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Interview with Michael Seum, GROHE VP of Design

864 323 Daniel Fountain

GROHE’s VP of Design, Michael Seum, on Essence and its expanded range of colours that gives more creative freedom to designers and architects.

The Essence range of classically elegant mixers has always been a hallmark of pure and modern design. They were redesigned last year and recently they have been upgraded with a wider choice of deluxe colours and state-of-the-art finishes. The re-designed mixers offer a whole new set of options for the design community, giving them the chance to create their own individual look and feel. We spoke to Michael Seum, Vice President of Design at GROHE, about renewing a classic.

Q. What’s the enduring appeal of Essence?
Michael Seum: First let me make it clear that we have remained absolutely faithful to the original product philosophy of minimalist shape and purity of design. For many years, the Essence range has given architects and interior designers a classic design with simple and understated geometry. It is these cherished ideals that enables Essence to complement almost any bathroom style – and therefore, makes it the architects’ first choice.

Q. So what does Essence Colours bring that is new?
MS: Our interactions with design-thought leaders across the world, showed us that there was a growing need for more individuality and personalisation in bathroom design. That’s why we have expanded our range to include 8 new options. With these new options we have created an incredibly rich toolbox for the creative mind allowing tremendous flexibility. This approach has had an immediate impact and has been extremely well received by the global design community. For example, our Hard Graphite in both polished and brushed finishes beautifully complement a huge range or interiors. From marble and pure white bathrooms, light wood tones as well as concrete and dark matte tiles, we find this finish is so versatile it will enable interior designers to create their dream bathroom whatever the style.

Michael SeumQ. What about the design itself?
MS: The new Essence design that we launched has the same traditional delicate transitions and understated geometry of the classic Essence range but with a slightly softened and more humanised approach. This becomes especially apparent in the mixer lever: We have included a very slight taper on the handle, which gives the user a sensual experience of precision control. So there is now more choice in the Essence range but we made sure that we’re retaining the same instantly recognisable iconic look and feel of classic simplicity. There is a strong undercurrent of consistency!

Q. You mentioned the reaction of the design community. How was Essence received?
MS: In one word: excitement. The last few months I’ve been globetrotting with samples of Essence and in all honesty I was very pleasantly shocked at the huge positivity and enthusiasm of designers across the world. In Europe, for example, one interior design team immediately embraced the idea of working with our new colours and finishes, giving them much more freedom to coordinate them with their overall vision. A recent conversation in Tokyo with a prominent designer evoked a similar response. It’s been exciting to see the powerful enthusiasm for Essence.

Q. You say that Essence was prompted by changing needs in design. What are these?
MS: Before starting any new design – and certainly before we put pen to paper in the studio – we look at what’s going on around us. Not only in terms of trends, but also in the more fundamental, global changes that take place. We consult with leading analysts, social commentators and futurologists. And obviously, we use my own experiences and observations. On this occasion, everyone seemed to agree that for billions of people the digital revolution has dramatically changed how they live their lives. Everything is going at hyper speed. So sometimes, people want a moment of escape. Especially in the bathroom, the traditional oasis of individual serenity and relaxation. They crave an environment that is a break from the predictable uniformity of the digital age.

Q. How is the Essence a response to that?
MS: For one, there are the slightly softened and humanised transitions and geometry of the Essence range. Another is the extensive choice of colours and finishes. People want the familiarity of iconic classic design, but they also want to be pampered with an individualistic look and feel. This level of personalisation really elevates the Essence line to a bespoke experience. It also gives interior designers and consumers the opportunity to bring new and luxurious emotional connections to bathroom designs. I believe that this act of establishing connections is the true role of product designers like us. Ultimately, as designers, we must make an emotional difference to people’s lives.

GROHE Essence

Q. And what are the main benefits for architects and interior designers?
MS: There are three main benefits. Firstly, Essence gives designers more options than ever to express their creativity – and from what I’ve already seen the results are truly exciting. Secondly, this classic design will easily translate into almost any bathroom style – so architects and designers now have a short-cut to specification whatever project they are working on. The third benefit is cost-efficiency. The Essence series has always represented affordable classic design with a long durability, and Essence can still be part of proposals that require an element of cost-competitiveness.

