A Week at the 2017 London Design Festival

Gretchen Wagner

Take a trip with me to London and see the design world’s latest and greatest.

London Design Festival hits the streets of London in September every year, occupying different design districts across town. So get your Oyster card or wave down a black cab, because I’m taking you back and forth across the city all week. Thankfully, London Design Festival coincides with Fashion Weeks across the world — there’s no loss for inspiration, no matter where find yourself.

Everyone hates getting back from a design show only to realize the most epic moments were overlooked by your itinerary — so after loads of research, here’s a schedule to keep you on track throughout the journey.


Stay at some cute hotel in South Kensington so you can wake up early, grab some coffee and pastries on your way to the Victoria & Albert Museum — see the epic site specific installations by Flynn Talbot and Ross Lovegrove and catch the lecture on color by Margrethe Odgaard. Faye Toogood’s exhibition “The Tradeshow” is right around the corner. Browse through this unique space fabulously curated with design objects from some of your favorite designers (Tom Dixon, Max Lamb etc.) and some new designers too!

London Design Festival 2017: Hella Jongerius, “Breathing Color” Exhibition at the Design Museum

Hella Jongerius, “Breathing Color” Exhibition at the Design Museum

Lunch near the South Kensington tube station and follow up with a trip to the Design Museum to see the last week of “Breathing Color,” an exhibition on color fluctuations by Hella Jongerius (this will change your life).


Take a quick walkthrough of 100% Design tradeshow in the morning. Make a point to walk through the emerging designers section, then head to Southbank for a dose of modern inspiration at the Tate Modern. Soak in Gerhard Richter and other contemporaries. Enjoy a glass of rosé during lunch along with a gorgeous view of London before heading to Mayfair.

London Design Festival 2017: Scenes of London

Left: The Streets of Soho, Right: Evening in Mayfair

Explore the Mayfair district, stopping in at The Graduates show curated by Lidewij Edelkoort (worth the trip to see a few pieces from Thomas Ballouhey’s “Ways of Altering”). Make an appearance at the Paul Smith flagship store (totally dreamy!), then head just around the corner to Dimore Studio. Afterward, walk over to the David Zwirner gallery to see whatever is currently exhibiting (currently, Suzan Frecon and Lucas Arruda). You may need espresso at this point, so go at your own pace. Then it’s cocktails at Glade in Sketch followed by dinner somewhere near Carnaby.


Dedicate the majority of your day to hanging around in Shoreditch —no complaints here. First stop is London Design Fair, an enormous show where every turn leads you deeper into a labyrinth of warehouse rooms filled with beautiful objects. It’s an opportunity to see some of the year’s biggest emerging designers showcasing all in one place. Don’t worry about sticking with your squad; wandering is the best approach here. Form & Seek has a truly stellar exhibition (Rive Roshan is an all time favorite of mine), and design collectives from around the world are displaying contemporary material use mixed with technical superiority.

London Design Festival 2017: Flynn Talbot, "Reflection Room" at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Flynn Talbot, “Reflection Room” at the Victoria & Albert Museum

For lunch at the Ace, go ahead and order that full bottle of wine — you earned it. Take a cab to Kings Cross for Design Junction and to see Camille Walala’s epic inflatable Memphis-inspired bouncy castle. Followed up with dinner at Dishoom.


Wake up at the crack of dawn and take a black cab to the airport. Your head is tired, your heart is full, but just think – you’re almost home.



Posted in Category Culture & Play, Design Inspirations | Leave a comment

The True Cost of Noise

Julian Treasure

Dead silence can be an intimidating working environment.

Some sound in any workplace is generally desirable: pleasing background sounds like the gentle, indecipherable babble of colleagues speaking, one’s own choice of music or perhaps the sounds of nature coming through an open window. However, much of the sound in typical workplaces is undesirable: ringing phones, electromechanical noise, other people’s music and so on. We call this undesirable sound “noise”.

It’s important to have a thorough understanding of how this unwanted noise affects people in working environments and how best to improve those spaces with optimal acoustic adjustments.

Understanding how sound works

Sound wave

Sound is simply audible vibration conducted through a medium. In built spaces, there are two forms of conduction.

