A Material Girl dishes on what's new, what's now and WHAT'S NEXT® in interior finishes


Relationship Retail: The Here And Now Shopper

This month in honor of our sponsorship for Retail Design Collective 2014 and our 25th year in business, celebrating creativity and collaboration, Architectural Systems shares insights on how retailers are connecting to the here and now shopper. As Materialista® and actively working with the retail design community, I’ve noticed the evolution in customer engagement and the challenges retail designers have capturing brand loyalty on the every changing platforms to engage in.

Uniqlo for example, the global clothing brand, opened up a pop-up shop selling down jackets and parkas during the cold season last winter in a subway station at Union Square, NYC.  Today, almost everything we need can be found online and internet sales have become a way of life.  However, Uniqlo proved that providing on-the-go services right there and then for shoppers, who are on the move added a personal and value-added service at the point-of-sale. As an additional incentive with purchases, Uniqlo provided a pre-loaded MetroCard. How clever, don’t you think?

Toms founder, Blake Mycoskie, introduced eyewear to his shoe collections in 2011. In keeping with their corporate philosophy, every pair of sunglasses a customer buys, Toms donates medical treatment, prescription glasses or surgery to a person in need. For the here and now shopper this concept expanded into seasonal pop-up carts that were situated in parks on sunny days. Pairing fashion with causes and pop-ups contribute to the retailer’s success, especially when the location and the products you’re selling happen to be in the right place at the right time, allowing retailers to go where the customers are while also building brand awareness. Unlike traditional retail establishments, pop-up stores create a sense of urgency among consumers to buy now as they are presented as a “limited edition” item that people must take advantage of in the moment.

Macy’s Herald Square, one of the most iconic and oldest department stores, co-branded with NYC & Company as an Official NYC Information Center.  This collaboration offers concierge-type services to restaurants, special ticketing for NYC attractions and caters to both a local and international clientele.  This innovative platform enhances the customer shopping experience, advancing Macy’s into one of the most technologically savvy, fashion-forward and exciting destinations; attracting the here and now shopper from all over the world. 

As far as savvy retailers go when it comes to utilizing the mobile web, UK department store John Lewis and Founder of Hointer, Nadia Shouraboura, are enjoying it the most! John Lewis, recently introduced ChargeBox to their London store, a free to use mobile phone charging station, enabling customers to recharge and ensure their phones are safe while shopping. Isn’t that brilliant?

Hointer Store, located in Seattle, Washington is revolutionary, allowing customers to shop quickly with the help of their phone and Hointer’s app. By downloading the app in the store kiosk, a shopper can try on clothes in their size within 30 seconds, simply by scanning the number on the apparel, placing it into a virtual shopping cart and heading to the dressing room number the app sends you to! The shopper can even purchase what they like in the fitting room by swiping a credit/debit card on the tablet located there. Have to buy my next pair of jeans at Hointer!

These store formats present a new perspective that reimagines the shopping experience as technology takes charge, combining services that are relevant with contextual offerings. Providing customers with an immersive experience, shops must remain compelling with reasons for customers to visit them as technology allows shopping to be easier outside the store itself. 

Click and Connect!

The last example I want to share on technology and immersive experience for the here and now involves a cloud based composition collaboration featuring a virtual choir created by Eric Whitacre, a Grammy award-winning Composer and Conductor.  People all over the world uploaded videos of themselves singing as he conducted virtually. The Virtual Choir went viral featuring over 5,000 singers from around the world representing 101 countries. This creative collaboration was constructed to produce a transcending experience, affecting a physical state change, cultivating relationships and uniting people from all backgrounds. This project is about being part of something bigger than ourselves and is very similar to brand integration. Social commerce and sharing cool stuff everyone is talking about, makes for a successful brand experience on all platforms, nurturing the cultured consumer beyond the three-dimensional store environment.  Please treat yourself and watch this amazing video.

As a global distributor and strategic materials partner, ASI collaborates with leading architects, designers and retailers to create well-orchestrated symphonies, while translating the brand with signature and iconic materials. Visit us, during Retail Design Collective, December 3-5, in our newly refreshed showroom located at 150 W. 25th St., 8th Floor, NYC. Preview new innovative product collections and see how the power of materials® deliver the here and now shopper!

