Category Archives: Design Inspirations

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.

Tuesday

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).

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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.

Friday

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.

XOXO

Gretchen

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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.

Knoll

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.

XOXO

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Shake the Cobwebs Loose: A Design Tour of Chicago

Chip DeGrace

For a guy like me who has teams of people working on two showrooms and a massive party venue, the Friday before NeoCon isn’t a good time for a boondoggle. That is unless the talented and convincing guys that produce the highly entertaining “Lunch and Learn” for Designer Pages call you to hang. Then it’s time to lean on your interns and turn the cell phone off.

So, I agreed to be the non-thespian foil for their band of pseudo designer participants in a NeoCon-themed episode titled “NeoCon’d.” The set up was for me to play myself, the design guy from Interface, and tour the memorable, misfit band around Chicago, exposing them to some unique, inspirational venues. These would be places near to my eccentric, designer heart. Places that most out of town conventioneers wouldn’t know existed, and if they did, they’d only go there on a dare.

Chip DeGrace in Lunch and Learn

“Lunch and Learn” characters Brick and Sebastian meet Chip DeGrace in the Interface showroom.

Consistent with the jag Interface has been on about the power of +Positive spaces, I noodled on a range of spots from the ridiculous to the sublime. The kind of joints that can shake the cobwebs loose in your noggin after you’ve been on back to back conference calls for the better part of a day. Our subtext for Interface’s product focus this year is creating flooring systems that can help designers create interiors that have variable, spatial moments that bring a full range of experience. Imagine your office legitimately surprising you, inspiring you and conversely calming you down just when you need it. I pondered the places I go to be as far from my regular inputs as possible. Inputs that can come romantically from nature or perversely from something you’ve found stuck on your shoe. Then, with three places in mind, we set off.

Lunch and Learn tour

“This is all about positivity!”

Tour Stop #1: The Odd

The first location on the tour was a crazy ass, retail emporium called Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities.

Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities

It was started in 2010 by a young couple who were inspired by a set of teeth that had been passed down to them. The shop has continued to collect medical oddities, preserved animal fetuses in jars, and other bizarre relics that now crowd every inch of shelf space. Countless bones and skulls are spread throughout the store, as well as biology manikins, outdated medical equipment and manuals, and copious amounts of strange taxidermy. The two-headed calf shares merchandising duties with an alligator that has been turned into a lamp with the bulb in its mouth.

Chip DeGrace at Woolly Mammoth

(Left) Actor Jamie Campbell examines the merchandise; (Right) Designer Pages CEO Jake Slevin gives Chip some pointers between takes.

Every inch is filled with interesting, one of a kind finds. Each solitary baby doll arm and vintage set of artificial eyeballs begs investigation and demands consideration. You become absorbed within the complexity of the goods presented, part of the composition, both staring and being stared at. Whatever was clogging your head is forgotten, giving you space for something new. Many an aspiring artist frequents this establishment for materials to use in their work, and original art by the owner is also available for sale. The Woolly Mammoth is a popular stop for Chicago locals who enjoy sifting through the overwhelming collection to unearth unique cultural fragments. The store even offers classes for anyone who wants to make taxidermy of their own, although philosophies on death are not included.

Tour Stop #2: The Peaceful

My tour group was just starting to breathe normally when we pulled up to the gates of our second stop, Graceland Cemetery. Though this choice seemed equally unorthodox at first glance and is full of the remains of dead people, it is a beautiful and serene oasis in the center of the city.

Graceland Cemetery

Founded in 1860, Graceland was a new type of cemetery. It wasn’t just a utilitarian place to bury the dead. Lush, sculptured, pastoral landscapes with sweeping vistas and carefully designed plantings create a park like atmosphere. The natural beauty surrounds grand mausoleums commissioned by wealthy patrons, designed by the best of the day. Many of the landscape designers and architects who shaped the cemetery are themselves buried there. This type of “rural cemetery” offers dignity to the dead and pleasure to their living visitors. So, many years later, the vibe is one of stepping into a textbook of the significant architecture and landscape design of the twentieth century. The bonus is your ability to talk to the authors, albeit it may be a one way conversation.

cemetery

Graceland Cemetery just what a cemetery should be: peaceful, contemplative and rich in spirit.

Graceland is sometimes called the “cemetery of architects” because so many esteemed members of the profession have been laid to rest here.

