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EquipHotel Coffee-Debate: the power of prescription

From November 6 to 9, during EquipHotel, Intramuros co-hosted coffee chats with the French furniture industry, on their stand called Interior Design Center. Topics related to the design of hospitality spaces, the change and development of the market were discussed. Read a summary of the November 6 discussion on the reality of the interior designer’s prescriptive authority.

Around the sublime Corian table designed by Images, five professionals shared their views:
  • Régis Botta, Architect DPLG, Régis Botta – Architectures
  • Flore-Anne de Clermont, project manager at Valdélia.
  • Adrien Lanotte, senior analyst at MKG Consulting
  • Olivier Lekien, interior designer, Olk agency
  • Caroline Tissier, interior designer, Caroline Tissier Interiors

Does the interior designer still have the power of prescription?


Behind this slightly provocative debate title, the real question was: who is the buyer today? A question that translates the complexity of actors and levels of intervention in a hotel project today, that Adrien Lanotte, analyst at MKG Consulting illustrated in preamble of the exchanges. The consulting firm is in charge of a study commissioned by the French furniture industry, on the realities of the purchasing process and the role of the manufacturer in the projects.

A first observation shared by all: for more than 20 years, the number of players involved in a project has continued to increase and evolve, forming an ecosystem of players that is increasingly complex to understand. The typical scheme of project development remains the following: an investor launches an idea, then architects, interior designers, and design offices are called upon to study its implementation. After this second step, we move on to the execution: and this is where the furniture players come in, because this is the time when the customer will make calls for tenders and solicit proposals from distributors and manufacturers.

The complex management of the budget


Once the client has chosen the interior designer, as Adrien Lanotte notes “these two actors will discuss to define expectations, but without being in the real products at that time, it is still a drawing phase. “ The manufacturer comes in late, to answer questions about the feasibility of the design. Its mission will be to estimate the project taking into account the constraints of the project owner: if the latter starts with a very precise budget and after study the costs are higher, it is necessary to succeed in adapting without losing the initial idea.

Today, for Adrien Lanotte,“in the contracting sector, the manufacturer’s role is a bit like that of a technical salesman. He is the one who will be able to estimate the project”, which will determine its feasibility. “His role is to bring this vision that will allow the implementation of the initial vision established by the project sponsor. This is why it is important to involve the customer as early as possible, ideally from the design stage of the project, whether the choice of furnishings is based on a catalog, is custom-made or requires a semi-standard adaptation.

Olivier Lekien, director of the Olk agency he founded in 2019, talks about an evolution from his role as an interior designer to that of a conductor: “I would say that our business has changed. The number of actors is more and more important and therefore as an architect, we become a bit of a synthesis creator. In my own small way, I’m trying to provide a big picture solution to achieve a balance.”

Buying journey: but who is buying?


And if the question concerning the need to integrate manufacturers upstream seems to be unanimous, another one is just as important: who is in charge of purchasing? Caroline Tissier, Régis Botta and Olivier Lekien make it clear that, except for a few exceptions, they are not the direct buyers, but they accompany customers to find common ground, as Olivier Lekien rightly explains: “If I buy myself, it’s because I think there will be added value for the project. But if not, I will usually suggest manufacturers to the customer who will make his choice. It arrives also that he calls upon his own network that it may be interesting to exploit. Again, it comes back to this idea of synthesis to be done together.”

Titi restaurant project in Paris © Olivier Lekien
Titi restaurant project in Paris © Olivier Lekien

How is the choice made?


Interior designers emphasize this point: respecting the schedule, so that the hotel opens on time, is crucial for the interior designer. And more than the price, the real decision factor is now the time factor. Thus, if the role of the manufacturer is to bring its technical competence so that the project is done and fits in the budget, the questions of the available stocks, of the production and delivery times often serve the French manufacturers at the time of the final decision: “It’s all about reacting at the right time. If the manufacturer knows how to react when necessary, that’s when he can get the market. That’s when you have to adapt. explains Olivier Lekien.

