Interface’s treasured Octogenarian reflects on the meaning of International Women’s Day, March 8

Nadine Gudz

In honor of International Women’s Day, cherished author, great grandmother and Interface’s culture coach, Marj Barlow shares her insight with us on leadership, change and freedom. Her holistic approach to human development and leadership inspires teams and organizations to cultivate healthy cultures based on recognizing individual strengths. This is “base camp” if you will – the foundation for Interface’s climb up “Mount Sustainability.”

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

I was born in 1929 when women were limited in career choices. I never questioned that my destiny would be to act out the roles of wife, mother, and possibly teacher, secretary, or nurse.  Wife and mother were paramount roles for me.  College degrees were sort of an insurance in case we didn’t marry well.  I chose a degree in business because I thought I might like to be a secretary since they could “dress up.”  My world changed in my mid-thirties when I was widowed and left with 4 young children. Imagine how it was for me to lose my husband, his degrees, his income, and his partnership.  That was when I began to comprehend myself as a whole human being, not just someone playing a role.  You might say I became a grown-up human being. I was an independent woman as well as a mother. I was the bread winner.

Women's Vision Quest - Serenbe

This day of recognition for women helps me realize that, in that mid-thirties crisis, I gave myself the liberty to be/do/and have all that I could create.  Today, I meet women of the next generation who were born knowing that kind of freedom. Times have changed! These are the Possible Women of the future and I invite them to create a future that wants to emerge. Women have natural abilities born of centuries of being disenfranchised. We developed our multi-tasking talent, our way of doing business in circles rather than pyramids, and our capacity for caring and compassion—all born of centuries of being the one who stayed home while men went to war. Today, in 2014, we are choosing to lead and become fully empowered members of the human race in equal partnership with men. The good news for our beloved males is that it gives them the freedom to become fully human also! Men no longer have to carry the whole load of leadership. We can share in partnership, using the best talents of both genders!

The theme of International Women’s Day in 2014 is “Inspire Change.”  What does this theme mean for Interface as a company? 

Ray Anderson_Man of the Year 2005

My experience with Interface has seen the growth and development of leadership, especially from women employees. Joyce LaValle was my colleague and we had many discussions about the development of women in leadership roles. She was a great role model for women at Interface. It was Joyce who handed the book, “The Ecology of Commerce,” to Ray Anderson before his epiphany. I celebrate the changes women are making today and am hopeful that future generations will experience true parity, creating a new “partnership way.”

Drawing from the spirit and legacy of Interface founder Ray Anderson, how does Interface cultivate a progressive corporate culture?

In Ray’s first book, he spoke of women as the best source for implementing his “sixth face” of the climb up Mt. Sustainability. He actually said women are better equipped to bring forth the sensitivity hookup.

Legacy Project in San Francisco

Can you tell us about your role at Interface and share your perspective on the company’s evolution during your partnership?

I have worked for Interface as a consultant in the role of relationship coach since 1996. Watching the growth and development of many individuals has been my great privilege. We have built the foundation for a Strengths-based culture and that includes all the talent, male and female. 

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Interface teams with the Buckminster Fuller Institute and PITCHAfrica to bring water to a thirsty world, one school at a time.

Amy Milshtein

Water is a basic human need. Yet according to Unicef, 768 million people globally do not have access to a safe, clean source. While other organizations put that number higher (some say a billion people, or one in seven) all watchdog groups agree that water scarcity is a growing global problem. Designers David Turnbull and Jane Harrison of PITCHAfrica answer back with their Waterbank School. Lauded as the Greenest School on Earth by USGBC, the design recently received recognition and awards from the Buckminster Fuller Institute and Interface.

“Water insecurity brings myriad issues with it, from poor nutrition and health to gender inequality and the threat of conflict,” says David Turnbull, professor of architecture at New York’s The Cooper Union, and design director for PITCHAfrica. Such is the case in arid swaths of Africa where people face two choices: Drink from contaminated rivers or draw from bored wells. Well water seems the obvious choice at first, but this technology presents its own problems. Sixty percent of boreholes break within the first two years and there aren’t enough engineers available to service them. Even when they work, the water is often too saline or outright toxic, containing 200 times more than the acceptable level of fluoride.

