Focus: Q&As


Seven designers reflect on their work, the trends driving floor design, and what their fantasy floor would look like



Words by David Tarpey

Deirdre Dyson
Deirdre Dyson is the founder of Deirdre Dyson Carpets, which has been ‘creating statements under your feet’ for 20 years

What has been your most rewarding project?
This was for a client who needed two 6m x 6m square carpets for a rural stone-built office space, consisting of two large rooms used as a workplace and doubling up as meeting rooms. It had glass window walls looking out on to a spectacular green landscape, so the carpets had to stand alone, but not compete. The client wanted a beige background, in echo of the stone walls, which I graded on both carpets from dark to light. But each carpet had a different simple design in silk, picking up on furniture colours and details while respecting the huge space inside and beyond. Each design had its own distinct identity, but they linked as a perfect pair.

What has been your most challenging project, and how did you overcome the challenge to produce something you were proud of?
It was the recent conversion of a central London Georgian townhouse into office space. The building was completely gutted throughout six floors, with two rooms on each level. I designed the carpeting throughout, which consisted of some freestanding hand-knotted rugs and tufted carpets for fitted requirements. The challenge for me was to give each room a different design, but to link everything together with colour and simplicity, respecting both the architect’s specifications and the client’s choices. I tonally graded a runner that runs top to bottom on the central staircase from dark to light to dark to create a sense of movement.


Tonal grading on the staircase runner creates a sense of movement

What are your most important considerations when designing carpets?
Most important when creating a bespoke carpet design is selecting the right background colour. The colour must work with the light, the flooring material, the walls and, most importantly, the client’s wishes.

How much freedom do you have on each project? Or does this depend on the client?
I develop my own themed collection each year, which gives me total creative freedom. My designs are meant to give inspiration. But I am happy to adapt and alter any of them for clients or design specifically for a customer request.

What for you are the key factors in carpet design for the 21st century?
Natural materials are most important for me, but I think experimentation and new ideas for use of new materials is vital too. Because I usually design to a theme, the story and inspirations are crucial to me.

What would be your fantasy carpet if there were no restrictions of any sort?
What about a wall piece in pure silk with 1,000 knots? That would be a precious heirloom! I love limitations that give me a structure to work to. Honing down ideas to something ‘just right’ is all part of the design process and challenge.

 


Cay Bond
Cay Bond is a Swedish trend analyst and curator. She has recently worked for wooden floor specialist Bona and developed six floor styles as inspiration for its clients

What are the most important factors to consider when planning flooring for a new project, whether it’s in a hotel, hospital or factory?
It’s increasingly important to consider the varying functions of the spaces within offices, stores, public spaces and hospitals. Architects, designers and interior decorators are playing a more high-profile role and have to respect the environment. They are professional and keep abreast of new techniques, but they are increasingly integrating long-established craft traditions.

What, in your opinion, are the most exciting trends in flooring for the coming decade?
As a trend analyst I work across a wide spectra, following developments in the arts, architecture, craft, technology, fashion, industrial design and so on. I see a rise in people’s curiosity, along with a new awareness and willingness to try the new while also engaging with traditional styles from the past. One example is the Swedish flooring company Bolon, which has developed its woven product with a mix of artistry, technique and environmentally friendly materials that fit all purposes. There is also growing interest in quality wooden floors.

What would be your fantasy floor?
It would consist of one or several of my preferred materials. These are solid wood, tiles, marble, stone and processed concrete tiles.

 


Thomas Dinesen
Thomas Dinesen runs Dinesen, the family- owned Danish wooden flooring company. It was founded 120 years ago and provides bespoke solid wood floors made from Douglas fir and oak. The company takes care to use raw wood from sustainable forestry in Germany and other European countries

What has been the most rewarding project you have worked on?
We have worked on thousands of diverse projects, collaborating with some of the most renowned architects and designers. But it would have to be Pawson House in 1992. It was our first project with John Pawson, and we really learned what Dinesen planks can do in a room and how planks can become a decisive design element. This has been extremely significant for us.

What has been your most challenging project? How did you overcome the challenge to produce something you were proud of?
We have worked on many exciting and challenging projects over time. Just now, the new Noma restaurant in Copenhagen is top in my mind. Working with Bjarke Ingels, David Thulstrup and René Redzepi requires great professional knowledge, direct access to the best raw materials, and much flexibility and cooperation. The result is off the scale in the same way as Noma’s menu, and we are very proud of our partnership with them.

