Category Archives: Culture & Play

Weekend in Italy

Gretchen Wagner

The past couple of days have been a blur and I am back in Atlanta by way of Verona > Ljubljana, Slovenia > Venice > New York. I didn’t see much of Venice or New York (unless the airport counts) but I fell in love with both Verona and Ljubljana.

So here’s a quick recap of our last two days abroad!


Narrow city streets of Verona – simply enchanting.

We started Friday in Verona with a beautiful tour of the historic city. Our tour guide was of the classic Italian type and she described the architecture of the Baroque and Renaissance type. We traveled down winding, narrow streets past hidden churches and supposedly the homes of both Romeo and Juliet! After the tour I made my way to Juliet’s square to see where lovers come from around the world to lock in their love for one another on the cast iron gates. Beautifully painted frescoes and colorful, marble city streets enchanted me. Verona is the height of Italian romance, and the city is too stunning to not become infatuated with the light and architecture around you.

Midway through the day we left for our last “three hour tour” to Ljubljana, Slovenia, to visit Aquafil’s recycling and regeneration plants the following day. Friday evening, Interface, Aquafil and all our guests rode up the Funicular railway, which is essentially a gondola that takes you to the top of the hill in the center of the city. At the top is a medieval castle that has been renovated with some contemporary architecture. Naturally, we were greeted with a delicious Slovenian dinner equipped with the famous sausages from the area and prosecco (of course!!). Despite Slovenia being so close to Italy, both the architecture and food display a stronger tie to their Austrian neighbors.


Nylon 6 fishing nets about to be cleaned and recycled at the Aquafil plant in Slovenia.

The following day we visited Aquafil’s recycling and regeneration facilities located in Slovenia to see how the Econyl yarn is produced. You may be familiar with Interface’s Net-Works™ program in which commercial fishing nets made of type 6 nylon fiber are recovered from beaches in the Philippines and brought to Aquafil for recycling. Not only does this help feed Aquafil’s recycled content in their Econyl yarn, but it also benefits the local communities and villages in the Philippines by providing an alternative source of income that helps stabilize their economy (collected nets are paid for with deposits in local banks) and cleaning the debris on their beaches that could contribute to illness. The type 6 nylon fishing nets are only one component of the recycled content that contributes to Aquafil’s Econyl yarn. It also includes fluff waste from carpet tiles (removed in our own ReEntry® 2.0 facility here in Georgia!!), post-industrial waste from the apparel industry and many other sources. Aquafil accepts anything that is type 6 nylon and then cleans and recycles that content back into their products.

It was truly amazing to see the process, but unfortunately the most exciting parts of the tour couldn’t be photographed because of the unique technologies Aquafil has invented. For a closer view into the process, view Interface’s YouTube channel and watch some of our Net Works and Net Effect videos to see the industrial process.


The medieval castle in Ljubljana.


A late night view of the river in Ljubljana with the city reflected in the water.









Saturday concluded with a seafood dinner in downtown Ljubljana and afterwards the whole crew set off to a little café for one last round of toasts and celebration.

Now safely back in the Americas and jet lagged, I am sure everyone is sleepy eyed and grinning just like me.

Thank you for such a magnificent trip across Italy!! And stay tuned for continued updates and pictures through the eyes of our guests.


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Have Bus, Will Travel

Gretchen Wagner

Today we said goodbye to Milano and what an amazing time we all had while there. To keep with my new Italian morning ritual, I drank cappuccino and ate croissants while watching the commuters race through the piazza in front of the Duomo di Milano.

Departure was early this morning, so after sipping the last of the espresso foam from my cappuccino, I shuffled back to the hotel in an effort not be late for the bus. I’d like to say the three-hour bus ride to Arco was uneventful, but I’m beginning to realize you can’t do anything in Italy without romance and breathtaking beauty.


The road cut right through the Alps. With vineyards planted in the valley and lush mountains in the background our trip to Verona didn’t disappoint.

Arco is where the headquarters for Aquafil is located and the town itself is situated at the Northern most point of Lake Gardo. In addition to the sparkling water and adorable seaside villages we passed on excruciatingly winding roads and tunnels, LakeGardo is hugged on three sides by the Alps. As we drove up the west side of the lake, everyone snapped pictures of the mountains, villages and cliffs that surrounded the bus for the last leg of our journey. The roads were fairly narrow and like many experiences we’ve had in Italy with our giant tour bus, we narrowly escaped impact with oncoming trucks and cars through the tunnels. It all makes for a more exciting and authentic voyage.