Q. Finally, what else have you planned for this versatile series?
MS: Well, we are interacting with and listening to designers more and more, and they are flooding us with ideas on how and where we can take Essence. And we will, of course, take action on this creative thinking. But for now, we just want to open the floodgates of the options we have developed. I am genuinely excited to be part of what will be a true celebration of creativity in the next few years. And would like to thank everyone in advance for their contribution.

About Michael Seum
Industrial designer Michael Seum is GROHE’s Vice President of Design taking over from Paul Flowers in June 2015. Born in America, he is an award-winning designer with an international design career spanning large corporations, acclaimed design studios and entrepreneurial brands such as Procter and Gamble, Whirlpool (USA & Italy), PepsiCo Sports and Nutrition, Minimal and WiMo labs. At GROHE, Michael is responsible for delivering insight-driven, meaningful solutions that capture the spirit and imagination of GROHE consumers throughout the world.

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Dennis Irvine - designer on Jumby Bay Estate House project

Q&A: Dennis Irvine – Estate House, Jumby Bay Resort

994 583 Daniel Fountain

Recently at the Rosewood Hotel in London – a world away from the shimmering blue waters and picture-perfect beaches of the Caribbean – Hotel Designs attended a press preview of the work being carried out at the Estate House; the signature bar and restaurant of the Jumby Bay Rosewood Resort, a stunning luxury retreat set on its own 300-acre private island two miles off the coast Antigua.

Having been given an introduction to the island and the resort by Rosewood MD Andrew Hedley, the resort is everything you would imagine of a Caribbean hideaway – accessible only by boat, a strong colonial feel with a touch of West Indian charm, and tropical paradise environs. And in January of this year, in a bid to bring that aesthetic to the bar and restaurant, the Estate House was closed for a complete overhaul.

Jumby Bay

“Already renowned as one of Antigua’s most sought after dining destinations, the reimagined Estate House will emerge as the Caribbean’s ultimate social club for gourmet fare, sophisticated mixology, and mingling from day to night,” Andrew says.

Heading up the project is Dennis Irvine and Hotel Designs had the pleasure of catching up with him to discuss the project and his work as a designer.

Dennis’ background in interior design is a rich one having grown up drawing and making, his passion for all things creative led him to studying interior architecture, to working with Mary Fox Linton to eventually setting up his eponymous design studio. It’s from this standpoint that Dennis was tasked with breathing new life into the Estate House, Jumby Bay.

Jumby Bay, Antigua

Combining the colonial impressions of the main resort with a contemporaneous perspective on the locale, the Estate House’s redesign represented a challenge of capturing the spirit of the island, something wholly embraced by Dennis. But was it hard to balance aesthetics and practicality? “Not really,” Dennis says. “Our design concept was the modern interpretation of the ‘colonial spirit’, so it was a matter of taking inspiration from history with careful curation and playful references that created an aesthetic which drew on the past and used modern materials appropriate to the environment,” he adds.

Retaining historical elements of the original structure, the redesign will pay homage to the Estate House’s roots in empire-era glamour with subtle nods to the island’s history and traditions throughout – something achieved through ‘putting in the hours as it were’. Dennis says: “Spending time in Antigua and absorbing local life was absolutely vital. Our team invested time and effort into researching this former plantation house’s history as well as the island’s traditions and landscape.”

A two-storey, vaulted ceiling will provide a dramatic entryway to the bar, while an airy courtyard, connecting the main restaurant, three private dining rooms, and the Wine Room, will serve as an idyllic outdoor lounge space to savour pre-or-post-dinner drinks, amongst tropical plants and a fountain made by a local artist. Curated local artwork depicting local Antiguan life, flora, and fauna, and vintage maps will adorn the walls, while sophisticated tableware and accessories in bespoke Ginori china, silver and crystal will offer a refined dining experience.

Indeed, Dennis tells HD that sourcing pieces from the island and its artists was one of the more challenging but at the same time worthwhile aspects of the project. “Working closely with local architect Andrew Goodenough, who has had a practice in Antigua for almost forty years was fundamental to getting this right. Engaging local people such as artist Dina Debozzi for trompe l’oeil island scenes for the Blue Room was very important to us too,” he says.

