Category Archives: Design Inspirations

Feeling Taupe

Gretchen Wagner

Taupe is the middle ground between warm and cool. The perfect taupe lies in the balance of fullness and minimalism. A good taupe is hard to find, but rest assured, we’ve found it for you.

Feeling inspired by concrete textures, neutral ceramics and soft natural textures? Us too.

More comprehensive building blocks are being added on a regular basis to meet all your taupe needs. Searching for the right compliment to your polished concrete floors? Or maybe you’re looking for that understated sophistication that taupe knows all too well. Take a look at Reclaim and the POSH Collection for that perfect palette. And don’t worry, if taupe isn’t your thing you’ll surely find the neutral you’re looking for in our newest skinny plank collection, Common Theme Planks.

 

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Mind the Gap

Julie Hiromoto

Continuing our series on the intersection of beauty and sustainability, Julie Hiromoto of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill reflects on her retreat with Interface and fellow architects when these thought leaders discussed how to close the gap between sustainable design and beautiful design. This is the second blog in the series.

In March, Interface, working with Nadav Malin of BuildingGreen, invited a group of architects from small and large practices across the U.S. to warm and sunny San Diego. Our task was to explore the question of why green buildings are not usually considered beautiful, and conversely, why the sexiest buildings are often not very sustainable. What is good green design and why isn’t there more of it? Unlike a typical conference center, our meeting room was enclosed on two sides with floor to ceiling windows facing the water, with a covered boardwalk as breakout space. While we talked, the sky changed colors, and the sun beckoned us outside after a long and relentless winter. Our hotel was located on a private, man-made island, landscaped to resemble a lush Southeast Asian paradise. Despite the irony of it all, or perhaps because of it, the discussions were lively, and we powered through the two and a half days. What an appropriate location to tease out our collective thoughts on this complex topic, as we earnestly worked together to close the gap.

As designers, we craft a vision for the environments in which we live, work, and play. Good design is mindful of the sensory experience in and around these spaces, whether visual, aural, or tactile; old or new; high tech or natural. The decisions we make range from broad sweeping concepts to minute details. We specify products that are included in systems that, in turn, complement other systems. They serve a particular use and group of people in a particular environment. Our intentions are constrained by time, cost, codes and other feasibility questions. On each project, these choices are based on our own values, those of the client, and the communities the project will serve. Our success depends on aligning the project goals with these values.

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Green must be a part of good design. As architects, we have a responsibility for the health and well-being of building occupants, the community and the environment. Greater energy and water efficiency requirements are making their way into building codes and design criteria. Owners are gaining awareness of financial incentives and savings. Health concerns are gaining traction as architects advocate for product transparency through grass roots initiatives like the Health Product Declaration or more established advocacy and education through the AIA’s Design & Health Leadership Group. But along the way, in our scientific pursuit to validate high performance design strategies, did we lose sight of beauty? Are we mired in the myriad charts, graphs, facts and figures used to justify and validate our ideas? Will we have better results realizing our sustainable strategies if instead we promote beautifully integrated solutions with narrative?

How do you define beauty? Countless philosophical and scientific treaties have been written on this topic, but design sensibility is difficult to validate. Beauty, pleasure, and inspiration are subjective; to one person a space may be ideal, to others it may fall short, but aesthetics cannot be cast aside as a frivolous amenity. This is the soul and life-blood of our work. The delight and experience of a space causes us to linger or smile. A unique sense of place makes a building special and memorable. These feelings motivate us to maintain and restore our homes, workplaces, community centers, schools and cultural spaces. The longevity of our architecture is the real lasting sustainable impact of the watts/square foot and liters/day savings. Even if technical advances help us achieve better performance metrics, demonstrated improvements in the buildings we construct and cherish today will build a foundation for further advancement in the next projects. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it’s still there!

Editor’s note: This blog was originally written before the Living Future unConference in May when the definition of design values continued with an interactive discussion between Julie, Joann Gonchar (Architectural Record), Nadav Malin (BuildingGreen), and Susan S. Szenasy (Metropolis) on the topic of Connecting the Dots: Beauty, Sustainability, and the Occupant Experience. It was held for publishing to be included with our blog series on the intersection of beauty and sustainability.

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Trend Spotting with Gretchen Wagner

Gretchen Wagner

This year has been filled with unexpected jet setting adventures to review design shows and I’m finally hitting my stride in knowing what to look for while on the prowl. The fundamental part of trend spotting is understanding why certain materials and concepts are being explored by more than one company at the same time. Isolated design may be unique and thrilling but it lacks context, and context is all the rage. These similarities give light to overarching themes in product design that reflect the needs and attitudes of the consumer. I like to walk into showrooms expecting the unexpected, and when I find it, I know in an instant that this is what is most special. Here are some of the trends that I found to be most special at ICFF and NeoCon this year.

Poppy, Mandarin, Sundried Tomato. Whatever you want to call it, it’s on the border of red and orange and this color has been all over the fashion industry this year. Everyone is catching onto this gorgeous hue that seems to compliment everything from matte finished woods to lustrous copper and back again. I’ve included a few of my favorite examples of this fluorescent color in action from this season.

Flat materials being converted into three dimensional form through different types of manipulations, including cutting, pleating and folding. Beautiful flat cutouts have been popular with new advances in precise laser cutting and etching, but the evolution to three dimensional objects is deriving from 3-D printers. Creative solutions for making three dimensional forms from two dimensional raw materials are exploding into a world of their own through decorative yet functional objects.

