Creative Flows in Florence

This last installment of my Tuscan blog takes a look at Florence.  The Arno River, a calming influence in the center of the bustling city, provides people who stop and observe with a time for reflection both figuratively and literally.  Whether it is reflecting the cloud filled sky, the ancient towers and bridges or the more recent buildings, the reflections enable contemplation or reflective thoughts.

The deep blue waters of the Arno add a very serene aspect to Florence.  During a leisurely lunch, we were able to sit back, relax and enjoy the water’s reflections of the surrounding buildings and even the flight of several herons.  We sat with a view of the Ponte Vecchio which is very busy with shoppers and tourists, but the river worked its magic and we enjoyed the water’s ability to soften the hard-edged world around us and create interesting and provocative designs in the water.

All in all, our trip was very enjoyable and while we took in some tourist attractions like Siena and Pisa as well, we generally tried to slow down and let this old land speak to us. Design inspiration comes in many ways, but it comes easier when you step back from the busy workday schedule and really take in your environment. What do you find most effective when you need to become one with your environment and get the creative juices flowing?


Fanciful Florals as Alluring Accents

This second installment of my blog on Tuscany focuses on flowers and the colorful accent that they provide.  The balconies with their abundance of flowers may be a bit of a cliché but they provide a beautiful counterpoint to the atmospheric, earthy tones found in the hillsides, fields and vineyards of the region.  There are many accents of flowers all over Italy, providing a pop of color that simply brightens your day.  This entrance and view across from it are near Greve atop a hill that is accessed by a very narrow winding road.  We had an excellent lunch there (and excellent wine as well) which was worth the harrowing ride!

An unusual view of Siena.  Typical of the walled cities, the buildings are very densely packed into the area protected by the wall.  This green area was farther out from the famous Piazza del Campo which is handsome in its own way but not very green!  Our accommodations at Il Palagio, an agriturismo combining a winery with 5 apartments, had views of the countryside and many areas to take it in.  Carefully placed accents add to the experience in Tuscany.  Some occur naturally, and others are meticulously placed by Italian hands, but they are nonetheless inspiring.

From the church of Santa Maria in Panzano to a rooftop terrace in Florence on the Piazza Santo Spirito, Tuscan buildings are enhanced with flowers.  We viewed the rooftop terrace from the balcony of our hotel, the Palazzo Guadagni.  This former residence was a 16th century palace repurposed into a hotel with magnificent high-ceilinged rooms and balcony views of the piazza.  There are numerous vantage points from which to view the inspiring countryside, piazzas, buildings and brightly colored accents in Tuscany.

While flowers are a prominent colorful addition to the Tuscan countryside, painted stucco, red tiled roofs, figured marble and ancient architecture all provide for a very interesting and inspiring visit.

Accents can either make or break a design and it’s important that they are placed just right. As you can see, a contrasting accent can provide a piercing pop of color. In your experience, which color schemes typically demand eye catching accents?


Where Do You Find Inspiration?

My wife and I recently went to Tuscany.  This is the first installment of a three-part blog on the trip, focusing on my impressions of Tuscany – with an eye towards inspiration; where it can be found and how it can be utilized.

Although we had ventured to Italy once before, it was a hectic bus tour that included several other countries.  We knew our next trip would have to be done at our own pace to really enjoy ourselves.

We accomplished that with a trip that included staying at a winery in the Chianti region, traveling to Porto Azzurro on Elba (which is still in Tuscany) and ending our stay in Florence.

In our day-to-day lives I don’t think we take enough time to really observe all the beauty around us.  On a holiday trip, we often set up the itinerary as we do our daily lives.  On this trip we were able to slow down, take a look and enjoy the sights.  It was a very inspiring trip!

Sunrise, Sunset, Clouds

Sunrise and sunset, two magical times of the day.  All the more so when in Italy, under the Tuscan sun.  Light seems diffused and soft in Chianti.  The colors in the natural settings in this region merge together to create a palette that while diverse, has a very homogenous cohesiveness.  Pastel skies fade from blue to fiery oranges at sunset with Umbrella Pine trees silhouetted against the sky.  Normally brilliant white clouds, reflect the colors from the setting sun to create sherbet colored castles in the air.

