An opportunity came up for me to attend the Habitat Creative Experience in Barcelona, Spain. I was invited by Andrew at PS Interiors via Sans-Kriska Décor, Grassoler + Estiluz. Reading though the itinerary before agreeing I became very intrigued. The event was small with only 6 designers and 3 local Spanish companies making it very intimate. It was the first time Habitat Cluster had hosted such an event and the idea behind it was to get local Spanish companies to collaborate and all bring something different to the table.
We were greeted at the airport by the friendly Cathy who took us to the small and quirky Hotel Vincci to check in. Before the meet and greet we were able to check into our rooms. With Rethink Interiors regularly designing guestroom schemes for hotels, I was intrigued to see the design and take note for future projects. As soon as I entered the bedroom I realised why the event had been hosted here. The rooms were simple yet had real design edge and an arty feel befitting Barcelona’s architecture. LED lighting ran over the headboard and above the wardrobe highlighting its curvy design lines. The lighting complimented the exterior cladding to the window which some people didn’t like as it disrupted the view but I found it to frame the city landscape. As well as stylish and minimal it also carried a young carefree style with the fun stickers displayed over the minibar. The bathroom was closed off by a glass screen which made the bedroom feel more open. It also made the entrance corridor appear less narrow.
We later met back in the lobby area for the meet and greet session where we were briefly introduced to the three suppliers contributing to the weekend. As well as meeting the suppliers we were also introduced to the organisers of the trip Habitat Clusters – Barbara + Cathy. We then kicked of the two day trip with a tour of the hotel. The main feature to the hotel was its atrium and old staircase which was the first thing you saw when you walked in. The glass balustrade that ran round each floor was covered in a decorative chain link curtain by Sans-Kriska Décor a supplier sponsoring the two day trip. It was in an abstract black and gold design that even though it was broken up by the floor levels its pattern still flowed continuously onto each level like an art installation. Once we reached the top floor we were able to look down the atrium where you could see the detail the designer had gone to interlink all aspects of the design. They had cleverly flooded the balustrade chain link pattern onto the carpet as if it were shadows from the balustrade design. In whole the design was minimal and abstract but its attention to detail made it crisp; less is more in this case.
Once our tour finished we headed downstairs to the outside space for lunch. The designers and suppliers were encouraged to spread out to enable the most beneficial networking. This was the first informal occasion to meet the other suppliers.
When lunch was over we were fully introduced to the first supplier, Sans-Kriska Décor. They gave a presentation on the history of the company its location and how the company has developed to its capabilities today. Their slideshow highlighted the many uses for the chain curtain – including art installations, division screens, signage, shop windows… the options are endless. They also highlighted how flexible and cleanable the product is which was very appealing – a product I would definitely like to incorporate into future designs.
We were then transported to the second supplier’s showroom which was located in a fantastic historic building where the architecture was in true Barcelona style. The two people showing us around the building were full of charisma and had bubbly personalities which really engaged us in their products. We all sat around in their showroom on the comfy sofas whilst they flicked through the latest catalogue and informed us of their capabilities and high quality. We were then taken into a neighbouring office in order to view the city from the roof top. The building was very grand with a beautiful staircase covered in old style patterned ceramics tiles on the walls and floors. There was also a cute lift for two with seats in.
Following the final presentation, myself and another designer made the most of the free time and explored the local area to our hotel. Cathy, originally from Dublin, was our personal tour guide and recommended places to go. Having been up since the crack of dawn we headed straight to a cafe to drink a strong coffee and settle into the local atmosphere. The coffee was crazy cheap I even had to ask if he’d charged for two! Once recharged, it was of course time for ice cream! Second stop a local small church, St Mary’s, which was originally where the sea used to come in to – another useful fact from Cathy. It appeared small from the outside yet it was grand inside. We then took a stroll round the small alley streets coming across lots of local produce and quirky quant shops.
After freshening up we headed out for dinner in a restaurant called MIP. When we arrived we were greeted by two lovely ladies who handed out aprons. This wasn’t your typical restaurant; we were divided into three groups – starter, main and dessert. I was in the dessert team – sweet! We all proceeded to the kitchen to start at the same time. The phrase too many chefs popped in to mind. It was a great event to break away from the formal dining experience and rather get your hands dirty. Whilst waiting for the food to cook appetisers were given out to keep our bellies happy and to stop us from licking the spoons. We then sat down and our food was served. The food was delicious even if I say so myself! All recipes were given out to which I am yet to re-create in my own kitchen for my lucky guests.
The next day it was another early start but this time our brains were chucked into the deep end with an early morning Manual Thinking Box workshop. Two guys explained what the studio was about and showed us how our mind works in two formats, creative and practical. They tested our brains and how we reacted given different time limits.
The two tests showed how our minds panicked with less time but how our minds found one answer then stopped and became lazy rather than thinking outside the box (manual thinking box) the clue is in the name! The brainstorming technics they taught us were extremely useful and once I was back in the Rethink office I shared what I had learnt and I believe it is something I will use towards future project brainstorming.
After the hard-core brainstorming we got in taxis and headed to the final destination which took over an hour to get to. This was the final supplier Estiluz and it was to visit their factory out in the mountains. They explained how it was a family business and how many local people in the small village worked in the factory. One example was one 65 year old lady who had only ever worked in this factory. Going round the factory we got to see lots of lighting prototypes and at the end there was a room exhibiting some of the latest catalogue. Out the back of the factory was some lovely green space where they had arranged some nibbles and champagne. It had been arranged in some old crates which were authentic and their outdoor lighting range was scattered around looking like it was a set for one of their brochure photo shoots.
The final stop before heading to the airport was a local restaurant where they filled us up to the max. There were lots of typical Spanish foods, meats, salads, olives, cheeses, tomatoes breads pate and that was just the first rounds of starters!
The trip was the perfect amount of time and the perfect amount of suppliers to digest properly over the days. I would highly recommend the trip to other designers as it was a unique well organised trip.
I would like say a big thank you to the supplies – Sans-Kriska Décor, Grassoler + Estiluz for inviting me and the organisers of the event who were very helpful and accommodating.