Inspiration by the Yard
Floored by the Wizards of Weft
Maria Shollenbarger -- Interior Design, 10/31/2004 12:00:00 AM
Dressed for Corporate Success
Opportunity's knock can have unexpected reverberations. For Clayton Miller, head of the well-established hospitality carpet company that bears his name, opportunity came in the form of the Infinity tufting machine. Capable of creating over 215 pile heights in countless combinations, its technology dovetailed nicely with Miller's desire to target the corporate market with a new brand—Cadence—that would marry affordability to an uncommonly high level of design sophistication.
But this launch demanded a designer with a deep understanding of the contract market and its products, as well as an ability to design carpets with panache, and for this Miller reached out to Ruth Simon McRae. The two focused on the task at hand: creating large-scale, sophisticated patterns in fashion-forward colors at moderate prices. The Infinity machine gave them the muscle to bring life to patterns in relief, sculpted with contours and curves, and the results of this collaboration are in.
Cadence consists of 10 artful patterns including the bold A Cappella, an oversized abstract floating leaf with horizontal bands of varied widths, the conservative but playful Mambo, with irregularly shaded circles that are inspired by the glass forms found in New York's SoHo sidewalks, and Bossa Nova, with undulating waves drifting across the surface. To produce the collection's sophisticated tonal combinations of colors, a two-shade piece-dyeing process was implemented. Two white yarns are tufted into the carpet's structure, each programmed in its molecular composition to accept differing degrees of dye saturation. These yarns, each reacting to the dye in its own manner, produce carpets that deploy shades of the same color. To heighten the carpets' tonal qualities, piles are tip-sheered—thus the two base colors look like four, as light reflects differently from the loop and the cut piles. The visual result of this process is a sophisticated yet hard-wearing palette of intelligent cashmere-sweater colors that appear to hover between two shades. Think of brown that mixes chocolate and tobacco, red that balances brick and burgundy and a fashionable blond camel called Coconut Grove that has the right tension of ocher and beige. 2304 Dalton Industrial Court, Dalton, GA 30721; 706-281-4501; clayton-miller.com. circle 775
A Mixed Bag
When nature, photography, and the art of collage blend to create a thing of beauty—not on view as an object in a gallery but as a contemporary rug—it's bound to cause a stir. Witness designer Randy Ridless'sdebut collection for Stark Carpet: unique for both its original design and experimental weaving techniques. A lover of the outdoors, shutterbug Ridless snapped seashells, wood grains, and fields of flowers, later collaging the images. The designer then sketched the collages before giving them to weavers to execute. "By the time the design made it to the rug makers in Nepal, India, or China, you wouldn't necessarily know it had started out as a seashell," says Ridless. The weavers faced their share of challenges in translating the drawings to carpets. The rugs are "a totally mixed bag of weaving techniques: We've bulked up traditional Portuguese areola weaves directly on the scrim, so the stitch is raised in Ikat," says Rick Zolt of Stark. For Vines, a traditional aubusson weave was embroidered with silk and metal threads, resulting in a design with pronounced heft and texture—but only a subtle, not a strongly metallic note. Quietly swank, these carpets evoke the glamour of an Astaire movie transported to the 21st century with a casual approach to style. 979 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022; 212-752-9000; starkcarpet.com. circle 776
Random disorder? Nope. It's the carpet-tile hybrid Entropy, originally designed in 2000 and described by Interface president John Wells as the result of brainstorming "about how a flooring system would come about if subjected to the laws of nature… and nothing in nature is uniform." Up close the individual elements may seem incongruous, but when viewed whole it's an easy-on-the-eyes pleaser whose durability and muted color line speaks persuasively to contract applications. Tiles are woven from yarns similar in tone, then the piles are randomly cut to produce a heathered effect. Each tile is unique, but the tones and patterns are close enough to create a sense of cohesion. And there's an environmental dividend: Waste is limited because the randomly sized tiles create fewer remnants; therefore less yarn, dye, and backing is used per order. And the work continues, says designer David Oakey: "Our goal is to create a super-clean, monotone product." 1503 Orchard Hill Road, LaGrange, GA 30241; 800-336-0225; interface flooring.com. circle 777
