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Design Collaborative: Sophisticated Tile

Inspired by Asian influences, Frame of Reference, by Tai Ping Contract, offers designers a sophisticated carpet tile that is perfect for executive spaces.


Inspired by Asian influences, Frame of Reference, by Tai Ping Contract, offers designers a sophisticated carpet tile that is perfect for executive spaces.

Each of us is inspired by different visions, values, beliefs and experiences—our frame of reference. The same can be said for companies in the design industry, where commitments to value, customer needs and social and environmental responsibility are forces behind the development of new products. It is perhaps fitting, then, that officials at Tai Ping Contract America selected Frame of Reference as the name for the company’s debut collection of carpet tile. This beautiful new collection reflects the company’s roots and its sensitivity to the needs of designers on multiple continents.

Phil Decker, vice president of sales, says that the new collection supports the company’s growth strategy. "Tai Ping has experienced incredible growth in the past five years based on the geographic coverage of our offices. In order to continue our growth we realized that we needed to grow our product lines, and carpet tile was an appropriate choice."

Tai Ping was already manufacturing carpet tiles in Asia, but those were sold solely for that market. Decker and other company officials believed there was an opportunity to introduce an upscale wool carpet tile for global distribution, and Frame of Reference was born.

"We are very committed to a holistic design view that considers how carpet plays into a larger space," notes Decker. "We wanted to provide a collection for upscale executive spaces where art collections and elegant furnishings are found."

Part of the decision to focus on the executive market relates to the collection’s materials. The face fiber is 100 percent wool procured from experienced and long-term suppliers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The carpet is backed by PREMISE, the company’s tile backing system, which is comprised of 80 percent post-consumer recycled content.

"We are very proud of the social and environmental responsibility associated with all our products, including Frame of Reference," adds Decker. He notes that wool is a renewable resource and that the company’s manufacturing operations in Thailand have adopted the TLS 8001 labor standard. All of the company’s products have Green Label Plus certification, and NSF 140 certification is pending.

Ginger Gilbert, Tai Ping’s global design manager, contract division, was selected to design the new line and says that her involvement was very interesting. "It gave me an opportunity to work on something entirely new, which was a wonderful experience."

Gilbert and Decker began the design process by touring major Asian cities. Their quest involved looking for images and colors that would resonate with designers in the United States as well as in Europe, Asia and South America. "We believed that we should have an Asian inspiration because of our company’s roots," says Gilbert. "However, we knew these needed to be subtle because of our international reach."

Trends developed as the team interviewed young designers, poured over magazines and walked through multiple cities. Space is at a premium in major Asian cities, so designers strategically place windows and pivot doors to maximize outside views in the interior environment. By employing this technique, they in effect go beyond a room’s perimeter plane.

"This design approach is actually similar to a centuries-old principle called ‘shakkei’ which is an Asian architecture and landscape design approach that involved precisely placing architectural elements and their relationship with natural surroundings," explains Gilbert. "The patterns in Frame of Reference suggest organic motifs inside subtle, orderly frames that give great breadth of space."

The collection features three distinct patterns that can be used alone or in concert with each other. Portal was inspired by windows that often lead to ancient Asian gardens, and is more free-flowing than the other two designs in the collection. Threshold features a textural, woven pattern that is perfect for connecting spaces and styles. Transom blends two elements—rigid lines and fluid forms—in a classic yet contemporary design.

All tiles are manufactured with skein dyed wool and measure 23.62 inches by 23.62 inches. The collection supports more than 10 installation options, and tiles are installed using Tai Ping’s 5809 pressure-sensitive releasable adhesive.

The colorways for Frame of Reference were inspired by the beauty and myriad of colors seen in an Asian skyline at night. Twelve colorways, including ash, maple, cedar, jade and cobalt, are shared by the three patterns, and custom colors are also available.

Frame of Reference debuted at NeoCon® 2009 and the response has been very positive. Within six months, Tai Ping had installations on three continents. Rather than adding new patterns to the collection, the company will add new collections, such as it did when Sketchbook premiered in the fall of 2009. The two collections share the same color line but have distinctly different patterns. Willow, the company’s next collection, will be introduced in early 2010.

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