What are your most important considerations when creating a design?
Dinesen is a place where the client’s wishes meet the possibilities of nature. We buy our wood directly in the forests and we can produce anything from a small wood block to planks that are 15m long. Our wood brings a sense of wellbeing, tranquillity and ease into a room. It can also be used as a design element that can help make glass, concrete and metal seem even sharper. So it depends very much on what the client wants and the function of the room.

How much freedom do you have on each project? Or does this depend on the client?
Many things are fixed in advance, like the thickness of the planks or the budget. As a rule, our most important task is to understand the client’s needs but also move them in another direction if we feel we can create a better solution. In the light of our long history, we have seen many exciting projects and we can pass this knowledge and experience on to new projects. As we use trees that are more than 100 years old, we must think about the durability of the design. Our raw wood is, of course, sustainable, but the real sustainability is created in cooperation with architects and designers when the result is of a quality that transcends our own time.

 


Lisa Tomlin
Lisa Tomlin is CEO of CFS, a distributor of high-quality flooring and floor coverings

What sort of role does flooring play in today’s interior environments? Do you feel that more significance is being given to flooring design than in the past?
Absolutely. Once, flooring was seen as just a basic function that insulated a building, but didn’t lend itself much to the experience people had within it. Slowly but surely, as we have come to see that every single element of a room contributes to the way it makes us feel, there has been an increased focus on flooring design.

It’s not just about the way it looks, but also the materials that are used to create it and the impact this can have on the wellbeing of the end-user. A particularly notable example of this is care-home settings; with great consideration given to the specification of floor coverings used in dementia care facilities.

Whether flooring is used to tie in with existing branding in a commercial setting, or make us feel our homes are at the forefront of contemporary interior design, there is no doubt that we pay more attention to flooring today than ever before. And this will only increase as more and more design options become available to us.

What do you think have been the main trends in flooring design in the commercial sectors over the past 40 years?
It has been about balancing cost savings with aesthetic appeal. Those working in commercial spaces know their floors endure a high footfall, but must also look great and be consistent with a space’s existing theme or style. But there are many commercial brands that have used flooring to have an actual impact on their business’ bottom line over the past few decades. We have seen flooring applied very cleverly, in patterns that lend themselves to navigation around offices or stores, directing people to higher-priced items to encourage a bigger spend.

In what ways are you responding to the challenges of contemporary interiors?
Every project is unique and interesting for different reasons. As flooring becomes more and more integral to the wider design aspects of the spaces we live and work in, we’re coming across more innovative and bespoke uses for flooring and coverings. Recently, for example, our flooring was fitted in an office that wanted to bring the outdoors inside – something we refer to as biophilic design. Our artificial lawn range was used as a carpet substitute to help achieve this, while the wood designs of our LVT were used to emulate naturally occurring products – which actually have a calming effect on its users.

At the moment, we are focusing a lot of our attention on care homes. Flooring plays a very significant role in this area, as it is vital for navigation, safety, and to emulate the home environment for the comfort of those living in dementia settings.

There is so much to consider, because alongside memory loss dementia can cause visuo-perceptual difficulties and distortions of image. Combined with the natural deterioration of eyesight that occurs with age, an inconsistent floor pattern can make it difficult for patients to differentiate between floor design and objects or obstructions, meaning they are more susceptible to falls. Furthermore, if a floor is excessively shiny, as well as presenting a slip risk the floor can look wet, confusing patients unnecessarily. All of this has to be taken into account and catered for; we almost need to ensure the flooring in care homes is barely noticeable, in order for it to function effectively.

From the many clients that CFS has worked with, can you highlight any that were particularly innovative or open to your suggestions on doing things differently?
We recently worked with an interiors specialist on an office refurb that was particularly interesting. When refurbishing the property, all elements of the interior design were specified with the staff’s personal wellbeing in mind. Often, flooring is dismissed as providing little more than functional benefits, whereas in this project, the flooring choices were pivotal. The considered use of flooring allowed the office to be segmented into ‘working space’ and ‘recreational’ space, giving staff much needed time away from their desk, in a more relaxed environment. The use of artificial grass also played into the biophilic trend we are seeing, which not only looks great but also can help reduce stress and anxiety and increase productivity in the workplace.