Faced with a dizzying array of new design options while trying to survive in an increasingly cost-conscious environment, professionals turn to ASI for help in cutting through the clutter. Billed as interior-finish specialists, ASI's team has a gift for spotting material- and finish trends before they're on the radar—or even in the marketplace. They've nailed their position in the design community by sourcing the unusual, the coveted, and the difficult to envision: wildly colored antique mirrors, high-energy Asivin vinyl flooring, and the Color Bamboo collection of stained-plank flooring with either horizontal or vertical graining. These unique products allow designers to spin creatively: A corporate designer may opt for the bamboo planks in their prefinished, natural state, while the Barneys New York Bridal Salon orders a vertical grain with a whitewash; and a restaurant or nightclub may choose a rich merlot or indigo stain. "The average client is so much more sophisticated today than ten years ago," says Nancy Jackson, president of ASI. "At the end of the day they expect you to bring in something fantastic-looking; but often they still have no idea of cost. What we're able to do is submit the ideal—the latest and best—but also offer value-engineered options. We protect their design intent for their clients without anyone's being shocked at the price." 150 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10001; 800-793-0224; archsystems.com. circle 778
Ragin' With the Machine
"So many contemporary designs are rigorous, relentless patterns that repeat themselves and reflect of the constraints of technology," says artist-designer Kevin Walz. "One day I realized I found them oppressive." So Walz, who's always liked his lines curving and his patterns irregular, was ready for the challenge that recently came his way from the New York firm Tufenkian: to tweak his drawings using modern technology, but for a hand weaver to realize the old-fashioned way.
For inspiration he turned to nature, crafts, and ancient art, culling haphazard patterns and feeding them into scanners in order to layer, combine, and refine them until he achieved the result he was looking for. The curious process yielded four designs that share one feature: "There are no straight lines in any of them, and none of the patterns repeat themselves, " says Walz. He credits the hand-dyed silk yarn he used for contributing to subtle variations in texture and color that enhance the "accidental" feel of the rugs. "Yes, they were created using software, but they originated with human designs and natural ones. And we used material woven by hand. To me, this speaks of humanity, rather than machines." 902 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10010; 212-475-2475; tufenkiancarpets.com. circle 779
From Loophouse to Our House
Coolly minimalist, Loophouse's new Singular Forms collection is a tonal meditation on texture and simple circles, dots, and dashes. The artistic impulse (and source of the collection's name) says Loophouse founder Lorraine Statham, was the eponymous show at the Guggenheim: "Eva Hess's works were especially inspiring." The 14 hand-tufted New Zealand wool designs were made using a screened base. Statham likens the process to "literally painting a canvas; hand-feeding each yarn just where you want it." She also tried different pile heights for the designs; Number Eight, for instance, uses needlepoint stitches—tight, delineated loops contrasting with a high, loose tuft. Statham found the geometrics that were her theme best suited to almost constant 12-millimeter pile heights. Via Designtex, 200 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014; 800-221-1540; dtex.com. circle 780
Woven in Stone
Few carpet designers dream of working in terrazzo; fewer ever get the opportunity to do it. Joan Weissman is an exception: "I had a fantasy of working in terrazzo, dating back to my childhood," she says. So when she was tapped by the University of New Mexico to translate three of her colorfully curvy carpets from 1996 into a more durable and low-maintenance hard flooring, she first considered mosaics and stone inlay but settled happily on terrazzo. No stranger to hard mediums, Weissman had worked with Forbo linoleum, and been a ceramicist for 25 years. Recreating her rugs' characteristic vibrant contrasting shades wasn't difficult—"Terrazzo has an epoxy base, and can be matched to any paint chip"—but blending the primary stone matrix and the secondary contrasting stone aggregate is harder, involving choosing from over a hundred different colored pebbles, marble, glass, and shells. For overall cohesion the designer added black to all the base-color mixes, and mother-of-pearl to provide depth and brilliance. Because her designs have few straight lines, her team cut and bent the zinc rods separating the cloisonné-like sections by hand, filing them individually to fit. "With a rug, you all work together from start to finish, and then it's done. This was a construction site—so difficult but so rewarding." 3710 Silver SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108; 505-265-0144; joanweissman.com. circle 781
