An unlikely space in Vancouver’s Buchan Hotel is getting a makeover thanks to Emily Carr industrial design student Moni El Batrik, the winner of the PlaidFox Design Challenge.

This year’s competitors were invited to redesign a dark, narrow basement hallway into the most “Instagrammable space in the hotel,” as part of the design firm’s larger renovation. To add an extra dose of challenge, the students’ designs were expected to align with the the old schoolhouse/Scandinavian modernism/Art Deco style of Buchan. It’s a complex assignment, enough to give even experienced designers pause. 

Plus there’s a lot at stake—seeing your design become a reality, a $2,500 scholarship, a $2,500 personal branding package and an internship at PlaidFox are career-changers for a young designer. 

El Batrik, ever grounded, was not fazed. 

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But then again, she’s no average student. The Vancouver native may be back in the classroom until this spring but she’s no stranger to the professional design world—she’s got her own hot yoga clothing brand, an impressive resume of industrial design jobs and even a handful movie credits (she was a set dresser for Night of the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian back in 2009). Oh, and she also speaks three languages, started her own yoga studio and teaches classes both on land and on water.

The key to her success? Her down-to-earth personality, killer work ethic and impossibly positive attitude. All three are apparent in her innovative and textural offering to the judge’s challenge.

“My goal is to create something unique to hold onto, something the guests will want to come back to,” she said.

Locally sourced wood panels of various widths create an archway spanning across half of the hallway while a warm backlight gives the impression of sunshine pouring through the slates.

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The effect is stunning and surprisingly homey—it invites you to take your time and stay a while, a delightfully different flavour than the usual get-out-of-here-quick one in most hotel hallways.

On the opposite wall, movable Copper beads create a giant abacus, a classic and elegant nod to the old school house theme. The beads pick up glimmers of light for a tactile and acoustic experience. Who knew rolling your suitcase down a hall could tantalize all five senses?

An Art Deco sunburst made from colour panels of varying dimensions and beaded wall lights peeks out from a corner on the back wall.

Haloed by the sunburst, El Batrik’s playful green XO chair, homage to a classroom match of tic-tac-toe or a stolen schoolyard kiss, provides a private place to take a call or rest weary legs. 

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“I designed a chair that touches on the more cheeky side of the hotel’s motif,” said El Batrik. “Reclaimed wood and bent metal speaks to the old schoolhouse desks with a punch of modernism.” 

All the elements combine to create a hallway with satisfying textural play and sleek organic shapes. El Batrik has transformed the space into a destination rather than just a means to a room at the end of the hall. 

She says her win has left her feeling grateful and triumphant. “As most of us know in life, with the waves of life as they are, you have to celebrate the victories when you can.”

Next up for El Batrik? Another competition. This time, she's worked with a nanoscientist to create a sculptural design that filters rain into drinking water. “It is important to me that I continue applying what I can towards climate action with the application as industrial design. Through means of sculpture, spatial, furniture, lighting, food and product design, the future is bright and exciting.”