Elba – Sunset and Moon

Sunset on Elba, another part of Tuscany.  With a plethora of coves and numerous harbors it is indeed beautiful.  A short ferry ride from the mainland, it was an interesting change of pace from the Chianti region of Tuscany.  The Mediterranean Sea was a dusky blue in early October, but the coves exhibited clear blue waters with many bathers braving the cooling water.  The sea creates a backdrop for the rocky land and vice versa.  Once the sun was down and the moon had risen, the cloud cover with the moon shining through created a rusted glow in the raven black sky.

Sunset in the Chianti Region of Tuscany

We stayed in a 1000-year-old monastery with a spectacular view.  The sunsets were often reminiscent of William Turner’s paintings, the crisp silhouettes of Tuscan cypress trees bringing us back to the Italian landscape.  The Tuscan sunset was another version of how this region blends color to create spectacular visual displays in the surrounding landscape and in the washed and blended skies.

As someone who works in the design industry and with color, these moments caused me to think about where we find our inspiration.  It also made me reflect on the magical ways in which colors can combine to create something powerful and moving in the human soul.  Not everyone can travel to Tuscany. Yet we can escape and slow down, if we try.  So, how do you find inspiration?




Designers, Encore Hospitality, Hospitality, Zeftron nylon

Encore and Zeftron Come Through for New Distrikt Hotel Pittsburgh

The Distrikt Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, which officially opened in July 2017, is the latest signature hotel from the Distrikt Hotel Management Group. We recently sat down with Jennifer Austin, Executive Vice President, Development and Brand Strategies, to discuss some of the design challenges she faced. She also talked about how Encore Hospitality Carpet worked closely with her to develop a fully custom-designed carpet made with Zeftron nylon to meet the hotel’s unique design and functionality needs.

ZN.:  How did the project come about?

J.A.: The Distrikt Hotel Group opened their first signature hotel in New York City in 2010. When it came time to expand, we found this amazing historic building in a key area of Pittsburgh that was for sale. We immediately realized this would be an excellent opportunity for our second location.

Z.N.: What were some of the challenges you faced in opening the Pittsburgh Hotel?

J.A.: Well, considering we were converting a historic, 10-story former Salvation Army building originally built in 1926 into a modern hotel, we had quite a few challenges. We had to completely gut the building from the second floor up, then we added a few rooms to the 10th floor. 

As a historic building, we needed to adhere to local building codes. For example, we needed to meet the city’s request to not build a parking garage. They also requested we add green amenities. We also needed to preserve the façade, the windows and the amazing lobby area.

Another unique challenge we faced was the guest rooms. Some rooms have 12-ft. ceilings, while others have 8-ft. ceilings. This created some interesting design challenges.

Z.N.: What support did you receive from Encore Hospitality Carpet?

J.A.: Encore was a dream to work with. They had provided the carpet at our New York hotel when it came time to replace the original carpet, so we were familiar with them.

The Pittsburgh hotel was my first FF& E project; handling all the design, construction and installation. It was a big learning experience. But working alongside Richard Heaver (President of Encore) made the process so much better and easier.

Richard took the time to get to know me and listen to me. He took a real hands-on approach other flooring manufacturers would not have. And, because we were not using an architect or a designer, I had to rely heavily on him.

His knowledge and willingness to listen to what I envisioned completely paid off: The carpet he ultimately presented was really stunning, and not normal at all.

Z.N.: Where is the carpet being used?

J.A.: The Encore carpet made with Zeftron is in all corridors and all 185 rooms. Encore rugs with Zeftron are in public spaces, including the main lobby area.

Z.N.: Can you describe the design you were trying to achieve?

J.A.: We knew that we did not want to copy or emulate what other hotels are doing. But more importantly, we wanted to balance the historical nature of the building and the essence of Pittsburgh, while bringing a fresh, modern look. Essentially, we wanted the design to be understated and elegant, evoking a sense of place and time.

