Projects We Love

When Flooring Comes to Life

Request and download

Projects We Love 2017

We collected some of our most beloved projects and presented them in a magazine named Projects We Love. The magazine features interesting interviews, beautiful projects and compelling facts about the company.

08. Come As You Are

Our Story: Personal Touch

Hospitality is an overused word – what should be a tailor-made experience often comes from a cookie-cutter mould. Not so in the hands of Annica and Marie Eklund, for whom the art of entertaining has always had a personal touch.

It's a cold and windy February night and the streets of Stockholm are empty but for a few people hurrying to catch the post-rushhour train. Sweden is an inhospitable place in winter. Even natives are aware of the moodaltering effects of months of short days and long nights. Yet in the distance, far down Kungsgatan, the glowing torches outside of Theatre Oscar beckon. Inside, a warm welcome instantly puts you in a happier place. The theatre’s lobby has been transformed into a dressing room where guests are encouraged to don hats or feather boas. For tonight only, the stage is not a setting for a play, but rather an elaborate dinner hosted by Bolon. Since Marie and Annica Eklund took over the family business in 2003 they have made events such as the Theatre Oscar dinner a trademark of Bolon – carefully curated happenings that are unlike anything you might experience in the corporate world. It makes sense, then, that the sisters are now turning their hand to hospitality in the real sense of the word.

In 2015 Marie and Annica completed two new projects – Urban House in Ulricehamn and Villa La Madonna in Piedmont, Italy. Urban House is a guesthouse for Bolon friends and clients – similar to their other locations: Lake House, which opened in 2014, and the forthcoming Farm House, set in a stables outside of Ulricehamn – while Villa La Madonna is a small hotel, available for anyone to book. “We never sat down and made the decision, ‘Let’s do this now’,” says Marie. “Instead, it’s happened organically when the opportunities have come up.” Annica fills in: “I guess it’s just part of our personalities. Mum and Dad have always been so generous and welcoming to our friends and our home was always a natural focal point. Hospitality is a natural part of our lives.”

Urban House is based in a 19th-century warehouse in the middle of Ulricehamn. Despite its small-town setting, the space has the feeling of a downtown Manhattan loft, with exposed brick walls and large windows that offer views towards the nearby lake. The six bedrooms are all decorated individually and feature bathtubs and vintage furniture sourced from the trips that Annica and Marie take every year. “We are involved in all aspects of the interior design and if we hadn’t been, I don’t think it would be the same,” says Annica. “It’s the small details that make it. The playfulness that we experience in certain places when we travel is what we bring home and recreate in Urban House. “Look around the space and you will spot a vintage French travelling wardrobe, complete with its original labels, as well as a chandelier picked up during a trip to Rio de Janeiro. Urban House stands as a visual record of its proprietors’ experiences.

VILLA LA MADONNA, which is part of a vineyard and covers a small estate in the rolling hills of Piedmont, possesses a different atmosphere. There is a yoga studio in a barn, neat rows of grape vines, an outdoor kitchen and a 400-year-old wine cellar protected by Unesco’s heritage list. “The heart of Villa La Madonna is the kitchen, the wine and the beautiful landscape with its rich traditions,” says Marie. “We want to create a place where our guests can relax and experience Piedmont.” It’s a retreat designed for guests to escape the daily grind. Instead, visitors are invited to partake in the annual harvest, learn to cook the local cuisine, or simply enjoy the views from one of the hotel’s many terraces and let their minds wander.

This desire for authentic experience is present throughout Annica and Marie’s work. They are passionate about all of their projects, whether a party, a new flooring collection or a guesthouse. “It started when we realised how many guests we have every year in Ulricehamn and we didn’t want to take them to the local hotel, as it was so different from our brand,” says Annica. “Instead, we wanted to create an atmosphere and environment that was more personal and more reflective of Bolon.”

LAKE HOUSE was the first embodiment of this idea, paving the way for both Urban House and Farm House. The wider enterprise has proven so successful that there is now a dedicated team managing the Bolon guesthouses. “We have guests who want the whole package – they want to stay in one of our guesthouses and to go to the Bolon factory and design studio tour, followed by a dinner cooked by a local chef,” says Marie. “We hoped that this would happen, but to see it actually work is amazing. The house is always full.”

A key component of the guesthouses is Bolon flooring itself and the interiors often serve as test grounds for new collections and ideas, giving guests a feeling for what it’s like to have Bolon in their environment. “We like people to experience something that we have created, and by using Bolon in these contexts we inspire people to see and use Bolon in different ways,” says Marie. “They get another insight into our products.” Villa La Madonna is a case in point. When it opened in April 2015, it featured a range of test rugs produced by Bolon. Unlike the woven vinyl flooring that the company made its name with, these rugs featured vinyl mixed with different type of textile fibres, creating beautiful patterns and a warmer, softer feeling. Materials from the prototype collection from Villa La Madonna play a vital role in Bolon’s 2017 concept, which highlights the innovative process of the company’s research and development team.