Biophilic carpeting brings natural freshness into the office

We also thoroughly enjoy working on projects that incorporate branding into the flooring. We recently worked with a school that wanted to use its school colour, a dark purple, within its interior design choices. Painting the walls would be overbearing, and using such a dark colour would make corridors seem much smaller than they were. CFS worked with the installer to create a bespoke floor covering, utilising carpet tiles in complementary colours to ensure the school’s branding could be seen throughout the building, creating a cohesive interior design scheme.

CFS has installed flooring for high-profile clients including Tate Modern and Thomas Cook. What were the outstanding features of these projects?
At Tate Modern, CFS Primavera, a fibre-bonded, heavy contract velour carpet, was installed to act as primary entrance matting to prevent the transportation of debris into the building from outside. CFS Stockade, a heavy contract structured, fibre-bonded sheet with a gel rubber backing, was installed as secondary entrance matting immediately inside the building, to further extend the lifespan of the interior carpets. CFS Compilation, which is available as both broadloom and carpet tiles, was also installed over the main walkway of the building.


CFS matting provides a functional and striking welcome to the Tate Modern

Thomas Cook used a range of CFS products as part of its in-store rebrand. CFS Stockade in charcoal was installed in the entrance to preserve the life of interior carpets. CFS Eternity Commercial, a luxury vinyl tile, was installed within the stores, providing the aesthetic of real wood while remaining hard-wearing and easy to maintain. CFS Tredline, a carpet tile with a contemporary linear colour range, was used throughout the sales floor, complemented by Europa carpet tiles in light grey.

How important is technology in floor design? Are smart floors a significant trend?
Smart floor technologies are not widely used in the UK at present. Most of the take-up so far has been in Germany. However, as we continue to innovate and discover new ways of combining technology with traditional flooring materials, I would expect to see smart floors becoming second nature within installations.

In care homes, we could see this in the form of alarms triggering when residents fall, assistance with navigation, and insight into which patients are most likely to use certain facilities in the building. Within retail and commercial spaces, we could see smart floors used, for example, to make the shopping experience more exciting, with flooring ‘coming alive’ to tell us more about the products we see on the shelves.

As we should all have learned by now, when it comes to new technology there really are no limits as to where the future might take us. The possibilities for flooring design are very exciting.

If budget were no object, what would be your fantasy floor for a hospital, a school and a department store?
One of the biggest challenges faced by flooring providers in healthcare environments is sterility. If the budget was unlimited, I’d love to create a self-cleaning, self-sterilising floor covering that would deliver huge health benefits and cost savings for hospitals.

Within schools, interactivity would be my ideal. Just as we see smart boards and iPads being used to enhance learning, flooring could also play a big part in the educational experience. Whether for group activities within classrooms, or games during PE, there is definitely a role for interactive flooring in the educational sector. Finally, when we look at department stores, it would be really exciting to see the flooring direct us to items that work well with what we already have in our baskets. Whether it is recipes or outfits, flooring might one day act as a personal shopper!

 


Marcy Ewing
Marcy Ewing is global studio design director at Shaw Contract, a commercial carpet and flooring provider

What has been the most rewarding project you have worked on?
Working on our first collection of rectangular carpet tiles was the most rewarding. By changing the shape, mixing colours and patterns, it allowed for design freedom and excitement and innovation in modular flooring.

What has been your most challenging project? How did you overcome the challenge to produce something you were proud of?
Designing any global product takes an open mind and perseverance to make sure we can satisfy all types of design client. Working on our new offering, Rapid Select, which is made in the UK, has been challenging. Every market segment is unique and has different technical requirements. But as always, having a well-designed product is at the forefront in commercial design, wherever you are.

What are your most important considerations when taking on a project?
We take into consideration many ideas. The three most important drivers are market segment, how Shaw Contract’s flooring can be a design solution for our global clients, and – most important – how we can offer a complete flooring solution that reflects well-thought-out, memorable design.


Shaw Contract’s Emergence collection transforms the floor into a rich tonal landscape

How much freedom do you have on each project? Or does this depend on the client?
Once the client need has been identified, we have the freedom to explore by prototyping digitally or on sample equipment. Our design teams work very closely with clients on custom projects as every look is unique. Because we have cutting-edge machinery and technical innovation capabilities, we can execute new and unique designs together with our clients.

What for you are the key trends when designing floors in the 21st century?
Flooring solutions that can help with sound absorption are crucial in today’s open-plan workspaces, as is flexibility. Office environments with open-office systems are designed for and associated with flexibility, to accommodate frequent layout changes.

Health and wellbeing has become an increasingly important consideration in the workplace. As a result, specifiers, both designers and occupants, have become more interested in the contribution that flooring can make to issues such as acoustics and indoor air quality, as well as the use of healthy building materials externally and internally.

