The everlasting beauty of everyday life
Hidden deep in the heart of southwest Flanders lies a beacon of creativity. At the helm – or rather at the mood board – of this creative ship is a spirited woman: design director Oke Nollet. Inspired by her travels, by architecture, fashion, nature and daily life, she infuses little bits and pieces of the world into the magnificent planks that become your floor.
Oke Nollet, where do you keep finding the inspiration for new flooring collections?
I look for beauty in ordinary things. Nature is filled with everyday wonders. A rainbow, for instance, is my favorite natural event. A rainbow never ceases to amaze me with its misty, elusive rays of color.
There is just so much beauty surrounding us on a daily basis. That’s something my father taught me. He is a cartoonist, and always asks me: “Tell me what you see, Oke.” He taught me not to simply glance at the world, but to really see it, to experience it using all of my senses.
When did you know you wanted to become a designer?
I guess it kind of is my destiny. One of my earliest memories is the smell of my grandfather’s workshop – he made stairs for a living. It’s where I picked up my love for wood. My other grandfather worked at a printing office, which is where my fascination for colors and designs developed. It’s also where I picked up my perfectionism – every print had to be perfect!
Even the techniques I learned studying graphic design and photography at Saint Lucas are still vital to me today. When creating a new design, I take a mental snapshot of what the wood should ideally look like and try to translate that to reality.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the entire journey involved in bringing an idea to life. In developing our gold-and-brown laminate floor, for example, we first focused on finding original wood planks with perfectly shaped and balanced nerves. Those nerves were crucial, since they were to form our golden accents. We scanned the originals and optimized the images. Nerves, knots and cracks were removed or duplicated in order to assemble the perfect design. Once this was done, we searched for the tint of gold that would perfectly highlight the color of the wood. We experimented with different types of golden nail polish, as gold consists of different pigments. It’s challenging to find the exact right ones that combine into the desired golden end result. No fewer than 50 pigments were created by our lab to discover the ideal effect on laminate.
The Burned Planks collection is another example of a great journey. I searched for the perfect original as a basis for the collection. We started experimenting by burning planks made of oak, but the structure was never like I envisioned it to be. After some research, we discovered a Japanese technique to burn pine wood. We started the process all over again, with pine planks this time. Since the structure of the burned planks was very delicate, we could not use our normal pressing techniques. So, we searched for different, more high-tech technologies to create the perfect burned laminate planks. In order to capture all of the details of the wood structure and its gloss levels, and accurately replicate them on laminate, we used a unique technique, unseen in the flooring industry. These are just two of the beautiful journeys we’ve experienced. Each new collection has its own story.
You make it sound so easy.
It is, and at the same time, it isn’t. I love this job so much and I’ve been doing it for fifteen years now, so it really comes naturally to me. But there are several elements that we have to take into account when designing a new collection, such as the various preferences of different markets and generations. And we constantly strive for a balance between trendy and timeless. At the end of the day, the product has to be authentic. The current popularity of the ‘touch of gold’ in interior design is a good example of this. We simply had to do something with that, but it had to be subtle. Not too many people would want a shiny golden living room floor. So, we came up with a design featuring beautiful warm wood and just a couple of golden details in the nerves – just enough to capture the warmth and optimism of the trend, but not so much that it would look fake or cheap. Quality and authenticity always come first.
Quick-Step produces parquet, laminate and vinyl. What’s your favorite product to work with?
For parquet, we get to work with a natural product, so the result is always unique. Laminate and vinyl, on the other hand, have the amazing advantages that we can play around with; we have more options in terms of design. Pine, for instance, is far too fragile to use as parquet. It scratches and dents in a heartbeat. Our R&D, however, developed a technique that allows us to press the very pronounced structure of pine onto laminate with a very natural-looking result. In addition, to make it even more natural-looking, we’ve created a technology that presses the joints into the laminate plank, so they blend in perfectly with the color design and structure of the plank. The only thing we haven’t been able to add is that typical wood smell. Each material has its own advantages, and in the end, for me, it’s all about creating a timeless masterpiece. I always strive for perfection. With every new collection, I aim to create the most beautiful and unique designs and to achieve the highest possible quality.