Considerations when designing with carpet tiles
By MARCY EWING GLOBAL STUDIO DESIGN DIRECTOR Shaw Contract
A KEY theme for workspace interiors today is the desire for flexibility. Office environments with open office systems are designed for and associated with flexibility, to accommodate frequent layout changes. A modular flooring system such as carpet tiles can be quickly adapted to changing needs, reducing the costs of reorganisation and allowing for greater design flexibility.
The growing trend towards flexible working practises includes a move to part-time work and a growing number of workers becoming self-employed. To retain employee talent, organisations are recognising the important role of the workplace itself and are looking to find ways to make offices more comfortable and inviting.
In tandem with this has been an influx of residential finishes and concepts brought into the corporate environment. Building occupants and owners are wanting textured, softer, more tactile surfaces and this also embraces a move to more inspired patterns.
Commentators note that this blurring of home/office styling reflects changing working patterns and the influence of the Millennial generation who are moving the boundaries between home/work/play in the workplace.
Carpet tiles are an ideal flooring solution to help meet these trends. Carpet tiles come in different styles and patterns, offering a whole range of choices that reflect the brand and aesthetic of an office or workspace. They’re available in various colours and textures, which makes them perfect for designing dynamic, inspiring or calming spaces.
Flooring designs using carpet tiles can act as a visual cue in large, open plan spaces: with subdued, neutral colours used to denote quieter areas, and bold, bright colours indicating a creative space. Carpet tiles offer an easy solution for creating zones within an area – spaces within spaces – to support specific moods or functions; and they can be used to help with wayfinding in any space. They are also being combined with other flooring solutions in some spaces, for example luxury vinyl tiles. This has again been driven by the design trend for different functional zones in large open-plan spaces.
Carpet tile options include a range of sizes and shapes: from large and small squares to skinny and large planks, and hexagon tiles.
The elementary building block is the square. This shape is the foundation for most product ranges and can used to create an environment of continuous uninterrupted pattern to flow as needed. Alternatively, the perfect square shape of a carpet tile is also ideal for creating geometrical repeated patterns in an overall installation.
Installing hexagon shape carpet tiles can influence the workspace mood: hexagons can create the feeling of social hives of collaboration, colour and movement. The hexagon reflects the cultural shift toward more collaborative environments – influencing the ways we work, walk, communicate and create.
Plank shape carpet tiles are a popular innovation as they offer the opportunity to create flooring features and allow you to make progressive patterns and colour in your space. The rectangular proportion gives the designer an opportunity to try different installations from herringbone to basket-weave to chevrons.
The excitement of using carpet tile is the floor is a canvas and there are limitless ideas when creating floor layouts.
Carpet tiles offer the possibility to mix and match different shapes and to create patterns with shapes. By simply changing the installation of the same pattern from a monolithic layout to a herringbone layout gives a designer the opportunity to create a different mood or zone within a space.
Patterned carpet tiles offer another option for the designer. New pattern matching technology ensures that design and patterns in carpet tile production are maintained. Patterns can also be a very practical choice as patterned carpet tiles typically are better for high traffic areas to hide soil and stains.
Patterned carpet tiles are usually chosen by the designer to complement the overall design theme that has been identified for the project. Some popular design choices using patterned carpet tiles to create specific responses include:
- using pattern when you want to change, from corridor to work space;
- using larger-scale patterns to help a large space feel more interesting for conference centres, hospitality areas and airports;
- patterned carpet tiles laid to resemble broadloom carpet to give a space more of a luxury feel.
Natural tones and patterns restore our sense of calm and help us feel more grounded. Injecting plain, simple patterns to the space changes the mood and allows the floor to be quiet and simple.
Many carpet tile patterns have been inspired by natural rock formations or other surfaces from nature.
This connection of the interior to the world outside is a popular trend and suggests a need to step away from the man-made urban environment and reconnect with the natural world instead.
By way of contrast, bold colours, stripes and graphic patterns can create a dynamic interplay that suggests energy and activity.
As well as the numerous different colours and patterns that are available, carpet tiles can incorporate different textures to add a new dimension to your space.