After arriving in Arco we heard a presentation by Interface’s Executive Creative Director, Chip DeGrace. He discussed our ever-evolving relationship with companies aligned with our sustainable mission and most specifically the collaboration we have with Aquafil. The town of Arco was small, filled with traffic circles and a castle  perched at the top of a steep cliff at the North end of town. We settled in for a “quick Italian” lunch after viewing some installations of our newest product launches.


The composite rug that was featured during the Interface product presentation in Arco.

We boarded our bus for a supposedly “less scenic” drive to Verona, but I was equally impressed by the scale and greenery of the Alps and avidly snapped pictures of hidden castles and rolling hills through the bus windows. We arrived in Verona late afternoon and after receiving our room assignments headed upstairs to change into more elegant attire for cocktails and dinner at the Bonazzi Villa in the hills overlooking Verona.

Describing the villa is nearly impossible with its unbelievable view of the city, impeccably manicured lawn, wine cellar and fresco-covered walls. Senor Carlo Bonazzi is the founder of Aquafil and his son Julio has now taken up the family business. I did my best to capture the magic of the villa and its surrounding landscape, but seeing was believing during last nights festivities.


Aperitifs on the veranda at the Bonazzi villa overlooking Verona.

Prosecco and vegetable tempura were served alongside freshly sliced meats and bread. We all wandered the gardens and rooms surrounding the house before dinner and eventually settled in for a three-course meal in the dining room. Delicious dishes one after another were placed on the tables, and wine that Senor Carlo makes himself flowed generously from the bottles to our glasses. Dessert included a lemon gelato with mint and raspberry garnish and small pieces of cake and fruit. I didn’t think it was possible to feel hungry again after dinner, but while writing this post I find myself craving the olive oil covered tortellini from our first dish all over again. It was such an exciting evening of mingling with the Bonazzi family and learning more about their rich history.

The evening concluded with cocktails on the veranda and dancing. Interface hosts and guests alike boogied to 80s montages and bass thumping discotheque beats until our feet were too tired to walk back to the bus.

Now that we’ve arrived back in the hotel, it’s time to head to bed. I’ll need my energy to tour Verona in the morning before leaving for Slovenia in the afternoon.


A gracious thank you goes out to the Bonazzi family and Aquafil on behalf of Interface and all of our guests, for opening their home to us for an unforgettable evening. Grazie!

Follow us on twitter (@Interface_NA) & instagram (@InterfaceAmericas) for inspiring quotes, photos & design trends from our trip. #IFinMilan #MilanDesignWeek

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Think Design Think Milan

Gretchen Wagner
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Entrance to the Milan Furniture Fair designed by Massimiliano Fuksas

As of today we have officially been in Milan for a full day and night. A good night of sleep meant waking up early for breakfast wasn’t quite as challenging as yesterday, especially if you decided to take a quick walk to the piazza down the street for croissants and cappuccinos in front of the glimmering Duomo di Milano. Who am I kidding? Italy is amazing, jet lagged or not!

I hustled back to the hotel with two other designers to catch our bus to the Milan Furniture Fair. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated the scale of the show, but the exhibition halls collectively equal more than 200,000 square meters of exhibitors, showrooms, lectures and espresso machines. The main corridor alone measured a whopping 2 kilometers!! Walking the entire show in one day is physically impossible so we were advised to focus our attention in the “Modern” exhibition halls and the Salone Satellite.


Vitra showroom; collaborations with Hella Jongerius.

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Sponge Chair by Peter Traag – Erda showroom

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Laser cut cardboard light fixtures designed by Wishnya.

Endless showrooms made for an interesting afternoon at the Fair and I stumbled across countless new ideas that sparked my creative interest. Collaborations with Hella Jongerius, Alexander Girard and many others provoked a playful atmosphere in the Vitra  showroom that delighted the mind and spirit. Knoll presented an edgier approach in Italy than they typically do in the US equipped with colored Saarinen end tables. SCP beautiful textile and ceramic collaborations with British designers. Swedish flooring company, Bolon, lured guests into their booth with an inspirational modern dance video choreographed by Alexander Ekman that was inspired by their weaving process. And GAN introduced a line of modular interior textiles designed by Patricia Urquiola that stick to the floor, furniture and walls using Velcro!