Z.N.: What purpose did you need the carpet to serve?

J.A.: We needed the flooring to serve three major purposes: One, it needed to support and enhance the overall design of the hotel; two, it needed to assist with wayfinding in the corridors; and three, it needed to stand up against staining and wearing.

From a design perspective, we wanted the carpet to be reflective of the historic elements of the building and ensure it blended nicely with what we were trying to achieve. So it’s got some fading elements that speak to something historical. But at the same time it’s got some sparkle and pop, making it look contemporary and modern. It ended up perfect; everyone comments on it.

From a functionality standpoint, there are some winding paths in the hallways – not all hallways are completely straight. So we had to work very closely with Encore to create the transitions from hallway to corner. This was some pretty tricky work: How do you take a pattern and not make it look awkward when it’s going around a corner and then going a different length of hallway? The end result is that we have some great corner-to-hallway transitions that help our guests navigate the turns in the corridors.

Bottom line, the carpet is beautiful, affordable and it cleans beautifully. The unique colorways, surface textures and intricate patterns all come together great — it’s kind of a dream.

Z.N.: Thanks for speaking with us!

J.A.: You’re welcome. Thank you.


Blog, Designers

Flooring and Today’s Flexible Office Environments

As summer begins to wind down and we return to the office from vacations, we thought we would explore the ever-growing trend of flexible office environments.

From American Express and GlaxoSmithKline, to Facebook and hundreds of other companies, businesses have been shifting away from cubicle-style floor plans to a mix of individual and collaborative work areas.

Inc. magazine notes that the variety of choices for employees is increasing as businesses offer “comfortable living rooms, libraries, stand-up tables, outdoor spaces, nooks and crannies–to collaborate, create, contemplate, present.”

More Collaborative Spaces

It’s not just the layout of the office that is making a difference. Metropolis magazine’s “The Living Office—The Action Office for the Digital Age” takes a look at a new office system designed by Yves Behar and fuseproject. The design, titled “PUBLIC Office Landscape,” addresses the desire for employees to collaborate at a desk area. This allows individuals or groups to use a desk area equipped with storage bins, mobile privacy screens and more.


Hot-Desking Continues

Another take on the fluid workspace is the practice of “hot-desking.” This practice allocates desks to workers when they are required or on a rotating system, rather than giving each worker their own desk. According to Gensler’s 2016 workplace survey, everyone can benefit from this new approach. The study suggests that organizations, “empower the entire organizational community, not just senior leadership, with the ability to choose when and where to work.”

Flooring’s Role

So how does flooring fit into this new workplace paradigm shift? When it comes to carpet, it can be pretty important. Consider the following:

  • Way-Finding — Carpet color and patterning can help with way-finding and navigation between spaces, such as down hallways or corridors.
  • Space Differentiation – Carpet can create differentiation between different spaces when moving between such things as office departments or different end-use areas.
  • Acoustics – Open spaces, bereft of offices or cubicles, can sometimes be loud and noisy. Carpet’s inherent acoustics can also make workspaces quieter, thus contributing to greater productivity.
  • Visual Balance — Carpet provides a nice visual balance and design element when paired with a hard surface such as wood or LVT in an open floor plan – a growing trend in many office environments today.

Here are some photo examples of how carpeting is being used to define space:

Image credit: Still from video footage, courtesy of videographer Jason Cheung via Work Design Magazine

Image credit: Photography: Manuel Martinez via Crain’s Chicago Business


Image Credit: Shaw Contract

What are your thoughts? Do you work in an open/flexible office? If you specify flooring, how are you using various flooring to create the open, flexible and productive workspaces of today?

If you like this story and want to see more, follow us on social media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram.




NeoCon 2017 — Trends that Floored Us!