HD asks Dennis how working in what appears to be a remote location compares to working in Europe. “Although it’s remote, the reliability of communication is excellent, better than in London or Paris in fact. There are lots of logistical challenges though. Everything has to be shipped in which takes time, coordination and patience to ensure the project is delivered as originally envisaged,” he tells us.

Inspired by the island’s starkly verdant landscape, a colour palette of rich greens will be employed, and handcrafted furnishings in ebony, teak, rattan, and wicker will emulate the style of past travellers and explorers. Sweeping terraces will offer unparalleled views of the island landscape. In keeping with The Estate House’s new look, restaurant and bar staff will wear fashionable uniforms designed by acclaimed designer Emilia Wickstead.

Jumby Bay, Antigua

The design of the three private dining rooms – The Map Room, The Tent Room, and the Blue Room – will embody different facets of the island’s character. The Map Room will personify wanderlust and discovery through carefully curated objects and antique maps from the golden age of exploration. The Blue Room will feature hand-painted trompe l’oeil island scenes and rich blues inspired by the twilight sky. Draped fabric ceiling and walls in the Tent Room create a romantic Empire-era dining experience. Lighting throughout has been supplied by Croydon-based Dernier & Hamlyn, a collaborator with Dennis on previous projects.

So, has Dennis been given a free rein to bring a ‘design philosophy to the project?

“I was given a great deal of independence to translate spaces as I felt they should be. Having said that, we really appreciated the invaluable input we received from Rosewood who have been based in the Caribbean for many years. Selecting relevant and suitable suppliers is always key to the success of a project so working with an experienced procurement agent, in this case Argenta Projects, was crucial.”

Rejecting the idea of being tied to one style, he adds: “Good design is never formulaic. There will never be a Dennis Irvine Studio style. I am always very respectful of a building’s history if it has one. Or if it’s a new site will give very careful consideration to what else is happening locally so that, while making its own statement, the design is empathetic and complements its surroundings. If asked to sum up our ‘design philosophy’ it would be about respect. For the building and its environs, for the client’s brand and vitally for each other within our team.”

HD asks where this project ranks for Dennis in his portfolio of work. “It’s the first one that has been completed under the Dennis Irvine Studio name so it is my most rewarding in many ways.” Work on the horizon includes a country house hotel at Langley Park, Buckinghamshire. Judging by the work carried out by Dennis at the Estate House, it’s going to be a gem – and slightly closer to home…


Athenaeum Hotel

In Conversation With…Athenaeum Hotel owner Mailo Power

840 460 Daniel Fountain

The Hotel Designs Summit was held at Radisson Blu London Stansted on 12-13 September, with a host of hoteliers, designers and manufacturers all joining together for meetings, networking sessions and seminars. Hotel Designs had the pleasure of catching up with Mailo Power, owner of the Athenaeum Hotel…


Hotel Designs: Good afternoon Mailo! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Mailo Power: I’m the owner of Athenaeum House Hotel in Waterford in the south east of Ireland and a member of Manor House Hotels, which is a collection of 34 family-run properties – a mixture of luxury and boutique hotels as well as castles throughout Ireland.

HD: And the Athenaeum in particular, can you describe its story for me…
MP: The property came about, I suppose, through shared vision. Interestingly enough, being here at the Hotel Designs Summit, it came about through a marriage of both design and the hospitality industry. My husband Stan grew up in the hotel industry, his parents owned the Ocean Hotel in Dunmore East, which they sold when he was a teenager. So, he went into the hotel business very young and after running several hotels in the UK and managing Mount Juliet hotel which won Hotel of the Year in Ireland when he was at the helm.

My background was actually in interior design, I worked on a lot of leisure projects and hotel projects, my clients included Great Southern Hotels in Ireland, I was their group designer. I also worked in France and the Isle of Man. Together we decided to build our own property, it made sense with my background specialising in the design of hotels and my husband’s background in hotel management.

Athenaeum Hotel

So, in 1999 we bought a Georgian house on an estate in Waterford, it’s setting is unique in that it overlooks the city but is actually set in 5 acres; it has the best of both worlds with a country feel but close to the City centre across the River Suir. We built and opened the present hotel in 2003, after four years of battling planning permission – because the border of Waterford and Kilkenny runs through us – our boutique hotel has 29 bedrooms, a 130-cover restaurant Zaks, as well as boardrooms and meeting rooms. Our daughter Kelly joined us in 2010 following a number of years working in the hospitality industry in Australia.