Salone Satellite, where emerging artists and designers have the opportunity to showcase their conceptual development and prototypes, was by far my favorite portion of the show. I fell in love with laser cut cardboard light fixtures designed by Wishnya and was mesmerized by a dancing water sculpture by Tokyo-based creative team, Kappes.

This is just a teaser of all the beautiful spaces and products that were shown today, so keep in touch and stay tuned for a fully captured trend report of the Milan Furniture Fair when I get back to the States.

Evening plans included a quick trip through the shopping district and an Italian pasta dinner accompanied by more prosecco and chocolate desserts (pinch me!).

In the meantime, I’m off to bed to rest these feet for the night. Next stop – Aquafil and Verona in the morning!


Follow us on twitter (@Interface_NA) & instagram (@InterfaceAmericas) for inspiring quotes, photos & design trends from our trip. #IFinMilan #MilanDesignWeek. Also, stay tuned for more updates about our trip.

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From Flying Airplanes to Flying Buttresses

Gretchen Wagner

Left: Italian flag is flying, welcome to Italy!
Right: Candy apple red Vespa parked on a cobblestone side street in the Brera Design District.

Today has been a whirlwind of a day. The kind of day where you’re not really sure what day it is from all the travel and excitement to explore. This morning I, and some of Interface’s closest design friends, arrived in Milan for six days of trend forecasting, creative discussion and traveling Italy with our host, Aquafil, to learn more about our collaborative projects.

But, let me take a step back and start this day from the beginning.

Aboard the overseas leg of my journey, I managed to wake up an hour before our descent into Milan to see the most beautiful sherbet colored sunrise on the horizon. Had I been lucky enough to sit on the right side of the plane, I would have also caught a glimpse of the snow-capped mountains before landing on the tarmac. Talk about a glorious welcome to Italy.


Left: One of the apse stained glass windows viewed
from the exterior of the cathedral.
Right: Detail of flying buttresses
one the Duomo di Milano.

After dropping luggage off at the hotel and grabbing a few croissants with Nutella (thank you, Italy!!) we headed to the Duomo di Milano, also known as, the Milan Cathedral. We oohed and ahhed at the gorgeous carved marble exterior while our tour guide provided insight into the construction and history of this massive cathedral that took over 600 years to complete. After reviewing all the façade features from the street level, we hiked up toward the top for a more in depth view of the marble work and a gorgeous view of Milan.

We had some free time between scheduled events, so some people walked the city in search of tasty treats while others headed back to the hotel for a forbidden nap before dinner. Needless to say, everyone got what they needed and we were all set to head to the Brera Design District for a perfect evening that could only be completed with showroom exploration and an authentic Italian dinner.


Left: Oikos creates trompe l’oeil wall textures inspired by oranges. Right: Bold and colorful prints emerging from HAY’s newest co-brand “Wrong for Hay” featuring a collaboration with Sebastian Wrong.

Wandering through the Brera Design District, I stumbled across countless showrooms featuring unique approaches to textiles, wall covering, furniture, lighting and product design. Some of my highlights include the rich and colorful textiles from Dedar, trompe l’oeil wall paintings from Oikos, innovative lighting solutions from Foscarini, simple and efficient dining furniture by Fritz Hansen and of course, my eye for all things Danish couldn’t keep me away from the Scandinavian product designs from HAY.

The evening concluded with an Italian dinner served family style for 35+ guests with more than enough red wine and prosecco to go around. With a belly full of delicious food and wine, I know I am beyond ready to wrap up Interface’s first day in Milan.


Follow us on twitter (@Interface_NA) & instagram (@InterfaceAmericas) for inspiring quotes, photos & design trends from our trip. #IFinMilan #MilanDesignWeek. Also, stay tuned for more updates about our trip.

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2014 CEFPI School of the Future Competition

Barbara Worth

The School of the Future competition challenges students from across the globe to think creatively as they plan and design tomorrow’s 21st century learning environments to enhance teaching and learning, being healthy, conserving resources, being environmentally responsive and engaging the surrounding community. The multi-disciplinary solution teaches students how to follow a planning process from the concept phase to completion of the project with lifelong learning skills. Students present their projects to a local jury in the school district level competition and have the opportunity to proceed to the state and regional competitions.

Schools around the world are advancing the limits of public education by providing real world learning experiences and opportunities for students to ask questions and problem solve, collaborate and gain experience in tactile, hands on work while developing the eye for beauty and design. This is a 21st Century learning approach where students are enabled, engaged and empowered through a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum, including leadership and teamwork proficiencies to master the 21st century skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy.

