Inspired by Nature

Known for its commitment to sustainable design and manufacturing as well as its global view on the environment, Interface has long been a go-to source for designers and architects aiming to introduce eco-friendly, design-forward flooring solutions in their projects. Always on the cutting edge of evolving views on environmentally conscious design, the company’s recent Human Nature Collection pushes the notion of sustainability to a new level with products that can help enhance the well-being of its users on psychological as well as physical levels, while considering the environmental health of the planet at the same time.

Inspired by a mixture of natural surfaces found in nature—such as gravel, stone, moss and grass—the Human Nature Collection features a variegated blend of tones and textures with complex looped and cut fibers that mimic the textures of nature’s own materials underfoot. The idea behind the designs was to respond to the growing interest in incorporating elements into built environments that address the innate human instinct to seek out connections with nature—biophilia. An expanding body of research has shown that products made with elements from nature, such as wood, metal, and stone, or materials that are made to mimic natural elements, such as the diverse styles in Human Nature, have an uplifting effect on the human spirit that taps into their biorhythms and brainwaves and makes them healthier and more productive.

So it isn’t surprising that advocates of sustainable design would support the use of products like these to create spaces that bring out the best in their users. In fact, the quality of Human Nature—along with the progressive thinking that inspired them—so impressed a team of people at Meridian that they relied on the products as the launching point for the entire design of the company’s new corporate offices in Toronto. Not only did the nature-inspired products align with their aim to create a space that would support the well-being of its employees, but they also reflected Meridian’s own commitment to sustainability and the communities they serve—beyond the scope of their own business.

“When we were working on product selection for the project, we saw the Interface Human Nature Collection and heard the story from their representatives. We could see that what they were doing was conducive to what we were trying to inspire and the carpets became the grounding element that anchored all of our design concepts,” says Claudine Chess, senior human resources business partner for Meridian. Working with Toronto-based Bullock + Wood Design to create the spaces, the team was impressed with how various textured carpet tiles could be mixed and blended to create zones in different spaces that evoke moods appropriate for each context. They also appreciated that the carpets served as an extension of the natural environment seen through the windows to bring a sense of the outdoors in.

The nature-inspired textures and tones of the carpet also eased the designers’ objectives in manifesting their concept of loosely defining neighborhoods or zones in a park-inspired ambience mostly without barriers or walls. For example, the rich textures of HN810 and HN840 products give substance and presence to the public reception area and formal conference spaces, where clients and employees congregate for meetings, while the soft loops and solid coloring of HN830 define quiet zones for private reading or reflection in relaxed areas known as “green tea rooms.” “When the project was complete and employees were no longer hidden behind cubicles, they began intuitively using the space as it was intended for certain kinds of tasks or in ways that suited different kinds of personalities,” says Chess. “And although the lack of barriers has promoted collaboration, the space is actually quieter because with the open space people are more cognizant of what is around them.”

To maximize awareness of the nature-influenced concept, the designers collaborated with representatives from Interface and Meridian’s human resources team to highlight the nuances of the design and communicate the impact of the biophilic features of the space to the staff. “At the open house when staff was invited to preview the space, Interface representatives were strategically placed throughout to share their research and communicate the wellness aspect of being close to nature to the employees,” says designer Paula Santos of Bullock + Wood.

In addition to the carpet’s biophilic features, the client was equally attracted to its intrinsic sustainable qualities in supporting the company’s broader sustainable mission. “The bio-influenced elements gave us the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to communities—both to support our employees’ well-being and to further our goal of reducing our environmental impact,” says Sarah Rea, Meridian’s senior manager of corporate social responsibility. “The carpet is made of recycled content and is recyclable, and it is designed to be installed with no glue and the tiles can be simply removed and replaced to ease maintenance and reduce carpet waste.” Ultimately, the refreshing new office shows that, like nature itself, biophilic design elements have the ability to contribute multifaceted dimension to spaces that subtly yet emphatically promote well-being as well as beauty and function.