Category Archives: Design Inspirations

The Future is Now: NeoCon 2015 Cultural Trends

Gretchen Wagner

There is a cultural shift taking place and it became largely apparent at NeoCon this year. More and more millennials are entering the work force, widening the generational gap in work environments and introducing fresh perspectives. It may depend on who you ask,but I’m looking at this through the eyes of a millennial and am filled with excitement and possibility. Renewed interest in the individual versus the collective is rising to the surface, inciting interesting conversations about how design can be a solution for the diverse work environment. There is no better time than now to talk about the future of the workplace.

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How can design provide solutions for the diverse work environment?

Haworth was a must see at the Merchandise Mart this year, and for those not in attendance, take a quick trip to their website for a capture of their space. The discussion was about balance in the work environment. Balancing work and play, color and texture, digital and tactile and the individual versus collaboration. Throughout their showroom you experienced beautiful, soft, pastel color palettes, a nod toward mid-century modern furniture design and engaging activities like the interactive projection mapped table at the front of their space. The focus shift from collective was demonstrated with independent workstations for both individuals and small groups. Patricia Urquiola designed the “Openest” product line, which was expanded upon this year, and clearly links her own design aesthetic with Haworth’s message of creating balance through design.

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Environments that balance digital with tactile, energy with serenity, and work with play create inviting spaces that draw people in. Photo and caption courtesy of Haworth.

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People desire the freedom to move throughout the day, gravitating toward the places that help them perform their best. Photo and caption courtesy of Haworth.

Steelcase is also assessing the work environment. As a global company they have interest in how this trend will reflect on a larger scale outside our local markets, and their research was mirrored in their product offering. In collaboration with Susan Cain, author of best selling novel Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, they have designed five unique “Quiet” spaces that offer variety in how people focus and are productive at work. Whether it is a solo private office with minimal distraction or a small collaborative space where individuals can come together to be inspired by one another, the options are there for the individual to choose.

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Susan Cain Quiet Spaces. Photo courtesy of Steelcase.

Teknion is also engaging in the same conversation by offering the new “upStage” platform that challenges current workstations’ benching formats. It can easily be modified to reflect an individual’s particular needs, whether it is standing, lounging or being seated at work. The furniture system is designed to adapt in a moment’s notice to keep individuals feeling focused, inspired and energized.

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upStage from Teknion. Photo courtesy of Teknion.

And here at Interface we are echoing the same sentiments. Our continued research and understanding of biophilic design has shown us the many benefits of surrounding ourselves with nature, which has led to new product introductions that feature neutral, sophisticated designs following nature’s model. With the introduction of Human Spaces we have created a forum to discuss design solutions for the workplace. We have collaborated with anthropologists, architects, designers and sustainability experts to bring their research to one place with the intention of cultivating and designing spaces with the human in mind. Together we are understanding more and more that it is human nature to not only crave areas of refuge where we can detach from the physical and mental stress of work to recharge, but also areas filled with prospect, inspiration, color and collaboration.

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It’s human nature to crave areas filled with prospect, inspiration, color and collaboration.

We tend to look toward the future as a lofty idea further down the road. But today is the future of yesterday and we are already here. While each company has its own vision for how products will shape and redefine us, we all share one thing in common—by cultivating the individual and allowing them to thrive in their own way, we can create a more relaxed, inspiring and collaborative place to work. And I think we can all get down with that.

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Posted in Category Biophilic Design, Design Inspirations, NeoCon | Leave a comment

A Net Effect Experience

Wilma Rendon

Wilma Rendon
Director of Business Development – JDJ Architects

We talked to Wilma Rendon, designer and director of business development for JDJ Architects in Chicago, to learn more about her experience using our Net Effect® Collection on a recent project. Net Effect was inspired by Net-Works®, the restorative business partnership between Interface, Aquafil, the Zoological Society of London and Philippine fishermen.

How did the Net-Works story help you engage your customer into the project?
The Net-Works story is compelling. It integrates a creative business approach, design and sustainability. One of our clients, Oasis Legal Finance, chose carpet tiles from the Net Effect Collection after hearing the engaging story. It’s pleasing to select a beautiful, high quality product that contributes to the well-being of so many.

How important is flooring when you’re designing a space?
Flooring is a key element of design. It can be utilized as way-finding, to differentiate work areas from lounge areas, to reinforce brand identity and much more. If we don’t consider flooring as an important element of design, we miss an opportunity.

