Order the CEDIA Electronic Lifestyles® Issue: Technology and Design in Harmony
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Electronic Lifestyles recently sat down with designer Shadi Shahrokhi; we wanted to learn how he started his unique company, and how his products suit the needs of luxury clients and others.
Shahrokhi formed SHAdi + Company in 1997, a design/build studio with an emphasis on high-end, modern, total design that focuses on unique designs and architecture. Shahrokhi produced Trak-Kit in 2005 as a result of his interest in helping architectural clients choose and install audio/video centers within the spaces they’ve designed. In 2009 he created FLOW, a lifestyle company that mixed the expertise of both companies. FLOW is sometimes referred to as a digital architecture company. In addition to offering products ranging from smart furniture to fully automated wall systems with embedded electronics. FLOW also functions as a consultancy for architects, designers and manufacturers.
Electronic Lifestyles: Do you primarily work with interior designers and architects, or with electronic systems integrators such as the CEDIA members?
Shadi Shahrokhi: We work with all; it varies depending on the nature of project. We work with different-sized commercial AV contractors on large, high-end commercial or institutional projects. We collaborate with consultant firms that only specify parts for the bidding process, and of course [we collaborate] with our dealer network of electronic systems integrators, such as the CEDIA members.
At the same time, a solid number of projects come through architects and interior designers to whom we often need to recommend the right AV contractor. Architects and designers are very pleased when they discover that we are also architects; they feel safe and comfortable that all the details of the fit and finish will be in line with what they desire, and will exceed their expectations.
EL: Your products meet the needs of so many types of individuals in both residential and commercial. How do you see the market trending in the future?
SS: The marriage between design and technology is the future. The AV integrators who learn more about design and the designers who get more familiar with technology will get ahead of the rest. The next generation of automation and control will be more mechanical and driven to create flexible spaces, both in the residential and commercial world. Clearly the world is getting more populated and the trend is dense urban cities. It is estimated that by 2050, 80 percent of the world’s population will live in cities of three to four million or more. Smart architecture will have to be more than monitoring the electrical usage and turning the lights and shades up and down.
EL: How do you define the luxury market, and how has the luxury client changed?
SS: For FLOW and Trak-Kit, the luxury client is one that is sophisticated to the point that they want the right solution. Luxury is not about spending more, but doing the right thing; those are the clients we work with all the time.
Too often we see published in the United States very expensive projects done by the AV community that won’t be considered for publication in established European design magazines. If you go to someone’s house and see eight flat screens within 2,000 square feet, that is not luxury. Luxury is not about the money that is spent on a project, but about the lifestyle.
EL: How much is that client a part of your business, and how do you reach them?
SS: Since the recession, the middle market almost disappeared. We either have clients who want the best, or who really need our technology for their specific situation but can’t afford it, so they ask for the lowest-priced product we have that can solve their problem. With this scenario, the high-end client becomes really important. They are also important in the sense that when one has a very inventive and complicated system, the unique client ends up funding the new innovations. Most of our developments were done simply when someone needed it.
We developed the first track for the Panasonic 103-inch. This track not only moves the 103-inch around, it makes a left and a right turn, and to top it off it has two 103-inches on the same track. We did it because a bank wanted it in their boardroom. They had to have it, so we figured it out.
EL: Any strategies you would like to share that have been particularly beneficial to you in regard to targeting the luxury market?
SS: The luxury client is attracted to high-end furniture and art. The appearance of things and the ease of use is important to them. For this, we developed packaged solutions and offer turn-key custom products. The final presentation looks and feels like something that can be purchased in a high-end Italian furniture showroom, and not something you would see in an electronic store—even a high-end one. So we attend shows like the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City or the Salone del Mobile in Milan; we try to place our products in furniture showrooms and create modern and dynamic real-life vignettes.
EL: Any new products coming out in the future you would like to share with our readers?
SS: While Trak-Kit specializes on specific hardware and mobile architecture for electronics, our new products are marketed under FLOW. FLOW is a lifestyle company vested in design and technology. FLOW will look at a project, design all the components and make it all seamless. At the same time, if you are an AV dealer or an architect, you can just have FLOW make a few custom pieces.
At FLOW, we have a different philosophy on how we do things. We believe in using very good ingredients and keeping it simple. Our new FLOW lines will feature:
• A solid wood credenza inspired by the 1960s and ’70s units, with latest technology and AV built-in.
• A plug-and-play TV lift designed with high-end materials (from cold roll steel to Corian), complete with FLOW speakers and basic automation and control features.
• Modular track lighting with various finishes that can be incorporated in our tracks, but can also be deployed on its own.
• Media walls or panels with built-in screens, speakers, telepresence, and more with interesting finishes ranging from Corian to exotic woods to various metals, resins and more.
EL: What are your thoughts on how design continues to evolve?
SS: Mass production and new technologies, coupled with inexpensive labor, have given way to a whole host of products that you can buy right away and change later with a newer model. This fast food mentality is now proving to be bad for the earth, and ultimately does not create an emotional bond with the user and cannot be sustained. Slowly, there is a return back to quality. It is now time for various technologies to modify themselves to fit our lifestyles. The evolution of the cell phone tells the story. After much iteration, the ultimate cell phone ended up with no buttons. Just a large screen that is forever flexible. It can become whatever you want.