The list of significant contributors to modern architecture and design seems incomprehensible. Daniel Burnham, one of the city’s planners and head of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, is buried there on his own private island on Graceland’s placid lake. John Root and his partner William Holabird, Louis Sullivan, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, David Adler, Bruce Graham (architect of the Willis (Sears) Tower), William Le Baron Jenney (father of the American skyscraper), Marion Mahoney-Griffin (one of the first female licensed architects in the world) and many others who designed the Chicago we know today can also be found here. The architects’ and designers’ graves reflect in one last expression the ethos of their lives and practices.

Additionally, there’s no end to the names of famous Chicagoans that you’d recognize as you walk amongst the monuments, like Goodman, Palmer, Getty, Marshall Field, McCormick, Pullman, Wacker, the Cubs’ great Ernie Banks, Jack Johnson, and Medill, just to name a few. Their tombs and mausoleums range from magnificent opulence to surprising simplicity, and there’s plenty to explore away from the much-visited graves of the famous. Louis Sullivan’s design for Carrie Eliza Getty’s tomb has been called “the beginning of modern architecture in America.” It’s a testament not only to Sullivan’s imagination, but also to the way that such an environment can accommodate and even inspire a design that forever altered the world of architecture.

Perhaps the best thing about Graceland is that it’s just what a cemetery should be: peaceful, contemplative and rich in spirit.

Tour Stop #3: The Sublime

When we turned into the parking lot of the Lincoln Park Zoo at Fullerton and the Lake, my co-conspirators thought they were going to hang out with the gorillas. But I had something much more sublime in mind.

lily pool

The lily pond is an example of transcendent space. It’s difficult not to sit down, slow your breathing and take time.

Leaving the busloads of kids and the din of expressway speed traffic on Lake Shore Drive, we passed through a Prairie School style gate into an overlooked garden of unmatched beauty. Magically, only bird songs and the sound of a gentle waterfall break the restful silence. Interestingly, this pond is on the migratory path of over 5,000 songbirds. Follow the limestone walk encircling the lily pool and discover a pavilion, council ring, and diverse native plantings. This is the vision of landscape architect Alfred Caldwell: a hidden garden for the people of Chicago designed to resemble a river meandering through a great Midwestern prairie.

The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

The site of the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool was originally part of a Victorian garden built in 1889 that displayed tropical lilies and other aquatic plants. When the Victorian-style garden fell out of popularity, the hour-glass shaped pond and its environs had fallen into ruin and disrepair. the Lily Pool fell into disrepair until 1936 when Alfred Caldwell redesigned the pool and its surrounding area. By the 1930s Landscape architect Alfred Caldwell was hired by the Works Progress Administration to completely redesign this area of Lincoln Park. Caldwell realized that the Lily Pool presented him with the unique opportunity to realize his poetic symbolism and design theories and philosophies.

Small in scale, it was designed to bring the Midwestern prairie natural planting vocabulary to a lily pond. Niagra limestone lines the walk, and once you stop and view the pond, depending upon where you are standing, you may view it as a running brook or as a pond. The stunning, small, pergola-like buildings in Prairie style are often mistaken as a work of Caldwell’s friend Frank Lloyd Wright.

Lily Pool

The small, pergola-like buildings are often mistaken as a work of Caldwell’s friend Frank Lloyd Wright.

In 1938 the project was nearing completion and the park district decide to cut a major expenditure for wildflower plantings. Caldwell cashed in his $5000 life insurance policy for $250, bought thousands of plants and transported them from Sauk County, Wisconsin. The next day he planted them all around the lily pools with the help of four others.

Ironically, the history of the pond and the small park that surrounds it has had cycles of decay and rebirth, not unlike the prairie that it attempts to emulate. In the early 1950s, the pool was transformed into a water exhibit featuring exotic birds and water fowl and came to be known as The Rookery. Overgrazing by zoo birds had a devastating effect on the lily pond. A lack of landscaping management (allowing invasive plants and “weed” trees to take over the understory), heavy human foot traffic, uncontrolled erosion and the introduction of plant materials that were invasive to the existing lilies substantially damaged the garden. In 1997, the Chicago Park District, with the help of private donations, created a Master Plan to restore Caldwell’s historic landscape and improve accessibility.

The lily pond is an example of transcendent space. It’s difficult not to sit down, slow your breathing and take time. My message to my band of design padawans was that the job of designers is to create spaces that engage and enrich the user. Not in a specific, linear, programmed way, but rather by giving people the opportunity to experience the ridiculous to the sublime in their every day. To mimic the magic, wonder and even fear we experienced in both the designed and organic environments we sampled on our travels is to create enriching, positive spaces.

