Category Archives: Culture & Play

Living Cully – Building a Park & a Lasting Legacy

Joanna Gangi

Creating a healthy, safe and vibrant community starts with dedicated residents who are committed to lasting change. The Cully neighborhood in Northeast Portland is rich with culture and diversity, yet it is one of the most underserved communities in Portland.

In a city where there is a plethora of parks and ample green space, the Cully neighborhood severely lacks access to this basic service. A team lead by Verde has been working to bridge this environmental justice gap and bring a much-needed park to the community with the Let Us Build Cully Park coalition. Once complete, the Thomas Cully Park will include a community garden and a safe place for children and adults to play and enjoy.


Recently, the International Living Future Institute and founding sponsor Interface launched the first Legacy Project and teamed up with Verde* to transform a run-down public right-of-way into a safe, beautiful and refreshing green space. The Cully Adopt-a-Spot plot sits adjacent to the Thomas Cully Park and helps frame the park’s entrance to be an accessible area for residents to enjoy. The Legacy Project team worked with the Cully neighborhood residents over the course of four months to make this transformation possible. The process included three public workshops with the largely Spanish-speaking community to listen to their concerns, develop ideas together and design lasting solutions. Many of the residents expressed their desire to make this a safe and enjoyable walking path, as it is a highly utilized area and borders a busy roadway. The community modeled their vision for the space, and the passion was contagious to the design team as they included the residents’ ideas to the composition of the space.

The collaborative planning process culminated on May 24, when members of Verde, Interface, The Institute, Cully residents and volunteers rolled up their sleeves and spent the day planting and building the Cully Adopt-a-Spot. Interface was integral in the process by sponsoring the event and will continue to sponsor the project through completion. Dozens of shrubs and trees were planted in the ground. A walkway was constructed through the middle of the space to provide a safe and accessible avenue to local businesses. And a wall was built to border the busy roadway. All of the materials used were compliant with the Living Building Challenge materials Red List, which helped inspire the design team to seek certification, making it the second park ever to attempt the Living Building Challenge.


Neighborhood families and children of all ages participated in the work party and were very excited to see the space transforming before their eyes. Children were enthusiastic to take part as they dug, filled wheelbarrows and watered the new shrubs. One child said, “This is like a work party, work isn’t fun but this is fun!” Another child stated, “I never came here before; it was gross and there were people here that we didn’t want to be around. It was scary and now it is so pretty!” Numerous people honked their horns in support as they drove by— showing that this not only effects the Cully residents but also effects people who would have never thought to look at this site before. It seemed that everyone involved, from young to old, knew the importance of investing in a community that lacks certain services like access to nature. As the walkway began to take shape, the newly formed pocket park portrayed a positive sense of community in the Cully neighborhood. The residents were all committed to making their home beautiful. And working together really proved that transformation is possible with a community-led effort.


What was once an overgrown lot filled with weeds is now a beautiful, well-lit pathway, complete with a curving steel graphic wall and colorful landscape design filled with plants. The Cully community is a shining example of dedicated residents who care for their neighborhood and are committed to growing a healthy and vibrant community. The engagement of all involved parties is a testament to the potential for seemingly small community initiatives to serve as a catalyst for positive change.

*Verde is a Portland-based non-profit that serves communities by building environmental wealth through Social Enterprise, Outreach and Advocacy.

Author Joanna Gangi is empowered by the fantastic beauty of nature residing in Seattle where she works at the International Living Future Institute as the Editorial Director of Trim Tab.

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Milan Design Week: Trend Report Pt. II

Gretchen Wagner

In Pt. I of the Milan Design Week: Trend Report I discussed material and color trends that broke the surface of both the Furniture Fair and the Brera Design District. But now we’ll move into some of the emerging cultural trends that have been under my radar.

As mentioned before, the trends are slower moving and are representative of changing consumer habits.


Hackable Design_web

1. Clei: Prototype of stacked kitchen appliances for small space living
2. Vitra: Mariposa Sofa by: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby 3. Edra: Flap by Francesco Binfare
4. Edra: Standard by Francesco Binfare 5. Miss Moss: Hirashima 6. Gan
7. Vitra: Planophore by: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby

It is a known fact that there has been a re-densification of cities across the world and where there are more people, there is less space. Small space living has inspired lots of individuals to find interesting design innovations. For example, SCAD has recently launched ScadPAD, a collaboration between students, alumni and faculty to create a clever design solution to micro-housing needs, and famous artist Andrea Zittel has been designing ways to maximize small space for years!

Less space isn’t always a bad thing, but it does create a design problem that can only be solved with efficiency. The result is furniture that is not just dual-purpose, but multi-purpose, furniture that can evolve and convert a space from a bedroom into an office. But it isn’t just furniture in homes that is becoming multi-functional. It’s also office tables that can expand to seat twice as many people, or wheeled tables that enable spontaneous collaborations.

Furniture that can be modified in an instant is not only user friendly, it’s also conscious of the need to be able to transform a space. Multi-purpose and customizable furniture is essential to the future of product development as we continue to do more with less in our rapidly changing world.


Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations_web

1. SCP London: Donna Wilson 2. Citco and Zaha Hadid’s wall features 3. Vitra: Alexander Girard
4. Bolon: still from The Contradiction of Silence 5. Republic of Fritz Hansen: “Unplugged Relations” Analog table 6. HAY: “Wrong for Hay” Collaboration with Sebastian Wrong

How we use technology was a recurring theme throughout Milan Design Week. With an emphasis on technology and the ability to connect with diverse groups of individuals instantaneously has led to beautiful cross-disciplinary collaborations. It seemed like almost every showroom was highlighting a collaboration between their company and another group of creative individuals outside of their industry. Take into consideration Bolon’s collaboration with Alexander Eckman, a choreographer who developed a modern dance emulating the manufacturing process of Bolon’s woven floor coverings. Vitra’s showroom (always one to excite the senses) presented new and updated classics featuring work inspired by Alexander Girard and Ray and Charles Eames. One of my favorite showrooms at the Furniture Fair was SCP of London, a company that commissions furniture, ceramics and textiles from various London artists and designers to create collections for consumers that are both sophisticated and nationalistic. HAY, a Danish company, consistently collaborates with internationally known designers to produce playful furniture, lighting and textiles for their customers. And lastly, one of the most widely discussed collaborations was between Italian based company Citco and architect Zaha Hadid.

Collaborations are not new to the interior design industry, but the technology and resources that are making these collaborations so much easier definitely are. Companies such as WeWork or Mojo CoWorking are two of many that create forums for individuals from different industries to bench and collaborate with one another in a single, modern office space based on the concept of renting individual desk space. All of this new technology that allows us to stay connected constantly—for better or worse—means that companies can connect with employees located across the world to get the job done. These collaborations aren’t just happening in the working world either. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) frequently pairs students with industry leaders to create unique classroom experiences as a part of their Collaborative Learning Center.

Whether it be for the development of a new product launch, a study on small living space or simply benching together in an open office, students and professionals alike are collaborating on a daily basis.

Everybody who’s anybody is doing it.

Now, looking through the lens of everything I saw at Milan Design Week, I am noticing these trends on an even larger scale and am eager to see if NYCxDesign and NeoCon will yield similar trends or offer new ideas all together.


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Milan Design Week: Trend Report Pt. I

Gretchen Wagner

During Milan Design Week the already stylish city of Milan, Italy, transforms into a multi-cultural showcase of current and forecasted trends. Soaking in the beautiful new color palettes, materials and products is surely inspiring, but my favorite part comes after the after-parties have long been finished. All the imagery and literature that I gathered is carefully cataloged and cross-referenced with other emerging design trends from various blogs and publications, and I soon begin to find recurring themes. These recurring themes become the basis of my trend research as I continue to step into both the past and the future to understand where these trends have come from and where they are going.

I have broken the overall design trends from Milan Design Week into two categories: Material/Color Trends and Emerging Cultural Trends. Material and color trends are simply a visual analysis of what textures and colors are emerging in various markets. These trends are often moving at a fast pace and typically start in higher end markets and eventually diffuse to consumer markets where they become widely accepted as “fashionable”. Emerging cultural trends represent larger, slower moving trends that dictate not only our material and color choices, but also how and why we design products the way we do. They represent what is happening on a global cultural scale and signify changes in consumer habits and how we interact with one another on the human scale.

So let’s kick things off with a colorful start.


Pastel and neon colors have slowly been creeping into consumer driven markets, particularly the fashion industry. In a world that has gone neutral in most recent years with subtle variations on taupe and cool grays, I am excited to announce the emergence of pastels and neons in contract design. Scandinavian design (both fashion and interiors) has always lent itself to interpreting accents in the form of pastel and neon colors. Unlike most trends that start in higher end markets and diffuse downward to consumers, this trend emerged with consumers where it became widely accepted and is now skyrocketing upward into mature design aesthetics where pastel and neon colors bring a whimsical and play-like atmosphere.

Within the pastel and neon trend I am also noticing blush and dusty rose colors coming to the forefront. Depending on surrounding palettes, blush tones can effortlessly blend in as imitation neutrals or become a subtle statement piece amongst a tonal backdrop. Stylists in home interiors are dialing up the intensity of blush hues and creating soft pink spaces filled with glowing light and simple accessories.


Alchemy by definition is a medieval form of chemistry that focused its efforts on transforming base metals into gold. Gold and many other metallic finishes and reflective surfaces were all over Milan Design Week and are hitting home interior trends in the form of copper clothing hangers and brassy light fixtures. Metallics were not the only shiny things at the Furniture Fair. Lacquered side tables and case goods that were so glossy you could see your own reflection in them cropped up across multiple showrooms. Metallic finishes and reflective surfaces are popping up everywhere from copper finishes on handbags, to light fixtures, tableware, furniture and fine art.

Clean and thin metallic wire accents against soft pastels and neutrals are effortlessly modern and bring brightness into any space.

I will continue with the emerging cultural trends in Pt. II of the Milan Design Week: Trend Report, so stay tuned!!

Ciao for now!

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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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