HD: What about the personality of the hotel?
MP: As it’s a listed building we maintained the Georgian features, such as the fan light, high ceilings, fireplaces, original mouldings and architraves. We offer exclusive use for weddings, celebrations or corporate events. Our award-winning restaurant helps, especially as our Chef James Crawford is passionate about using local produce – we’re proud of our ‘field-to-fork’ approach and supporting local suppliers.

And, although we are a family business, we definitely have an international mind-set. We joined the Manor House collection, which is a collection of properties throughout Ireland and this allows us to have a central reservations office in Dublin and a ‘face’ at international events, which we wouldn’t have if we were just an independent standing alone.

Athenaeum Hotel

HD: And what about the future – any expansion plans?
MP: We are heavily involved with the tourism industry in Ireland – both presently and looking to its future. And what we’re finding is that people are looking for an experience and a story behind the properties they stay in, we are working on developing the story of our unique heritage as part of Ireland Ancient East proposition. Our expansion plans also include developing an ‘innovation hub’ for start-up businesses. It will be a place where people can go to get mentoring from various specialists, or just have an innovative space to hold think tanks.

HD: Being from Ireland, how do you think Brexit will affect the industry in your homeland?
MP: I was actually one of the few people in my close circle that thought it would happen – and I’ll tell you why! There was a sort of ‘perfect storm’ prior to the referendum – there were definite elements generating fear, it came very quickly after the tragedies in Paris and in Brussels and we’re now facing an unprecedented migration issue beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. When people feel fearful and threatened, history shows us that they will lift the drawbridge – and I feel people acted out of genuine fear, but without properly understanding the ramifications. There was a total lack of understanding of what Brexit actually meant.

With regards to ‘what now’ – we’re in uncharted territory. We’re ten years away from truly knowing what the ramifications are. Obviously, there is a massive connection between Ireland and the UK, more so than any other country, and there has been for generations – I personally have a very strong family connection with England and the UK!

Athenaeum Hotel

The big issue will be the border, I’m hoping open borders continue, but I’m not sure how that will work in the European context at all. The other thing that concerns me, listening to Theresa May in her speeches, is that she wants to build links with other countries and is looking towards a ‘global economy’ separate to Europe, I am not sure that will be straight forward as we have Barack Obama saying that the US will have to deal with Europe first and then the UK.

But despite that, I still think there will be close ties between Ireland and the UK – and as a tourism product, the UK people will still visit Ireland and vice versa. I’m sure that given our shared heritage strong links between the two countries will continue.

HD: Let’s hope so! And as an independent hotel rather than a chain, what operational challenges do you face?
MP: There are two strands to that question, the first being the fact that we’re a family-run hotel with a long history in the industry, we have the mentality of ‘individual tailor made service’ rather than ‘standardisation’. Secondly, we bring a wider industry best practice, innovative approach to building standards of performance and team development – because if our team is happy and well trained it enhances service delivered to our guests.

As hoteliers, the guest is the centre of our universe, and at Athenaeum House Hotel we pride ourselves on being able to offer a personalised experience, when our guests are happy our business flourishes!

All images by Waterford photographer www.infokus.ie

inD Creations - Deema Sahyoun

In Conversation With… Deema Sahyoun, inD Creations

980 341 Daniel Fountain

The Hotel Designs Summit was held at Radisson Blu London Stansted on 12-13 September, with a host of hoteliers, designers and manufacturers all joining together for meetings, networking sessions and seminars. Hotel Designs had the pleasure of catching up with Deema Sahyoun, founder and director at inD Creations…


Hotel Designs: Hello Deema, tell us a bit about yourself and your background in the industry…
Deema Sahyoun
: I actually started off a product designer, and then I got quite lucky and fell into a job in hotel design by coincidence. I absolutely fell in love with the hospitality industry – especially the creativity  it allows, the challenges you face and the joy you can bring people through a space.