It also has a great impact on the health of the office environment, affecting acoustics, maintenance, and the bottom line. We walk all day in our offices and the floor we select is important.

How do you feel the Net Effect Collection is affecting the well-being of the building occupants?
We believe that the materials and colors that surround us have an impact on our well-being and the way we experience a space. When selecting finishes we always ask: what emotion or feeling do we want the space to evoke? Is it energy, movement, excitement, tranquility? The answer is unique for every project.

Net Effect’s deep colors and rich pattern makes you notice the flooring, setting an organic, rich tone for the design. So we used Net Effect to set the tone in selected impact areas—the conference room and the reception area. We used the modular carpet as the foundation of the design palette and integrated complementary finishes and colors to create a strong environment that supports the Oasis Legal Finance brand. Our client and their staff are very pleased with the end result.

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Posted in Category Biomimicry, Biophilia, Design Inspirations | Leave a comment

An Interview with Figamma, a Colombian Design Firm

Ana Crepaldi

On my last visit to Bogota, I had the pleasure of visiting the architectural firm Figamma, recognized in Colombia for their architecture and interior design projects. They told me about their work methodology that starts with the floor as the foundation for their choice of colors, patterns and textures.

Where and how do you find inspiration for your projects?
We start by meeting with our client a few times to better understand their needs and their company culture. We then browse their brand book looking for design elements to spark inspiration. We also search the web, magazines and other resources for inspiration. That’s how we choose the designs, textures, materials and colors that will be used in our final design.

You’ve said that most of your projects start with the floor design. Can you elaborate on that?
We start by defining a basic color scheme for our client’s spaces. Then we choose a carpet that will set the tone. Next we look for base and finishing materials that will create harmony in those spaces and give them the unique look we strive to achieve in all our projects. And because we know how important adaptability and durability are to each client, we create designs that will stand the test of time.

What are the benefits of using modular carpet tiles in your projects?
By using modular carpet, we get:

  • Flooring that is easy to replace on site
  • A floor that’s easy to install
  • Great acoustic properties
  • A warmer, more sophisticated look
  • More durability for our clients, thus avoiding them unnecessary changes

How does modular carpet tile provide value to your projects?
The new formats are well suited to our floor design needs. They allow us to combine multiple textures, colors and shapes for endless design options.

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From left to right: Lina González, Natalia González, Luz Piedad Santa, Fernando González

From left to right: Lina González, Natalia González, Luz Piedad Santa, Fernando González

About Figamma:
Founded in 1994 in Colombia, Figamma is a family business that provides architectural and interior design services for various projects, including corporate and commercial spaces, hospitals, and homes. In its 20+ year history, Figamma has worked on some of the most iconic projects in the country, putting to good use its deep knowledge and understanding of its clients’ needs and preferences.

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Glitz, Glam and Gold

Sarah Pelham

Trend longevity has become unpredictable in our fast paced, high tech world. In fact the most marked change in trends over the years is the speed through which they cycle. For that we can thank advances in communication, production, transportation and the evolution of social media.

But even with these advancements, more often than not, our trends are still inspired by repeating history, the current overall mood of the world, and new consumer demands. Trends evoked from these factors tend to hang around a bit longer. For example, by allowing history to repeat, it gives us a basis to reflect, tweak and revisit past generations. If the mood of the world is in a recession, then it brings out insecurities which, in turn, trickle down into design in the form of safe choices, like a prevalence of neutral safe tones. Currently, the quick paced evolution of technology has consumers demanding “the latest & greatest” products with a keen awareness of their environmental impact.

So what trends did I find at HD Expo this year?

All that glitters is gold
At HD Expo 2015, all the glitz of Vegas shone bright! The hospitality color of the year was GOLD in an array of shades, leaving Marsala, Pantone’s color of the year, just a memory. While there were considerable pops of orange accents with warm grays, gold stole the show. Beaming gold metal finishes, fabrics, wall covering, furniture, lighting and accessories filled the exhibition hall. The mixture of warm gold tones and greens was a popular partner for an eclectic sense, while gold, black, grey and cream had a classic feel. Overall the mood of the color gold is one of success, achievement and triumph. It’s associated with abundance, prosperity, luxury, sophistication and elegance, indicating times are good in the world!

