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Think National, Design Local

Six designers from the Washington, D.C. area win the first Design Local competition from Mannington Commercial by creating a carpet collection inspired by topography and transportation.

By Robert Nieminen

Six designers from the Washington, D.C. area win the first Design Local competition from Mannington Commercial by creating a carpet collection inspired by topography and transportation.

24 hours. 6 designers.

1 big idea.

That, in a nutshell, is what Design Local is all about. It’s also about finding inspiration in your own backyard. And, of course, it’s about creating beautiful carpet.

“As product manufacturers, we have always been interested in finding new ways to connect with the A&D community. In particular, we love to find ways to engage designers in product design,” says Natalie Jones, vice president of brand development and creative product at Mannington Commercial. “We were captivated by the idea that a large company could create a platform to support local design, with an emphasis on how design reflects and contributes to the communities where creative people live and work.”

This idea led Mannington to launch Design Local, a new product collaboration program in which the company partnered with designers from different firms in four cities—Austin, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco—and charged them with capturing and translating the unique spirit of their hometowns. During a 24-hour design immersion, the teams fanned out into their cities, armed with digital cameras and $200 spending cash in search of ideas and inspiration; they then worked together to create themes and concepts for a collection.

(Interiors & Sources served as the official media partner and helped document the process during each city stop—visit our Inside Sources blog for more.)

In the weeks that followed, the teams collaborated with Mannington’s product designers and colorists to develop their sketches, photography and artifacts into coordinating patterns. The resulting carpet collections were then posted online, with the final winner selected entirely by voting at the Design Local website.

The winning collection, On the Grid, was created by Team D.C., along with Mannington’s product designers, and was inspired by topography and transportation. Maps, signs and graphic representations break up the streets in a city that is remarkably well-laid out into quadrants, grid systems and traffic circles.

At the same time, the fact that the city is so walkable and boasts one of the best public transportation systems in the world makes this mapping very human. In fact, none of the six Team D.C. members own a car; all rely on public transportation, pedal- and foot-power to travel to work each day.

On the Grid will now become a full product collection of carpet and LVT, manufactured by Mannington and displayed at the NeoCon World's Trade Fair in June.

We recently sat down with the team from Washington, D.C. to find out what inspired them in creating their collection and what they learned in the process.

I&S: What did you enjoy most about the competition?

anne stahl: The best thing for me was when all the designers got together—really understanding how their thought process works. Going to see one city, we all came up with similar ideas and little twists on each one, but it was really neat to see how six designers from different places could come up with one great, cohesive idea.

patricia duval: One of the things that was really interesting was the photography was very similar ... it was very cohesive and had the same language. It was almost like we were following the same concept without agreeing to it, so that was amazing.

kristyn hill: I like the idea that it was a design charrette. It kind of pulled back to when we were in school and having these little mini-contests. It gets you excited again about design, and it’s kind of nice and fresh. PageBreak

I&S: What were you hoping to get out of the experience?

duval: I think one of the things I was looking for was to do something completely [outside] of what I do every day—going to a new city, understanding the city, using photography to [experience] the city a little bit more, and getting into the details and bringing inspiration into the work from something very simple, such as walking around and sharing ideas with other designers. It’s just taking you out of the office, the 9 to 5.

bonny slater: Personally, I have to say that I dislike 90 percent of carpet designs that are out there in the commercial world, so to be offered the opportunity to react by designing something is just perfect. I’m always giving the reps a hard time. [laughter]

I&S: What does it mean to you to be a designer living and working in the nation’s capital?

maggie pascoe: I thought it was cool because I don’t think Washington, D.C. really has a name in design right now, especially when you’re comparing it to San Francisco or Chicago. So, I think winning this is exciting for us, to sort of put our name on the map.

WATCH: Meet the six winners of this year's Design Local competition from Mannington Commercial.

preeti reddy: I think when people think of D.C., they don’t think of design or art or culture at all, really—they just think government ... and no color. But I think we were able to show that there’s a lot going on underneath it all.

slater: I’m from D.C., but I’ve actually spent most of my time as a designer in New York and only recently came back. What I’ve always been interested with in D.C. is that it’s so much more beautiful [of a] city than New York and other East Coast cities. It just has such age and texture and richness that is hard to find in the U.S.

I&S: What did you learn about the process of designing carpet?

stahl: It’s a lot harder than it looks.

hill: It looks like it’s easy just picking the colors and fibers for just one carpet pattern. Back in the tx:style contest, I had to pick between six different fibers to go into one, cohesive design ... you can’t comprehend what these different colors are going to translate to.

stahl: I learned a lot about carpet, like the texture that goes into it and what the texture does or doesn’t do. I just look at carpet in a different way now.

duval: What’s happened to me is that everything I see now, I want to make into carpet. [laughter]

I&S: What do you think makes this collection of carpet different from other products on the market?

reddy: I just think it looks like D.C. and the other carpets don’t look city-specific—maybe in the colors a little bit. But this is original and you haven’t really seen anything like this before.

stahl: I think the pattern doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen, even if we’re not talking about D.C. I’ve never seen carpet that looks like that.

I&S: What do you want designers and specifiers of carpet to know about this team and this collection?

slater: It’s not the kind of carpet that will work in every space or for every client. I think there are clients that you can tell this story to—maybe it’s a client you’re trying to take to the next level. Our complementary lines will definitely fit for that, but then you might be able to bring them a little bit more edge in certain spaces through the accent pieces. So I think it’s kind of like D.C. and the politics: you play the conservative and the liberal, and help them along a little bit. As designers, we do that a lot. So I think the story could definitely help designers sell their design.

natalie jones, mannington commercial: From the manufacturer’s point of view, I think the connection of this team and the cooperative nature of the team, and how that can yield a great end result was really nice to see. Each city functioned a little differently, which was another interesting part of the process, doing this in four cities around the country and seeing the unique personalities, as well as the unique nature of each locale that we were in. But I think one thing about this team was really that wonderful connection and a cooperative, collaborative nature that yielded such a great winning design.


For more information on Design Local, visit To watch a video of the winning team, click here