The Rules are...There are No Rules
Editor in chief Cindy Allen invited designers to rethink carpet—and inaugurate InterfaceFlor's Awarehouse in LaGrange, Georgia
Deborah Wilk -- Interior Design, 11/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
The square footage, the budget, the structural column stuck squarely in the center of a space. Interior design, it's often said, is a creative endeavor in which limitations give rise to possibilities. So what happens when a carpet manufacturer, InterfaceFlor, hands a group of disciplined professionals a challenge with no restrictions? Leave it to Interior Design editor in chief Cindy Allen to raise that particular question. After flying down to LaGrange, Georgia, to tour InterfaceFlor's nearly completed Awarehouse, a former warehouse that now provides clients such as Gensler and Boeing with carpet-related ideas, Allen took one look at the freshly installed drywall alcoves intended to contain traditional vignettes—and declared these spaces of 200 or 300 square feet the perfect repositories for experimental installations.
Company president John Wells gave an immediate thumbs-up. A few months later, the teams chosen by Allen to participate in the very first InterfaceFlor/Interior Design Idea Lab received a package that seemed a little like Christmas in July. The box held an inspirational carpet tile along with its constituent parts: nylon fluff and yarn, unbacked carpet, and cloth backing. An accompanying note from Allen provided only one directive, "Design anything."
For some participants, thinking outside the box was a natural. For others, the lack of parameters seemed ironically confining. The designers were determined, however. In the words of Joyce Lavalle, then InterfaceFlor's senior vice president for marketing, "Failure just wasn't an option. Everyone went to the mat." One crack contractor, 15 architecture students from Auburn University, and the manufacturer's own maintenance crew and marketing staff participated in the three-day construction process.
"You can easily become insular when you manufacture a single product," creative director Russ Ramage says. "It was great to see how outside designers were inspired by us, so we can be inspired by them." As each designer's interpretation and reinterpretation came to fruition, everyone involved discovered new awareness.
Ghislaine Viñas Interior Design
materials Nylon yarn, spools, wooden spinning wheels, crocheted bags, acrylic panels and fishbowls.
concept For Ghislaine Viñas, a thread connotes a narrative. However, her thread-inspired notions remained a bit threadbare until her graphic-designer husband, Viñas Design's Jaime Viñas, gave her an idea that led to the inclusion of a duo-tone image of a masked but otherwise naked woman playing cat's cradle. "It really completed the story, and things fell into place," he says. A photomural of the figure looms on one side of the installation, while nylon yarn seems to extend from her fingers to pass through spinning wheels and up to suspended crocheted bags, each weighted by a fishbowl containing an incandescent bulb. "The light," Ghislaine Viñas explains, "is the end of the story." Framing it are two open-sided boxes in turquoise, chartreuse, and grass green. Placed perpendicular to each other, the boxes are intersecting. Or interfacing.
materials Carpet tiles, unbacked carpet, nylon yarn, spools, vintage furniture.
concept "It's not often you get to do something this creative," Joan Michaels says. After some soul-searching, she and her identical twin, Jayne, channeled their youth—spent making art from found objects with their artist mother—to design an artful but realistic sitting room. They filled it with the help of Weinberg Modern's Larry Weinberg, a furniture dealer who also lives with Joan Michaels. From his cache came pieces that could be carpet-covered or, in some cases, threaded with yarn. Surfacing two early Bauhaus birch side chairs with red Syncopation carpet "really allows them to maintain their profile," Weinberg notes. Charcoal-gray unbacked carpet wraps the cushion of a 1950's walnut daybed, and the walls' autumn palette of carpet tiles is accented by hickory cutouts. "The wood makes it organic and relates to Larry's pieces," Joan Michaels says. "Once we took the pressure off ourselves, we were really able to be spontaneous and have fun." Jayne Michaels adds, "Cindy's advice was invaluable. She was like our own Tim Gunn." Could the Idea Lab's next stop be reality TV?
materials Carpet tiles, carpet fluff, vinyl pellets.
concept In a design universe gone green, carpet woven from postconsumer waste is a beautiful thing. David Lewis and design associate Perla Dis Kristinsdottir used reclaimed and recycled InterfaceFlor materials to symbolize the company's manufacturing loop. "The design creates a visceral experience," Lewis says. "It connects the visitor to the environmental gravity and substantial weight of the materials necessary for the creation of carpet, which is usually appreciated as a thin surface underfoot." That weightiness is hardly figurative. At the heart of the installation, he and Kristinsdottir stacked 15 bales of carpet fluff, the reclaimed nylon from which new yarn is spun—each bale is 650 pounds. Paths made from over 60 different patterns of overlapping carpet tiles run along the front and back of the bales; the floor on the sides is strewn with the vinyl pellets used to make carpet backing. It's a continuous loop, the essence of recycling.
Bluarch Architecture + Interiors + Urban Planning
materials Carpet tiles, nylon yarn.
concept To principal Antonio Di Oronzo, installation is synonymous with landscape. He began by threading individual strands of eco-friendly Fresh Start nylon yarn—in every available hue of blue—through the pinholes of plastic tabs nailed to the ceiling, so each length of yarn hung straight down. The threading process alone took nearly three days with the assistance of the 15 architecture students. To convey the idea of a previously inhabited landscape, now abandoned, he shaved the strands on the diagonal and allowed the loose ends to fall almost to the carpeted floor. Mirror on the surrounding walls only enhances the otherworldly atmosphere. Though visitors are invited to explore the installation, the only way to see it unobstructed is to sit down, as Interior Design managing editor Helene E. Oberman demonstrates opposite. "Seemingly soft and welcoming, the space pushes visitors to measure their presence against the strands that move while they navigate the formation on the floor," Di Oronzo explains. "This installation is indeed about interfacing."
materials Carpet tiles, mirror, plywood.
concept In Spanish, flor means flower. Which might or might not be the first thing you notice when confronted by this op art lounge of carpet-covered blocks by husband-wife architects James and Hayes Slade. "We came up with modules that would be somewhere between furniture and landscape," James Slade says. Computer renderings determined the dimensions and configuration of the laser-cut plywood forms. Reproducing their digitized color scheme in carpet tiles required not letting the black vinyl backing show at every seam; tiles had to be scored on the diagonal before being fitted together. Mirrored walls make the flower quadrants expand to 360 degrees. "Doing an installation for a manufacturer gave the project an incredible immediacy," Hayes Slade reports. "If we needed to change colors and get new tiles, it was instantaneous." For all the complexity, the Slades' installation was the first completed—going to show that, even with an experimental project, the proof is in the planning.
materials Carpet tile, unbacked carpet, spools.
concept When D.B. Kim was Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide's vice president for design, the tiles he encountered were usually overhead. "I ran into a lot of bad ceiling tiles," he says, laughing. "That naturally made me think of using Interface tiles." Next, he considered them as furniture. "I looked at the sizes of the tiles and realized they could be stacked and carved into a bed and headboard." Behind it, rows of empty spools become a contoured feature wall. The symphony in soft surfaces reaches its crescendo with tiger-striped Killer Trash carpet tiles, which make a trio of appearances: covering the floor, rolled to form stools of various sizes, and draped curtainlike across a backlit arc that reads as a window. The setting is meant to be tangible, with no radical or esoteric intent. "I'm not inventing. I'm rethinking," he says. As should anyone who assumes that carpet only extends from wall to wall.