Posted at 11/18/2014 9:39 AM

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BLEISURE: Work and Play! Best of Both Worlds!

Bleisure has become the new trending buzzword in hospitality. Combining business and leisure travel is a phenomenon that has grown significantly on a global level. Business trips leading to short vacations have become the perfect way to provide the road warrior with downtime to discover the city and country they are in while making the most of their hotel accommodations. Being ASI’s Materialista®, I enjoy looking out for the next big thing and this is a trend to track! And although Latin American and Asian countries have been blurring business and leisure travel already, it’s a relatively new concept for the United States.

This month, the new Archer Hotel will be ASI’s Featured Project. This boutique property, located in the historic New York City fashion district was designed by Glen & Company. Throughout the space, ASI materials were incorporated to create a residential vibe for the “bleisure” traveler to recharge and relax. Look for more on the Archer Hotel later in the month!

Today, design professionals are challenged with creating spaces that accommodate the business traveler and often their families who join them on extended stays. A need for amenity spaces, catering to everyone is now part of the overall concept.

Celebrating 25 years of creativity and collaboration, as a strategic material partner, ASI works closely with hospitality designers to select finishes that enhance the guest experience so they will want to return again and again! 

Architectural Systems will once again be exhibiting at Boutique Design Trade Fair (BDNY), held at the Jacob Javits Center, NYC on November 9–10.  Please visit Materialista® there and view ten new product collections debuting in Booth #755 andexperience WHAT’S NEXT® in hospitality. See how the power of materials inspire the trending phenomenon of designing for the bleisure traveler.

Posted at 10/9/2014 1:33 PM

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The Materialista Gets Insight on Innovation from ASI's President, Nancy Jackson, at IRDC!

Last week ASI’s President, Nancy Jackson, with National Account Executive, Shelley Ave, were in Miami, Florida on behalf of Architectural Systems as a proud nine-time returning Emerald Sponsors for the International Retail Design Conference (IRDC) sharing retail intel with top industry influencers.

From #DinnerAndDesign to discussing #CreativityAndCollaboration, the IRDC is still an outstanding platform to reconnect, develop, and ponder the future of brick and mortar.  

A #DinnerAndDesign at Prime Fish: (from left to right): Daniel Montano (Creative Director, Little), Jamie Farnell (Creative Director, Little CA), Emma Belcher (Mace North America), ASI’s Shelley Ave (National Account Executive), Nicole Vachow Rehfuss (Senior Retail Visual Strategist, Little), Dave Kepron (Creative Director, Little), Nancy Jackson (ASI President), Peter Dixon (Senior Partner & Creative Director, Prophet) and Bruce Barteldt (Partner & Retail Global Practice Leader, Little)

Another great evening of #DinnerAndDesign was with the Callison team at Scarpetta in the Fontainebleau where everyone enjoyed the ocean view with who's who in retail design.


Materialista : What a week you had in Miami!  What were the best take aways? 

Nancy Jackson:  Well, being in Miami is always nostalgic for me, having been visiting there since I was a little girl. And staying at the iconic Fontainebleau hotel, designed by the legendary architect, Morris Lapidus, was a great venue to host the IRDC.


The Keynote Speaker's presentations, both opening and closing, focused on how retailers must evolve to capture the customer in their stores and not just online! Of course, there was special attention brought to incorporating technology in the shops; the digital retail integration (DRI) provides that experiential novel component that will engage the shopper in stores and resonate with the customers to create brand loyalty.


The My.Suit store designed by Unspace.

I couldn’t help but mention, and say "hi" to my friend Karim, the My.Suit shops an award-winning project, which ASI supplied the porcelain flooring. This is a great concept where you go to a kiosk fixture in the store, have a body scan, select the menswear fabric of your choice (the big trend of now – personalized design i.e. Nike iD sneakers) and Voilà! - you have a beautiful custom-fitted suit for a fraction of the typical cost.