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Geometry abounds
Getting their fair share of the limelight were geometric shapes in a myriad of products. In conjunction with the classic mood found in the gold tones, classic shapes such as the Greek key, herringbone, octagon, hound’s-tooth and zigzag emerged both in true form and in abstract interpretations. Geometrics were on the floor, on the walls, in the furniture, in the fabrics and in the lighting forms. From the Greco-Roman use of simple zigzags and triangles to cover surfaces to the mid-century modern use of bigger, bolder shapes with less intricacy, geometric patterns have dominated for centuries. Today’s geometrics are bolder in scale than ancient Greek and Roman applications and have a more classic, sophisticated feel than the mid-century modern forms, giving the shapes a clean renewal with strong lines and simple colors.

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Enticing textures
Multi-level dimension was found throughout product offerings. Surfaces had depth, whether they were carved, layered, molded, twisted or tufted. You wanted to touch them and examine the texture. In most instances these products came from natural, flat materials that were manipulated into 3-dimensional surfaces, allowing designers to develop spaces that reflect our continuing desire to bring the outdoors inside. Surfaces possessed both the warmth and variation that we are attracted to in nature. Whether they were clay abstract sting-rays or solid pieces of oak charred and layered to create sculptural character, the textures created the connection with nature and the world around us.

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At the core
Looking a little deeper into nature and the awareness of our environment, manufacturers and designers continue to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Other hot topics included biophilic design and the use of alternative materials that change the way we design. RH Contract featured tables manufactured from reclaimed Douglas Fir while Phillips Collection showed the Seatbelt Chair made of scrap material. Innovations and products discussed included temperature sensitive glass, translucent concrete, electronic paper, magnetic ink, solar paint, wallpaper that charges your phone and transparent alumina that’s three times stronger than steel. The consumer demands on the market are supporting nature and sustainability as a hallmark of design as opposed to what many thought was just a trend 15 years ago. At Interface we continually break new ground on our mission to reduce or eliminate waste and harmful emissions while increasing the use of renewable materials and energy sources. As one of my Interface associates Lindsey James proclaimed, “Think like nature, because it’s her world.”

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Raising the Bar

Jean Nayar

Known for his high risk efforts in advancing an eco-friendly mission for decades, Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation, has fueled the ever-growing environmental movement in America since he organized the first Earth Day in conjunction with then-Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Thanks to his efforts as a leader on environmental issues, sustainable strides in this country have been taken on multiple fronts. And if his most recent bet on creating the first significant net positive energy office building in the country pays off, then the world will likely be inspired to get a whole lot greener in the years ahead.

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The 52,000 square-foot, six story Bullitt Center stands as a shining example of the accomplishments Hayes and the Foundation have achieved in their quest to remain at the forefront of the sustainability movement. Photograph ©Nic Lehoux

Hayes opted to develop the building after searching to no avail in Seattle for environmentally sensitive office space that would meet his criteria. “We were looking for offices that reflected our values,” says Hayes, adding that “our focus is on human ecology with an emphasis on how we can design built environments that are proper, healthy habitats for our species.” Once the head of the Solar Energy Research Institute during the Carter Administration, Hayes continues to advance environmental initiatives supported by the Bullitt Foundation, which offers grants to organizations working on environmental projects in the Pacific Northwest. The 52,000 square-foot, six story Bullitt Center, which is owned by the Bullitt Foundation, stands as a shining example of the accomplishments he and the Foundation have achieved in their quest to remain at the forefront of the sustainability movement.

The structure was designed to achieve certification as a Living Building, which is significantly more ambitious than LEED Platinum certification. To meet it, a building must generate as much energy as it uses each year and use rainwater for all purposes, including drinking. It must also meet lofty standards for eco-friendly materials and indoor air quality. Located on a site that was a forest filled with Douglas fir trees before European settlement, the building was designed by the Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnership to function, says Hayes, as a tree would. “Not only does it provide shelter and sustenance for its users, like a tree would for deer, elk, birds, and squirrels, it also produces its own energy from the sun and rain, it doesn’t produce toxins, and it recycles its waste as nutrients.”

