A Beautiful World

The beauty of the natural environment shines through in Interface's new Urban Retreat collection, designed by David Oakey.

By Janet Wiens

Most communities in America recognize our innate need to commune with the natural world by providing residents with green spaces, where they can play on fields of grass or sit under the shade of a century’s old tree. A number of forward-thinking cities are even repurposing former industrial or commercial spaces to provide new green spaces with minimal environmental impact, as evidenced by the High Line in New York City and the community gardens that seem to pop up everywhere else.

Our desire to see and interact with the natural environment, even in the heart of our biggest cities, serves as the foundation for Urban Retreat, a new collection by Interface. The line features nine styles of modular carpet that include a range of patterns from graceful textures to broad organic forms. According to the company’s literature, the collection “represents an aesthetic and an urban future that is technologically versatile, environmentally responsible and that celebrates Mother Nature.”

Mindy O’Gara, Interface’s director of product styling, says that several factors encouraged company officials to pursue the new line. “We like to keep things fluid and fresh by analyzing trends, as well as the requests that we receive from our customers. We were drawn to offering a product that would speak to sustainability and our company’s vision.”

Urban Retreat was designed by David Oakey, principal of David Oakey Designs and head of product design for Interface. O’Gara adds that Oakey is a strong proponent of biophilia—described as the love of life and living systems—and incorporated aspects from the science, philosophy and poetry of biophilia into the new collection.

“Biophilia was very important to the line’s development,” says O’Gara. “It speaks to our company’s commitment to do well by doing good. We believe that the patterns in the line reflect the beauty of nature in a way that will allow designers and our customers to create interior environments with strong connections to the natural world.”

It is important to note that Urban Retreat was designed for international appeal. The collection will be manufactured in eight facilities on four continents, and will be the company’s first collection to be launched in a truly global way. As part of this approach, Urban Retreat’s patterns will be numbered rather than named—a measure taken to avoid problems with translating names between multiple languages.

“This is a global collection in every sense of the word, from how the designs were developed, the designs themselves and where they will be produced,” says Oakey. “Our research included analyzing the products that were purchased by our top 50 global customers. We looked at the colors, styles and textures, and then pushed our designs to create a collection of organic patterns with diverse textures. The collection emulates the colors and design changes we experience outside.”

Oakey adds that we want to connect and blend with the natural environment, rather than separate it from man-made materials—think of the use of distressed woods with more contemporary materials. In his opinion, this blending creates a harmony of co-existence and a reconnection with nature that is vitally important. “We traveled around the world to look at design trends and to observe urban residents. It became clear that the desire for people to connect with the natural environment in our cities is morphing into our interior environments as well.”

Design inspiration came from looking at tree bark, stones, moss and other natural elements; the eight available colorways reflect these elements by recreating the colors of grass, straw and wheat, just to name a few. All of the patterns in the collection can stand alone, but they are also designed to work well together. Some of the patterns have been explicitly designed to serve as a bridge from one pattern to another, helping to create a visual shift and making it difficult to determine where one pattern stops and the next begins.

Oakey and O’Gara both note that technological advances in tufting equipment enabled the company to achieve some of the designs in the collection that would not have been possible in the past. The technology facilitates a more saturated placement of color, for example, which provides a softer visual appeal.

In keeping with the company’s commitment to sustainability, Urban Retreat has a recycled content of up to 82 percent, including 100 percent recycled fiber and recycled backing. By manufacturing the collection on four different continents, the use of fuels required for transport is also lessened when compared to manufacturing at one plant and shipping globally.

Urban Retreat celebrates the beauty of nature and our human desire to experience it on many levels. The collection serves as inspiration for the creation of interior environments that blend the beauty of nature with the talents of artisans who create man-made products—resulting in a truly beautiful world.

Learn more about Urban Retreat at www.interface.com.


Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, Tenn. 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 jwiens@bellsouth.net.