Karim thanked me for reminding the group of My.Suit, an excellent retail example that illustrates the "techno organic” seamless ambiance in the shop and then, fun fact, he mentioned he DJ’ed their newest store opening!

Nancy pictures with IRDC Opening Keynote Speaker, Karim Rashid (right) and IRDC Closing Keynote Speaker, Lee Patterson, the EVP of Brand, Strategy & Design at WP Partners (left).

Materialista: What stood out from the roundtable you moderated titled “Materials Trends, Strategies, and Cost Saving Ideas?”

Nancy: Having led the conversation on this topic for many years, I have to say we had the best discussion yet! Retailers must engage the shopper on all platforms to secure point-of-purchase in their store in the mall!

Charlotte Russe shared how they surpass their competition by paying special attention to the fitting rooms, where they house "selfie stations”. How's that for a terrific way to be part of your customer's social community? #CRFashionista

Pictured here blogger, and selfie queen, Arielle Nachmani of Something Navy.

And most importantly, the talk led to the importance of working with strategic material partners who are as committed to the success of the project as they are. More and more the design firms shared how frustrating it is when their design intent is compromised by the contractors not purchasing specified materials on time.

The rest of our group at the round table explained that's why they collaborate with ASI at the inception of the project and all through the rollouts! ASI protects the design, is sensitive to the budget, and tracks the projects to ensure stores open on time; this has become a differentiating value of ASI.

Materialista: I saw IRDC went downtown to the visually engaging Miami Design District. Had you been there before?

Nancy: No, I haven't and what an amazing field trip it was! Developed by the art and design enthusiast, Craig Robbins, there were 19 blocks of everything from local boutiques to world-renowened luxury retailers and famed graffiti art, which made me realize why Art Basel Miami holds their events there!

Here’s Callison’s Principal, Cindy Kato, in front of BAMBI ARTIST’s 2013 Art Basel street art piece.

With the buildup of very intense retail intel presentations heralding the precarious state for branded retail environments, the design district's Wynwood Walls was a great space to party, be inspired, and reconnect with why we are all involved in this ever evolving industry!                                

ASI’s President, Nancy Jackson, with ASI’s National Account Executive, Shelley Ave, in Miami’s Design District Sculpture Garden.

And later this month Architectural Systems will be heading to Savannah, Georgia as a sponsor for the design:retail Forum where Ron Jackson (ASI CEO) and Nancy Jackson (ASI President) will continue to celebrate retail influencers!


Posted at 9/12/2014 11:0 AM

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Brand Identity in Innovative Retail Environments

As the materials trends tracker, I am always out and about discovering what’s new and next, and this month, the Materialista’s focus is on retail. As our retail thread in August comes to a close, I am still amazed by how brands create (or re-create) environments, whether a pop-up, shop-in-shop, or a free standing store, that resonate with their customers and enhance brand loyalty.

Pop-up shops especially excite me and this is the greatest time to watch them spring about the globe. Pop-ups are a captivating and unique way for brands to speak to their customer in an innovative manor. Tiffany’s London pop-up is one of most successful stores I have seen recently (which ASI has also highlighted on our Pinterest board ‘What’s Trending in Retail Now.’) This is a great illustration of a brand honing in on their identity; those robin eggshell blue boxes have been around for nearly 200 years. Every woman will admit that little blue box makes their hearts flutter! Experiencing this in the middle of London is just incredible. What a fantastic way for Tiffany’s to capitalize on the concept of high-lo retail; their jewelry is available in a range of prices and in a setting like this; anyone would feel like they can walk in, engage, and shop.

In general, from pop-ups to shop-in-shops, regardless of the size of the space, it is important that the three-dimensional execution is always consistent. This month’s ASI’s Featured Project was the Givenchy boutique at Macy’s. Another great example of high-lo retailing, this is a brand taking their traditional and established aristocratic brand identity and translating a proven aesthetic into a more approachable, affordable, and mainstream setting. They, too, captured the aspirational customer in this thought-out environment.  

(Featured here is ASI’s Deco from Ornamental Surfaces, part of the ASI Decorative Surfaces collection.)

