Leigh Wright is on a constant scavenger hunt. Whether it’s admiring reclaimed lumber or looking to see what the automotive, fashion and textile industries are doing, she’s always looking for new sources of inspiration. “Floor people are always looking down,” says Wright, Centiva’s senior designer. “So I keep my eyes open for anything that can serve as inspiration – a material, a texture, a color.” Some of Centiva’s products, as a result, have the appearance of a basket-weave pattern and asphalt.
Wright, who’s been with Centiva since 2004, has been instrumental in the development of more than 200 products. Her first assignment for the company was to develop the Contour collection, a “heterogeneous” line of tiles with multiple layers (backing, decorative print and a clear top layer).
Since then, she’s mastered the technique of taking her designs from digital creation to their final destination at the manufacturer. When mimicking a material – whether wood, stone or a piece of art – she says it’s important to keep the integrity of the original design vision through all stages of development. She works closely with manufacturing to understand how the processes can affect the design aspect of a product. For example, adding the clear wear layer to the top of a design can mute the color. The addition of texture to the product through embossing can also affect the color and crispness of the print. So Wright makes sure to test clarity as it changes with each step of the process.
While the majority of Centiva’s sales come from luxury vinyl that mimics wood, Wright says she’s seeing more demand for abstract and linear elements. “Anything you can think of, you can create in the design for vinyl,” Wright says. Right now, she’s interested in the look of handmade and reused materials.
But what makes or breaks good flooring is out of the designer’s hands. “If you have a beautifully designed floor, but it’s not properly installed or maintained, the finished product is not what it started out to be,” Wright says.