Airborne sound comprises sound generated within a room and transmitted through the air. Typically, this includes people talking, typing, walking and moving objects; phones ringing; noise from heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment; printers; and sound/music systems.

Structure-borne sound comprises sound generated by any physical impact on the building and transmitted through the structure itself, which typically includes footfalls in the office above, vibrations from heavy equipment such as an HVAC plant, and impact sound like drilling or hammering in adjacent rooms.

We measure the quantity of sound in decibels (dB), a logarithmic scale where an increase of 10 dB is perceived as a doubling of the sound level, or a reduction of 10 dB as a halving. 30 dB is very quiet – for example, a bedroom at night. A typical office is around 50-60 dB.

Open office layout

A poorly designed open office is a recipe for bad acoustics.

The problem with noise

People spend a lot of their time in office spaces, where noise negatively affects worker productivity, health and satisfaction. To put it simply, this means that noise is bad for business.

Noise disturbs concentration.

According to Gensler’s 2013 Workplace Survey, people spend over half their working time in offices doing tasks that require focus. Most workers struggle to concentrate in open plan environments that were designed purely for collaboration. While people can habituate to constant, unvarying noise, interruptive noise severely detracts from worker productivity. According to Professor Gloria Mark of UC Irvine, it takes people 23 minutes to regain their focus after every significant interruption!

Noise damages health.

There are well-established links between long-term exposure to noise and coronary illness and stroke, as well as stress, high blood pressure and other conditions. The noise in question does not have to be overwhelmingly loud: research shows that the danger level is just 65 dB, which is often achieved in lively offices and especially in social spaces like cafés and canteens.

Noise damages communication.

Most people are familiar with the cocktail effect, where it’s impossible to understand the person talking to us in a group because of the noise of everyone else talking. Bad acoustics create more noise and thus impede people’s ability to understand one another.

For more information on the negative effects of workplace noise, take a look at the video below:

Solving the noise problem with good acoustics

All too often, modern architects and designers use hard materials because they look clean and stylish, and are durable and easy to clean. However, because the designers often have little or no training in acoustics, they don’t understand the effects of this kind of design. Bad acoustics increase noise levels dramatically – and the louder the noise, the greater the negative impacts.

In contrast, research shows that well-designed acoustics improve effectiveness, well-being and happiness for the people in working and living spaces. Good office design that takes into account visual aesthetics, sustainability, value for money and acoustic effect can achieve the perfect balance for the health, effectiveness and happiness of workers.

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Sustainable Plastics: Oxymoron or Responsible Approach?

Mikhail Davis

A new vision for plastics: green chemistry, the circular economy, and a climate fit for life.

When reviewing recent news about plastic waste filling the oceans, toxic additives leaching from plastic products, and the impacts of fossil fueled global warming, making a plastic product – like Interface’s modular flooring – sustainable can begin to seem like an impossible task. But resolving that contradiction has been at the heart of Interface’s sustainability mission for over 20 years. As Ray Anderson often said, “If we can do it, maybe anyone can.”

In this spirit, Interface convened a group of stakeholders at a Sustainable Plastics Symposium in San Francisco this summer, including experts in green chemistry, the circular economy, and life cycle assessment (LCA). Symposium participants came together around a shared goal of creating a set of criteria to define sustainable plastics in a holistic way that goes beyond a Red List approach.

If only making a plastic product healthy and sustainable were as easy as making sure it had no Red List ingredients!

Sustainable Plastics Symposium: Intro to Sustainable Plastics

Green Chemistry

Dr. Lauren Heine of Northwest Green Chemistry, known for developing the GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals and the EPA’s Cleangredients database, started off the expert panel by showing three NGO efforts to define sustainable materials. Each effort uses different terms, but all agree that in addition to using safer chemicals in products and processes, we need to consider the ability to reuse a product at end-of-life and its overall environmental impact or we’ll have exchanged one problem for another.

Circular Economy

Dr. Mike Biddle, known for developing the world’s first at-scale mixed plastic recycling technology as founder of MBA Polymers, emphasized that plastics are often the best material choice for lightweight and durable performance. However, unless the disastrous impacts of plastic waste filling the oceans can be solved, plastic products can never be sustainable. Biddle pointed out that while most plastics are technically recyclable, very few actually get reclaimed or recycled in a circular economy. According to Biddle, using recycled plastic not only keeps it out of the oceans, but also allows us to have all the performance advantages of plastic with 80-90% less energy use (and 2-4 tons less contribution to global warming per ton of recycled plastic).