And when you are fortunate to be the Materialista, you have the privilege of collaborating with the most creative designers in the world and to engage in the creative process of translating the brand into materials! This is the most exciting; being involved in the inception of the concept, when the pyscographics are laid out and a brand who knows their customers profile is able to provide a memorable experience they want to return to again and again.

Boston Proper, a division of Chico’s, is known as “fashion for women who are fearlessly feminine, enviably chic and who possess poise and confidence.” Their retail stores are all about capturing the kind of woman who their space resonates with.  The opposite of high-lo retailing; it’s lo-high. The price point of their merchandize is affordable, though their brand aesthetic is luxe and modern.

Speaking of retail, next week, Architectural Systems is proud to be a returning emerald sponsor at the IRDC retail-intel event in Miami highlighting from the industry’s top influencers what’s trending in retail design. Nancy Jackson, ASI’s President, will be moderating a IRDC roundtable taking place Wednesday, September 3rd at 12 noon titled “Materials Trends, Strategies, and Cost-Saving Ideas.” ASI’s Shelly Ave, National Account Executive, will be in attendance too.

After this, at the end of September, Nancy will head to Savannah, Georgia with Ron Jackson, ASI’s CEO, to sponsor the design:retail Forum. Architectural Systems is looking forward to reconnecting with everyone as we are passionate about supporting these forums where we will also be celebrating 25 years of creativity and collaboration as a strategic materials partner.

During September 3-5  for IRDC I will be blogging live on what’s trending in retail design on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!

Posted at 8/27/2014 1:45 PM

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How to Relax and Rejuvenate Materialista® Style

This month, Architectural Systems honors health and wellness, and as a girl constantly on the go, it’s important to me to rest, relax, and rejuvenate! Whether I have the pleasure of traveling or it’s a local staycation, downtime really refreshes me. 

During my spare time, I love connecting online and being social. Diane von Furstenberg has a great digital presence and I am always inspired by her. She's the icon of the DVF brand, and someone ASI has been working with for years as the global flooring supplier. The DVF brand just turned forty years old and recently, Diane went to Positano. Her vacation resonated with me because every day I drop off the newest porcelain sample binders from the Mediterranean Porcelain Collection. Everyone loves this product and it really evokes the feeling of old world Italian villas on the Mediterranean Sea, which is exactly the sense-of-place ASI drew upon as we developed this eco-porcelain collection.

But as I am so busy here in New York, I can’t always escape and a staycation is more realistic. Right now there is a great Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney and a Charles James exhibit at the Met, “Beyond Fashion.”

How true is this? Fashion, architecture and design disciplines are so intertwined and that’s what I do as the Materialista®: I am here to attract what’s fashionable in materials and connect for you these trends!

One of my favorite districts in New York to visit is the Meatpacking District. Here you can get delicious food, the best retail stores in the world, and you can stop anytime to smell the roses along the High Line. Another fun fact: ASI is about to launch the new Manhattan Vinyl Collection influenced by five of New York City neighborhoods - from Hudson Yards to Madison Square, including the High Line.

And while I was relaxing Sunday, I read in the in NYTMag about rooftop pools popping up. I am lucky my building has a fabulous rooftop pool. From the breathtaking skyline view of the city to my own miniature roof top oasis, a little escape like this never gets old!

Also when I have a little down time, I get to reflect on what’s important to me. I really cherish my involvement in the UJA, a philanthropic group dedicated to giving back, and I am honored to be named their newest board member. They are hosting a mixology class soon and hopefully I won’t feel so rushed so I can have some fun, learn how to make a specialty cocktail, and enjoy my social circle!

This organization and my social commitments are really important to me. Here at the showroom I host a monthly Materialista®’s Mixers and starting again in September, over some drinks and design, I will be discussing not only the latest in materials and what’s trending, but also introducing ASI’s new innovative collections, and our classic award-winning finishes.  I would love to invite your firm here, so let’s be in touch!

Though above all, family time is the greatest joy for me. Yes, I have the pleasure of seeing and working with my family every day but it’s different when we all head to the beach town I grew up in and just relax. This weekend, we get to celebrate a charity day at Inwood. Nancy and Ron always sponsor a banner on the tennis courts and we all compete in the charity tournament. As a family, we all work hard and play hard!