What type of floor would you install if there were no restrictions in terms of budget or anything else? In other words, what is your fantasy floor?
Using modular flooring, either a hard surface such as luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) or carpet tiles, are the most interesting and restriction-free design platforms. There is limitless design freedom for the interior designer. You can have fun and create unique flooring layouts by mixing patterns, adding pops of colours, and changing the direction of the tiles in the floor layout.

 


Navjot Dhillon
Navjot Dhillon is marketing manager for Gerflor

What has been the most rewarding project you have worked on?
The Bravehound charity is the canine wing of the charity Glen Art (which supports former servicemen and women and their families) and was seeking to modernise its training facility in Scotland’s Erskine Hospital. They needed some new safety flooring so we happily agreed to donate some. The Bravehound project needed 200 sq m of our Tarasafe Standard vinyl safety flooring, and we were hugely pleased to be able to help it out. On another occasion, we donated 119 sq m of products (including our Taralay Impression Comfort and Taralay Uni Comfort vinyl flooring ranges) to a local charity in Swansea to rebuild its support centre. That was part of a BBC1 Children In Need episode.


Gerflor’s Tarasafe vinyl safety flooring is a welcome addition to Glen Art’s Erskine Hospital training facility  

What has been your most challenging project? How did you overcome the challenge to produce something you were proud of?
At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games we were involved in the manufacture, delivery, installation and dismantling of flooring for seven volleyball courts and six handball courts. It was a colossal flooring project totalling more than 15,000 sq m, featuring our Taraflex sports flooring product.

What are your most important considerations when planning a project?
First, it must be the look. We are always on a crusade to manufacture stunning-looking floors. We see these as things of beauty and not just functional products.

We also always strive through our R&D to produce flooring products that really deliver on performance. The overall lifecycle costs must always be a consideration as that impacts on the eventual customer’s budgets. The original star in our homogeneous stable was our Mipolam Symbioz flooring, which was the first Mipolam 100 per cent bio- based plasticiser made of corn and wheat. With eco considerations in mind, we are one of the foremost global flooring manufacturers, producing ranges with the lowest volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Gerflor products are regularly assessed in accordance with ISO 16000 standards. Air quality inside buildings is not undermined because there are no formaldehyde or carcinogenic emissions from our products. Awareness of trends in fashion, architecture, culture and industry features heavily in our creative direction. Our design team takes great care to produce forward-thinking designs, colours and textures that are way ahead of their time.

In doing so, we can provide our customers with a slight glimpse of the future.

How much freedom do you have on each project? Or does this depend on the client?
By offering a bespoke design service in terms of logos and water jet cutting, we can personalise various products to suit each customer. When Falkirk Council required flooring for Carrongrange, an additional support needs [ASN] school in Scotland, it turned to us to supply 4,000 sq m of flooring products that could deliver stunning looks, durability and performance. The flooring would have to meet very high traffic demands and reflect the school’s logos and colours. In fact, the pupils themselves had a hand in designing the badge for the new school, and by using our water jet cutting system were able to incorporate their new logo into our Mipolam Elegance flooring. The products supplied would consist of our award-winning Taralay Impression Control safety flooring, together with our Tarasafe Ultra and Tarasafe Ultra H20. The Carrongrange development would also specify our GTI Max and Mipolam SD products to complete the huge overall flooring requirement.

What are the key factors and trends to take into account when designing floors in the 21st century?
Noise, hygiene and the actual look of the flooring play a huge part in the design of our products. Having identified emerging styles and trends, the gestation period for a new decorative vinyl or LVT range is around 12 to 18 months. The trick is to successfully unite innovations in design, advanced production techniques and the best sustainable materials. We are always pushing the boundaries in the design, colour, texturing, finishes and performance of decorative vinyls and LVTs that are not necessarily possible with other flooring materials.

Our broad design scope enables us to capitalise on trends for global markets. For example, as wood is an ever- popular choice, replicas in vinyl have been perfected to look as good as the real thing, but with fashionable colours and grained finishes providing an individual, modern edge.

However, the new ‘kid on the block’ is the geometric trend. Stylish geometric shapes take on a new, striking dimension, as they are re-formed into unique, powerful designs with clever illusions of relief. Perfect for making bold, interior statements where it matters.

