Carlisle’s New Transformative Design Team for Luxury Flooring
Fusing art and luxury wood flooring have always been top of mind at Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. Chris Sy, President of Carlisle, shares the vision behind the new design team and what is created when you remove boundaries and limitations.
Let’s start with, what is the Transformative Design Team?
Let’s hope I can’t put it in a box because that is the exact opposite of what we want it to be. In short, it is a cross-departmental group within our organization that commits real-time to envision, develop, create and execute on ideas that are potentially well out in front of the market. They are not bound by “what can we make?” or even by “what is going to be on-trend next?” Instead, we encourage them to go beyond that into things we might not even be able to make, and we don’t know if we can sell. They are beyond product development; they are more into concept exploration.
So why did you create this team? What do you see as the benefit to the organization or your clients?
First and foremost, I think creativity, true creativity, is one of the things that is lacking in business today. I think the companies that value eccentric thinking creates a culture where everyday solutions and improvements come easier to the organization. By creating a team that is without limits, I’m confident we will get a trickle-down effect into our daily challenges.
I also want everyone to see what Carlisle is, what our core strengths are. 70% of our business is making floors that we have never made before and I think that over the last few years we have done a better job of putting a face on our manufacturing group. We have peeled back the curtain and shown our clients the incredible craftsmen that make these floors. However, we do a lot of work before we get to that stage and I think we have missed putting a face on that part of our creative process.
Every day, nationwide, we work hand in hand with customers to understand their ideal vision of a floor. Over 50 years that has bred a real strength in our company of questioning, listening, understanding, and executing across a creative journey. Ultimately, the result of this informs our manufacturing process, but starting from scratch for nearly every customer is not easy to do and I think we do it exceptionally well. I wanted to open that up even more and give some people a chance to explore while also letting our clients see what I think is one of our greatest strengths. In the end, I believe our clients will gain even greater confidence in our ability to create flooring that acts as art, art that can only be found in that client’s home.
I also think it will motivate some people to rethink flooring and what is possible. Flooring is the largest installed surface in any home and the decision people make on floors impacts the rest of the design decisions that sit on top of the floor. It is important for people to see some crazy stuff, so they push their thought process around the flooring.
Tell me about the process this group goes through in developing ideas?
That is the hardest part. It is tough to forget we don’t have to make it, to forget no one has to like it, to forget we don’t have to sell it, but once everyone starts loosening up, ideas begin to fly. It is about getting into the mindset that is somewhat cliché…but there is no such thing as a bad idea. Everyone brings different inspirations from a variety of hobbies or travel or passions they might have and lots of concepts are on the table. For this first floor, it seems we gelled around one idea quickly. It seemed right and was something we could learn from as a group, so we moved from brainstorming to execution quickly.
We started with smaller mockups and talked through the process before we did a much larger area, but in truth, it all went very smoothly once we said go.
Tell me about this first luxury wood floor concept?
I think two things came together on this idea. First, we talk about luxury wood flooring as art a lot, and for us, that focus is on the incredible wood we use and the wood floor finishes we select. Right from the start, we wanted to explore different finish types, application techniques, color, etc. Second, a lot of the inspiration that people brought was around layered coloring, which is becoming even more popular in the market today.
So, thinking about exploring finishes and pushing the boundary of layering color, we ended up here. We used different types of finishes, and we applied them using everything from spraying to spackling to simply spilling it out on the floor. It was a lot of fun, and it also taught us a lot about how different colors layer over other colors and how different types of finishes react to each other. I think it was one of those projects where you keep going until its right, and you never start over. You just keep going, which is different.
Is there something you don’t like about the outcome?
At first, I think we were a bit hesitant about the brightness of the colors, but as we moved into the difficult times we are in now, we felt that those colors might be more appropriate. More uplifting, I guess. They certainly push the bounds of traditional wood flooring colors.
I also think that many people look at it and just feel it is paint-spattered around, and some of it is just that. But the layers underneath, how they are applied, and determining the type of finishes are a lot more than just spatter marks. I hope people take it as a whole and see it for its intended purpose, understanding it isn’t easy.
You show the floor in two different rooms, what is the idea behind that?
I think with this group; we try to work backward. Envision a floor and then try to put it in a room. For this White Oak flooring, that was easy. The photo of the floor in an art studio is the result of the creative process …. unintentional art, which we all liked. Then we wanted to see what it looked like in a home and if the concept might transition into real life. I think it looks cool. Certainly not for everyone, but that’s the idea.
What do you do with the hardwood floor now?
We are still thinking that through. We all want it around for a while so we can look at it because it is fun, but we feel we should share it with all our showroom locations so they can get in on the fun. So, it might make a trip around the US throughout the Summer and Fall. Who knows, maybe in the journey it will find a permanent home.
So on to the next project… What is the Transformative Design Team working on now?
We wiped the slate clean and we are starting from scratch…. but we are used to that. We do it every day!