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  • 06.21.07

Martha, Squared

Martha Stewart is throwing her mega-brand power behind the self-styled “Apple” of carpet, FLOR, to sell a new line of its square, eco-friendly home carpet tiles in Martha-approved colors and textures.

Martha Stewart is throwing her mega-brand power behind the self-styled “Apple” of carpet, FLOR, to sell a new line of its square, eco-friendly home carpet tiles in Martha-approved colors and textures.

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FLOR was founded in spring 2003, and after a couple of years of manufacturing carpet tiles that do-it-yourselfers could easily install and recycle for free, Martha Stewart came a-knockin’ to coordinate an “exclusive” set of carpet designs to help mildly apprehensive home decorators safely mix and match their bisques, moons and gingers.

I stopped by Martha Stewart’s Chelsea loft-cum-office-cum-showroom yesterday to check out the modular carpeting, where a senior licensing exec from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia told me that the company is making “very small babysteps” into the world of “green” products. “It’s our foree into the market,” she said.

The “Martha spin” – including nine color collections with “vegetal” hues and one stripe pattern inspired by “antique needlepoint” – is basically a “more curated group of the same thing” FLOR already sells, according to Barbara Costas, VP director of design textiles at Martha Stewart. The Martha seal of approval helps consumers “mix with a little confidence,” she said.

As for the partnership with FLOR, Costas said, “We believed in the functionality of it.”

Functionality has been the main draw for FLOR so far – their approximately 20-inch square carpet tiles can be laid down without any tools (unless you want to cut a square in half to make a rug border). Once they’re down – adhered to one another with tape – they’re easy to pick up for cleaning in the sink (pretty convenient for the butterfingers among us) and rearranging for different patterns (for the OCD sufferers among us).

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Another nice draw, especially for urbanites, is that you can peel off the carpet and take it with you when you move. And the semi-creative hi-rise urban set is exactly who FLOR wants to target right now.

“They’re the Apple computer customers – they just jump right in, they love it,” says FLOR president Greg Colando.

Courtesy Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia/FLOR

But beyond the nifty plug-and-play design, FLOR offers another innovation: When you’re sick of your shade, send the carpet back to the company for recycling, on their dime.

The current product is over 20 percent recyclable, composed of nylon and recycled vinyl.

Where’s the need for return-to-sender floor tiles? “Look at the end of your driveway on Monday morning and see the wads of carpet out there,” says FLOR President Greg Colando.

The return-and-recycle scheme is part of the larger mission of FLOR’s parent company, Atlanta-based carpet and fabric maker Interface, to eliminate its environmental footprint by 2020 – meaning no waste, slashed greenhouse gas emissions and a closed supply loop of all recycled materials. That’s why FLOR invested in a “big Willy Wonka machine” to grind up returned carpet tiles and morph the old into the new.

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“Every step has to be a step forward,” Colando said.

Washable, movable – and at FLOR, recyclable – carpet squares seem like a no-brainer when you can buy other kinds of flooring in tiles. So why don’t we see other companies slice some squares in addition to the traditional by-the-foot rolls?

FLOR VP of Design and Product Development Chip DeGrace said that European companies started experimenting with modular carpet in the 1950s, but the phenomenon didn’t really hit the States before FLOR came along.

“We’ve always been these mad scientists who started out with these squares,” DeGrace said. “Why would you do this when you have rolls?”

FLOR’s tiles range from $6.99 to $24.99 per tile, and Martha Stewart tiles will fall somewhere in the mid-to-upper range, priced from $12.99 to $17.50 per tile. “Tonal quartets” of four tiles matched with the “Martha aesthetic” will be sold for $69.99, compared with FLOR’s regular four-packs selling for $59.99. Target also sells FLOR tiles right now in four different six-packs of semi-gaudy hues for $59.99.

The Martha Stewart Floor Designs with FLOR collection will be unveiled online mid-July on both companies’ websites, and a Martha/FLOR catalog is slated to print in September, though the tiles might make a cameo on Martha’s TV show before then.