This insecurity brings a social cost as well. Foraging for water is considered girls’ work, which keeps young women out of school. Neighboring tribes often fight over clean water but any victory is temporary, as groundwater remains a finite resource.


The first Waterbank School’s underground reservoir fills with approx. 150,000 liters of water, which is filtered and held in a tank that provides drinking water.

PITCHAfrica suggests a new paradigm, one that harvests rain while educating people. “Traditional building types are designed to shed water,” explains Jane Harrison, executive director, PITCHAfrica. The former Princeton professor of design feels this is a waste of the nearly two feet of water that falls on semi-arid Africa over the course of a year. “What if a building could harvest, filter and store that water?”

The first Waterbank School in Laikipia, Kenya, does just that. During two rainy seasons the school’s underground reservoir fills with approximately 150,000 liters of water. That water is filtered and pumped to a holding tank with a spigot to provide drinking water on demand.  The 60-student, barracks-style Waterbank School costs $60,000 to build, about the same cost as a traditional schoolhouse.


Jane Harrison (bottom left) and David Turnbull (bottom right) on site in Kenya with the Waterbank School design and construction team.

PITCHAfrica’s ultimate goal is to create water independence. “We don’t want to lock up the knowledge in the building,” says Harrison. To that end the school acts as a community center and teaching tool. “Students see and hear the rain falling and watch it fill the tank when they pump it,” says Turnbull. Each of the four classrooms looks out onto a community garden that is irrigated with grey water from hand washing. A perimeter wall protects the crops from wildlife while a central courtyard serves as a theater.

PITCHAfrica Image_web2

PITCHAfrica’s scalable approach includes sports fields (aka Pitches) that can bring safe water to whole communities. This pitch holds 1.5 million liters of water.

But that is only the beginning according to Turnbull. “To develop rainwater harvesting further you need to provide a variety of tools at different price points to communities with different levels of need,” he insists. PITCHAfrica’s scalable approach includes repurposed military parachutes (called rainchutes) that for a few dollars provide water to a single family, to high-yield rainwater harvesting dorms, latrines and sports fields (aka Pitches) that can bring safe water to whole communities. The team’s flagship project PITCHKenya, will house international soccer star Samuel Eto’s SoccerAcademy and features a pitch that holds 1.5 million liters of water.

While Harrison and Turnbull presently focus on Africa because the need is palpable, they acknowledge that Waterbank technology could easily be adapted anywhere, provided they aren’t hampered by restrictions. “We did a small scale Waterbank in Palm Springs to prove we could,” says Harrison, “but innovations take longer in our culture.”

The pair is heartened by changes in Western attitudes about the viability of rainwater harvesting. “Five years ago the idea of using rain as a potable supply was out of the question,” says Turnbull. Perhaps the Living Building Challenge was a catalyst for the change. Winner of last year’s Buckminster Fuller award, the Living Building Challenge demands that a structure capture and reuse 100% of its potable water. To date a handful of buildings have met that challenge, and more are in the pipeline.

Because of its innovation and simplicity, the Waterbank School was a finalist in the prestigious Buckminster Fuller Challenge, sponsored by Interface in 2013. Waterbank didn’t win the Challenge—that honor went to Ecovative, a company that turns mushrooms into a replacement for Styrofoam – but Interface chose to give a second award and grant to PITCHAfrica and the Waterbank School project.


Each classroom looks out onto a community garden that is irrigated with grey water from hand washing while a central courtyard serves as a theater.

Interface’s partnership with BFI honors the synergies between the profoundly relevant legacies of its founder Ray Anderson and Buckminster Fuller. “We are thrilled to have an additional entrant recognized and supported in this year’s Challenge,” says Elizabeth Thompson, BFI’s executive director, “Our mission is to support as many whole-systems approaches as we can, and Interface joined us as dedicated contributors in the field.” Interface will work with Waterbank School to determine how to best leverage the company’s expertise in support of the groundbreaking project’s growth over a six-month period of time.

