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Robbins influences flooring line design, enhances product expertise

It’s not very often that an opportunity comes along to help craft products we use or recommend in our professional lives, but Heather Robbins, senior interior designer and associate in our Omaha studio, was recently given that opportunity.

nora systems, Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of sustainable rubber floor coverings, holds an annual design workshop at its headquarters in Weinheim, Germany. The company invites design professionals from a variety of markets across the world to help design or redesign flooring products.

Robbins was asked to take part in this process based on her extensive knowledge of the company’s existing products and one of its major markets – healthcare.

“We use rubber flooring a lot,” Robbins said. “It has properties that other resilient flooring doesn’t have. It’s more sustainable – it doesn’t contain phthalates. It also provides better acoustics and comfort under foot.”

Global Collaboration

The product design workshop included 17 interior designers and architects from the United States, Canada, and Europe, as well as nora leadership. The design professionals were challenged to think creatively and collaboratively during product development. According to nora representatives, this insight helps the company develop the products designers need to be successful in their jobs.

“Our task was to update colors, patterns, and embossing in two existing product lines,” Robbins said. “I wasn’t sure if it would just involve us providing our thoughts, but nora staff told us that at the end of the workshop, they would have what they needed to redesign a line of flooring.”
The greatest challenge was having people from an array of geographies and markets agree on a color palette.

“It did take hours to agree on colors,” Robbins said. “We needed to agree on appropriate colors for different uses. We worked on one palette specific to healthcare and one specific to education. There were lots of differences between the European and U.S. markets. We were joking that Americans use taupe, beige and khaki, while Europeans use gray and bright colors. Those of us from the U.S. did pick neutrals with accents of color. But we needed to create a palette that would serve both geographies. In the end, we agreed on a palette of colors that complement each other.”

The resulting palette was neutral with warm and cool colors, and current bright colors that can be used as accents or as wall-to-wall flooring.

Both healthcare and education products will be introduced later this year.

Enhancing Product Expertise

The experience was invaluable to Robbins in a number of ways.

“It’s interesting to hear, from a design standpoint, how other industry leaders are using the products,” she said. “I learned a lot about the manufacturing process and the chemical makeup of the flooring, too. The workshop was also beneficial in that it exposes our firm to other industry leaders and allows us to be a part of the design of products that we specify. And as we participate in more of these kinds of workshops, we become experts on the products we recommend to our clients.”

Heather E. Robbins-associate senior interior designer leaodalyAbout the author

Heather E. Robbins
is a senior-level designer with extensive experience in both healthcare and corporate interior design. She excels at creating healing environments and workplaces that are welcoming, calming and uplifting. Heather specializes in uncovering how individuals and groups best use spaces, and transforming that knowledge into inspiring building interiors. Contact Heather at or 402.390.4226 to learn how LEO A DALY can transform your organization’s space.