Posted on 10/24/2013 9:47 AM by Robert Nieminen

There’s more to Nashville than meets the eye, and when you look past the surface of all the honky-tonks, oversized belt buckles, cowboy boots and 5-gallon hats, you uncover a rich dichotomy of opposites that formed the perfect backdrop for this year’s second stop in Mannington Commercial’s Design Local tour.

In the same way that the seemingly disparate genres of country and rap music share common ground in storytelling (and have produced some very unlikely collaborations), harmonies exist in Nashville between juxtaposed elements: old and new, glitzy and rustic, natural and man-made.

Six designers from the local area— Kayla Beebe, Danielle Johanson, Lauren Comet, Malee Cherry, Rachel Emerson and Isaac Holman (pictured below, from left)—convened at Nashville’s new Omni Hotel this past weekend in search of inspiration for an upcoming line of carpet from Mannington that will be introduced at next year’s NeoCon World’s Trade Fair in Chicago.

Things got off to a relatively quiet start, with Team Nashville displaying some characteristic southern gentility as they casually determined a game plan for the typically hectic three-hour design scramble, during which the designers are set loose on their own stomping grounds with $200 cash and a digital camera to go hunting for inspiration.

As if sitting on someone’s front porch sipping sweet tea, Malee, Danielle and Lauren, who I shadowed for the afternoon, stood patiently waiting for the valet to return with our car and chatted nonchalantly at the hotel’s entrance. In the process, inspiration struck in the form of a tattooed hipster standing nearby who all-too-happily obliged us by removing his shirt and allowing us to take photos of his colorful body art.

Lesson learned: good things do come to those who wait.

As we walked on foot toward an area known as Five Points, the pace began to pick up; colorful murals, vintage retail shops and rustic coffee joints provided ample photo opportunities for the designers. Colors and textures of rust, iron, brick, concrete and natural elements spoke to the aging qualities that exist in the city’s surrounding historic neighborhoods.

The last leg of our design scramble was centered downtown, where the touristy boot shops and bars along Lower Broadway are located, providing a glittery counterbalance to the rustic charm of the city. The designers picked up artifacts—including a vintage pair of boots and some posters from Nashville’s iconic Hatch Show Print—that were the perfect complements to the many inspiring photos taken that afternoon.

Once we reconvened back at the Omni, the team began the more difficult task of identifying common themes among all the photography and artifacts that would form the foundation for the new carpet line. Patterns began to emerge in the areas of texture, color and design elements such as stitching, embossing and the curvilinear shapes of musical instruments that are so characteristic of Nashville.

By the end of the 24-hour crash course in product design, Team Nashville had orchestrated a cohesive design statement that brought harmony to the dichotomies in the city they call home—and we can’t wait to see the finished product.

READ: Robert recaps Mannington Commercial’s Seattle edition of Design Local in the Inside Sources blog.