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The Bullitt Center was designed by the Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnership to function as a tree would. Photograph ©Nic Lehoux

Since the Bullitt Foundation operates with only seven employees and needed just 4,000 square feet for its own business, the building was designed to be leased out to additional tenants to make it commercially viable. Among the numerous companies and organizations that have opted to occupy the building are the International Living Future Institute, founder of the Living Building Challenge, which defines the standards for Living Building certification, various small companies, and a substantial engineering firm, which completely tailored its business processes to drive down its energy demand by 82 percent with no loss in productivity or convenience. “We tell our tenants how many kilowatt hours of energy they’re allowed to use, and if they exceed it they pay a stiff penalty for high energy bills,” says Hayes.

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The Seattle office of the International Living Future Institute, founder of the Living Building Challenge, calls the Bullitt Center home. Photograph ©Benjamin Benschneider

The building relies on solar energy to meet its electricity needs, so educating tenants on ways to reduce consumption is necessary to keep the building’s energy use in check. Yet, since the building began operating about two years ago, its energy generating and energy conservation systems not only allow it to meet all of the energy needs of the Bullitt Foundation and other tenants in the building, but also enable it to produce more energy than it consumes, making it the first commercial office building of its size in the U.S. to operate as a net positive energy structure, generating 60 percent more energy than it used in 2014. “The Energy Use Index (EUI) for an average office in Seattle is 95, under our new energy code the index will fall to the low 50s, for LEED Platinum buildings it reaches the low 30s, and for our building we aimed for 16,” says Hayes. “But it has exceeded our wildest hopes. Our EUI in 2014 was 9.4, making it by far the most efficient office building in America.” Its excess power is sold back into the electrical grid for use by others.

A few of the building’s other eco-friendly highlights include a robust rainwater collection and filtering system, onsite treatment of sewage, composting toilets, and project certification from the Forest Stewardship Council—the first office in the U.S. to achieve this status. The building also excludes 362 “Red List” elements that are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, or endocrine disrupting. Materials and furnishings devoid of “Red List” elements were also chosen by Robin Chell, principal of Seattle-based RCD, who worked with the Bullitt Foundation to design the interiors of its own offices. “Because we needed to avoid products that contained elements on the “Red List,” everything was rigorously scrutinized and had to be formaldehyde free,” explains Chell.

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A few of the building’s eco-friendly highlights include a robust rainwater collection and filtering system, onsite treatment of sewage and composting toilets. Photograph ©Benjamin Benschneider

The Bullitt Foundation also needed soft furnishings that would serve as acoustical buffers in the space. So, in keeping with the notion of biomimicry, which guided the design of the building’s mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and lighting systems, Chell chose felt art works, wool-upholstered soft furnishings, and earth- and moss-inspired eco-friendly modular carpet from Interface’s Urban Retreat collection.  “We wanted to bring in colors of nature with finishes, art, and furnishings that were inviting, stimulating, and reflected their ethos,” Chell explains. “So we started with the carpet, which inspired the tones of the other elements. Aside from offering environmentally friendly products, Interface has an amazing array of design innovations that are almost always ahead of the curve,” Chell adds. Honored with IIDA’s People’s Choice award last year, Chell’s design is ultimately as eco-friendly as it is practical and appealing to the eye.

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In keeping with the notion of biomimicry, Robin Chell Design chose earth- and moss-inspired eco-friendly modular carpet from Interface’s Urban Retreat collection for the space occupied by the Foundation. Photograph ©Brent Smith Photography

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“We wanted to bring in colors of nature with finishes, art, and furnishings that were inviting, stimulating, and reflected their ethos,” Robin Chell explains. Photograph ©Brent Smith Photography

Since Seattle’s climate is often cloudy and gray, creating a six story building that relies on solar energy to meet its power needs was risky. But Hayes was convinced that the potential return on the investment made taking the chance worthwhile. “Other buildings have been designed to meet these sustainable standards, but they are small—usually 2,000-6,000 square feet,” he says. “We wanted to dramatically increase the scale and felt it was doable. Even if we set out and failed, we thought it was still a heroic leap, so we decided why not aim for the moon and give it a shot? We wanted to be taken seriously not only by the academic community, but also by those who actually build.”

Judging by the number of tours (about six per week) that the Bullitt Center hosts in its building for developers, architects, and facility managers, Hayes appears to have succeeded in capturing their attention. And if the building achieves Living Building certification, which it hopes to do later this year, the building will no doubt generate even more interest.

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Posted in Category Biomimicry, Biophilia, Biophilic Design, Design Inspirations, Project Spotlight, Sustainability | Leave a comment