Sustainable Plastics Symposium: It's All About the Carbon

Embodied Carbon

Kirsten Ritchie, Sustainable Design Principal at Gensler, shared her pioneering work using LCA data from Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) to guide product selection. She emphasized that EPDs allow designers to understand the contribution the products they select have to global warming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and other experts, nothing is more important to public health right now than stopping global warming. Ritchie’s analysis showed that carbon footprints of carpet tiles vary by over 2X within a single manufacturer’s line and by as much as 5X between manufacturers.

Connie Hensler, Interface’s Director of Life Cycle Assessment Programs, then used the type of criteria described by Heine, Biddle, and Ritchie to demonstrate that once we look at plastic products holistically, we may come to new conclusions. As an example, Interface’s standard GlasBac carpet tile products contain 9-10% PVC plastic in their backing, which is one of the few petrochemical plastics included on the Living Building Challenge Red List. But after more detailed analysis, well-managed PVC turns out to be the best choice for modular plastic flooring.

Sustainable Plastics Symposium: Responsible LVT

Interface carpet tiles on GlasBac backing:

  • Green Chemistry: Interface has eliminated all formaldehyde, phthalates, heavy metals, and fluorocarbons from these products while reducing the amount of virgin PVC consumed to make a tile by 57%.
  • Circular Economy: Interface has designed a 3rd party-verified closed loop system for this backing. We process millions of pounds of vinyl backing every year into new GlasBacRE carpet tile backing. Products on GlasBacRE contain 80-89% recycled content and no virgin PVC.
  • Life Cycle Assessment of Environmental Impact: Interface products on GlasBac and GlasBacRE have the lowest average carbon footprint of any standard carpet tile platforms in the US as a result of very high recycled plastic content and the use of 96% renewable energy in manufacturing.

A New Approach to Sustainable Plastics

The goal of the Sustainable Plastics Symposium in San Francisco was to begin to engage subject matter experts and other stakeholders in creating an approach that moves the marketplace past outdated ways of product assessment that can create unintended and regrettable trade-offs. If an entire “system” for determining how healthy and sustainable a plastic product is consists of single question (“Is it PVC or non-PVC?”), a product may end up being selected that contributes to other types of toxicity, will never be recycled, and contributes disproportionately to global climate change. At the end of the day, this product’s only “green” claim will be “PVC-free” or perhaps “Red List Free.” Those who participated in the Symposium aspire to see plastic products do much, much more.

We’re committed to developing tools that will help our customers choose the best plastic products. This commitment will lead us to host other symposiums and participate in other forums. Recently, Interface joined a historic panel discussion at the Living Product Expo in Pittsburgh, Pa. to discuss the future of PVC plastic with leaders from Perkins+Will, Healthy Building Network, Tarkett, and Construction Specialties. We’re working to identify a path for improving PVC production and use today while looking toward a future where products are made without virgin petrochemical plastics.

Interface shares the vision of the Living Product Expo: a future where products make the world better, not just less toxic, less wasteful, or less polluting. And we have confidence that products like ours can be part of that positive future. If Interface can make a plastic product that is free of petrochemicals, removes plastic from the oceans, and helps create a climate fit for life, maybe anyone can.


To see an illustrated summary of the topics discussed at the Sustainable Plastics Symposium, please reference the slides below:

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Design Trends of 2017 from NeoCon, Clerkenwell Design Week, and More

Gretchen Wagner

From Milan to New York to London to Chicago, spring and summer mark some of the busiest months of our calendar. We sent designers to the Milan Furniture Fair, NYCxDesign, Clerkenwell Design Week and NeoCon this year! So in an effort to capture the essence, I’ve compiled our most notable design moments and trends of the season below.

Well-intentioned and thoughtful approaches to design and color seemed to be at the front of everyone’s mind. Attention has been directed toward creating experiences within environments versus focusing on output, the result being well-designed furniture pieces in delicious materials and color palettes that are simple, beautiful and functional.

