In Review: Shaw Contract’s Living Systems Collection

With so many of us compelled to stay indoors for the longest time, Shaw Contract’s Living Systems collection seems to have granted a wish we didn’t know we had. Bringing in a unique sense of biophilia within an extensive range of carpet tiles, both Bruno Gomes of Dewan Architects and Amber Peters of Roar had no choice but to be thrilled with this introduction.


The latest addition to carpet manufacturing brand Shaw Contract’s Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM collection is a nature-inspired, wellbeing focused product that is designed to elevate the biophilic interiors game. Living Systems is a product that embodies regenerative design, drawing on the principles of sustainable manufacturing and biophilia. It, says Shaw Contract, is designed to engage, evolve and revitalise the senses as a toolkit of solutions. 

“Being able to offer a flooring system that can be combined and recombined, mimics how the natural world is constantly renewing, regenerating and colouring environments as it progresses through time and space,” says Marcy Ewing, Global Studio Design Director at Shaw Contract. 

The brand has been a pioneer in sustainable manufacturing for over 20 years. It should be no surprise to see products of this calibre come out of their design studios. The sheer range of colours and patterns in the Living Systems collection signals interesting times ahead for the carpet tile and flooring industry in general, seen in the form of creative new designs and sustainable processes.

Above from left: James Coward, Sales Manager, Shaw Contract; Bruno Gomes, Senior Design Architect, Dewan Architects & Engineers; Amber Peters, Associate, Roar; Christopher Champlin, Regional Vice President of Middle East & Africa, Shaw Contract

Observe, Transform, Respond – The Living Systems Ethos

“Biophilic and regenerative design is a large and critical component of Living Systems,” says Christopher Champlin, Regional Vice President of Middle East and Africa at Shaw Contract. “It is what has guided the entire design process from start to finish. You can almost feel the ground and earth elements come through in the design and texture, and that’s really what we’ve tried to achieve. That biophilic component is what makes all the difference because it really connects with us, and brings in a sense of comfort when we’re indoors and disconnected from nature.” 

The first thing we notice when looking through the collection is the large and interesting mix of colours. The patterns are made to mimic natural contours, and the colours really do remind you of the randomness that you would only see in the outdoors. There are varying small and large scale patterns working together in an interesting way. The tones blend in a manner you wouldn’t expect, yet succeed in creating that sense of comfort that you find with biophilic design. “It’s a kind of perfect imperfection, and it’s really nice to see,” says Bruno Gomes, Senior Design Architect at Dewan Architects.

The collection features seven different styles in three main patterns: Observe, Respond and Transform. These offer a comprehensive range of neutrals, while Observe Color, Respond Color and Transform Color add on the beautiful vivid colours that you see in the images. For those looking for deep, saturated tones, you can opt for colours from the Endless style palette. “We have a total of 108 different colours and patterns, essentially giving us endless combinations to create and install,” says Amber Peters, Associate at Roar. “I would have never mixed the warm and cool colours like the ones in this collection, but they work so well!” 

To tie the entire collection together are two multi-level loop patterns – Source and Boundless style. Available in 18 colours each, these two styles can be effortlessly combined with the other styles to create a smooth and visually appealing transition. The flexibility offered by the entire collection allows shifts in colour gradation and pattern scale, thus giving designers a vast variety of floor design options to consider.

Bruno: The patterns and colours are so good! Some of the combinations resemble a garden from afar. That’s really cool and that effect is something I can see being used in projects. Looking closer, you can tell that it’s a modular system that is put together so well. But it’s that perfect imperfection I find so great about this collection. It has a very inviting feel to it. 

I like the way that it kind of flows from a simple pattern to one that is quite busy, and how you can create this gradient within the space. So you can play with the textures and really define the area just with just texture alone. My only suggestion would be to add more subtle tones in the collection. I do feel it leans to the stronger and more vibrant side, which is not a bad thing, just my personal suggestion. Still, I think they’ve done a great job with the range. 

