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Design Collaborative: All Aboard

Carnegie’s new Inside Track upholstery collection celebrates the past, the present and the future.


Carnegie’s new Inside Track upholstery collection celebrates the past, the present and the future.

America's rail infrastructure is intricately laced with our history and our future. The magnificence of historic train stations, the "all aboard" call of the conductor, and the rhythm of a train passing over the rails are images and sounds that resonate with many people.

Carnegie celebrates both the history of our nation's rail lines and the current transformation of select lines into "rails-to-trails" projects in the company's new Inside Track upholstery collection.

Inspired by Manhattan's High Line Park and its reuse of an abandoned rail line, the collection blends the beauty of nature surrounding those lines with the strength of the rail industry.

"Our goal is to produce problem-solving collections for our customers," says Heather Bush, executive vice president, creative/marketing for Carnegie. "There is an abundance of great upholstery products on the market today. In designing this collection, we wanted to offer a crossover product that would be appropriate for use in multiple types of spaces, including corporate, health care, hospitality, and education. We also wanted to produce a collection that is highly durable and that would meet or exceed requirements for heavy contract use. The combination of yarns, weaves and finishes that we used and our environmental focus make this a perfect choice when considering durability, sustainability and compatibility."

The inspiration for Inside Track was literally found outside the company's Manhattan-based studio where members of the Carnegie team watched as the investment that was made to renovate the abandoned rail lines culminated in a new park and trails system.

Bush believes that Mary Holt, also an executive vice president, creative/marketing for Carnegie, and her design team's inspiration was clearly conveyed as they brought the collection to fruition. "Mary and her team brilliantly broke down the creative barrier in my opinion," she says. "In looking at the High Line and its surroundings, they found images to serve as the basis for five very distinct patterns. Each of the designs works very well independently or in tandem with other Inside Track designs or with a number of other Carnegie collections."

The Inside Track collection introduces spun post-consumer recycled polyester yarns that are bleach-cleanable and stain resistant. Four of the five designs feature a Greenshield™ finish, which uses green nanotechnology to meet requirements for stain and water resistance while minimizing fluro-chemicals and eliminating harmful VOCs.

"The environmental theme is evident in several ways," notes Holt, who led the design team. "We always have environmental responsibility as the foundation for our designs. The transformation of the rail line and the surrounding environment was a perfect fit for our company's beliefs."

Holt says that the seed for the collection—which debuted at NeoCon this year—was planted during one of the team's trend meetings. Team members contributed a number of ideas, which were in turn discussed and evaluated. From these discussions, the team quickly seized upon the idea of rail revitalization and began generating concepts around this theme.

"Our goal with every collection is to tell a story with the least amount of product, which relates to our mission to not put more into the environment than is necessary," explains Holt. "We evaluated the designs without regard to construction or limiting factors and worked with our mill partners as we moved forward to address manufacturing issues. We believe that the selected designs tell a good story."

The five patterns—Arrival, Departure, Pullman, Rail Trail and Trestle—are clean and sophisticated.

Arrival comes in 15 colors and is the newest of Carnegie's polyurethane products (and the most sustainable to date). Departure represents the scenery that an individual views from a moving train. Pullman, which is Holt's favorite, features a rich, floral chenille pattern, and comes in colors of pink, orange, gold, blue, gray, taupe and brown, and can be used outdoors because of the polypropylene content used to manufacture this design. Rail Trail represents the natural environment in an urban setting, while Trestle, which comes in six colorways, reflects the outline of steel railroad tracks in linear form.

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