Category Archives: NeoCon

From Daylighting to Skateboards: An Exploration of Restorative Potential – Part 1


Our relationship with the natural world should be a two-way endeavor. Understanding how our surroundings impact and restore us can help us to recognize our relationship with our environment as a reciprocal one. How do we expand our sustainability practices beyond eliminating bad behavior to actively creating positive impacts for us and the planet?

We had the pleasure of hosting David Stover, CEO and co-founder of Bureo skateboard company, and Bill Browning, expert in biophilic design and partner and co-founder of Terrapin Bright Green, at our Chicago showroom during NeoCon for a panel discussion on the potential of restorative business.

Our panelists discussed the ways in which biophilic design practices and restorative business models take inspiration from Mother Nature to create a happier, healthier environment for earth’s inhabitants, with insights from their own unique experiences and compelling case studies.

Lindsay James, vice-president of restorative enterprise for Interface, moderated the discussion.


Pictured left to right: Lindsay James, David Stover, Bill Browning

Lindsay James (Q): What does restorative mean to you and how have you established restorative practices through your business?

David Stover (A): Restorative for us is taking an eco friendly practice a step further. It’s not just worrying about the ecological footprint of your products. It’s about creating products that have a positive impact on the community as well as the environment. Through our Net Positiva initiative, we’re collecting and recycling fishing nets in Chile, providing local fisherman an environmentally sound way to dispose of nets and creating a source of recyclable materials for manufacturing Bureo skateboards.

Bill Browning (A): Our take on restorative is similar but we may be a step further. Through biomimicry we are looking at ecosystem services. For example, how does the ecosystem in your workplace deal with water? How does it deal with energy? What is its net biological productivity? Basically, developing a set of metrics around the ecology of your workplace, then asking yourself, “Could I design an operative building in a way that performs as well as the original ecosystem that was here?” It is really place-based.

In the conversation about resilience, you get into this question of how to harden technology. People are holding conversations about the next flood but the next natural disaster that could kill more people than another flood will probably be a heat wave. The way you solve a heat wave, besides building stuff, is setting up resilient social systems: resilience for the people themselves, restorative of community and restorative of social relationships.

Lindsay James (Q): I’m glad you brought in the resilience aspect of this as well. In the study of biomimicry, we learn that nature is not sustainable as much as it is restorative and resilient, and it is those two emergent factors that have allowed life to survive. So what would the world look like if every business embraced its restorative potential?

David Stover (A): I think our program and our system in Chile is honestly just a small part. We work in six communities right now. One thing that we have learned is this idea of utilizing a waste material to put into a product. It’s important to think about how you’re making a product from that material and what your end of life solution will be for the product. For us it was making a product that is recyclable – the skateboard decks. When you talk about the world and embracing restorative practices, I think one thing that we see is this idea of waste not necessarily going away immediately, but looking at waste as a different word. The thought of living an almost waste free lifestyle with compost and recycling solutions and the idea of a closed-looped system is something that we are really excited about. For us the biggest concern is the waste and toxins leaking into the water ways. This was our motivation for starting the project. We should be thinking about how a waste free life might impact the health of our society.


“For us it was making a product that is recyclable – the skateboard decks,” said Bureo CEO David Stover.

Bill Browning (A): I love what you guys are doing with the nets. A fishing net, even after it is discarded, is still catching things; it is still having negative ecological impact. Besides the fact that it is trash and it is material out of place, nets don’t stop catching and killing things. Removing these out of the ecosystem and recycling that fiber is really beneficial for those places.

Lindsay James (Q): Bill, you and I were having a conversation recently on this topic. If every business embraced restorative potential, not just at this macro scale, but also at the individual impact level when talking about biophilic design, do you think that there is some potential to cultivate a shift in awareness for building occupants?

Bill Browning (A): “Connection to Nature” is one of our 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design. It’s sometimes the hardest to explain because it’s not like “Prospect.” This is about how we, in our design, do things that make people aware of the processes and things going on around them.