Many companies are being inspired by the Americana and Folk resurgence amongst local artisans and makers. Uniquely niche products are becoming main players as companies such as Maharam and Anthropologie bring these hand crafted goods to market while still retaining a boutique-like experience. Artists are also working alongside larger brands to create collaborative product launches, such as Bernhardt’s recent project where they applied beautifully hand rendered patterns to their jacquard technology.

Texture is everything, and throughout showrooms there was a return to sensory based elements. Including our own Interface experiential space, companies incorporated different textures that invited guests and customers to feel their way through the environment. Stemming from our constant experience within our virtual world, we were asked to awaken the mind through the sensory experience of touch. A beautiful reminder to look up from our screens and live in the reality that is all around us.

Both ICFF and NeoCon were excellent design shows to attend for spotting the new and upcoming trends in May and June. See you next year!

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Go Play

Gretchen Wagner

At Interface we love to inspire you with endless modular design possibilities. Whether it be through the photography and tile configurations on our website or the brand spanking new Workbook 2.0, you always experience the clean, perfect as we intended. Today, I’m going to bring you inside our messy creative studio where we get down and dirty with our carpet tiles and show you how we take an idea for a floor from inspiration to installation. We’re pulling back the metaphorical curtain and showing you how Interface designs with our own products.

Over the past year, Interface has been exploring the concept of composite rugs where not only colors, but also textures, from different products are mixed together in a single installation. Having recently completed a few different rugs with this concept, I was feeling inspired to take it to a larger scale and a more refined color palette. I started finding inspirational imagery of transparent glass that formed new colors and depths of shading when pieces overlapped.

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Since our IT department had just moved into a new space and needed new carpet, I decided to see if it was possible to create the same effect by changing the color or texture of the carpet when shapes on the floor overlapped. A design plan slowly began to emerge featuring large, triangular shapes that overlapped and subtly changed color from one end of the office to the other. I wanted to have a wide range of textures and colors in the floor, so I sought a handful of products from our consumer brand, FLOR, which brought shaggy and chunky textures into the mix.

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The floor quickly developed into a beautiful, prismatic flow of colors, but I had to develop a plan that our installers could easily follow. The result is a highly contrasted grid where the product was identified by a numeric and color key for easy interpretation. As soon as the installers arrived with the product on site, they cross-referenced the tile boxes with the numbers on the installation plan and got started cutting tiles on the diagonal to create the triangles.

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I don’t want to glaze over the nitty gritty details, but a plan like this requires extra attention on the front end of the design. If you adequately provide installation plans that are both visual and informational, you’ll be good to go developing a truly unique floor for your space.

Interface provides you with the building blocks to design an exceptional floor whether you’re working with squares, planks, FLOR or cut tiles. All you need is to find your inspiration and go play.

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IMAGE CAPTIONS:
1. Raw Color: http://www.rawcolor.nl/project/?id=411&type=ownProduction
2. Prism Rug: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/66005950762641121/
3. Colored Triangles: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/36732553182569589/
4. Photograph of Pool Room rug at Catawba

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Inspired Design with Skinny Planks

Gretchen Wagner

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I’ve been playing with skinny planks for a little over a year now and am still finding endless ways to design floors with this new shape. In math terms, the skinny plank is 25 cm x 1 m, which is exactly half the width and twice the length of our square tile. In design terms, the geometry of the skinny plank lends itself to work perfectly with the square and wide plank modules that are also available in our design kit.

At first Ashlar and Herringbone installations are what come to mind when using the skinny planks in designs, but there is even more potential when you start seeking inspiration outside the ordinary. Whether it is a single color installation, creating chevrons and stripes or going completely off the grid with a pixeled herringbone design, inspiration slowly starts to creep in from all sides and suddenly everything reminds me of the skinny plank and how I can mix color, pattern and texture to create a one of a kind floor.

With the revolutionary elongated shape, the skinny plank blends its side seams so perfectly that a modular tile begins to emulate broadloom installations. Such an elegant shape paired with sophisticated neutrals and plush textures from a product like UR501TM and you can take a room from ordinary to luxurious.

Now, let’s push the envelope a little bit further by incorporating a product, such as On LineTM, that is inherently bold. A single colorway from On Line can can create a seamless modern look to the floor, but when paired with coordinating colorways you can begin to explore a world of design possibility. Using one of the inspired images from above, visualize the individual colored tiles as different colorways and suddenly you have a completely magical floor that is both well-designed and waste efficient.

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A: Duo & Trio: Granite, Ashlar Installation / B: On Line: Forest, Lime and Lapis, Herringbone Installation / C: Chicago Showroom Composite Rug

This last tid bit is the cherry on top of an already delicious sundae. In reference to the perfect geometry of all the modules Interface has to offer, consider this, an area rug that is a composite of countless patterns, textures and colors all perfectly curated and pieced together to create a mash up rug from heaven!! Due to the mathematical accuracy of the tile dimensions you can piece together a composite rug like the featured installation above without having to cut a single edge.

Needless to say the new skinny plank module that Interface has launched gives designers the opportunity to explore the canvas that is their floor. The skinny plank caters to the minimalist and the eclectic designer within all of us.

Voila! Who could have ever thought carpet tile could do all that?

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