So, I freelanced for about four or five years but always wanted to start my own company and I have slowly built up my company over the last four years. In the last year I’ve just found my niche within the boutique and independently-owned hotels where, although it’s a smaller budget, it’s rewarding to achieve beauty with a tighter budget and that’s what I specialise in now.

HD: And what’s your inspiration, what inspires you when working on a project?
DS: It’s a number of different things – first and foremost, it’s the building and the impression you get when you first walk in. And then meeting the people that work there. Many of these hotels are older and have been owned by the same family for a long time, and the managers have worked there for years – so for me, it’s about getting a sense of the culture of the hotel.

Next it’s case of the general area and location of the property. And then the challenges of the space usually lead the creative process. For example, with tiny rooms, it’s how you work to make them appear bigger.

inD Creations - Deema Sahyoun

Some of the work carried out by inD Creations

HD: What’s your favourite design that you’ve seen?
That’s always a difficult question to answer! I like a whole range of different design elements… [HD: I suppose they reflect the personalities of the designers?]…Exactly, and their distinctive styles! But I mean, I like Firmdale Hotels a lot and how Kit Kemp is led by the environment around the properties in her design.

I think it’s important a that hotel design moves with the way we live, that includes the environment and how we eat, how we move, how we relax and so on. I think Kit Kemp does that well within the boutique industry allowing it to flood into the way the hotels look feel

HD: And what about your own – a project you really enjoyed working on?
Oh gosh, I have many that I’ve enjoyed for different reasons! But I did a project in Egypt and, being from the Middle East, I quite enjoyed bringing a sense of modernity to the Arab culture and making it trendy.

I have been working closely with Capricorn Hotels over the last few years and it has been a joy working with them; we have a long term plan towards bringing their hotels to life and it has been a great experience being part of such a great team.

I also did the bar at the K West Hotel in Shepherd’s Bush – and I really enjoyed that project because there was a lot of juicy creativity that I could bring into that because of its story.

HD: And what future trends can you see coming in the next three years?
Well, I think the way people are looking at hotels is completely changing – people are shying away from branded hotels, and the idea that if I go to this hotel anywhere around the world it will look exactly the same. It’s all about being individual, being independent and about giving people a sense of place. It’s about the language between its location and getting the people who are staying there to go out and get a feel of the locale.

And then we’re definitely seeing an influence from the way we live – so, not filling the room with desks for example, as nobody likes sitting facing the wall; people would rather you had a nice communal area with coffees and somewhere to work. So the standard things you need in a hotel are completely changing – having smaller wardrobes, but bigger lounge space for example.

HD: Are there trends your clients are specifically asking for?
I tend to play it by ear – I don’t know if it’s just me, but the clients I work with really rely on me to keep on top of trends! But a couple of their main stipulations are always that it lasts a long while and space is used well.


GROHE interview with Paul Flowers, Chief Design Officer LWT and Michael Seum, Vice President Design Grohe AG

Interview: Paul Flowers (LWT) and Michael Seum (GROHE)

1000 625 Daniel Fountain

Paul Flowers (above, left), who was in charge of the GROHE Design Studio from 2005 to 2015, has been appointed Chief Design Officer at LIXIL Water Technology (LWT), coordinating the design of all brands belonging to LWT. Michael Seum (above, right) has joined GROHE as Vice President Design in 2015 and is now leading the GROHE Design Studio in Düsseldorf.

Q. Paul, after ten years at the GROHE Design Studio you have now taken on new responsibilities as Chief Design Officer at LIXIL Water Technology. At LWT, you are in charge of the design of all brands, including GROHE, LIXIL/INAX, American Standard and JAXSON. What do your new tasks entail and what are the challenges that you have to face?

Paul: I have learnt over my two decades of international design experience that people really are a brand’s most precious resource. My role is to orchestrate a Global Design Team and ensure we have the most talented people in our studios in Düsseldorf, New York, Tokyo and Bangkok. I intend to fuse creativity into the culture of each of the companies, elevate design and in turn show the value of design as we have done in the last ten years at GROHE.

A big challenge is the diversity of the separate brands as well as the varied technical requirements and individual design preferences in the different countries. We intend to share and combine our knowledge of global trends and experience. We have the challenge of keeping the brands true to their individual values and their aesthetic expression significantly different from each other, unique and preferred over our competitors.

