Welcome: Around the trend area in Hall 9 with café, stage and exhibition "Endless Uniqueness", 20 "framing trends" can be found.

Something you enjoy walking over

Suddenly floor covering is becoming individual and the ego endless: In this interview Susanne Schmidhuber explains what is behind “Unique Youniverse”, the trend show at the newly aligned Domotex fair.

At the start of her career Susanne Schmidhuber, who studied Interior Design in Rosenheim and subsequently with her husband professor Klaus Schmidhuber founded the office Schmidhuber+Partner (today’s Schmidhuber) discovered exhibition architecture through a client. And stuck to it. With success: Today, the Munich-based office with a payroll of some 70 is among the crème de la crème in the sector. Longstanding clients include Audi, Kaldewei and Sony. Now Schmidhuber and her team are focusing on Hanover, where in January they will give Domotex a new look. Susanne Schmidhuber talks to Martina Metzner about how floor coverings and megatrends are compatible, why we should look in the mirror more often, and how she wants to shake up the floor covering sector.

Mrs. Schmidhuber, the exhibition SUR/FACE in Frankfurt’s Museum Angewandte Kunst has just finished – it celebrated the revived interest in mirrors. And included the work by your husband, Professor Klaus Schmidhuber, “Homage to Philip Johnson – Mirrored Chair”. You also use mirrors for your installation “Endless Uniqueness” at the coming Domotex. Why is that?

Susanne Schmidhuber: Seen from a purely technical point of view mirrors make a room appear endless. Precisely when all four walls of a room are mirrored, limits seem to disappear – and you can play with that. The mirror had its heyday around 1700. The Baroque Hall of Mirrors in Versailles being one marvelous example. Since then, manufacturing techniques have changed fundamentally, however. Today, there are paper-thin mirror foils and mirror tiles that are much easier to handle. We integrate mirrors into many of our works as we want to lend greater depth to limited spaces and allow visitors to have an exciting spatial experience.

How did you employ mirrors in the walk-through quadroscope of “Endless Uniqueness”?

Susanne Schmidhuber: In the case of “Endless Uniqueness” we created a double effect: The mirror styles the room and even though physically it represents a square by tilting the elements it becomes a sphere. And I see myself reflected in it. That is not virtual, rather the extraordinary images are quite real. A brilliant optical effect.

As regards your company: Schmidhuber is involved in Domotex for the first time, and will be designing the trend area in Hall 9 under the motto of “individualization”. For some time now you have had key accounts such as Audi and Sony, and in the field of architecture others such as Hager, Kaldewei, Grohe and Berker. So Domotex is a new challenge for you...

Susanne Schmidhuber: It is a great project for our team, because we are not only designing for one exhibitor but are curating the bigger picture. Initially we asked ourselves: So what fascinates us about this topic? What would we like to see? What format is most suited to that? We went at it more from the emotional side, rather than looking directly at the topic of floor covering. And we were sure of one thing: Here in the trend area we need to steer clear of the classic product show. Here we want to see innovations, future ideas and young approaches. And not just take a one-sided view of the topic of floor covering, but think outside the box.

The concept “Unique Youniverse” revolves around people’s increasing desire for individual products they can design themselves. Where does this desire come from?

Susanne Schmidhuber: Everything is becoming more global, more universal. And it’s all becoming more modular, more serial. Everything and everyone is networked. Everyone is so performance driven. In this global structure people want to stand out and younger people in particular are keen to be considered unique.

Dedicated: Susanne Schmidhuber has been very comitted for the trendarea-concept "Unique Youniverse" at the upcoming Domotex.

Dedicated: Susanne Schmidhuber has been very comitted for the trendarea-concept "Unique Youniverse" at the upcoming Domotex.

As an interior designer you are lucky enough to have observed such trends for quite a while – how is this wish for individualization expressed in furnishings to your mind?

Susanne Schmidhuber: Today, rooms are really put together from individual items: an old couch, a high-tech TV, a zebra skin. I want my room to look different from that of my neighbor. And now things are being taken one step further: Today, people want to design their furniture themselves. And the industry is responding – take Ikea, or online supplier Tylko.

But that would mean designers and brands are sidelined?

Susanne Schmidhuber: If you wanted to be provoking you could perhaps argue that – unless, that is, manufacturers retain their brand identity while allowing their customers scope for individual wishes.

That said, is the topic of individualization really relevant as regards floor coverings?

Susanne Schmidhuber: At one time floor covering manufacturers always said to us: “There is no way of doing anything interesting with you architects, you only ever want a gray floor.” But that has changed. We planners want different surfaces, different structures, new functionalities. We need a playful element in floor coverings. So that people enjoy walking over them. For example, I am really excited about this leafy forest carpet developed by Hanover’s University for Applied Sciences and Arts – when you walk on it the leaves turn over.

Vegan: When you walk on it, the cork sequins of the carpet, designed by Sarah Gerner and Johanna Kolb at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover, turn over.

Many people predict everything will be networked at some point. Do you also think floor coverings will soon be networked and digital?

Susanne Schmidhuber: If walls can speak to me it is easy to hook up the floor covering to such a system. Provided of course it makes sense. We already have carpets fitted with sensors that are used in senior citizens’ residences. They rely on body heat to detect when someone has fallen down. It is all very complex. Though manufacturers can’t imagine it at the moment I think we will have smart floor coverings in five years’ time.

Naturally, that will then affect an entire line of work: At present, fitting floor coverings has been an analog trade. I expect you are already noticing huge changes of this kind in exhibition architecture.

Susanne Schmidhuber: Oh sure. It is a given today that visitors come into contact with a product via an app or other digital real-time experiences. That is standard practice. So it is our job to shake up the somewhat traditional branch of floor coverings and say: Wake up! You need to be more adventurous, expand your partnerships. You need to enter into more alliances. Move away from your piece of carpet.

Can you give us an idea how digital your installations at Domotex will be?

Susanne Schmidhuber: We will realize two virtual reality frames. One is more technically rational, and the other by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is interactive and enables visitors to design space through subtraction. Be prepared for a surprise!

Infinity: In the quadroscope in Hall 9, the visitors perceive the space as a sphere, thanks to many small mirrors.
Diverse: Inside 50 mirror boxes, interior designers, architects, artists and other creatives present their vision of "Endless Uniqueness".
Away from the "piece of carpet" - the products should also be explored through apps and digital real-time experiences.