I hope this summer whether your vacation plans are exotic or just enjoying a staycation, rest up! It’s going to be a busy end of year. Check in soon for the latest from me, the Materialista®, and you can always see what I’m up to our social media accounts here: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Blog

Safe travels!

Posted at 7/30/2014 10:35 AM

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Modern Workplace Part 2

Read part 1 about the rapidly changing corporate workplace and how it effects design.

Skullcandy Office featuring customizeable workspaces - designed by Arthur de Chatelperron + Hugo Hélène, Zurich, Switzerland

As ASI celebrates the Modern Workplace in the month of June, I will continue to explore the transformation of the office landscape. A successful company needs to attract, nurture, and retain the talent that will drive innovation and execution, and bring the organization's strategy to fruition. Noted in the Herman Miller showroom during NeoCon, the legendary brand identified five key principles engaged employees are seeking: security, autonomy, belonging, achievement, status and purpose. Another global industry leader Steelcase stated "employee engagement is a serious, bottom-line issue." Since there is a direct correlation between engagement and performance, it is driving new design concepts of how and where we work with a powerful sense of incorporating collaboration culture.

Herman Miller Living Office principles (left), Quiet Work Space by Steelcase and Susan Cain at NeoCon 2014 (right)

While the A&D community is developing workspaces that feel intuitive and foster collaboration to boost productivity, a new challenge has emerged - the privacy crisis. NeoCon, one of the premiere tradeshows for corporate finishes (with over 40,000 architecture and design professionals in attendance), acknowledged and addressed the privacy concerns that are a growing design issue. The need for a place where focused work can be done without distraction is increasing in the changing office environment. Steelcase added, "While collaboration remains critical for driving innovation, the ability to focus, reflect and reinvigorate is critical for successful collaboration." 

ASI Product Display in the Materials Pavilion at NeoCon 2014

The materials chosen for these type of designs are more important than ever, requiring both form and function. ASI showcased WHAT'S NEXT® in Corporate Interiors in the Materials Pavilion, inspiring designers with our award-winning innovative finishes for contract projects that will rejuvenate the employees in these new kind of places to work. 

D'Addario & Company, Inc, Farmingdale, NY featuring Interwoven Eco-Panels

As Materialista® I collaborate on a lot of interesting projects. D'Addario is a great example of how a company evolved a space to adapt to their changing needs. Did you know that they are one of the world's largest musical string producers with a history dating back to the 1600s?! D'Addario's in-house team searched for a signature material to refresh their Artist Lounge, a multi-use area where they conduct photo shoots, performances and meetings with famous music personalities. They chose Interwoven Eco-Panels for a feature wall, which offered textural but abstract details, complementing the clean look and even added acoustical value to this reimagined space - all while maintaining their corporate sustainability practices and reinforcing their global brand image. Talk about perfect harmony!

Birchbox, New York, NY featuring Fusion Wood Panels and ASI Porcelain Wood Grains

I love getting my BirchBox in the mail! You can imagine how excited I was to collaborate with Design 3 when Manny Enriquez, Principal of Design 3 created an environment for socialization and ideation, incorporating the fresh and fun brand with natural-looking materials from ASI: Fusion Wood Panels and ASI Porcelain Wood Grains. The office boasts several social spaces where employees can interact, including a large kitchen that features an Agglomerate Stone slab counter, perfect for dishing ideas!

Birchbox, New York, NY Featuring ASI Porcelain Wood Grains and ASI Agglomerate Stone Slab

The workplace is evolving for the better. It's about change! Shifts and paradigms will impact the way designers approach the modern workplace. With the importance of this changing methodology, a great quote I read in the Harvard Business Review from Bill Taylor (the co-founder of Fast Company) resonates extremely well, "You can't be special, distinctive and compelling in the marketplace unless you create something special, distinctive and compelling in the workplace." I look forward to working with you find your special, distinctive and compelling materials! The challenge of translating the brand into materials is what I enjoy the most!

