Design Collaborative: Junkyard Inspiration

June 23, 2009

Roche FitzGerald’s inspiration for Scrapyard by Parterre Flooring Systems came from an unusual journey—a walk through a junkyard.

Ask most people what they see when they walk through a junkyard and their response will be the same: junk. At least that is what I’d say. I might spot a few treasures if I looked hard enough, but I must confess that might even be doubtful. Thankfully, there are artistic individuals like Roche FitzGerald who bring creativity, energy and beauty to the world in ways that I can only look upon with envy.

FitzGerald’s walks through his favorite junkyard in Columbia, PA, provided the inspiration for Parterre Flooring’s Scrapyard, the main vehicle in the company’s Fused Flooring line.

“Roche [pronounced Rock] has worked with us for seven years, and it has been a wonderful collaboration,” says T. Fred Roche, president of Parterre. “He is one of the most creative people that I know.”

FitzGerald’s father was a professional artist and is the retired head of another major flooring company. A graduate of Carnegie Tech, the elder FitzGerald was a classmate with Andy Warhol, so being around artistic individuals has always been part of Roche FitzGerald’s life.

“He’s like a kid when it comes to ‘what if,’” notes Roche. “We can walk by a building and he’ll point to a shadow being cast and relate how we might be able to integrate that image into our work.”

Parterre’s Fused line, which includes South Beach and Urban in addition to Scrapyard, is indicative of design today, in Roche’s opinion. He says that the collection fuses design, colors and materials to create interesting blends. A wood-topped table with a stone inset and metal legs is an example from the furniture industry. Similarly, Parterre fuses design, color and texture to create flooring options for any market.

Roche notes that company executives had some preconceived ideas for what Scrapyard would become based on what they were or were not seeing in the marketplace when they began developing the collection. He says that visits to shows and looking at other products, such as stone and ceramic flooring, provided a snapshot of what was likely on its way to the vinyl flooring industry when they began talking about the new line.

After accepting the concept for the line, momentum for the new line kicked in when FitzGerald sent Parterre 110 photos of different types of metals that he found in the junkyard. These original photos were scanned into the computer and then digital software was used to enhance the selected images into a form that could be safely used for flooring.

Scrapyard comes in 12-inch by 24-inch tiles and is available in six colors—Rust, Cast, Torched, Metallic, Oxidized, and Hammer. The company also works with designers to create custom colors, sizes, designs, and finishes.

Parterre has a strong commitment to sustainability, from both an environmental and cost standpoint (Roche says that sustainability helps the bottom line), and this is reflected in Scrapyard’s environmental properties. The product is asbestos-free, recyclable, has a 45 percent post-consumer and post-industrial recycled content, and is environmentally safe. The company is also in the final phase of a North American agreement for recycling vinyl tile when it reaches the end of its useful life.

FitzGerald says that Scrapyard is very versatile and that he takes great pride in how the line has been received by the marketplace. “The first installation was in a long-term care facility, which was surprising to me,” he says. “Scrapyard is used in Benjamin Moore and Quiznos locations in addition to numerous other projects, especially commercial and retail developments. It’s very gratifying to see what’s done with the product.”

Part of the initial positive reaction to the line, in FitzGerald’s opinion, is the story behind Scrapyard’s inspiration. “I was walking through the junkyard and was fortunate to find this unbelievable piece of metal that was awash in sunlight,” he says. “The story resonates with people from both a ‘beauty-in-old-stuff’ and sustainability perspective.”

Designers can choose from a warm or cool side of the color palette, and FitzGerald is beginning to work with Roche and others at Parterre to recolor the line, which may include increasing the number of available colors—hues of green and blue are possibilities.

“I’m continually looking for the next stone to turn over,” says FitzGerald. “Scrapyard’s connection to Parterre’s slate line, Bombay, and Plank, the wood line, is important and involves careful evaluation. This necessitates considering new visuals and colors as we work to meet the market’s demands.”

Scrapyard is a luxury vinyl tile, which is considered one of the few growth segments in the flooring market, according to Roche. Both he and FitzGerald foresee a continued bright future for Scrapyard and the entire Fused Flooring Collection. Whatever the future may hold, from a design perspective, one thing is certain: When FitzGerald brings a new idea to the company, there will inevitably be a great story behind his inspiration.

Janet Wiens is a freelance writer based in Memphis, TN. She was formerly 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.

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