Texture has grown in importance as a key element of carpet tile specification and has been enabled through new manufacturing techniques. Texture adds a new, tactile dimension to any space that is perfectly in keeping with the today’s workplace.
A relaxing space that could constitute a ‘chill out’ office zone or lobby waiting room is likely to need a large, bulky texture which can give a feeling of a plush, comforting experience. Cut-pile carpet tiles present a luxurious finish with a soft feel and plush appearance.
Loop pile carpet tiles also provide a soft feel and add an element of luxury and comfort. Level loop piles with short and densely packed loops prevent dirt from filtering into carpet and are easy to clean, making it ideal for high traffic areas.
Textured loop pile carpet tiles combine the robust, hardwearing performance of a loop pile construction with a range of design possibilities. With a tailored, simple texture the architectural qualities of the space become the statement.
Colour sets the mood of the workspace, so choosing wisely can have a noticeably beneficial effect on the mood and behaviour of customers and staff.
There has been a move for some organisations to opt to incorporate signature colours from their corporate branding, and this can be very effective in creating eye-catching carpet tile flooring designs. In the age of open floor plans and flexible workspaces, it’s a natural progression that the office is a representation of the company’s brand just like the logo.
However strong colours can be overwhelming in big or even not so big spaces, and so designers will generally choose to use stripes of plain colours or accent colours in certain areas only, within a more neutral surrounding scheme.
Neutral and therefore versatile, grey tones, for example, are a good choice when you need to tone with a variety of key colours. These tones can look bland without highlights, so colour in paintwork or detailing can be used in smaller spaces.
While earth and green tones have been popular to provide a warm and relaxing atmosphere, there has been a growth in the use of grey tones to provide a neutral look. Grey also teams well with bright colours to raise the mood and energy.
Blue tones have a calming effect and they are one of the favourite choices for commercial premises. Care needs to be taken though sometimes to offset this coolness and again this is where the introduction of contrasting and warmer colours can be used to great effect.
There has been a notable trend in creating bright, playful spaces using colour within an office environment. Whether this is to denote a more informal company culture, or whether it reflects a desire to stimulate creative thinking, colour is being used in a whole range of new ways in flooring schemes.
Much still will be depend on other furniture and fittings that are specified alongside the flooring or are already in situ. Care therefore still needs to be taken to create an interior scheme that feels cohesive and co-ordinated.
While a range of weight and thickness of carpet tile options provide for underfoot comfort, there are additional benefits to specifying carpet tiles in terms of occupant comfort.
Carpet tiles as a flooring solution are ideal for businesses that need some kind of noise insulation, such as an office environment. Carpet tiles can absorb sound and reduce impact noise at the source. Acoustic consideration and treatments have become an increasingly important issue in open plan spaces to enable a comfortable and productive working environment.
Another key architectural trend in office design has also contributed to the need for acoustic consideration – exposed soffits and services. An exposed soffit is one to which no additional finishing layer, such as a suspended ceiling, or tiling, board has been applied.
As removing suspended tile ceilings in favour of exposed soffits and services becomes more popular, there is a need to replace the lost acoustic benefit. The flooring choice therefore becomes a more important in this context.
In architecture, light reflectance value (LRV), is a measure of visible and usable light that is reflected from a surface when illuminated by a light source. In a workplace environment LRV is a key consideration for flooring.
The higher the LRV the more light the carpet tile will reflect, and the less artificial light is needed. Carpet tile manufacturers should be able to give the LRV rating of each colour of carpet tile in their range so designers can make informed decisions within the overall design of the scheme.
The way in which objects or the differences between surfaces are seen is an important factor when considering the fitting or furnishing of any building – and especially as the needs of the visually impaired will need to be taken into account in any public building.
Inclusive design is rightly playing an important part in the flexible design briefs for projects.
The market for carpet tiles in the commercial sector continues to grow.
In general, carpet tiles are becoming more environmentally friendly. New developments in yarn and fibres, and schemes for recycling are becoming a perfect match for increasingly stringent green building regulations.
Carpet tiles also offer good wear performance and are easy to clean. However, it’s their design flexibility that’s also making carpet tiles an increasingly popular choice for today’s workspaces.