Creating room for this kind of experimentation is a way of building Bolon’s identity. So is there an intention to continue to explore Annica and Marie’s passion for hospitality? “Our ambition is to open up our guesthouses to other companies in order to have meetings and stay over for brainstorming sessions and a special experience,” says Marie. “But the homeliness can never go,” adds Annica. “Coming to a Bolon guesthouse should always feel like visiting someone at home.”


30: Textile Genealogy

A love for light and a childhood spent amongst embroidery helped French architect Jean Nouvel shape a new flooring collection for Bolon that plays with lines and dots in a tribute to the art of the 19th century. 

What I often seek in architecture is textures,” says Jean Nouvel. This interest harks back to the architect’s childhood, when he would watch his maternal grandmother do embroidery in south-west France. It is an idyllic memory and one that seems to play on Nouvel’s mind, finding expression throughout his work. “As a young boy, I would spend entire afternoons with her and she would be pulling on the sewing needle, embroidering initials on all the family linen. The process of hand embroidery is in my memory all the time. On the other side of the family, I had a grandfather who was a weaver. I grew up in a family where texture was written in the genes.”  

The 2008 laureate of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, Nouvel is France’s best-known architect. He has created the Institut del Monde Arabe, the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, the Musée du Quai Branly and the Philharmonie de Paris, all in Paris, while he has also designed the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the National Museum of Qatar, the National Art Museum of China and the 53W53 luxury residential tower in New York, which will include gallery spaces for MoMA. What unites these projects – which are disparate in form, context and material execution – is a common artistic sensibility for surface design, as well as a desire to play with reflections and light. It is this sensibility that has led to Nouvel’s new collaboration with Bolon, for whom he has devised the company’s first flooring collection to be designed by an architect. The flooring has been conceived with spatiality in mind, giving people the freedom to play with colour and light.  

“The decomposition of the light into dots is a very important theme,” says Nouvel of the collection, which is characterised by fine lines of small dots loosely inspired by Pointillism, the 19th-century approach to painting pioneered by post-Impressionist artist Georges-Pierre Seurat. Available in a palette of black, grey, red and blue, the flooring has been designed such that the repeat in its pattern is near invisible: it breaks down into a pure expression of colour and pattern that seems to erupt spontaneously. 

Nouvel, 71, first collaborated with Bolon while working on the Musée du Quai Branly in 2006. “I used their flooring in the offices and found it to be beautiful,” he says. “The nature of the product, technically, is very resistant and works well in busy offices.” The collaboration deepened in 2012, when Marie and Annica Eklund invited Nouvel to create the scenography of their stands at the Stockholm and Milan furniture fairs. Black sculptures of Nouvel lying down and sitting on pieces of furniture were positioned on the floor, the walls and the ceiling of the stands, illustrating how Bolon’s products could be used for mural and ceiling compositions. “I even laid down on the ceiling; I suffered a lot up there,” jokes Nouvel. “We showed the material in all its applications; it was about creating a beautiful skin and a stand that had an identity.”  

We are meeting in Nouvel’s agency in Paris, located at the end of a cobbled courtyard. The offices are minimally furnished and we sit on a long white table used for meetings. It is two weeks before Nouvel’s exhibition Mes Meubles d’Architecte opens at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris: a display of the design pieces he has created for brands and galleries such as Molteni & C, Artemide, Poltrona Frau, Ligne Roset, Kvadrat, and Galerie Patrick Seguin.

“In the exhibition, we’re going to show our research on the multiple samples which led to the flooring collection,” enthuses Nouvel, who drew on his extensive architectural experience of playing with textures, patterning and blurring of appearances during the project. “What’s most beautiful for me is the work of the collection: I’ve always been interested in the phenomenon of light and I know the work of the Impressionists very well. I like everything that has a rhythm of lines and this idea of embroidered lines made up of small coloured dots has been in the pictorial culture for one and a half centuries.”




Nouvel explains that for the collection he sought to work with the idea of trichromy, combining three colours in each design. “So that the lines would be visible, we often worked with complementary colours because we were looking for contrasts,” he says. “At other moments, the colours are in harmony. Through all these linearity games, we go from one harmony to another. One sees that it’s been made in a precise way and that it’s rhythmic. We did a lot of samples and went down this direction of stripes, which means that the points between the threads are more visible than I thought, but it was all about finding a way of integrating that striped rhythm.”