Amber: I love the diverse colours and textures. It sends across a nice warm feeling that reminds me of the outdoors, which I believe is the point here. I really like the pattern that resembles cobblestones, that’s a nice touch. It reminds us of how much we need to spend time outdoors and with nature. It’s such a diverse product. The combinations can be a bit overwhelming, but it excites me as well. It’s always good to have options. You can be subtle or explicit with it, and that’s the best part. 

It’s got this nice artisan feel, which is great when it comes to carpet tiles. Most carpets can look very clinical and corporate, so I love what they’ve done here. It’s easy to install, and you can create different shapes in the floor plate to zone off or identify areas easily without breaking the pattern too much.

Organic Flexibility 

The modularity of carpet tiles presents both a benefit and a challenge. They become easier to install, but difficult to create natural organic patterns with. Keeping this challenge in mind, Shaw Contract designed the Living Systems collection to offer an easy to install process that maintains its organic appeal. “The goal is to keep the biophilic design feel while simplifying the installation process,” says Christopher. “There are so many creative ways to do something interesting with a floor.” The modular format opens opportunities to merge patterns and colour gradations, which can be used for zoning and defining the functionality of each space. From heads-down, quiet settings to communal areas, the visual cues of Living Systems serve as an effective means of communication.

Furthermore, to help designers incorporate the products even better, is the SCFD App, which has been specifically designed and developed to help creatives visualise the full range of products using intelligent workflows and Augmented Reality. You can view the collection, select styles, choose colours, and render the designs right on your iPhone or iPad, all while sitting in the comfort of your home or office.

Reuse, Recycle and Declare

A point we must highlight is the incredibly high level of standard Shaw Contract maintains when it comes to material utilisation, sustainability, quality, and service. Besides being a pioneer in the carpet industry, and the first of the flooring companies to adopt the Cradle to Cradle philosophy, 

they execute programs for post utilisation of the product. An interesting one is the recycling or reuse of samples, where product samples are collected from clients and either put back in the library or recycled into a new product, thereby reducing landfill. Their dedication to material health and transparency can also be seen in the form of Declare labels and their EPDs (independently verified Environmental Product Declarations). Customers can be assured of what they’re investing in, and the product’s impact on the environment and people. 

When it comes to what really differentiates Shaw Contract’s Living Systems collection, it is the company’s long history and service. Shaw Contract assists clients with technical queries, and can provide services, such as visualisations, 2D/3D renderings, and help with estimating and installation guides, which along with product quality, is a real benefit to clients.

Our Thoughts

With nearly all mid to large size projects now aiming for WELL or similar certifications, products such as Shaw Contract’ carpet tiles will now see their time in the limelight. Even if you’re not looking to get certified, Living Systems is an objectively great product. Priced competitively with varying price points in a single collection, it will work well within any budget, and you’re backed by their incredible support team even before you decide to invest. Cradle to Cradle Certified, Living Systems is also a great way to extend biophilic design into the flooring area, and contributes to employee wellness and satisfaction by integrating human needs into the built environment.

Amber: What really works well for the range is how they have sister ranges within the collection. Like Transform and Transform Colour. Those work so well together. The options for unique layouts are endless and it’s such a flexible product. It’s hard to think of one specific type of project I would use it in, because the use cases are so many. 

For the value it provides, it’s certainly well priced. Given the sustainability element and ease of installation, and not to forget the app that should help us envision the design better, you’ve got yourself a really useful flooring product. People are returning to the office now, and we’ve doing our best to design spaces that are inviting, and would make people excited about the return to work. I think these would help a lot.

Bruno: Living Systems has a very authentic feel to it, which I find encouraging. It’s visually such a great product too. I keep thinking of this music school project I’m working on, and I feel this would fit so well in that space. It’s vibrant, and smart in the sense of installation and sustainability. 

I have no doubt in this product’s ability to give the space a sense of identity and comfort. The sheer range of colours and textures allow for so many possibilities. I honestly don’t think price should be a concern given the value you’re getting from the product. The biophilic and regenerative design focus really comes through with the aesthetics, and I think people will enjoy being in a space with Living Systems flooring.

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