I am very fortunate that I get to travel all over the world and have first-hand experience of different cultures and trends. Through insights, research and a consumer focus we will generate unique experiences, which are relevant and valued by the people who use our products.

GROHE interview with Paul Flowers, Chief Design Officer LWT and Michael Seum, Vice President Design Grohe AG

Q. Was it difficult for you, to pass the baton on and let someone else take the reins at the GROHE Design Studio?
Paul: When you have dedicated so much passion, time and energy to something, it becomes very personal and important to you. I have had an amazing time at GROHE and I am immensely proud of what the team has achieved in the last decade. The great aspect of my new role within LWT is, I will still be involved working closely with Michael Seum to take the brand to the next level.

I took considerable time to personally find somebody like Michael Seum, he is highly motivated, incredibly creative and is very experienced having already designed for some very impressive leading international brands.

Q. Michael, design is a key brand value at GROHE. The GROHE Design Team won more than 200 awards in the last few years. What is your design strategy for GROHE? Will there be a different focus or will you preserve the typical design characteristics?

Michael: GROHE has a special understanding of the value of design and it is clearly been recognized with so many external accolades. Paul has built a highly talented design team and, more importantly, has built one of the most efficient creative cultures I have ever been a part of. The designs envisioned in the studio get produced, there is very little loss of design intent and they are easily recognized as GROHE products.

Design will absolutely remain a strategic driver of brand value within GROHE. I will be working closely with Paul to ensure we do so. It’s great that Paul and I share many of the same philosophies, methods and discipline in our approach to designing products and brand experiences. I am excited to work with this team, ensuring design continues to increase brand value by creating strong emotional connections to our products and brand experiences through great design.

GROHE interview with Paul Flowers, Chief Design Officer LWT and Michael Seum, Vice President Design Grohe AG

Q. Before joining GROHE, you have already worked for renowned companies. Where do you see the challenges in designing for a sanitary company? Are there special requirements you need to consider when working with the element water?
Michael: Every company and industry that I have worked in has its own unique category challenges; for designers these unique challenges become the real opportunities for design.

For GROHE, we must exceed the rational expectations of consumers — they also have to embody the emotional needs consumers have in their homes –for example calming, relaxation, privacy and personal health and well-being. Beforehand amongst others at Whirlpool, Procter & Gamble, Pepsico, I gathered versatile experience in different industries, which I can now benefit from.

Q. Paul, what are the cornerstones of your cooperation with Michael? Could you tell us about the depths and contents of your working together?
Paul: Michael is very innovative in his approach to both solving problems and identifying consumer opportunities, which is imperative for a brand like GROHE and I trust his judgment 100% percent. We work very closely together and have structured weekly meetings and constant dialogue. We have a number of creative tools, which we use to ensure we are pushing forward and realizing our long-term strategy. From our well defined Brand Values, Style Segmentation and unique Signature Elements to our Design Quality Reviews, we have a very objective approach to reviewing and guiding the work of the Düsseldorf studio.

GROHE interview with Paul Flowers, Chief Design Officer LWT and Michael Seum, Vice President Design Grohe AG

Q. Michael, you already know the GROHE portfolio very well, do you have a favourite product yet?
Michael: Prior to coming to GROHE, I renovated my loft in Chicago with our new Essence line but if I had to pick another product it would be GROHE Blue. I read recently that for the first time we have more plastic in the ocean than we do fish. At the same time, we also have so many unhealthy beverage choices. GROHE Blue is a product that our consumers love; reducing plastic consumption/use while enjoying the healthy beverage options of high quality filtered still or sparkling water.

Q. Finally, a question for the both of you. Please briefly complete the following statement: Good design is…
Paul: Good design removes the unnecessary to allow the user to focus on the elements, which enhance the experience. It guides a user intuitively to get the most from a product or service, it anticipates a user’s needs and facilitates an emotional and unique experience which adds value to our lives. Good design is mindful of the precious resources it takes to make, package, transport and use the product…

Michael: We as designers face a lot of pressure to create unique, new, highly differentiated and exciting products. Good design considers the consumers’ overall desired experience, their emotional needs and the contextual needs within their homes. Good design is about meeting the needs of our consumers in both expected and unexpected ways.

All photos courtesy of GROHE Press
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