“The Waterbank School’s simple design is an elegant and practical way of addressing sanitation, health, and education,” said Dan Hendrix, chairman and CEO of Interface, Inc. “As Ray Anderson would have said, it is so right, so smart. Turning business as usual on its head is something we at Interface not only applaud, but attempt to practice. We’re pleased to support Waterbank School by providing funding and access to experts who will help them expand Waterbank Schools throughout the developing world.”

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Designing Outside the Box

Gretchen Wagner

In today’s fast paced world everyone is looking for the most creative solutions for their design needs, but no one is willing to sacrifice simplicity and efficiency, and why should they?

Design is about unpredictability and reaching outside the metaphorical “box” to find solutions that are both accessible and digestible. Designing outside the box is what we do every day here at Interface, and our unique ability to provide modules that mathematically fit together enables us to mix not only colorways and patterns, but module sizes as well, to create beautiful and efficient composite floors.

For a while now we’ve been experimenting with mixing skinny planks and squares to blend together coordinating products and colors in unexpected ways. No surprises there, Interface strives to go beyond expectations to the point of inspiration.


The composite rug above, with its intricate tile placement, is no exception. Many times the design process will stop once a beautiful outcome is achieved. Stopping here is still thinking inside the box. So, this is when we try something new to step out on a creative limb and evolve the concept even further.


The result, an inspiring area rug that literally pushes the boundaries, combining multiple styles and colors in a mashup straight from design heaven. Not only do these modules fit together with perfect precision and composition, but when it’s time to trim all the tiles and make a perfect rectangle, we say, “Just leave it.” In doing so, we have ventured into an unprecedented territory that yields a new and fashionable way to cure all those boring boxed edges without the cut tiles.

Featured in this rug are some of Interface’s latest editions to our ever expanding product family. The compilation ranges from the luxurious skinny planks of the POSH Collection to the weathered feel of Reclaim, all the way to accent stripes in our classic Platform companions to FLOR and beyond. Whether it be the citrus greens, indigo blues or cool neutrals, this palette is sure to have something for everyone.

Straight lines and clean edges are so passé. Design outside of the box and you’ll find a flooring solution that is so beautiful, you’ll rethink modular. We did.

Inspirational Images
From Top Left: Ruffled FeathersShiboriOilPeacockOceanPeacock DetailSpider Web TurquoiseMossWater Reflection


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Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Snow Can Keep Us From Leaving a Legacy

Melissa Vernon

Over 300 Interface associates from North and South America, as well as a handful from Europe and Asia, gathered in Atlanta last week for our annual sales meeting. With a theme of “Get Smart” we embarked on three days of learning, sharing, and reconnecting.

Sunday evening kicked off celebrating the recent retirement of a 38 year veteran of Interface. Stories were told of where we came from, why we are here, and of the richness of our cultural past. Monday we explored who we are, when we are at our best, and in the “post-Ray” era, we reminded ourselves that “leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”.

Thankfully, we have a long history of discussing biomimicry and links to business; therefore, the theme of resiliency was not unfamiliar as we stared at our smart phones Monday morning and saw predictions of snow flurries in Atlanta approaching in less than 48 hours. By Monday afternoon our original agenda was scrapped and Plan B was put into action, rebooking 175 flights from Wednesday to Tuesday and condensing two half-day sessions into one. One vital piece could not be fully salvaged from the weather wreckage – our Legacy Projects. Launched in 2005, Legacy Projects allow us to turn our bold mission and vision into tangible actions, personal connections, and real emotions.

The original plan, spending Tuesday afternoon out in the local community with 12 impactful organizations, making a difference and embodying our sense of purpose and higher mission, was derailed. Instead, hundreds fled for the airport and their local homes, trying to beat the storm. Nine Legacy Projects were immediately cancelled.

A determined group of 25 (representing Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, England, Canada, and the U.S.) quickly volunteered to salvage three projects – City of Refuge, Feed My Lambs preschool, and Solidarity School.

Atlanta Public Schools were closed and a hundred kids at City of Refuge were in need of playmates. These children come from families living in crisis, transition, and on the margins. We played basketball, ran in the gym, did arts and crafts using repurposed cardboard tubes from the carpet mill, read stories, and installed carpet in the library and volunteer greeting area.