Nouvel says that he sought to create a kinetic sense of movement through the integration of the lines of dots. “You see the small dots and another colour that comes into place,” he says excitedly and, indeed, the variation in the thicknesses and the textures of the lines creates a rippling, pictorial effect, leading to an intricate interplay of textures and juxtapositions of colour. Nouvel calls this linear system “a series of graphic interpretations. We looked for what was the most graphic, deep and mysterious in those interpretations,” he says. “Using Bolon is a bit like choosing the fabric for a suit: it makes you want to look closely and to touch.”

The perception of the flooring, however, differs depending on one’s viewpoint. “If you look at the floor beneath you, you see all these textures,” Nouvel explains. “But if you look from a distance, you see one overall colour. The revelation of these textures and lines is completely linked to the light.” Given the nuance of the stripes, the lines become imperceptible in certain light conditions. “I like it when the stripes are barely visible and can’t be seen from all the angles,” continues Nouvel. “I’m a bit of a minimalist, so I enjoy it when the figurative theme disappears and one goes towards the most essential thing: the basis of the texture.”

The possibilities of these spatial configurations are showcased in Nouvel’s exhibition, which includes a 25m-long corridor composed of three sequences. “We’ve chosen to go from dark grey, which gives the subtlety of the different linear tapestry weaving, and then successively integrate blue and red,” he says. The site-specific installation in the museum reveals the dramatic impact of the flooring and its attention to detail. The complexity of the lines and the shifting of the stripes and colours is sophisticated and indicates the considerable research involved: the display of samples on one of the walls confirming the level of perfectionism that Nouvel has aspired to. “It’s very tactile – usually the floor is not covered in such fine textures,” says Nouvel.

“So the identity of the fabric is there. We tried to respond to the constraints [inherent in] the cutting of the threads. What was interesting was comparing the different textures on a large scale and how one could walk and lie on it.”

The architectural nature of the collection enables different orientations to be created so that the pattern of the fabric appears to play with how the place is lit naturally and artificially. “Under the window the pattern can be arranged in a diagonal line so that the lines appear to be a product of the sunlight coming through the glass.” Yet looking ahead, Nouvel is keen to refine his proposal for the flooring even further. “If we continue, it must be in the deepening of the most precise and precious textures and play more with the thickness of the lines and the dots,” he insists. “We haven’t exhausted all the options.”










40. Lobby for Change

From spectacular entrances to co-working spaces that exist between the public and private realm, Projects We Love examines the history of the hotel lobby.

First impressions matter. They are the initial moments that set the tone for any future encounter. For most hotel guests, these formative few seconds occur in the lobby – the entranceway to all else that the building and institution might offer them during their stay. As such, the creation of this space – from the furniture and flooring, to the uniforms worn by staff – needs to ensure an enticing and memorable experience. The principal role of the lobby as an area for welcoming guests has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Its primary function has been consistent since the days when travellers arrived at coaching inns, looking for a meal and a bed for the night. Over time, however, lobbies have taken on additional functions, with hoteliers responding to the shifting requirements of guests and seeking to make the most of these liminal spaces – areas that, officially, are private, and yet which have now taken on semi-public functions. From opulent declarations of exclusivity, to places for communal working and socialising, hotel Designer Patricia Urquiola created an individual interior for the 85 rooms and public areas of the Room Mate Hotel Giulia in Milan. lobbies have tracked changing societal and creative trends throughout the past century.

As a hotel's main public area – and often a space that is visible from the street outside – the lobby represents the best opportunity for a hotel to communicate its core values to guests and the wider community. The design of a lobby, therefore, typically aims to impress, delight or reassure guests, while offering a unique brandled service. “The lobby sets the tone for the overall guest experience,” suggests Adam Weissenberg, global leader of travel, hospitality, and leisure at financial services provider Deloitte. “More than ever, hospitality customers are looking for exceptional experiences and positive surprises the moment they step inside.” In the early days of the hospitality industry, creating this first impression typically meant relying on scale and ornamentation. The grand hotels built across Europe and America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries targeted the upper classes, and sought to immediately establish their credentials through spectacular lobbies. Many of these establishments are still in operation, and have endeavoured to retain the original character of these spaces. Despite a €400 million four-year refurbishment of the Ritz Paris, which was completed in 2016, few changes were made to the hotel’s elegant redcarpeted entrance, while the art deco black and white marble lobby designed in 1929 by Oswald Milne for Claridges in London remains one of the city’s defining interiors.

