Return to site home page


The Road to D*scover

A new design competition sponsored by Durkan and NEWH allows industry professionals and students an opportunity to explore their creative side.


A new design competition sponsored by Durkan and NEWH allows industry professionals and students an opportunity to explore their creative side.

The interior design profession is one of discovery. Professionals seek new materials to make buildings stronger and more aesthetically pleasing; more environmentally friendly products and processes; and new talent to build upon the creative genius of earlier generations.

The search for new talent also involves an investment in mentoring younger design professionals and students. Throughout the years, competitions have served as a mechanism for identifying talent that, in many cases, has not yet achieved wide acclaim.

It is in this spirit that Durkan, the hospitality brand of The Mohawk Group, and NEWH (The Hospitality Industry Network) sponsored the D*scover competition, which was established to showcase the talent of hospitality designers while also contributing to the education of future designers. Individuals were encouraged to develop and submit carpet designs based on a set of criteria. After reviewing dozens of entries, the judges selected Karen Bradley as the winner among design professionals and Emily Riebkes as the student winner.

Student Winner:
Emily Riebkes

Student winner Emily Riebkes is a sophomore at The University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. She grew up in Wellsburg, which is about 40 miles from the university.

"I have lived in the same house all my life, and we have constantly been remodeling or adding on," she says. "Seeing my home constantly changing over the years inspired me by showing how much more effective something can be with a good design. I was also active in 4-H, which allowed me to explore my creative side. The combination led me to pursue a career in interior design."

Leonardo da Vinci's glass tube served as the main source for Riebkes' design. She says the design made her think of the reflections one sees when the sun is shining on the water. From there, she realized that water itself creates unique designs, such as a ripple effect when a drop of water hits a pool, or the reflections that are made when the sun shines through water.

"I love the outdoors and the beauty that is evident," says Riebkes. "I hope that fewer people will get caught up in the convenience of the moment and that a greater number of individuals will think about the Earth's long-term condition. These reasons also helped form the foundation for my designs. When nature gives you an unlimited amount of naturally perfected designs, I believe you should use and display them to inspire others to help keep our environment safe."

The ballroom design was composed mainly of different geometric shapes that represent a reflection seen in water, and Riebkes used different blue and green shades with scattered gray. The pre-function design has a background of geometric shapes that were filled in with a gray hatch pattern that was then overlapped with a large-scale ripple pattern (which was shown in different shades of blue and green as well). The corridor pattern shows different blue and green geometric shapes leading down the center with alternating green and blue ripple patterns down the sides. The border detail is made of geometric shapes lined with different shades of blue and green ripple patterns. Riebkes says that all of her designs incorporate the ripple and reflection patterns, but in unique ways. She picked from a pallet of three or four shades of bright green and three or four shades of bright blue, and then incorporated a gray color to tone down the designs.

"Winning the competition is a real motivator," concludes Riebkes. "My major can be somewhat challenging at times, and winning this competition gave me more confidence and more motivation to go as far as I can, and to not fall short of my dreams."

Barbara Marcy, creative design director for Durkan, says that sponsoring this carpet design competition is an important part of both the company's and her personal mission. "I wanted to extend a hand to the design community to see and meet some of the creative minds in our field. We believed that a design competition was a good opportunity because all entrants gain equality when submitting their creative ideas."

Marcy also states that Durkan wanted to reach out to the design community during these trying times in an effort to encourage those individuals who may need a boost to be recognized in light of an unexpected change in employment.

The choice by officials at Durkan to partner with NEWH was a natural one, according to Marcy. "We have a long history with the organization and became the third corporate partner 15 years ago," she says. "NEWH is the only multi-disciplinary hospitality networking organization in the industry, which enabled us to reach the largest number of hospitality designers in the marketplace. NEWH is also committed to raising money for student scholarships. Through our combined efforts, we were able to provide the grand prize of a $3,000 scholarship to Emily Riebkes."

D*scover was open to all industry professionals and student members of NEWH. Participants were asked to design four carpet patterns that were characteristic of hospitality spaces: 1) large corridor; 2) large ballroom; 3) large or medium pre-function/meeting room; and 4) border or in-fill design. Entries included photographs or visuals, concept boards, sketches and written narratives. The 70 entries were judged by Todd Oldham of Todd Oldham Studio; textile designer Virginia Langley of Sky Designs Inc.; NEWH president Helen Reed; and Marcy.

"We were thrilled with the quality of work we received," says Marcy. "The usability of the designs to go straight to carpet was evident in many cases. We have plans to continue the contest for many years and hope that the number of entries will grow. I expect that the design requirements will change in the future as the industry continues to evolve."

Winner Karen Bradley, marketing coordinator with Group One Partners in Boston, has a background in graphic design and went to school in Dublin, Ireland. "I found out about the competition through an e-mail from NEWH and was excited because it was so open," she says. "The concept was entirely up to the designer, which I liked because sometimes you don't have that much freedom in the design world."

Bradley knew she wanted an organic feel to her designs without wanting to be too literal. "I worked through a lot of nature-inspired ideas and settled my designs around the hydrangea," she says. "It is an amazing flower to me, and I thought that the blooms had a cushion-like appearance."

Hydrangeas get their vivid blue blooms from minerals in the soil. "I developed the textured layer in my designs from the relationship between the soil and the flower," explains Bradley. "I began to layer the browns for the soil with the blues, purples and violets of the bloom and eventually arrived at the finished piece."

For the large ballroom pattern, Bradley used a layering effect of the Earth's browns and greens with the organic oversized hydrangea blooms in the top. The flower is slightly abstracted to highlight its softness, which in turn evokes the organic nature of the piece. The large corridor pattern is a play on the ballroom design, with the same Earth pattern underneath and the blooms along one side of the corridor. Bradley added burnt yellow for some vibrancy next to the Earth browns. The meeting room design is a more literal display of the actual hydrangeas and features an underneath layer of browns and greens with a translucent print of the bloom for the top layer. The border is a plain dark brown, which allows this piece to "frame" the other designs in what Bradley says you could call "floor art."

For more information on the competition and its winners, visit

Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, TN. She was formerly a marketing manager for HNTB and now works with industry clients to address their marketing and public relations needs. She can be reached at