Chip DeGrace in Lunch and Learn

“I feel… positive.” That’s a wrap.

For inspiration with a side of laughs, watch our episode Neocon episode of “Lunch and Learn.”

Posted in Category Design Inspirations, NeoCon | 1 Comment

Finding Work Life Balance with Color

Gretchen Wagner

Most of the time, we strive to keep our work life and our personal life separate. We carry two separate phones, we don’t answer emails after 7 pm on Friday nights and we try not to inundate our partner with the daily office happenings over pasta dinner.

The biggest exception is – my work life really cares about my personal life.

Gretchen Wagner at SCAD

Celebrating the simple pleasure of accurately mixed color and perfect gradation (le sigh).

So, from September to November last year I temporarily moved (back) to Savannah, Georgia and served as an Ambassador in Residence at my alma mater, the Savannah College of Art and Design, through the SCAD Alumni Atelier Program. Created and endowed by SCAD President and Founder, Paula Wallace, the program provides alumni with dedicated time and space to focus on expanding their creativity, all the while creating a more meaningful connection with the university.

Color dyes

Gradation of dye samples (left) and swatch materials being rinsed (right).

SCAD project

Sunny Savannah studio views of swatch material and recipes arranged according to color gradation.

During my ambassadorship, I executed a project that further examined my interest in color theory. Wheel explored the use of saturated color to create an interactive, life size color wheel constructed from nearly 500 yards of hand dyed silk. It took precision, algebra and countless bike rides back and forth to the studio to ensure its completion. The technical process in creating Wheel ultimately yielded a simple tangible shape that allowed visitors to part the panels and enter the circular color space within.

Gretchen's SCAD project

Mock up of final installation (right) and hour one of installation at Pei Ling Chan Gallery the day of the exhibition (right).

The final installation was composed of sixty silk panels each hand dyed a slightly different variation of color from one to the next, emulating the seamless color transitions in a spectrum. Wheel was exhibited alongside the work of fellow alumni ambassadors, whose specialties ranged from ceramics and furniture design, to accessory design, documentary filmmaking and screenplay writing, this past November at the Pei Ling Chan Gallery in Savannah, Georgia.

Color "Wheel" final project

Wheel, 16.5’ x 11.5’ round. installed at the Pei Ling Chan Gallery in Savannah, Georgia

My years spent at SCAD during my undergrad propelled me into my career and evolving studio practice. Returning to Savannah and creating Wheel was a tangible reminder of what the creative mind is capable of. Infinite thanks to both my SCAD and Interface families for helping make these inspired moments possible.

In other news – enjoy some process photos, color lovers.
XOXO

For more information about the SCAD Alumni Atelier, visit here.
To explore more color musings from designer Gretchen Wagner, visit Instagram or thriveordye.com.
This project was funded through the Alumni Atelier Program for Alumni Development from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
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Graffiti Art with Carpet Tile

Interface

Adventures in Color and Rhythm with Mr. June

Across the world, there are artists, designers and other creatives that leave their mark using color. Meet David Louf (aka Mr. June): a Dutch artist who started doing graffiti art in 1985 at the age of 14. Now, over 30 years later, he runs his own graphic design studio with Yves van Asten and is still fascinated by the transition between 2D and 3D. Over the years they’ve worked for a wide range of companies, including Adidas, Heineken, Sanoma and Universal music. David’s murals can be found in places like London, New York, Miami and Ibiza.

Graffiti carpet tile art
Creating a third dimension
Mr. June’s work combines geometric rhythm with fluid lines. His use of shading creates an impressive 3-dimensional effect, often interacting with the intricacies of his “canvas” – the building he is enriching with his art.

Graffiti art with carpet tile

Mr. June meets Interface
Our team in Europe was lucky to collaborate with Mr. June for the 2016 Dutch Design Week. Mr. June replaced graffiti art with carpet and created a mesmerizing pattern of shapes and colors, fitting with the “Modular Geometry” trend that references the Memphis style from the 70s. To create the piece, many carpet tiles were cut into small pieces and positioned to create an out-of-this-world appearance. The piece was installed in Broeinest, a co-working space in Eindhoven. By positioning the rug beyond the entrance of the space, the piece attracted the interest of many passers-by.

Graffiti art with carpet tile

Graffiti art with carpet tile

MrJune_Blog6_575x575 See more from Mr. June on Facebook, Instagram and his personal website.

 

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