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Catching the Designer’s Eye

12.01.2017
Tarkett’s new Chicago showroom blends four brands into a warm, inviting space that serves as a respite from the hustle and bustle of the Merchandise Mart.
By AnnMarie Martin

Collections Infinies Ribweave LVT designed by Suzanne Tick Inc. Collections Inifnies LVT Glow designed by K&Co.; Johnsonite Transcend LVT with SureSet Technology Tandus Centiva TextureMap and ColorMap modular carpet designed by Jhane Barnes. Tandus Centiva Island Gate Augustine healthcare soft surface next to Tandus Centiva More Than Wood digitally printed LVT Johnsonite I.D. Inspiration luxury vinyl flooring  (center) with Desso Axminster carpet peeking out next to it.

At this year’s NeoCon, Tarkett debuted a brand new showroom that is double the size—10,000 square feet—of its original space just down the hall. The updated location in the Mart reflects the company’s efforts to embrace all four brands under the Tarkett umbrella: Johnsonite, Tandus Centiva, Desso, and Tarkett.

That’s where Kate Thompson, design manager, visual and creative communications for Tarkett North America, comes in. “That is one of my roles—to make sure all of the showrooms have that same look, feel, and aesthetic and to bring them to fruition from start to finish,” she said. She noted that Tarkett “wanted all our brands in one locale,” making sure all are given fair play in terms of square footage. “We definitely want to show a good mix of products too, from LVT to soft surface.”

One large hurdle to face was timing. Tarkett took ownership of the space in February with the goal of being ready for Best of NeoCon judging in a few short months, during which walls were taken down between columns, all new plumbing was installed, and all existing lighting upgraded to LED.

In the end, everything was achieved on time, and doors opened to the throngs of NeoCon visitors who let their curiosity take over as they entered, explored, and took the opportunity to kick up their feet and recharge.

“Knowing that our busiest time of year in that space is NeoCon, we wanted to be able to draw people in and give them a place where they were comfortable,” Thompson explained. “We really thought about who the user is, [the person who] would come into the space” and take advantage of the experience Tarkett offers. But the company also had to consider the rest of the year when organic foot traffic is not as easy to come by. While many customers are arriving to the location with specific goals in mind, Tarkett wanted to attract those browsing with eye-catching products and areas that could serve as faster and more effective touch points. 

Wooden slabs were hung from the ceiling in two areas to help tell the manufacturer’s digital printing story. All four on display were scanned to create flooring pieces for the Tandus Centiva brand’s More than Wood collection, featured in the showroom. “We wanted to show [the slabs] as art pieces during NeoCon to [highlight them as] beautiful pieces of wood from nature so we created actual flooring out them,” Thompson explained. “This is part of our inspiration.”

The stadium seating area is unique to the Chicago showroom and was a major focal point during the build out. It’s a wireless environment that can serve as anything from an educational space—with a projector and outlets as well as USB ports—to a lounge area for relaxation, quiet study, or collaborative meetings. A serpentine, standing-height table was also custom made (featured below) to give guests an opportunity to “walk through” samples of Tarkett product in a more organized fashion. A large square portal serves as the entryway.

According to Thompson, all Tarkett showrooms feature a hospitality element and strong visual feature to catch the visitor’s eye. In Chicago, there is the sculpture hanging above the bar. It was created by the Tarkett team, inspired by designer Suzanne Tick, and senior vice president of design Chris Stulpin’s admiration for sculptor Louise Nevelson, who created similar pieces. It’s titled, “A Daydream Come True” and was built from Johnsonite’s millwork wall-based material, a top-selling product.  

Library spaces are a staple in Tarkett showrooms, and in the Windy City it was built directly behind the stadium seating with acrylic shelving to allow the user to still see through the space. However, there remains a sense of privacy for more extensive exploration. And while Thompson said it was important to the company that the space not look like a furniture showroom, guests are given plenty of areas where they can gaze upon original patterns and designs, such as the Desso Hospitality custom product at left.

Some of the wooden slabs utilized in the digital printing process give another sample display area a sense of seclusion. These are all products launched within the last year and they will be updated as new versions become available so the space doesn’t become stagnant. They are posted up on white boards that feature removable samples as well as a description of each product. “It’s something we’re trying to place in all our new showrooms as a quick touchpoint for a customer who might not have a lot of time,” Thompson noted.