It Is Written
Stephen F. Milioti -- Interior Design, 6/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Occasionally, a big corporation really does have a story to tell about social responsibility. Among Interface's companies, for example, Bentley Prince Street has cosponsored high-school dumpster dives in City of Industry, California; another, Interface Flooring Systems, helped the city of LaGrange, Georgia, pay for the conversion of methane gas into wind and solar energy; and both have contributed to 66 million pounds of reclaimed carpet, which gets used in their carpet-tile backing.
"With our mission for sustainability, we need to walk the talk," says Interface Flooring Systems CEO and president John Wells. "So the Atlanta showroom for Interface's companies had to tell that story—to teach and set an example."
TVS Interiors had worked on the company's energy-efficient factory in LaGrange, Georgia, and already knew its reputation as a recycling and responsible urban neighbor. Designers stood ready with something simple and accessible—a 7,000-square-foot showroom with offices for the three subsidiaries (Bentley Prince Street, Interface Flooring Systems, and Flor). "Within the urban context," says TVS principal Steven Clem, "we went for a fresh, loft-quality environment."
They deployed a clean canvas: white and tan walls with bamboo and concrete floors. The chairs, sofas, and tables are by a short list of familiar postwar-modern designers—Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen, and Eero Saarinen. The combination of oversize acrylic shades on drum-shape pendant fixtures was perfect for enhancing rather than upstaging the main attraction—the floor.
The design appropriately trains the eye toward multiple and easily rotated displays of the companies' new modular carpets. From anywhere in the space, the open plan showcases the fact that you can replace the companies' squares of carpeting rather than an entire rug.
Because so much of the parent company's image as a recycler and conserver lies in its manufacturing processes behind the scenes, TVS also let its design method speak for itself: Chairs, for instance, came from Interface's other showrooms; they're reupholstered in approachable bone, red, and charcoal-gray wool. The Eames lounge and LCW chairs are exceptions, upholstered in leather and made of plywood, respectively.
A wall of open storage in the sample area is made from a composite wheatboard, an alternative to particleboard that's often treated with formaldehyde. Ditto for the low-VOC paints, adhesives, and sealants.
Not only these larger design-related aspects, but all the hidden details had to be right. The front door features vinyl signage designed to change with the showroom's business needs: It currently reads FLOR, but the decal can be replaced periodically to support a rotating promotion of the three companies' products.
To help earn the space's LEED platinum certification, designers educated contractors and even the showroom staff about the agenda. After the space was completed, even cleaning products they stocked came "green-seal" approved. "The idea of sustainability was essential," says Carlie Bullock-Jones, TVS director of sustainable design for the project. "This is not an environment you want to have that new-car smell."