Left to Right: Daniel Meloche (Daniel Meloche Design), Christine Craik (Craik Creative), Troy Dashney (Bold Interior Design Inc), Tony Brenders (Interior Designers of Canada), Sally Mills (Kasian Architecture)
With a few free minutes while my wife Heather does a work out while staying at the fabulous Rimrock Resort and Spa in Banff, AB, I find myself a few minutes to relax in the lounge with a drink and an empty canvas on the screen. I'm trying to figure out what to write when I realize I'm currently travelling and can't stop thinking about the designed environment around me.
Ever since I was three years old, I have traveled the world. From the ages of three to five, I had the opportunity to live in Singapore with my family from which I traveled to many parts of Southeast Asia: Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Thailand, and more.
Fast-forward through the years and I had traveled a bit but not as far as as East Asia. After a couple of years into my design career, I realized how much I missed travel. I banked two years worth of holiday time and saved to take a month off and travel throughout Western Australia and into Napa Valley. It was on that trip, that I realized how important travel is in one's life, especially the life of a designer. See, when you travel, you get to see things from a different vantage. That point of view is usually more relaxed, more open minded and ready to explore things you had never seen.
After spending a month travelling, I realized I could no longer go that long without seeing the world, seeing the unique, the different and the inspiring.
Design and travel is not new, but the way we do it now is much different than the Romans when they would conquer other civilizations and bring over their design influence. Or the way the Spanish created old Havana, Cuba. Design and travel has been going on for centuries as a necessity, but now it's at times considered a luxury, but to me, it's still a necessity.
In June of 2019, after being in Toronto with a lighting supplier, I came back to the office to find out that as a member of the Interior Designers of Canada (https://www.idcanada.org/), that I had been selected with a few others from across the country to represent our membership and our industry at HOST Milano 2019 (http://host.fieramilano.it/en). HOST Milano is the single largest commercial restaurant design show in the world. The bi-annual show just outside of Milano hosts nearly 200,000 attendees from over 50 countries and over 2,200 exhibitors, all representing what Italians do well: food, wine and design.
I was ecstatic, not only do I get to go back to Milano, but I could tie in a trip to Lago d'Orta, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site one hour northwest of Milano. It just so happens I have been there before and got married there in 2016 to my amazing wife Heather.
Now i'm excited: food, wine, design, Lago d'Orta AND I would be able to stay a couple of nights in Casa Fantini (http://www.casafantinilaketime.com/), the newest hotel designed by Pierro Lissoni (https://www.lissoniassociati.com/en)and owned by the amazing Daniella Fantini, the current head of Fantini Rubinetti (https://www.fantiniusa.com/), a second-generation luxury plumbing compnay whose factory is in Pella, on the west side of Lago d'Orta and whose factory was also designed by Lissoni.
I arrived in Milano on October 17th and quickly took a taxi to the Four Points by Sheraton Milano Center where I met our gracious Host, Enrico Cleva. Enrico is a local architect and also the representative between HOST Milano and the Interior Designers of Canada. For the next 4 nights, he would help us navigate the show, the town at night and enlighten us on Italian Design.
So with the pre-face above said, why do I feel travel is such a necessity? To me, it's simple. It's a way to see the world from a different perspective. Every city and every country you visit, has a different past. That past, that geography has created the built environment you see. These different experiences have allowed various countries to be recognized for very specific parts of our design industry.
When you think of lighting and tile, Italy is often the place you think of for quality. Many of the most exotic and common stones come from Italian quarries. It's a natural that in the area of Cersaie is known for tile. The lake region of Italy is a natural for plumbing and if you have the opportunity to go to Lago d'Orta region you will be inspired by the majestic beauty of the lake region and see how many plumbing fixture companies have settled in this area and are inspired by its beauty.
On my first ever trip to Fantini's factory in 2013, I left inspired by their collaborations with Baccart Crystal for their Belvedere faucet which then made it's way into a modern luxury residence Bold Interior Design Inc designed in Edmonton. Had it not been for that trip, this amazing residence would have missed the opportunity to include the faucet.
On each trip I take, whether it's a trip with a supplier, a trip with my wife, or a specific work related trip, I try to find at least 3 things I can use. When it's a work trip, such as Global Shop 2014, I was able to specify 6 new products from that show into one amazing retail project for an institutional client. While not all shows
Find as many inspiring products or technologies that you feel you can use within 12 months.
Look for inspiring details that you would not have thought about, and many of them are simpler than you think.
Connect with local designers, suppliers, business owners that you can keep in touch with, you never know when you will need them.
Immerse yourself in the culture. Find a small boutique hotel, or interview a few apartment owners via sites like AirBnB, and have dinner with the Owner.
Rent a car and travel the country side (if there is one), see the rural areas as that at times will have the most hidden treasures you could imagine.
Realizing you have come back to work, inspired, invigorated and energized! This is the best part!
In the end, travel is not for everyone. It's really an investment. It's an investment in yourself, your business and in your Clients. Yes, it comes across as a luxury but in the end, when you tell your Client the story behind the detail, behind the sofa you specified or that piece of art, and the unique characteristic that are associated with the end result, you will have ultimately created a built environment which is truly international! (no awards needed).
So go book that trip, that conference, enjoy life and work at the same time, that is the best balance a designer can have! Trust me!