Author Archives: Curtis

Getting our Hands Dirty with Unearthed

Launching a new collection at NeoCon is the culmination of, typically, a one-year development process. The length varies, of course, but for collections that are particularly innovative (18X36, On The Edge) or a collaboration with another designer (The Music Project, L7), we tend to spend at least a year bringing those products to market.

Evaluating color at Earl Swensson

For Unearthed– which debuted at NeoCon this month – our focus was on research and entering into an even greater understanding of the healthcare market. To accomplish this, we spent a great deal of time in the field, meeting with several firms that have an intense focus on healthcare.

Part of our discussion focused on evidence based design at a high level (our conversation with Perkins+Will is profiled here). Most of our time, however, was a deep dive into product design. Early iterations of Unearthed concepts were brought to the firing line, so to speak, where they were critiqued, reengineered, praised or shot down.


Shaw Contract Group designer Brandy Sutherland shares her perspective with HDR

The goal of this laborious exercise was two-fold: First, we obviously wanted a collection that designers would specify in their healthcare projects. Second and most importantly, Unearthed needed to promote healing, incorporating design principles for enhanced durability in the healthcare environment.

We think that we’ve achieved both of our goals, and we look forward to seeing how the design community will use Unearthed, our first 18” x 36” tile products designed for healthcare. Thanks again to HDR, Inc., Perkins+Will, Gresham, Smith and Partners, Earl Swensson Associates, and BCDM Architects for their expertise, feedback and excitement for design possibilities presented by Unearthed.

Unearthed prototypes in the line of fire at Gresham, Smith and Partners


An intense color discussion with HDR

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Please Be Quiet, We’re Trying to Collaborate

CLEARLINK's open office headquarters in Salt Lake City by Method Studios.

We blogged here about the office of the future, but not everyone is sold on the merits of the open office.

Last week, The New York Times posted an article that presented the other side of the open office solution, and the grass isn’t necessarily greener:

“Many studies show that people have shorter and more superficial conversations in open offices because they’re self-conscious about being overheard,” said Anne-Laure Fayard, a professor of management at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University who has studied open offices. “Everyone is still experimenting with ways to balance the need for collaboration and the need for privacy.”

Office walls are coming down, and ear buds are being donned as a means to block out the extra noise and distraction.

John Hollon, an expert in all things HR, writes in response to the Times article, “When you plug a person who really needs a closed-door office into an open environment, do you know what you get? A person who is a lot less productive because they have been dropped into a space not particularly conductive to operating efficiently.”

So we know that square footage per employee is decreasing. Companies want to encourage collaboration across teams and departments. Hoteling stations for mobile workers are on the rise. As it becomes easier for interaction to occur in today’s office, fostering an environment of collaboration and flexibility, how can we as designers ensure that employees retain the “perks” afforded by the traditional office space, namely privacy and concentration?

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New Showroom Opens in Beijing

Shaw Contract Group continues to expand its presence within China by opening a showroom in Beijing. Sales personnel serving the Beijing market will be based in the new showroom. Once Shaw Contract Group opens its new carpet tile manufacturing facility in 2013, Shaw showrooms and offices throughout Asia will become an even greater resource for customers to survey the brands entire product line of recyclable EcoWorx® tile products.

“As we expand into the growing Beijing market, Shaw Contract Group is increasing its presence, giving new and existing customers greater access to high performance Cradle to Cradle certified EcoWorx carpet tile,” said John Stephens, vice president of marketing for Shaw Contract Group. “Shaw sales team members are seasoned professionals, intimately familiar with the Beijing commercial market and Shaw’s entire catalog of flooring solutions. They are invaluable resources to the Chinese architectural and interior design community, as well as Red Chip companies and multinationals with a presence in China.”

Shaw Contract Group will build on its long-term commitment to China and the entire Asia Pacific market when it breaks ground in June on a carpet tile manufacturing facility in Nantong. Located in Jiangsu Province, 100 km northwest of Shanghai, the facility will produce carpet tile specifically for Asia – ensuring customers have access to the widest possible range of products.

View more of the showroom in our virtual tour.

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America’s Ground Breaking Buildings: did your favorite architecture marvel make the list?

PBS will air a special next year entitled “10 Buildings that Changed America.” The program does not claim to be a definitive listing of the “best” or “most iconic” examples of American architecture; instead, will attempt to profile residential, commercial and manufacturing projects that were so groundbreaking and radical that they significantly impacted subsequent projects and architects.

Robie House in Chicago by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1910

Of course, these top 10’s, countdowns, and best of’s are designed to incite debate and get people talking by mixing unexpected choices in with the no-brainers. (Just take a look at Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs of All Time if you don’t believe me.) The architecture community will certainly have something to say about the validity’s of PBS’ choices. But regardless, a program of this magnitude will broaden the conversation about American architecture and undoubtedly expose a wide audience to potentially unfamiliar names, and that’s a good thing.

The Seagram Building in New York, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1958

So take a look at the PBS list of buildings that changed America and let us know what you think. Watch a preview video HERE. Which building triggered your initial interest in architecture?

Let the debate begin.

  1. Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, VA
  2. Trinity Church, Boston, MA
  3. Wainwright Building, St. Louis, MO
  4. Robie House, Chicago, IL
  5. Highland Park Ford Plant, Highland Park, MI
  6. Southdale Center Mall, Edina, MN
  7. Seagram Building, New York, NY
  8. Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, VA
  9. Vanna Venturi House, Chestnut Hill, PA
  10. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA
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The Office of the Future: Coming Soon

Yes, design can set the trend, but more often that not, it is a response to trends. As product designers, we must understand how our products are being used in the market place. In turn, as interior designers, you must understand how your customers are utilizing their space – or how they should be using their space.

Read more about Teknion's "Workplace of the Future" survey at

Teknion, maker of office systems and furniture products, recently conducted a survey focused on the future of the workplace. Survey results point to change that we all know is happening: desk-to-employee ratios are drastically evolving and office space is being reevaluated. In fact, current workplace utilizations levels range between 35 to 50 percent; by 2015, according to Teknion’s data, this number will rise to 85 percent – the results of more companies adopting remote working programs and hoteling stations within their offices.

The workplace of today is in flux. It will look very different in the near future. What changes are you currently seeing? How are you addressing them in your space planning?

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