As usual, NeoCon 2017 was an inspiring environment bursting with new product innovations and bustling with people from across the design industry. Braving the long elevator lines and armed with my camera, I had one goal: to find the hottest trends in commercial flooring today. Below are my observations:

Muted Colors with Bright Accents Take the Stage – Visiting more than a dozen floorcovering showrooms, the colors for commercial carpets this year feature muted colors and neutrals – greys, browns, earth-tones and blacks predominating. Even when a non-neutral color was introduced, such as a blue, it featured a washed-out appearance.

However, these neutral palettes were off-set by the adroit use of bright accents, which were abundant in several new product introductions.   A bright, almost acid, green was used in many products, and several used orange accents as well. Neutral colors and backgrounds provide a solid canvas from which to build a design. By adding in brilliant accent colors for a “pop” of color, it adds liveliness and interest to a space.



Organic, Nature-Inspired Patterns Continue – For a few years now, we’ve seen the emergence of organic and nature-inspired patterns (and colors) become a predominate element in floor covering design. That continued apace at NeoCon 2017. Many of the flooring products I viewed, both in carpet and hard surface, showed patterns that had an earthy aesthetic, some evoking the look of moss growing and stones scattered about. The bright green I mentioned provided the mossy look, while the greys depicted the stones. Other earth tones were added to bring a depth and richness to the flooring.



Multi-Surface Combinations Are In — All the flooring showrooms I visited displayed coordinating carpet and hard surface options.

Obviously, a lot of thought is going in to flooring materials to provide the right performance and style for the myriad end-use areas in commercial interior spaces.




Zeftron Nylon Brings It Life — The wonderful flooring products on display at NeoCon 2017 were inspiring and beautiful to look at. If you’re a designer needing a range of crisp, clean neutrals (not dull or muddy) to provide the canvas for your next project, consider Zeftron nylon.


Our neutrals can create the organic, nature-inspired look you need. When paired with colors from our Brilliant Collection, we bring the bright reds, yellows and greens needed for that perfect accent.   Our Brilliant colors pop with energy, creating that distinctive look you desire.

And of course, carpet made with Zeftron has the style and the performance characteristics to work right alongside a hard surface product. For more on our entire color range, please visit our Style page.

If you missed our daily NeoCon 2017 video recaps, feel free to check them out here! (Day One, Day Two, Day Three)

I invite your comments. What stood out to you at NeoCon 2017?

Blog, Encore Hospitality

Encore Hospitality Carpet Introduces Amuse Collection

Vibrant designs. Exceptional versatility. Superior performance. These terms encompass the new Amuse Collection, which was recently unveiled by Encore Hospitality Carpet, a hospitality division of Brumlow Mills. With an impressive and bold array of 12 cut and loop patterns and nine bright statement colors made with Zeftron® Nylon, a premium branded nylon 6 yarn system, the Amuse Collection features stunning patterns and a performance-driven construction suited for hospitality projects or public space applications.

Inspired by the current trend toward bright statement colors, the Amuse Collection is designed to appeal to leading designers, specifiers and end-users who seek to have the carpet serve as a dramatic focal point. Bold, yet sophisticated, the detailed designs range from geometrics to florals, with hues that range from bright berries to sunny gold. The collection offers fresh, modern appeal. With more than 108 different pattern and color variations, the Amuse Collection provides designers with a broad and diverse range of options from which to customize virtually any project or space.

Encore Hospitality Carpet President Richard Heaver noted, “The Amuse Collection is a fresh departure from typical flooring products. The striking patterns and vivid colors come to life through Zeftron’s clear crisp solution dyed color palette giving designers and specifiers a perfect launch pad from which to create a dynamic interior space. Additionally, the collection is competitively priced, making it a smart choice for a variety of applications and project budgets.”

The vibrant styling elements of the collection are made possible through Encore’s state-of the-art Infinity manufacturing technology and Zeftron nylon, a solution dyed nylon 6 that offers superior styling, performance and recyclability advantages for commercial carpet products.

Designers can begin the process of creating the perfect carpet for their project at the Encore  Here they can select their patterns, colorize their designs and see how their carpet would look in a three-dimensional room scene. They can also download the room scene, as well as a color swatch, the colorways and a spec sheet to a PDF document.