Thinking Outside the Sample Box

A major dilemma for interior designers trying to lessen their environmental impact is the need for a sample library.  Although people outside the industry might wonder why we can’t just switch to looking at things online, we designers know that is simply impossible.  Above and beyond the desire to have a tangible material in our hands, there is simply no way to render color online that is accurate.  Besides the variation in image uploading and monitor color rendition, is the simple fact that all materials reflect light in different ways, creating color perception issues.  Anyone who has seen a flat vs. a glossy paint sample of the same color can attest to that.  Add to all this the need to see samples for quality control, and the desire to pull samples together during the creative process, and you can see why designers need such large storage spaces!

From time to time I run across some innovative or creative ways to lesson the overall impact of all this sampling, and I though I would share a couple of those ideas here:

Primer from Tricycle, Inc. on Vimeo.

Product development company Tricycle tackled this problem by creating Tryk, a process for high resolution, color accurate flat samples, to be used for preliminary design work.  This system cuts down enormously on the amount of material and space needed for samples by carpet companies such as Tandus, Interface, and Shaw.  In the initial design stage, these samples can be used for color and pattern, and can be applied easily to mood boards.  Later in the design stage, an actual sample of the desired carpet can be requested for final approval.

woven co sample case

Here is a different way of approaching the sampling problem.  The other day my sales rep for The Woven Company stopped by with their new sample set.  While their actual format hasn’t changed, the box definitely has.  And what a great sample box it is!   Not only is this woven grass container attractive to look at and easy to use, it has the potential for a truly useful life long after The Woven Company has moved on to other things.  A picnic basket, a child’s overnight case, perhaps a place to store yarn for knitting?  I have half a mind to call them up and ask if I could buy a few more!

When the rep dropped it off, it really got me to thinking about how wasteful all those sleek, logo encrusted sample kits manufacturers regularly send me are.  Once the product line is no longer valid, what do I do with the container, much less the actual samples?  I’ve donated many to local design schools, but they will still wind up in the landfill someday.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all these samples came in something useful?

If you have any ideas for great ways manufacturers could provide samples to lessen their impact, or another fun sample container idea, please feel free to share it in the comments below!


2 Responses to “Thinking Outside the Sample Box”

  1. Katherine Stevens Says:

    Years ago I used paper mache to convert long narrow cheese boxes into sturdy little spice racks. Paper mache has a long history, as you know, having been used by the French at the height of their Baroque period to make chairs, desks, etc. Anyway, those “logo encrusted sample kits” would be great for this sort of application. By the way, if you order more of the sea grass boxes, count me in……

  2. The Interior Environmentalist Says:

    If you’re having trouble coming up with a creative use for your samples, there’s a place in San Francisco called SCRAP that will take them. SCRAP is an amazing resource of odds and ends waiting to be creatively repurposed.

Leave a Reply