Moving Beyond the “Corporate” Look

We continue to see a blending of environments when it comes to commercial interior trends. The boutique hotel and corporate office look more similar than different these days. Neighborhoods for different work styles continue to be the focus of major brands, while smaller brands drive attention toward bespoke and limited production pieces.

Haworth Showroom NeoCon 2017

Office space configuration at the Haworth Showroom at NeoCon 2017

All of this rolls up into a common theme of work choice, providing options for the quiet introvert and the social extrovert. Office furniture has moved well beyond the workstation to incorporate lounge seating and low surfaces. Furniture as interior architecture is delineating space with high backs and collaborative configurations. Systems are designed to match an intended function; not the other way around.

Buzzi Space

Courtesy of BuzziSpace. Photographer: Chris Bradley

Embracing Color

After Milan, I thought it was something in the Italian air, but both NeoCon and Clerkenwell showed an overall deepening of color palettes. The omnipresent neutral wash to which we’ve grown accustomed has shifted into emotional rich shades of color that quickly approach black, often shown as monochromatic settings. These deeply saturated darks, in malachite, garnet, inky indigo and rust, create a moody palette that compliment neutrals rather than accent them.


Courtesy of Knoll, Inc.

This earthy palette is bringing about a wide range of textures and natural materials. Everything from brassy bronze and oxidized metals to smooth marble and velvety upholstery. The overall tone, showed an affinity to luxury finishes and material palettes in yummy colors.

Natural materials trends

Emerging Trend: Natural Materials
1. Louise Tucker, 2. Pinscher, 3. Friends Founders, 4. Hand Eye Studio, 5. Devol Kitchens, 6. Par-avion Co, 7. Lozi, 8. Resound by Camilla Lee

Pantone Color Kale trends

Pantone Color Spotting: Kale
1. Moss, 2. Connection, 3. Hand and Eye Studio, 4. Moss Wall, 5. Poliform, 6. Connection, 7. Dare Studio, 8. Connection, 9. Urban Live Picture

We are about to dive head first into our favorite Fall shows, so stay tuned for trend updates from design weeks around the world. Next up, London Design Festival, Maison Objet, Fashion Week’s around the globe and BDNY.


Posted in Category Design Inspirations, NeoCon | Leave a comment

Actions Speak Louder than Labels

David Gerson

Sustainability isn’t easy. Although some product labels claim to be an indicator of health and/or environmental performance, many have little or no evaluation of the ultimate environmental or health impacts of a product. So, a label with a few check boxes does not necessarily mean that one product is more “sustainable” or “healthy” than another. For example, did you know that at the basic levels of Cradle to Cradle or Living Product Certifications, there are no requirements for renewable energy use or carbon footprint reductions, or even recycling? We need more than what these labels provide.

At Interface we have recently achieved a new third-party certification from GreenCircle Certified, LLC called the Certified Environmental Facts Label. This provides the highest standard and best product evaluation tool we know of in the industry. Recycled content, water usage, renewable energy and carbon footprint are listed in a simple format akin to USDA nutrition labels. Only when we know the facts and science, can we make good decisions for our health and our planet.

Interface Factories to Zero GreenCircle label

Interface Products to Zero GreenCircle label

But for all of the data and numbers in GreenCircle, one metric rises above the rest: Carbon Footprint. If you focus on carbon, everything else falls into place – recycled content, toxicity, renewable energy, water usage, health and safety through the entire value chain, etc. AND, it addresses the most important issue of our time, climate change.

Our comprehensive approach to sustainability on all fronts has enabled us to achieve the lowest carbon footprint in our industry. In fact, it is over three times lower than another flooring product in our industry that has achieved the Living Product Certification.

Interface carbon footprint

So, while achieving sustainability and keeping business as usual may not be easy, it is easy to see who is doing the most to halt climate change and reduce their carbon footprint. If we are all successful in this fight, then we’ll be well on our way to creating a more equitable and healthy future for everyone.

Ask every manufacturer for their third party verified Certified Environmental Facts Label.

For more on how we’re looking at taking the carbon footprint from 7kg to -2kg, view our Proof Positive tile, part of our new Climate Take Back mission

To learn how climate change affects human heath, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/

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