The Rug Company
Play It Again, Suzanne
Surfing a wave of smashing success in London, rug sellers Chris and Suzanne Sharp ventured across the pond to set up a beachhead in New York two years ago. Continuing their winning ways in the former colonies, their new outpost has since doubled in size. Certainly the couple owes a bit of the credit for this stateside good fortune to strategic alliances with some of fashion's boldest personas—Paul Smith, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Lulu Guinness, to name a few. But Suzanne's marketing skills, which rival her design abilities, have also been a big part of the story. Known for her trademark oversized posy patterns in pop colors, Harlequin is a marked departure. While on holiday in Morocco, the designer says, "I fell in love with the shapes of the lanterns there." To create the piece, wool was carded, sorted, spun, dyed, and woven by hand in Nepal. A typical 100-knots-per-inch construction was needed to craft the distinctive curves, precise circles, and perfect delineation of colors. "Anything lower would have blurred the lines and ruined the grace of the rug," Suzanne explains. To highlight the unique contrast of colors and forms, she introduced silk yarns. Their glimmering silk tufts are juxtaposed with wool piles that absorb more light, infusing the rug with a shimmering luster. 88 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-274-0444; therugcompany.info. circle 782
A Loomful of Hues
Weaving to Her Own Beat
You may slip into a pleasantly tranquil reverie as you contemplate weaver Jeanne Heifetz's Sgrafitto, and with reason. The rug, a regulated pattern with a tight weave in cool tones of hydrangea blue, was inspired by composer Steve Reich's "Drumming" and "Six Marimbas," masterpieces of modern minimalism. Heifetz feels the music's presence in the "…subtle changes in color relationships and an almost imperceptible alteration in the pattern…" This quiet movement in the carpet is evident when it's studied as a whole. The designer's greatest challenge here was imposed by the hand loom itself–a weaving implement that drums up notions of the folksy, rustic, and rigid. "Looms are highly restrictive," says Heifetz. "You're working entirely in right angles." And she wanted the rug to feel as hand-drawn as possible, not dominated by the geometric. She achieves her effect not by remaking the process—a virtual impossibility—but by working within it to introduce subtle variations in pattern and hue that are just about imperceptible up close. But these slight shifts add up to a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts, yielding a sense of gentle motion. 28 Sterling Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217; 718-757-8572 loomfulofhues.com. circle 783
Ornate antique rugs may have unique pedigrees, but there's a colorful cultural tradition beneath the neutral, undyed and untreated wool runners forming part of the F.J. Hakimian collection. Starting as young girls, nomadic and tribal women of northern Iran and Turkey weave these tonal, geometrically patterned carpet runners throughout their lifetimes, taking them into marriage as dowries. Once married, the women press the utilitarian runners into service as tent partitions, mattress sacks, and canopies for protection from the desert sun. The runners are usually 1 to 2 feet wide, but because they've been woven over a period of years, they may reach 115 feet in length. Most of Hakimian's offerings date from the 1930s and '40s. While this merchant prefers to purchase original remnants in pristine condition, his buyers will acquire the dowry bags and mattress sacks, and remove the seams. Full runners are offered for sale, but the patchwork carpets in patterns created by Hakimian tend to have a modern architectural edge and are scaled for easy use as area rugs. 136 East 57th Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10022; 212-371-6900; fjhakimian.com. circle 784
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