As July approaches, our focus will shift from the Modern Workplace to Summer Retreats! Enjoy the weather! 

Posted at 6/24/2014 1:38 PM

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Modern Workplace - Part 1

June is the month that ASI celebrates the Modern Workplace and showcases WHAT'S NEXT® in Corporate Interiors at the Materials Pavilion at NeoCon in Chicago. ASI is also honored to have several award-winning products selected once again to be on display throughout the Pavilion gallery space. Look for the NeoCon recap in my next blog post.

Lately, I have noticed that the traditional office is experiencing a transformation. I wanted to take a deeper look into the trends on how we work today and how it effects the design process. The culture shift to a work anywhere and anytime model is leading the way. There is a premium on meaningful, face-to-face interactions, which was reinforced in Dialogue Magazine, a Gensler publication I recently read. (ASI has enjoyed a long history of successful projects with Gensler!)

NVIDIA Headquarters, Santa Clara, CA - Designed by Gensler

In order to increase teaming, the headquarters of NVIDIA (the leading manufacturer of computer graphics processing units) were designed around "circulation patterns that encourage chance meetings and make it easy to connect with others". Spaces are now being specifically designed for these chance encounters. The informal lounge areas successfully boost the creative process. Designers still must be mindful about providing designated areas for staff that require privacy, intense focus and quiet rooms. A fun fact - I took a tour of the Google offices, where phone rooms were designed for employees to have private phone areas amongst the open space!

CBRE Headquarters, Los Angeles, CA - Designed by Gensler

CBRE also resonates this changing office dynamic. When Gensler was designing the new global headquarters for their client in Los Angeles, CBRE chose not to have assigned offices or desks. The goal was to provide a fundamentally better and more productive experience for their 1,100 employees. 15 types of areas were developed based on needs - from coffee-shop style nooks to full glass conference rooms -  all to encourage impromptu discussions, free thinking and most importantly to CBRE, positive energy. 

The NeueHouse, New York, NY - Designed by Rockwell Group

One of the most interesting new approaches to a modern workplace is undoubtedly the NeueHouse, designed by Rockwell Group. They've executed a radical concept of what a work environment could be - as a well appointed private membership work collective that includes a series of spaces, amenities and experiences, perfectly suited towards the spontaneity of collaborating and creating. The eclectic environment is all about building community with a focus on flexibility and hospitality, serving special events from brands like Cartier and Paul Smith, to the ambitious and creative members (or as they call them - solopreneurs).

IIDA NY Hospitality Forum Event Panel: Dr. Nadal Shami - Chief Operating Officer, CityMD Urgent Care; Barry Richards - Principal and Studio Leader, Rockwell Group; Moderator Nancy Jackson, President - Architectural Systems; Bradley Rim - Director of Interiors, LEED AP and Associate AIA, Andrew Fredman Architect, LLC; Michael Samuelian - VP, Related Companies; Annie Lee - Principal, Interior Design of Environetics and Jill VanDusen - Manager of Business Operations, HarperCollins Publishers.

The days of sitting in cubicles and only working independently are becoming a thing of the past. As professionals work longer hours and more collaboratively, they are expecting that amenities be a part of the office environment. As Nancy Jackson, President of Architectural Systems states, "Experience is the new expectation."  Nancy was the moderator of a fascinating IIDA Forum Event discussion on how hospitality design is influencing where we work, live and play (coincidently held at the NeueHouse). Watch the highlights from the prominent designers and their clients as they share their point of view on how they are meeting these design challenges.

Are you wondering why your office isn't quite as evolved yet? This kind of monumental change doesn't happen quickly. As millenials (myself included) continue to enter the workforce and put our own stamp on things, we will benefit from increased productivity (hopefully) with the new imagined spaces and more opportunities to continue collaborating with all the teams across our businesses, developing synergy. 

Google Office, New York, NY

Who needs that window office anymore? It's so Mad Men! I would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you on your current and upcoming  projects and realize your vision for the modern work place! Let's arrange time to meet for a latte!!

Posted at 6/2/2014 11:15 AM

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