Photo Feb 19, 10 41 21 PM_web3

Top Left: Mary Anne Lanier and her reading buddy. / Top Right: Jacob Roth, Interface videographer, inspired future filmmakers. / Bottom: Charley Knight vs. 6 basketball stars

Emergency plans were quickly put into place to ensure that two preschools slated to receive new carpet would indeed get their carpet on time and be able to open their doors to the kids once the weather cleared.

Feed My Lambs preschool, located within City of Refuge, serves children of homeless families and those in transition living onsite. Their old carpet had been removed days earlier and the kids couldn’t go back to school until we installed their new carpet. With all of our employees either at the sales meeting or departing on flights, we quickly found a professional installation crew to arrive with just a few hours notice. Students from nearby Morehouse College volunteered to move the furniture out and back in to the classrooms. Although we were able to get the carpet installed on time, we missed getting to have a picnic and dance and play together with the little kids.


Left: Jaime & Mary Anne Lanier created area rug insets. Right: Teaching the teacher how to install carpet.


What a change from ‘brown and boring’ carpet to bright and cheerful.




Feed My Lambs with hearts

They sent us a thank you and thumbs up for the new carpet.

Lastly, we visited the Solidarity School, a preschool for low income kids from a Hispanic neighborhood north of Atlanta. The carpet in their library had been removed days earlier and a flood in early January left a classroom with a bare floor. With kids unable to occupy these rooms until new carpet arrived, we quickly found a crew to install their carpet on Tuesday morning.  Pieter Van der Toorn, President InterfaceSERVICES, supervised and enjoyed eating lunch with the grateful little kids.


Our planning efforts were not completely lost. Captain Planet Foundation found another group of volunteers to plant the 40+ fruit trees at a community garden, and parents will assemble the garden at Gideons Elementary School.  An Interface team will paint mural with patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Egleston in March. Employees are eager to reschedule projects with Trees Atlanta, Lifecycle Building Center, Ronald McDonald House, Open Hand, and installing carpet at Perkerson Elementary School.

With what should have been our 9th year of doing legacy projects, our employees left the meeting without the rush of endorphins from making a small difference in the lives of kids growing up in poverty, working side by side with senior management sorting donations, creating stories to be retold for years, and being reminded of all that we have to be grateful for in this world.

But Interface demonstrated that we can adapt in the face of change and bounce back.  Legacy Projects create the conditions conducive to build culture, to inspire passion, and to leave the world a better place.

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Less pattern, more texture

Taking a cue from residential, many of our latest products offer a neutral palette of soft greys, earthy greens and browns, and buttery creams in a more textured face to foster the home like feel so appealing in a variety of commercial and, of course, living spaces.

Our favorite skinny plank shows up in a variety of iterations, including a take on the trend of distressed, natural finishes and the look of highly textured broadloom. And our latest addition of companions for our popular Platform style offer subtle to bold hints of linear pattern and color.


We’ve found beauty in salvaged things, like weathered clapboard and rare, old-growth wood planks. Likewise, Reclaim draws from the beauty of reclaimed, painted wood with layers of texture and hue in each of the 8 colorways—all offered in our unique 25cm x 1m skinny plank format.

Harmonize™ & Ground Waves™


Harmonize and Ground Waves, i2® styles in our 25cm x 1m skinny plank, combine to create a pitch-perfect look. Harmonize blends just the right notes of color, contrast and texture while Ground Waves introduces two different accent bands that present in a varied frequency, making each tile seem unique.

POSH™ Collection


Inspired by the Port Out, Starboard Home acronym of early 20th century travelers, the Posh Collection’s two 25cm x 1m skinny planks offer shades of buttery neutrals, warm greys and deep blues. The intricately carved SH901™ mingles two shades within a hue while companion PO801™ softens the texture and separates each shade into a stand-alone piece.

Main Line™, Sidetrack™ and Platform™


Platform, Main Line and Sidetrack are linked together like cars on a train – three different vehicles moving in the same direction. With a shared palette and common construction, Platform is the timeless texture upon which Sidetrack introduces three distinctly placed accent threads. Main Line blends those same accents throughout the otherwise neutral yarns.

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