In the mid 20th century, a golden age of hotel design emerged, prompted by the increasing affordability and popularity of air travel, resulting in a surge in hotel construction. Hoteliers seeking to distinguish their accommodation from that of competitors invited renowned architects to oversee the design. For some architects, these commissions offered an opportunity to create a gesamtkunstwerk (a total work of art in which every detail contributes towards a comprehensive vision) as in Danish designer Arne Jacobsen’s SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, which opened in 1960, and the Okura Hotel in Tokyo, which was designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi, Hideo Kosaka, Shiko Manakata and Kenkichi Tomimoto. Both featured lobbies that encapsulated this holistic approach, uniting a grand sense of scale with exquisite detailing and craftsmanship. Jacobsen’s famous Egg chair was developed to provide guests in the lobby with a sense of cocooning privacy, while the Okura Hotel’s entrance featured a central ikebana floral arrangement that was changed monthly.

Towards the end of the 20th century, however, this notion of the gesamtkunstwerk was expanded from single hotels to chains. Ongoing reductions in air fares and the popularity of package tours prompted a boom in leisure travel that saw multinational hospitality firms such as Marriott and Hyatt develop sites around the world. These hotels typically employed a standardised aesthetic, such that guests could feel a sense of familiarity when entering any lobby. A backlash against the homogeneity of these big hotel chains began in the 1980s with the emergence of the first boutique hotels – establishments featuring highly stylised designs intended to emphasise their uniqueness. Hotelier and interior designer Anouska Hempel’s Blakes hotel in London, as well as the Morgans hotel devised by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell in New York, provided the template for an alternative approach to hospitality focused on eclecticism, locality and individuality. In place of showpiece spaces, lobbies began to take on higher design values and a sense of individuality. It was a change embodied by Schrager and Rubell’s work with the designer Philippe Starck on the Royalton and Paramount Hotels in New York, which featured lobbies intended as social spaces where guests and city residents were encouraged to spend time. Starck’s designs for the interiors of these spaces incorporated dramatic lighting and quirky furniture that resulted in an atmosphere akin to a theatrical stage set, turning the hotel lobby into an exciting and aspirational social destination within the urban realm.

This concept of lobby socialising has been further advanced by contemporary hotel brands such as Ace Hotel and W, which invite the public into their lobbies and provide facilities such as communal tables, free Wi-Fi and coffee bars so visitors can spend prolonged periods working or relaxing in these spaces. This response to the trend for mobile working helps the lobby area to function as a lively and profitable venue that exists somewhere between the private and public realms. “The blurring of boundaries between public space and leisure space is already happening,” claims Weissenberg. “It is smart for hotels to meet the lifestyle of the customer, which includes working, playing and living in a single space. The hotel of the future will be an integrator of networks and people to build more personal connections.” It’s an exciting development that will continue to impact the next generation of lobbies.

The success of boutique hotels and the rise of the experience economy have also influenced many of the leading global chains, which have responded by ditching standardised design in favour of more individual interiors. Designer Patricia Urquiola (interviewed on page 68 in the magazine) has successfully achieved this with her sleek redesign of the Roman Mate Hotel Giulia on Milan’s Via Silvio Pellico. A 19th-century building that was previously a bank, its historical elements have been combined with strong colours, vintage chic and modern Italian furniture. Urquiola explains, “We had fun mixing panelling from the past with checked wallpaper that looks like maths exercise books.”

 Arecent renovation of the Radisson Blu hotel in Amsterdam, as seen on page 29, by Studio Edward van Vliet focused on introducing references to local heritage, while still providing a contemporary aesthetic to match the hotel’s updated amenities. As part of a refurbishment process that saw the lobby transformed into a lively and open multipurpose area, van Vliet specified a custom-made floor tile from Bolon, with an organic repeat pattern that incorporates different hues and tones to help distinguish the various programmatic areas. “It’s important for us to create a strong identity in spaces such as this, so we work a lot with bespoke designs for floors,” says van Vliet. “Choosing Bolon gave us the opportunity to design our own tile shape and to create a floor that perfectly fits our philosophy. It adds that necessary wow-factor to the lobby, which is the main public space and, therefore, a critical perception shaper.”

In fact, the choice of flooring in a hotel’s lobby has always been a good indicator of the sort of experience guests can expect during their stay or visit. Plush carpet evokes classical elegance, while marble suggests sophistication. At the Ace Hotel in London, wooden parquet flooring references the materiality of local buildings, while the robust yet decorative woven tiles at the Radisson Blu Amsterdam combine contemporary style with an essential practicality. As the first thing guests typically come into contact with upon entering a hotel, the lobby floor’s tactile and aesthetic qualities contribute greatly to initial impressions of the space. The surface needs to support the overall design concept and must be robust enough to withstand constant use over years or decades. The most memorable lobbies often feature soaring ceilings or spectacular chandeliers intended to draw the gaze upwards. Sometimes, however, a glance down at the floor can reveal just as much about a hotel’s character. 


Request Projects We Love 2017

Download the latest issue