What is special and different about the Ng Teng Fong hospital project in Singapore? What was most rewarding about this experience?
The most unique part of this high-profile project was the vast variances that were needed for different hospital departments, together with the massive amount of flooring required. The wards and general visitor areas would need 85,000 sq m of our Tarasafe Ultra slip-resistant safety flooring. The project would also see 12,500 sq m of our Taralay Premium flooring specified for the corridors. Our Taralay Impression Comfort Wood product was selected for the facility’s 8,500 sq m VIP rooms, as it provides good levels of sound insulation along with comfort underfoot.

Being able to supply such a range of flooring products that would really assist the hospital in its day-to-day operation was immensely rewarding. To see our products in action every day doing the job they were designed to do was fantastic – and on such a large scale, too.

What type of floor would you install if there were no restrictions in terms of budget or anything else? In other words, what is your fantasy floor?
Imagine a Gerflor floor on the Moon – or even Mars! It adds a whole new dimension to slip resistance. Producing this new ‘stellar’ flooring range could capture the imagination of the whole planet, as it would provide the grip and the look for a spaceship or living pod in another world. That would be totally incredible.

Imagine if Gerflor were the first flooring manufacturer to produce flooring that could work in zero gravity, and be the everyday surface for astronauts. Who wants carpet on the Moon when you can have great-looking, maintenance- free, vibrant luxury vinyl tiles?

One small step for man, one large step for Gerflor!

 


David Oakey
David Oakey is the exclusive product designer for Interface

What has been the most rewarding project you have worked on, and why?
The collection we most recently created with Interface, Human Connections, has been hugely rewarding. The entire process, from research right through to product development and manufacture, re-emphasised that everything we do as designers is about people.

We worked with companies including Facebook, Amazon, Google and Adobe to understand the reasons behind the designs of their spaces, and the processes they follow to create them. It quickly became apparent that we had to look at the ways people interact with one another in neighbourhoods and urban environments to design spaces most effectively.

By understanding these social interactions, we were able to create a collection that gives our clients the freedom to do more with colour, texture and design, and enables them to create the spaces that people need. Human Connections was therefore designed to be diverse; it can work on its own to define a space, or together with other products to promote wayfinding and pathways.


Human Connections combines natural elements with an urban aesthetic

What has been your most challenging project? How did you overcome the challenge to produce something you were proud of?
Interface’s first globally available collection, Urban Retreat, presented a number of challenges. We had to balance our needs as a business with the hugely varied expectations of a global audience. That meant trying to understand what clients and designers across the world want from their modular flooring.

No matter who or where we are, we all experience nature. It is for this reason that Urban Retreat was designed with nature in mind, using natural elements and colours that are globally recognised as being beautiful. No one argues with Mother Nature, and once we’d embraced this fact, we produced a collection that is suitable for clients worldwide.

What are your most important considerations when designing carpets?
Above anything else, quality and durability is key. If the flooring doesn’t perform or function how it is supposed to, then it ultimately fails as a product, regardless of how beautiful the design.

For Interface, sustainability and keeping the company moving on its Mission Zero and Climate Take Back journeys are also key considerations.

How much freedom do you have on each project? Or does this depend on the client?
Design freedom very much depends on the client. It’s important to keep a company’s vision in mind at all times. For some clients, that means pushing the envelope on what is expected and challenging the norms of design.

For others, it’s more about following trends and delivering something you know their audience will connect with.

In this respect, you don’t have to take risks to design a successful product. Instead of thinking about freedom, designers should focus instead on what the client and their audiences want and need.

What are the key factors and trends to take into account when designing flooring in the 21st century?
The ways in which our clients think about design has changed. It is no longer about making a sample carpet tile and simply asking for feedback. Now, a client needs to buy in to the entire design concept and recognise how a design can work in practice.

Product designers will have to create more image mock-ups and renderings to help clients visualise their ideas. This suggests that selling a concept is becoming increasingly important in carpet tile design.

What type of floor would you install if there were no restrictions in terms of budget or anything else? In other words, what is your fantasy floor?
Biophilic and nature-inspired design have proved hugely successful for companies like Interface. To design a carpet with no restrictions would be to create one that works even more like nature than any other existing product.

Imagine a carpet that could mimic the ways in which nature operates, with changes from minute to hour, day to night and season-to-season. Just like nature, the carpet would be constantly evolving. From one moment to another, a shade of grey would change – who knows whether this would happen with the yarn itself or using outside technology. This is cutting-edge design that I’m already seeing architects exploiting, and I’m excited to watch the trend grow.

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