Way back in 2014, I wrote about a tattoo-inspired rug collection from East London-based designer flooring company Floor_Story I was really impressed at the time by the left-field pairing of tattoos and rugs as it was something completely unexpected.
Since 2014, I have watched as founder Simon Goff has collaborated with a host of established and up-and-coming designers to create a unique collection of designer rugs that celebrate diversity and creativity.
I decided a few weeks ago that it was time to stop watching and find out more. So I contacted Simon to see if he’d be up for an interview to give us all some more insights into Floor_Story and how he has built it up over the years and what we can expect to see in the future. Luckily for us he agreed.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you first became interested in design?
I was asked to leave school at 15. I was not a very good kid at school because I was easily distracted in classes that didn’t interest me. I went straight to work. However, I really wanted to travel, so I saved up enough money and off I went. When I came back, I decided I didn’t want to get a proper job. I just wanted to earn money to travel. So I became a white van man for an interior design firm in South Kensington. I suppose that’s where I probably first got exposed to design.
How did you go from being a white van man to setting up Floor_Story?
After a while, I decided that in order to facilitate my need for travel, I would go and get a job in the travel industry. I worked my way up in that company until I couldn’t go any further without going into management, and I didn’t want to do that. So I ended up working for an innovation company. I eventually got made redundant from there and then got a job working for a record label. That was a crazy job and I probably enjoyed it too much.
Just as I left that job, my Dad had been asked to open a carpet department in a furniture shop in Sloane Square. We sold both traditional and modern rugs that we bought in and resold. I really liked the modern stuff but I was quite restricted in what I could do there. Eventually, that furniture company folded and we were made redundant, but at that exact time, we were headhunted by the MD of Heal’s who wanted us to run their rug and carpet department.
My Dad and I ran the designer rugs concession for seven years until my Dad decided to move back to Surrey where we came from. I learnt so much from my Dad in that time, but I didn’t want to go back to Surrey. I took a couple of months off to travel and then decided to set up Floor_Story.
Ok, and how did that go?
At first, we were doing fitted carpets and wood flooring stuff. And then I became friends with Kangan Arora and decided I’d really like to do something with her. Id never made a rug before, only ever bought them, but we did a collection of designer rugs together.
Then four years ago, I was approached by Kent & London, who have a furniture shop in Shoreditch, because they wanted to collaborate on a rug collection. I went to see them and ended up renting the lower floor from them and that’s how we ended up with a physical store for Floor_Story.
It all went a bit crazy after that. We stopped doing fitted floors and focused entirely on designer rugs. I also think the location of the shop has helped. It’s in Shoreditch and as you know, most of the interior design scene in London is over in Chelsea Harbour, but a lot of creators live in East London. So our trade footfall to the shop exploded. Trade customers now represent about 70% of our customers, so that’s interior designers, hotels and office spaces.
You’ve done some interesting collaborations with designers. Can you tell us about those?
We worked with Camille Walala before we even had the shop. I knew of her from my partner Emma who is an interior designer so I knew she was this Doyenne of design and I liked her style. Then I saw her at a tradeshow I was exhibiting at and she came over to the stand and I just blurted out “Do you want to make rugs with me?” And she said “alright”. And two weeks later we signed off our first collection of designer rugs.
That’s how it normally works. I see someone whose style I like and then I basically hound them until they talk to me and then make rugs with me. It took ages to get Eley Kishimoto on board. In the end I commented on one of his Instagram posts with “Oi Eley Kishimoto, stop ignoring me. Talk to me. And let’s make some rugs.” I figured I had nothing to lose.
About 20 minutes later, he sent me an email. And he said, “Right, let’s talk about rugs.” I was at a trade fair at the time and an hour later he showed up and we did the deal.
I do like to take risks. And that’s why I have a rule that we never work with people who have made rugs before. I don’t want people designing rugs for us. I want their creativity and collaboration. Our speciality is turning their creativity into a commercial product. It doesn’t always work and we do sometimes need to compromise, but in general I try not to interfere with their creativity.
You’ve described your rugs as being offbeat and left field. Can you explain this?
I want to do something different. If you want a different rug, you come to Floor_Story. But we don’t make rugs that are different just for the sake of being different because you’ve got to stick to the integrity of the original design.
We often make rugs that are different shapes for example. I love bold colours and we’re not scared of colour. I think people are getting a lot braver now which is great because our rugs are designed to be a statement piece, a focal point in the room.
With people spending a lot more time at home due to COVID, do you think this has had an affect on how they feel about their homes?
People are sitting at home wondering how they can improve it and make it brighter. They are not going to the pub, they’re not going to restaurants, they’re not going on holiday. So for the people that don’t struggle to make ends meet, they have a lot of disposable cash right now. And when people have a bit more disposable income, they are more likely to take risks.
Are there any trends that you can identify in rug design that we should keep an eye out for over the next few years?
Texture, definitely texture. And also shape. But not just round or oval rugs. People are being quite creative now. And colour too.
Any exciting plans afoot for Floor_Story that you can tell us about?
We have a collection coming out with Child Studio, who are amazing and we’ve done some nice hand-knotted rugs with them. Our Head Designer Gill has a collection coming out too and that one is a bit more subtle than our usual style. Our deputy designer Diana also has a collection coming out and there is a new collection from Kangan Arora. So we have a lot going on now.
So what do you guys think? Are these left-field, risky designer rugs floating your boat? Let me know in the comments below.