Talking to...Ruth Simon McRae and Elizabeth Walters for Milliken Carpet
Staff -- Interior Design, 8/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
To develop the Discovery collection of textured carpets, Elizabeth Walters led the Milliken Design Studios team in a collaboration with Ruth Simon McRae of the consulting firm McRae Associates. McRae made her career in textile design, for both home furnishings and apparel, before creating tasteful floor coverings for several leading companies. All nine Discovery patterns are PVC-free and carry the Carpet & Rug Institute's green label. Walters and McRae explain.
Where does the name Discovery come from?
RSM: Searching for an umbrella name for our concept, we began by looking at Leonardo da Vinci and other great thinkers who explored many disciplines, from science to art. "Discovery" describes our process.
Have you noticed a trend toward textured flooring?
EW: Texture is everywhere, not just in flooring. I've been seeing it in fabrics, ceramics, wall treatments, and other interior finishes. Adding texture increases aesthetic interest and appeal. Tactile qualities add another dimension of excitement.
Ruth, where does your fine-arts training come through?
RSM: Some designs, such as Chiaro and Ombra, are defined by thick and thin lines, a linear vocabulary that comes from painting. Other designs, Fusione for instance, have painterly, layered watercolor effects. In all cases, we kept the color contrast intentionally low. The imagery emerges from a textural canvas.
What inspired the designs?
RSM: Some patterns derive from parchment, old manuscripts, or weathered tree bark. Some celebrate the simplicity of silk and linen.
How do color and texture work together?
RSM: With Ombra, which was inspired by knitted constructions, the texture suggests thick and thin yarns with slubs of varying density. Sophisticated neutrals emphasize that depth and dimension. The colors convey the essence of a material taken from nature.
How much of the design process was in-house?
EW: The working situation with Ruth was ideal. She was the visionary. From her inspiration, I created the tufted patterns and layered components. Then we revised the concepts together, resulting in a cohesive, dynamic collection.
Are the carpets eco-friendly?
EW: They're 100 percent recyclable and renewable. When they're sent back to us at the end of their useful lives, we consider the most responsible alternatives to landfill. We evaluate the condition and contaminant levels of the used carpet, then choose the highest form of recovery possible. Some of the options are: renewal through Milliken's Earth Square process, charitable donation for reuse, recycling into new products, and energy cogeneration of the unusable waste component. Plus, our manufacturing plants have recorded zero waste to landfill for seven years.
What was your biggest challenge?
RSM: Creating a design that has strong interest yet is still appropriate for the floor. We had to tweak the contrasts to make the finished product read well, with imagery that's intriguing, not overpowering.