Last month marked the 53rd anniversary of NeoCon, and amid heightened anticipation of broad attendance following the pandemic, the designers at Interface took on a novel approach to the company’s showroom design that made it one of the must-see presentations during this year’s trade show.
Nature as a Muse
Relying on its longstanding emphasis on the connection between people and nature as inspiration, the designers’ innovative showroom concept showcased a theme that Interface defined as “Nature Works,” which aptly reflected the biophilic-inspired designs of the company’s two main introductions – Beaumont Range™ and Fresco Valley™. These complementary collections of modular carpet tile and LVT are designed to work beautifully together, apart, or integrated with the company’s other flooring options.
“Just as nature was the inspiration for the product, it was also the foundation for our showroom design,” says Jacob Martinson, lead concept designer for Interface, who oversaw the floor design in Interface’s Chicago showroom across the street from the MART. “We wanted people to feel like they were on a journey through a natural setting with vistas like they’d encounter outdoors.”
To achieve this, the design team emulated mountain and prairie landscapes within the showroom, integrating biophilic design principles throughout the built space using sight, sound, touch, and smell, as well as flooring applications, textures, and patterns.
This unique approach enabled the showroom design team to create a layered sensory experience that let visitors feel immersed in an alternative visual landscape and allowed them to appreciate the flooring in a fresh and evocative new way.
“Our installations at NeoCon can be challenging because they’re like a runway event, a fashion moment, that gives us a chance to make an impactful impression,” says Katherine Cohen, manager of visual merchandising and photography for Interface, who oversaw the furniture selection and styling for this year’s multifaceted show space.
In keeping with this notion, the designers chose to create a subtle sense of theater in the space. The centerpiece of the showroom design revolved around a winding path that wended its way through pockets of dried prairie grasses and brought the nature theme to life. “We wanted to make the space feel like a meadow, an extension of the environment,” explains Cohen. “Another jumping off point came from fashion,” adds Martinson, noting a recent Gucci ad campaign featuring grasses and nature as another source of inspiration for their design.
Long and Winding Road
While Martinson felt confident in his flooring design for the space, executing the irregular path through the showroom posed a challenge for the installers, who relied on their highly honed skills to pull off the complex, curvilinear floor plan. “With no right angles in the naturalistic path, laying LVT in a herringbone pattern within the curving design required a high level of technical expertise,” says Cohen. “We knew early on that it would be a challenge to install a modular product in an undulating design—there was a lot of freehand cutting involved—but we wanted to show how each product could be seamlessly blended into another,” explains Martinson.
“Our Beaumont Range installation was less about modularity and more about illustrating an evolution of our i2® design innovation, which allows the carpet tiles to be installed randomly as you’d find in nature like leaves on the ground in a forest. Furthermore, since these patterns also have long, large repeats, we needed to let them breathe so that people could observe how tiles that look like flat rock, for instance, could blend into those with more pebble-like textures.”
As visitors proceeded through the showroom, the path led them to an installation showing a modern take on terrazzo flooring called norament pado™ as well as to an area highlighting the complimentary design services offered by the Interface Design Studio.
To bring the overall environment to life, the designers also introduced sounds and smells that added extra dimension to the natural grasses and flooring materials which addressed the senses of sight and touch. “We brought in a nature-inspired signature scent that people encountered the minute they stepped off the elevator,” says Cohen. “And inside the showroom, very faint sounds of breezes blowing and birds occasionally chirping filtered through the environment to really create a prairie vibe as if you were in the middle of a meadow.”
A final flourish was a projector screen where visitors could take selfies. “We wanted everyone to have an opportunity to make the most of some Instagram-able moments by taking videos of the tactile experience of moving through the grasses or stopping to pose for a photo in front of the screen,” says Cohen.
Ultimately the designers’ efforts made the showroom a favorite stop among show goers. “The traffic was amazing throughout NeoCon, and the energy was great—it was a pleasure to see people from around the world coming in to experience the space.”
Extending the Impact
For those unable to visit the showroom during NeoCon, there is good news – Interior Design magazine featured Interface’s Chicago showroom in a special video. Watch Interior Design Editor-in-Chief Cindy Allen receive a tour of the space below.