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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Q&A with Kari Pei, Global Product Designer for Interface

Interface

Kari_Pei_2_blogWe recently welcomed Kari Pei, recognized design leader in the textile industry, as Interface’s new global product designer. She will work closely with our internal product design and development teams as well as sustainability leader David Oakey Designs.

Kari is equally at home in the design studio and on the factory floor. Her extensive resume includes work with globally celebrated fashion houses, manufacturers and hospitality brands such as Starwood Hotels, MGM Resorts International, Knoll, Wolf Gordon, Maharam and Jhane Barnes.

Her passion for sustainability coupled with her design expertise and insight made her the perfect choice for this new role. Even though she’s just settled in, she graciously answered some questions so that you can get to know her better. We can’t wait to see her work come to life on the floor!

1. Where are you finding your inspiration right now?
Currently, Interface’s focus on social sustainability is the genesis of my inspiration. The Net-Works program really brought gravity to our idea of social sustainability. But, in thinking about social sustainability, ideas about commonality among people begin to come to mind. I am struck by the simplicity and universality in textiles from around the world and from a large span of ages. The mark making and patterning from 10th century Korea to 19th century Central America have a common language. Therefore, people come together and seem much more similar than different. In a way, that is a kind of social sustainability we create by using a common dialogue through craft. Incorporating the suggestion of “craft” into design gives a reference to that common language, which I find very inspiring.

2. How does flooring set the tone for the design of a space?
Flooring establishes the hierarchy of the space. It can suggest area designation and delineation. It can soften, harden, calm or activate a space by the change in color, scale, texture and pattern. Flooring informs the use of a space; i.e., for task seating, wayfinding or socializing.

3. What three favorite trends are you seeing right now?
Painterly effects, varied, textured effects and biophilic-inspired patterns

4. What is your favorite place?
In my life, it is in the hammock of our family house in Katonah, NY, gently swinging while listening to the cacophony of sound made by the wind rustling through the leaves. In the world, it is anywhere I learn about culture.

5. What is your “must have” design tool?
Pencil and paper or Photoshop

6. What trends are you seeing in the hospitality industry?
The trend I see in hospitality is “uniqueness.” Every hotel wants each of their projects to be considered “unique” in its place in the world. They each have to offer something that is individualistic to that particular hotel so it is memorable and people return to it in order to experience it again.

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Can we identify “healthy” products? Three essential questions to ask manufacturers

Mikhail Davis

What’s hot in green building right now? No, global warming isn’t hot, despite growing alarm about extreme weather events. What’s hot is health. Specifically anything related to the potential health impacts of building products.

The rise of the WELL Building Standard and the addition of a day-long Materials and Human Health Summit to Greenbuild provide two data points supporting this overall trend. Despite growing interest and a host of new tools, the expansion of the health trend beyond simplistic building material “Red Lists”, and into more comprehensive, transparency-based material assessments, is still in its infancy. Many architecture and design firms aspire to do material health screenings, but lack the technical expertise or established processes to consistently add this element to their already-strained project budgets.

As a frequent speaker on this topic, including both Greenbuild Materials and Human Health Summits, I offer three questions that need to be considered as firms begin to engage manufacturers in an effort to identify “healthy” products.

What’s in your product?
This question forms the foundation for understanding what possible health issues a product might present when used in a building. Many new tools are being developed to help manufacturers disclose ingredients in a consistent way. But even the confusingly-named Health Product Declaration (HPD) format doesn’t actually tell you whether a product is healthy – it just tells you the ingredients. Many of the tools like HPD aspire to become as standardized and broadly used as the Nutrition Facts Label we find on packaged foods, but the fact that a box of cookies discloses their Nutrition Facts does not make them healthy. It does, however, allow for more informed choices about what you buy, which is the true value of standardizing transparency.

What comes out of your product?
This is an important question because many building product ingredients, if you gargled with them every day, would seriously damage your health. Yet the vast majority of these ingredients are used in such a way that there is no foreseeable way for a user to be exposed to them. This is the big difference between ingredients in a building product and ingredients on a Nutrition Facts Label; for a Nutrition Fact Label, exposure is a given (or what’s the point?).

Nutrition facts of raw asparagus

The big difference between ingredients in a building product and ingredients on a Nutrition Facts Label? On a Nutrition Fact Label, exposure is a given.

The question of likelihood of exposure to ingredients in plastics and other building materials is fraught with technical questions that live in the complex world of toxicology and risk assessment, so I would like to offer a common-sense alternative:  focus your analysis on materials that (1) release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) or (2) receive heavy wear and abrasion during use.