And this question of deadlines is at the heart of many projects and in many cases, French manufacturers will be competing with international manufacturers, because of the deadline.
In the audience, a professional in materials sourcing, in an architectural firm specialized in luxury projects, mentions the desire of some clients to find “equivalents” once the project is validated, in order to save money or reach the delivery deadlines more quickly. These searches are also carried out by intermediaries, which makes it difficult to read the decision and arbitration schema in the end.

CSR commitment: towards an evolution of the market?


Everyone agrees: as far as furniture is concerned, it is complicated today to make projects 100% in short circuits, as Caroline Tissier rightly explains: “I’ve been able to work with chefs who are trying to operate in a short circuit in their restaurants and it’s been great. However, it seems complicated to me today to make a hotel which is totally in short circuit, even if I see clear improvements and solutions brought.

On the other hand, all the players around the table mentioned that CSR is increasingly taken into account in project design. For the time being, they are at least technically capable of meeting these requirements, for example by integrating energy-saving or insulation systems. Flore-Anne de Clermont, project manager at Valdélia, explains the approach of this eco-organization, whose objective is to promote reused furniture within projects. Valdélia acts as an intermediary between people who wish to dispose of their furniture and those who wish to reuse it. This is a new area of CSR commitment, which is gradually becoming part of the purchasing and design culture of the project.

CSR commitment: towards an evolution of the market?


Everyone agrees: as far as furniture is concerned, it is complicated today to make projects 100% in short circuits, (except for the Accor project mentioned) as Caroline Tissier rightly explains: “I’ve been able to work with chefs who are trying to operate in a short circuit in their restaurants and it’s been great. However, it seems complicated to me today to make a hotel which is totally in short circuit, even if I see clear improvements and solutions brought.

Restaurant Nellu © Caroline Tissier Intérieurs

Professional adaptations to the market


After a career in part at Ligne Roset and then in an agency specializing in the hotel industry, Caroline Tessier opened her own interior design agency in 2013. She works closely with manufacturers on her projects, and at the same time, she has set up a Contract Factory, which accompanies the client throughout the entire process: purchasing, negotiation, site follow-up: ” Whatever the project, the course will be the same. Knowing all the manufacturers allows us to have a broad vision and therefore to know which ones to work with when developing a project.” she explains. And it solves the question of how to manage purchases and intermediaries.

Régis Botta created his agency in 2011, with the specificity that it includes a design section. His projects include mostly custom-made furniture, and he integrates craftsmen and manufacturers from the design phase.“For me, anything that has to do with furniture and prototyping is one of the first issues to deal with. It’s one of the most important to discuss up front. So integrating manufacturers from the beginning is a no-brainer for me.” However, customization implies that the pieces cannot be developed on a larger scale, precisely in order to respect the client’s initial request for unique furniture. “In general in custom furniture, the client finances the prototyping and therefore does not want to see his pieces developed elsewhere. The only exception is when developing franchises or charters for example. In this case, it becomes interesting for a manufacturer since there will be orders in large quantities. continues Régis Botta. He also offers semi-customized models, adapting a standard model for a franchise, which he develops so that it becomes specific to the client.

Patisserie Véro Dodat by Régis Botta
Apéro Square by Régis Botta

Among the other tracks mentioned. Adrien Lanotte proposed the idea, for the manufacturer, to develop a service economy which would consist in leaving the product purchase model to propose replacement products or to resort to a leasing system in order to avoid, for example, having to immobilize a room in the event of problems related to manufacturing or delivery delays. Régis Botta comes back to the need to build a proximity with manufacturers. Indeed, once a first collaboration is made, a proximity is created and thus allows to have a better knowledge of the production tools of the manufacturers. In fact, it will be easier to understand the possible adaptations and this will logically help to save time later on.
Maïa Pois