For example our sister firm, CookFox Architects in New York, installed a 4,000 square foot green roof right outside the windows of the studio that can be seen from almost any desk in the work space. It was originally planted with Sedums and now has some native grass. When we put it in, it was beautiful, But it was beautiful in a way that people thought of as decorative. Then we started seeing insects and dragonflies hunting the insects, and birds chasing the insects. A pair of Kestrels (sparrow hawks) took up the roof as part of their hunting territory. One day a Kestrel killed a bird right in front of the windows and ate it. Some people were horrified; some were spellbound. But it got everybody’s attention and it shifted the whole culture of our relationship to that roof. People suddenly realized that this was not just decorative, it was a functioning ecosystem right outside. That led to people becoming much more engaged, so we ended up putting in a big vegetable garden and kept bees out there as well. It went from being a place of simple restorative effect to a place of deep engagement.


Photo: ©COOKFOX Architects

The team I work with at Google has said publicly that this “Connection to Nature” pattern might be the most important one of all.

Lindsay James: It reminds me of the Rachel Carson quote, “The more clearly we focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

More Q&A to follow in Part 2.

About the Panelists
David Stover is a global citizen. He is the CEO and co-founder of Bureo, a skateboard company. Bureo recycles used fishing net into high-quality, high-design skateboards. David holds a Bachelor of Science and Mechanical Engineering and has a background in financial analysis. He grew up in a small island community and that is where he attributes his love for the ocean.

Bill Browning is an advocate for sustainable design solutions at all levels of business as well as government and civil society. His organization, Terrapin Bright Green, has brought biophilic design into the spotlight with their research and practice. They are also leaders in bringing biometric solutions to the forefront.  Bill has been a long time advisor of Interface, serving on our eco-green team and advising our sustainability journey for nearly two decades.

Posted in Category Biophilia, Biophilic Design, NeoCon, Net Works, Sustainability | Leave a comment

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Beautiful Spaces Inspire Beautiful Thinking. It’s Human Nature.

Day One of NeoCon 2014: The unveiling of our Human Nature™ Collection at our showroom in the Merchandise Mart and at our permanent Chicago showroom on North Wells Street.

In designing our showrooms, we built upon our belief that beautiful ideas are inspired by beautiful surroundings. Using our latest carpet tile collection, Human Nature, we created a space built by humans through imagination, a creative element that separates us from other species.

We believe that in these challenging times we need more creative and systemic thought applied to the biggest problems facing the globe. And while nature is a great teacher, it’s not a short-term engagement. The more we internalize the idea of natural inspiration, the more sophisticated the result becomes. We at Interface hope to stimulate such inspiration and contribute to a more sensory environment.

For those who can’t be at NeoCon with us, we want to bring you an inside look at our spaces at NeoCon 2014.

Sensory Stimulation through a high degree of tactility not only feels good, but in proper proportions is also a significant contributor to a healthier environment.

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Natural Variance is non-predictable change in an organic way. It’s more than a pile of pebbles or a field of grass. An irregular, asymmetrical path through a space clearly demonstrates a biomimetic influence. With its skinny plank format and textural shifts, the Human Nature Collection offers a multitude of design options. Use one product alone in a seamless installation or mix products and colors to create unique designs that fire the imagination.

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Man as a Part of Nature, Not Apart from Nature. How would Nature design a floor? More importantly, how should humans think about designing “floors” that mimic a natural system? Not just looking like a natural material but moving like one. At Interface we believe that working in spaces that are a designed, abstracted interpretation of nature can stimulate our senses–and thus what we create–in the same way that nature does.

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“I love how your product is always one with nature, which stays true to Ray’s vision.”
– Rose Tourje, founder and president of Anew



Learn more about Human Nature, or stop by during NeoCon June 9-11 | 9 am – 5 pm | Merchandise Mart Suite 10-136 & our permanent showroom across the street at 345 North Wells Street, 3rd Floor.


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What is Human Nature? A Beautiful Foundation for Beautiful Thinking.