VOCs, by nature, are emitted from the product, so some level of exposure is guaranteed. Anything you smell is releasing VOCs into your nose, ranging from the wholesome and harmless (fresh baked bread) to the carcinogenic (formaldehyde). Fortunately, green building standards, with help from the California Department of Public Health, have now standardized tests for the most worrisome common VOCs released from interiors products. Numerous industry standards (e.g., Green Label Plus for carpet, FloorScore for hard surface) are harmonized to the strict California standards (CA 01350), so finding low-offgassing products has become as easy as looking for the right certification.

The second category, chemicals used in high-touch surfaces, becomes more complex because exposure only occurs over time and only under the right conditions, usually when repeated washing and abrasion of surfaces causes ingredients to migrate out and end up in dust. The most famous recent example of this is highly toxic and persistent flame-retardants migrating out of furniture and electronics over time. While some potentially hazardous chemicals break down quickly outside the product, usually broken down by microbes, others are highly persistent (no critter yet seems to have acquired a taste for polybrominated flame retardants) and accumulate in the environment over time.

In carpet, the high-touch surface is the face fiber, usually nylon, which is often coated with a stain and soil resistant chemistry based on perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). Due to the toxicity of some members of this chemical family and the persistence in the environment of all PFCs, they were recently added to the Living Building Challenge Red List. Increasingly, premium brands of carpet yarn are moving to integrally stain resistant nylon that requires no coatings that can wear off over time. Interface Americas received an award from Environmental Building News in 2011 for producing the first PFC-free carpet tile platforms and is PFC-free in all products.

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Interface Americas is PFC-free in all products.

How is your product made?
Finally, health impacts that might affect the end users of a product are but a small piece of the healthy product puzzle. Many of the worst health impacts associated with the life cycle of a product happen far from the comparative tranquility of a school or office environment. Exposure occurs in the mines, oil and gas drilling operations, chemical refineries and plastic factories that supply the raw materials that ultimately make up the products we manufacture. Plastic products traditionally come from chemicals derived from oil, gas, and coal as well as from mined mineral fillers. The air and water pollution associated with resource extraction and refining are typically thought of as environmental impacts, but for the people who live and work nearby, they are definitely health issues. Is a Red List Free product still a “healthy” product if its ingredients come from natural gas fracking that left the local water supply tainted by heavy metals and petrochemicals?

At Interface, we see increasing recycled content and end-of-life recycling as the only viable solution to the many systemic pollution issues associated with the lifecycle of products made from oil, gas, and mineral resources. When a product comes from 80% recycled content, it allows us to know we’re doing our part to address the effect industrial operations have on their surrounding communities.

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When a product comes from 80% recycled content, like our Net Effect™ Collection, we know we’re doing our part to address the effect industrial operations have on their surrounding communities.

Staying out of the fear trap
The way most of the discussion of healthy buildings is going, we are quite focused on eliminating the negative impacts building products might have on our health. But we also know that becoming chronically stressed, in this case about all the toxic chemicals in the world, is not good for your health. The challenge is to find your own “Goldilocks” level of worrying that keeps you motivated to change our industrial system without living in constant fear.

I find that it helps to spend equal time on the positive side of the health equation, investigating all the ways interiors products can be designed to help enhance building occupants’ well-being, boost their productivity, and ameliorate their stress levels. So when thinking about toxic chemicals has you down, I recommend picking up Terrapin Bright Green’s new report “The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design,” and pondering all the ways interior products and designs could help people feel as healthy and productive as when they are outdoors. Because after all, designing products that won’t expose you to toxic chemicals is truly only the beginning of the exciting work of designing spaces conducive to health and happiness.

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Part of Nature, Not Apart from Nature

Interface

Our offices can be more than spaces to work. They can actually work for us at a deeply biological level. We know that exposure to nature and spaces that are evocative of nature can help renew our bodies and our minds. Our brains and bodies evolved over tens of thousands of years without buildings, and research indicates that we are at our best when we can recreate physical and psychological reminders of our most ancient home, Earth.

(C) J. Albert Gagnier

Photography: J. Albert Gagnier

Biophilia is at the heart of these realizations – the innate, biological desire and need humans have to connect with other living organisms and the natural world in its entirety. Literally, it means life-loving. According to Dr. Judith Heerwagen, “contact with nature is a basic human need – not a cultural amenity, not an individual preference, but a universal primary need. Just as we need healthy food and regular exercise to flourish, we need ongoing connections with the natural world.”

In fact, we are nature. Interface’s founder, Ray Anderson, often reminded us, “Anything we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves.” Biophilic design holds the promise of embedding this reminder — that we are a part of the web of life and not apart from it — in every space we create.

