutral designs. With the Solitaire Punkah, you can even keep the air-conditioning level down, or generate a refreshing light wind while sitting on the terrace.
Moving inside, Saccaro offers furniture in a clean style and happy designs reflecting this year's colour trend of universality. The furniture can be found at Eldiar in Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi. For bolder statements, check out the Amazon-styled furniture from Brazilian designer Valeria Titti, who believes in staying connected with nature when furnishing one's home.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, a sonic chair for one's living room can help make life a little more high-tech. The brainchild of Designatics Production in Germany, these chairs turn the concept of plugging music into your ears inside out by allowing you to sit in the middle of the music source. The chairs come in funky colours and you can plug in iPads and other devices to play your favourite music. If this sounds like you, head to one of Pro Technology's showrooms in Dubai.
Italian company Mr & Mrs Fragrance, Massimo Esposito e Simona Guerini, has been busy spicing up a diffusion of smells. Based on the traditional incense, the company's creation is a more stylish way to disperse scents at home, using colourful fibre sticks, which are called easy pull scents, placed in a small jar.
The company has also come up with gadgets to let scents be practically everywhere. You can enjoy a journey of scents over five continents with enticing names such as Dreams of Africa, Citrus of Marrakech, Malibu Ocean or Mint of Cuba.
Designed in the region, Poly Products from Oman invites you to experience the magic of a good night's sleep. Its innovative spring system mattress, aptly named Cloud Nine, cradles your body as each pocketed spring moves independently, allowing the person next to you to sleep in peace.
You can also relax in a majlis that floats on water. Spanish architectural firm Intercon came up with a cosy, airy design using oil barrels to win the Contemporary Majlis Competition at Index.
''The design idea behind this majlis is based on the UAE's fishing heritage. We created a majlis in motion, which can be dragged by boats to different locations, whether to a business meeting or an evening event,'' explains Mohammed Adib from the Intercon design team.
Indeed, it was the ability to move the majlis that helped win the competition out of 14 contenders. Other majlis designs included a glass jar seating majlis by Lighter than Air, one created out of wooden cargo pallets by DAB Architecture and the stylish Global Majlis by Tangram Gulf.
''Although it was hard to choose the winner, Intercon's idea to have a majlis in motion, which could be used on water and land, was very innovative and set it apart,'' says Richard Wagner, a member of the judging panel and Managing Partner and Senior Architect at Wanders Architects in Dubai.
The teams also used recyclable and reusable products. Intercon's majlis used fishing nets as a cocoon roof with pieces of broken reflectors collected from Dubai's roads, which sparkle at night.
''We only used local and 100 per cent recyclable products. Our cushions are made of 75 per cent recycled plastic Coca-Cola bottles. We used a natural coco-fibre carpet and reused discarded fabric from hotels, companies, etc. It is incredible how much unwanted fabric gets stored, as it is cheaper to keep it than to destroy it,'' Adib says.
Talking about the environment, there is also a Swiss product called Simalfa that can be used to stick foam and upholstery without using solvents.
''It holds forever and, yes, it is a little more expensive, but you also use three to four times less than with traditional solvents, meaning you save in the end. Emirates Airlines, for example, uses it when it repairs its aircraft seats,'' says Roman Buerge, International Sales Manager at Alfa Klebstoffe.
Meanwhile, C+P Möbelsysteme bagged a design award at Index for its Monotop Climate Wall, creating a healthier way to cool the environment. ''The water running down the wall regulates the moisture and temperature in the room and takes out the dust, reducing the need for air conditioning,'' explains Uwe Hainbach, the company's Managing Director.
Another of its inventions is a funky table that connects different gadgets in a meeting room by just pressing dedicated spots on the table.
At Seeyond Architectural Solutions, the Seeyond Select wall seeks to create new ways of separating commercial spaces. ''You can use it to create divisions and different ambiences. Each piece is made of lightweight cellular resin that can be used like Lego and comes with LED lights in different colours,'' says Seeyond's Joe Cashon.
Portuguese firm Guialmi won an award for Aspire, which was recognised as the best desk and table. It has a flexible seating design, creating meeting cocoons whereby the backs and sides of the comfy sofas can be folded up. ''You can change your office layout according to your needs. It's a seating solution for open events or for more intimate meetings,'' says Jorge Almeida, Guialmi's Director of Export.
Source: Nicole Walter, Special to Property Weekly