In a world that never sleeps—where information always flows, boundaries blur, transparency reigns and the sound of silence ceases to exist—our instincts prompt us back to nature, with its subtle yet clear cues on how best to live and work.

Look around at the natural world around you and what do you see? What do you feel?

Perhaps it’s a bright beam of the sun as it rises, or the ombre-indigo hue of the sky as this same sun sets, naturally inspiring us to speed up or slow down. Or maybe it’s a rolling, open meadow as an ideal setting for groups of people to gather.

Possibly a quiet respite, or an intimate space perfect for private reflection, or the boundless ocean with views as vast as the sky where our creative imagination can soar.


Whatever aspect of Nature this might be, it will resonate with some inner, unseen aspect of our own human nature, allowing our internal rhythms to become in harmony with the organic environment we see, hear, smell and touch.

When seeking inspiration we always ask “how would nature create an interior floor?” We don’t believe it would be exclusively made up of hard surfaces such as wood, bamboo or stone. We also don’t believe it would be uniform in any manner. Instead, it would be variable, composed of soft, hard or mixed materials.

It wouldn’t be nature growing wild and unruly to overtake interior space, and man wouldn’t be controlling natural elements. These two must co-exist—humans and nature together. And it’s important to note there is noise in nature but also a calming silence.

It’s our nature to dream.
To build. To play.
To aspire.
To adapt.
To look toward the sky.

As our limits continually stretch in a world that seemingly becomes smaller, people working round the clock and around the globe will invariably seek a primordial sense of alignment with nature to feel at home and at ease in their environs.

Shape-shifting times call for inspired spaces that enable us to be connected, yet distinct, like colors in a rainbow. Spaces that reflect our ability to adapt and bend and flex to meet today’s constant changes assure our ability to survive and thrive.

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And if such surroundings can at once communicate the subtlety and richness of nature, yet change and evolve as we do, they bring out the very best in our complex and glorious human nature.

Want to learn more about Human Nature? Visit us during NeoCon in Chicago June 9-11 | 9 am – 5 pm | Merchandise Mart Suite 10-136 & our permanent showroom across the street at 345 North Wells Street, 3rd Floor


Learn more about Human Nature.   facebook_web   instagram_web   twitter_web

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Beautiful Thinking

Mikhail Davis

Our design reveals our assumptions. 

Since the Industrial Revolution, many of our designs have assumed we live in a world of unlimited natural resources and a belief that our fate is completely independent from that of the rest of life on Earth.
It is not.

Our assumptions have consequences. 

Designing as if we’re the only species that matters and that Nature has value only as an endless source of raw materials has left us facing global challenges.

While some of us see a temporary reprieve from these consequences, an ever-growing population feels impacts every day as they struggle to make a living from our overburdened land and water.

But dwelling on disturbing trends, and concern for our collective future, will stop humanity from tapping into connected creativity. Fear may help us survive but doesn’t always encourage creativity.


How can we create conditions for breakthrough innovations to address our world’s greatest challenges?

Being a Part of Nature. Not Apart from Nature.

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It’s inherent as a species that we seek to solve problems but first we must reconnect to the source of our creativity; the living world around us in which we first learned to invent, our ultimate mentor for sustainable design.

Biophilic design reminds us we’re more healthy, productive and creative when surrounded by Nature.

What if the power of our evolutionary connection with Nature holds the key to unlocking a new wave of human ingenuity? 

Neuroscience and architectural research are converging, informing us that we need to create spaces that tap our connection to Nature to bring out the best in humanity.

What would we design if we worked in spaces that reminded us of our connection to the living world of Nature? How would our assumptions change? What would the world look like if we were more interconnected with the vitality of all living systems on planet Earth? 

At Interface, we choose to find sustainable solutions to questions like these collaboratively amongst ourselves, and with others. We call this approach Co-Innovation—and we see it as an open invitation to all to join us in thinking beautifully.

Join us in the next month as we explore our connections to nature, and the beautiful thinking it creates.  And visit us on our social channels leading up to, during and post NeoCon. #IFinHumanNature   facebook_web   instagram_web   twitter_web

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