RESOURCES

Human Spaces

“14 Patterns of Biophilic Design: Improving Health and Wellness in the Built Environment”
by Terrapin Bright Green

“The Economics of Biophilia: Why designing with nature in mind makes financial sense” by Terrapin Bright Green

“Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life” film by Tamarak Media

WELL Building Standard

“Biophilia and innovation: Can changing your view change your worldview?” by Lindsay James

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

Documenting a Legend

Leanne Robinson-Maine

Environmental leadership documentary So Right So Smart is airing on Public Broadcasting Stations (PBS) in the US during 2015. Interface asked the makers of the film to tell us a little bit about the film’s origin.

“How and why did you decide to embark upon this filmmaking venture?”

MagicWig’s Leanne Robinson-Maine responds:

In simple terms, the answer to that question is a question: “How could we be in the video and filmmaking industry and NOT find a way to document and share with the world the inspiring story unfolding before our eyes?”

MagicWig Productions, Inc. has had a longstanding relationship with Interface as a client. Our founders have been producing meetings and videos for Interface, Inc. since 1995, right after Ray Anderson’s “Spear in the Chest” epiphany. We got to see first hand the changes that the company went through under Ray’s leadership: the initial reactions that “Ray had gone around the bend,” the growing pains involved in changing the culture, the steady embedding of sustainability into Interface’s DNA, and the emergence of a restorative mission for the company. And we have it all on tape. So, we were in a perfect position to use all of that archival footage to share Interface’s inspiring story of transformation with the world.

SRSS Filming Ray Anderson on his porch.

The crew (Justin Maine, Leanne Robinson-Maine and Christopher Haines) interviewing Ray Anderson in 2007 at his North Carolina home. Photo credit: Stephen Ross

At MagicWig we have been cheering for Interface from the sidelines all this time.  We watched in awe as Ray steered his “well oiled” carpet tile manufacturing giant, his third child, toward a completely new and revolutionary goal—one with environmental ethics that really resonated with us. In fact, Guy Noerr, one of the co-founders of our company, has always referred to Ray as “his personal Mickey Mantle”—a legend in his time and Guy’s true hero. And it was Guy who originally proposed to the MagicWig partners that we embark on this “passion project”, producing a full length feature documentary about Ray.

Co-founder Justin Maine, who heads up our video department, responded with the thought that although Ray’s story should be the central character arc of the film, we should explore a wider scope. Ray was a pioneer in his industry—a visionary. But even more interesting was how, with his almost evangelical outreach, Ray held up Interface as an experimental model to inspire other organizations. And the story of Interface’s eco-industrial leadership would be even more powerful when shown in the context of the greater environmental sustainability movement.

The MagicWig team agreed and decided Justin should direct the film. Soon afterward, they brought me on as a writer/producer on the project, and pre-production began. After a period of extensive research, we developed a list of the key parties we were interested in interviewing, from environmental advocates like Paul Hawken and David Suzuki to leaders of a host of other businesses at various stages in sustainability journeys. We wanted to put our finger on the pulse of the corporate sustainability movement from as many perspectives as possible. The list grew as we learned more in each interview and had new questions.

SRSS Story Cards

“The Board” was our visual reference for arranging scenes and topics throughout the editing process.

After two years of traveling around the country during the production phase, we had collected more than 60 interviews and over 350 hours of footage. Trying to decide what went into the film (when there was so much incredible content) was a big challenge and a long process of integrating multiple creative viewpoints (which is how we ultimately ended up with four directors!). Along the way we scripted narration to provide a through-line for all of the different topics covered in the film. Serendipity led us to Daryl Hannah, who turned out to be a huge fan of Ray Anderson. The rest is history. From pre- to post-production, the film took about four years to complete.

So Right So Smart had its world premiere at the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival in January 2009 where it won Best in Festival.  It had its international debut at Reel Earth New Zealand where it won Best Feature. The film has played at over 30 festivals across the globe, has had a limited theatrical release in several US cities, and is currently being broadcast on PBS stations across the country throughout 2015.

SRSS Directors and Star

The four Directors (Leanne Robinson-Maine, Guy Noerr, Justin Maine and Michael Swantek) with Ray Anderson at the Atlanta Film Festival.

We hear so many wonderful responses to the film. Most of them include the sentiment that Ray Anderson, sharing his story the way only Ray could, was critical to their experience of the film and their receptiveness to its message. We like to think that So Right So Smart is continuing the outreach that Ray saw as his mission: using his amazingly magnetic, charismatic personality to engage people and then showing them a living example of change and hope for a more restorative future. We are honored to be able to take a supporting role in sharing the story that we have been so lucky to witness first hand.

To watch the film in your city, visit the film’s website to find the broadcast date for your local PBS channel.

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