Students compete at the regional level in every region of CEFPI including the UK, India and Egypt. The 2013 final competition took place during scheduled educational sessions at the Northeast Region conference, offering attendees the opportunity to see these amazing kids “up close and personal”, receive AIA CEU credits and even serve on the jury. Building on the success of the program at the Northeast Region conference, each CEFPI region will host the SOF Regional Jury during their regional conference, allowing members to participate in the jury, offering the competition as regular education sessions with CEU credits and familiarizing members with the obvious benefits of the program. There will be ample time for attendees to meet and interact with these outstanding students – indeed tomorrow’s designers and builders.

Unique to the 2014 SOF program, the final jury process will take place at the CEFPI Annual Conference slated for Portland, OR, October 4-7, 2014, hosted by the Pacific Northwest Region and the Washington Chapter. This will be a highlight of the conference and attendees from across the globe will have the opportunity to observe the jury process.

A Glance at the 2013 School of the Future Program

Walking away with top honors, Eastview Middle School of Alberta, Canada, received the Award of Excellence. Capturing the Award of Distinction was the engaging Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School team from Blackburn, United Kingdom.  The enthusiastic girls from Oakwood Junior High, Dayton, Ohio, took the Award of Merit.

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Eastview Middle School, Red Deer, Alberta Canada, received the Award of Excellence for their proposal.

Eastview Middle School provided solutions not only for their school, Mamawayawin, but for their entire community and its public spaces. Their comprehensive research and incorporation of creative 21st century design solutions, which resulted in a downtown urban setting for their building, focused on the establishment of community partnerships and educational delivery. Emphasizing that “learning is not limited by four walls,” it was clear that these students thought through every aspect of contemporary educational design, learning styles and pedagogy. Following Finland’s very successful portfolio system, they created individual learning programs and grouped students by learning styles.  “Gamification” was introduced to inspire alternative learning skills. Incorporating geothermal heating and cooling, solar energy and public access for micro-climates with their green roof and gardens, the school serves as a learning tool for the entire community. Following their first place win, the students pitched their ideas to an important audience closer to their home in Alberta that included Premier Alison Redford, Minister of Education Jeff Johnson and Minister of Infrastructure Wayne Drysdale.  Following the presentation, when asked if Red Deer had a Mamawayawin School in its future, Johnson said, “Stay tuned.”

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Award of Distinction went to Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School team from Blackburn, United Kingdom.

The Tauheedul Islam Boys’ High School team chose to build their STEM-centered facility on an abandoned coal mine, rethinking the existing landscape and truly embracing “renew, reuse, recycle” in creating their sustainable building. The team exemplified great social understanding with integration of multi-cultures as one of their highest goals. Their strong research and grasp of sustainable features and systems was exceptional.  Utilizing rammed earth construction, a recycled oil rig infrastructure, hydro electric energy, wind turbines, nitrogen generation, thermo-chromic glass and rainwater harvesting, the students created a unique learning environment that incorporated flexible space to support project-based learning and collaboration with local businesses. Adding a spot of humor, they included “people- energy” with turbine tennis shoes as a power source, offering the community recreation privileges in exchange for their hours of turbine production.

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Students from Oakwood Junior High, Dayton, Ohio took the Award of Merit.

A team of enthusiastic, engaging and innovative girls from Oakwood rounded out the day with a very thoughtful presentation regarding sustainability. In a phenomenal demonstration of their unique concepts, knowledge and collaborative planning, including content specific opportunities for content specific collaboration, they designed their paperless school in a solar shape symbolizing the sun as the ultimate source of energy, reminding us to engage sustainable means. Translucent building materials provided daylight and excellent insulation. Opening and closing of the students’ lockers powered small generators.  Additionally they utilized vertical axis wind turbines and sold excess energy back to the grid.

“Chairing the jury affords me one of the best days of the year,” remarked David Schrader, AIA, CEFPI international board member. “As we watched the presentations, it was clear that no matter how knowledgeable and talented each of the jury members from across North America, Australia and the UK were, the children’s message, knowledge, passion and enthusiasm humbled each and every one of us. These students truly represent tomorrow’s leaders and our future is in good hands.”

The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) is the only professional organization whose principal purpose is improving the places where children learn. CEFPI embraces a diverse group of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, high performance and sustainable learning environments that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality. To learn more, visit


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