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A Case Study: Milliken & marquardt+ inc Modernize Merchandise Mart

Posted on Jan 5, 2016, by Mollie Williams

Since 1941, the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, Illinois, has been a creative mecca. The art deco landmark is a distinct mainstay of the Chicago landscape. Today, it is the largest commercial building in the world, operating as a wholesale design center and hub of international business. The epic building, which spans 4.2 million gross square feet, sits on two blocks and stands 25 stories high. For the last 47 years, thousands have flocked to the iconic building, brimming with customized showrooms, for NeoCon – the largest design event in North America.

When NeoCon 2015 was quickly approaching, the eleventh floor of this historic icon was in need of a renovation that delivered both design and performance. New flooring needed to stand up to the rigors of heavy traffic for 10 years and set the stage for highly creative gatherings – without upstaging tenants.


Byron Morton, the Mart’s vice president of leasing, collaborated with Tom Marquardt, principal and founder of interdisciplinary design firm marquardt+ inc. to refresh the 22,000-plus-square-foot corridor space. The goals were all-encompassing:

  • Develop a fresh design point of view without overshadowing showroom presentations
  • Create a modern, upscale experience for the Mart and the architecture and design community at large
  • Offer ease of maintenance and performance benefits in a contemporary aesthetic
  • Uphold the Mart’s sustainability standards, meeting the building’s LEED Gold certification

Milliken’s Fixate collection in plank carpet tiles rose to the challenge. The collection’s crisp, linear design enhances the floor’s wide, lengthy corridors without competing with client spaces. The design team selected a vertical ashlar floor covering installation, which lends an innate sense of movement to the floor. Interspersed horizontal tiles are used to highlight corridor intersections and elevator lobbies, helping with wayfinding throughout the vast space.

“We specified Fixate, with its clear, linear graphic appearance and crisp neutral color palette, to give the corridors a fresh, tailored, visually active look,” shared Tom Marquardt, principal and founder of marquardt+ inc.


In addition to meeting the Mart’s design goals, Milliken’s PVC-free modular carpet satisfied its sustainability standards. The collection contributes to LEED and carries various third-party sustainability certifications and labels, including NSF 140 and CRI Green Label Plus, as well as an Environmental Product Declaration and a Declare label. The standard cushion backing also increases the first life of the carpet and enhances comfort underfoot.

“Milliken’s Fixate plank carpet tile has received excellent feedback – people love the color, pattern, and integrated contrast, while the cushion backing undoubtedly helps during NeoCon when attendees are on their feet for three days,” noted Morton, who aimed to “make a design statement with the flooring, without sacrificing performance… [or] sustainability.” Morton summed up the new flooring as a “true design solution for this iconic space.”


NeoCon 2016 will be here before we know it. When you’re on the eleventh floor, be sure to glance down and let Fixate help guide your way through the space.

Click here to discover more case studies of Milliken flooring at work in the real world. 

Topics: Design, Installation, Performance, Sustainability

Mollie Williams

Written by Mollie Williams